Features  |  The Cost Of Recording In The New DIY Music Era

Insights into recording costs from rising Singapore dream-pop band Subsonic Eye and the owner of Jambox Music Studio Singapore

By Fung Wan Pei

In this new DIY music era where recording gear are readily available, has it become cheaper and easier for musicians to record their music? My conversation with guitarist Daniel Castro Borces, 19, and vocalist Nur Wahidah, 19, from local dream-pop band, Subsonic Eye as well as Jambox Music Studio owner, Serry Domingo, 45, has led to some interesting insights.

The short answer is yes.

Domingo, who opened Jambox Music Studio two years ago and has more than 30 years of experience in music, weighed in on the average cost of recording in a studio. It costs $25 per hour for the use of the fully-equipped recording studio at Jambox Music Studio, lesser than the nationwide average price of around $40 per hour. Both prices are usually inclusive of a sound engineer.

Some producers from studios also charge on a per song basis, and this ranges from $400 to $1,000. Domingo pointed out that it is, however, more common for local bands to book a rehearsal room for a few hours and record their songs there, using their personal gear like laptops and guitars.

Charriau Pierre

Photo credit: Charriau Pierre/Getty Images

“If we can do it, we do it ourselves” is Subsonic Eye’s motto when it came to recording their debut album Strawberry Feels, released in April this year. Borces goes on to explain why it is more popular for musicians to record their music themselves instead of going into a professional recording studio and hiring a sound engineer.

“It’s more comfortable this way,” Borces expressed, describing how by going DIY (do it yourself), the band can take their time instead of having to worry about making every second count in a studio. Wahidah recounted her experience of recording her vocals for the album at her home and how her other bandmates would use their own equipment to record their bass and electric guitar parts at respective homes.

Borces mixed and produced the tracks for the band but admitted that he spent a lot of time re-doing the tracks or even re-starting certain songs from scratch. “At one point, all I could do was the album, all I could think about was the album,” he shared his frustration.

But the band saved money by not having to pay for studio time and a sound engineer. Bands like Subsonic Eye can channel their funds on other important aspects of the music like touring and merchandise. When asked about the relevance of recording studios in the future, Borces responded with an analogy: “You can cook your food at home right, but why do people still go to restaurants?”

Subsonic Eye

Photo credit: Patrick Elicano

How can budding musicians then tap into the abundance of the readily available resources to move their music careers forward? Domingo said that learning how to record their own music is an important skill for musicians to have because it can save a significant amount of recording costs in the long run.

He offered the following tips to aspiring musicians: get the right recording interface and software and learn how to operate them well and learn the correct sequencing in the recording. He added that it is important to “try [it] out yourself first.” Based on his own recording experience, he explained that to gain the skills to record good quality tracks, one has to learn through his or her mistakes. He encouraged aspiring musicians and music producers to set aside at least eight or more hours a week to work on music production. Wahidah suggested getting “a friend who can help you record” while Borces added that one should do more research and choose a studio that is affordable.

With home recording becoming commonplace in this new DIY music era, there is a general consensus that it is not necessary for aspiring musicians to go to expensive studios to achieve top-notch quality recordings. The time and effort to record one’s own music should, however, also be factored in the cost of DIY recording. Coupled with the right attitude to learn and succeed, one can go from being a bedroom musician to possibly one day becoming the next superstar.

Mark your calendars because Subsonic Eye will be playing at Baybeats 2017 happening from 14 to 16 July 2017