Maybe you've practiced your craft and recorded a few bands for free. Or possibly you have been recording music in your studio for a long time but haven't opened the doors to customers yet. Either way, you are probably wondering "How should I go about charging bands money for my recording services"? Read further.
Getting paid to record bands is one of the best feelings you can experience. There's nothing like working with the talent, the gear, the software, etc... to create a finished product that you AND the band are proud of. Seeing a CD at the store or noticing the band has had 50,000 downloads on MySpace and knowing you helped create that is really cool. Getting paid for your time and services is icing on the cake.
Some of us have to make money recording bands because that is what we do. Others do it for supplemental income or just fun money. Either way the time comes where you have to decide how you are going to charge the band. Do you do it by the project or by the hour? When do you collect the money? Do you require a deposit? Do you get something in writing?
When I put together my first "real" project studio I decided that I wanted to become one of the best known indie producers/recording studio guys where I lived. However, I didn't have my name out in the area and had no contacts where I lived (I had recently moved after finishing college). What I decided to do was to go to the clubs and find bands that where good but just starting out. These were the bands that had never recorded, didn't have a lot of money or ego, but had a promising sound and following. I would introduce myself, tell the band I liked them, and invited them to record one song with me for free at my studio. Almost everytime this worked - I was able to get the band into my studio, record one song, become friendly with them, and most importantly almost always get repeat paid business.
After a while I had become known in the area. By choosing the right bands, AND by doing a good job on the tracks, I had built a reputation. I no longer had to offer free recording (Unless I wanted to). That's when I really had to figure out how I was going to charge money for my time. I knew that most studios charged per hour, but I felt that would rush the process and put a lot of stress on me to go fast. Because of this, I decided I would try recording bands and having them pay per project.
I recorded quite a few bands at a per project fee - which I set REALLY low - for quite some time. I can now report that this is one of the worst ideas I have tried. One project comes to mind. I told a metal band I would record their whole album for a real deal because I liked them and what they were doing. I recorded the whole album and they kept on coming back to me to overdub this or that, or to remix this or that. I put in a ton of work doing all these overdubs and re-dos. I then had a hard time collecting the money from them. They were not willing to come up with a few hundred bucks between 5 guys, after I had spent all that work recording them. In the end I think I got most of the money, but it wasn't a good feeling. I probably got paid $5 an hour if you factored all the time I spent on the project.
Learn from my mistakes. Most recording studio's charge per hour for a reason - they don't want to get screwed. If you want to build your name or just work with bands you really like, then feel free to charge per project or work for free. But if you want to get paid for your services and not get screwed, you now know what to do. And if you are really smart, you will get a portion up front...and don't give away masters before you get paid! Good luck and make a lot of money!