Updated: Mar 8, 2022
As CV19 keeps us all at home, some of us have had to get creative and start/continue doing recordings at home opposed to a studio. With this in mind, how do you go about recording, negotiating and ensuring that your work is done and received properly?
In a previous post I listed a few home studio options check them out here. Once you are all set up, the most popular recording platforms are Logic and Garageband. Both platforms are fairly easy to use and if you want tutorials there are so many on Youtube to choose from which should include panning, recording harmonies, tracking vocals and so on.
Unless you are asked to provide full production on your vocals, sending clean and unedited vocals are fine. Once you have recorded your vocals with the backing track provided you will send the session with no backing track. You can send your full session as a WAV file from Garageband which will still work in Logic for whoever they are sent to. Sending your vocal dry with limited effects enables the producer to add effects or edits of his/her own accord. For pro singers ask your MDs and producer friends for advice they are fountains of knowledge!
Is this a hobby or a business?
After setting up your home studio you get your first job and you're ready to roll. Have you been asked to record simple bvs, adding harmonies and unison lines or are you providing a full on choral part that you have created? In both instances no matter what the job is you should be operating with business in mind. However it's not all about the money. Let me be clear, even if you are doing something for Charity and there is no money involved give it your all. Anything that ends up online is virtually there forever. Take care. You are your business.
Now the business side. Recording vocals requires PPL registration which is free (more details here) and a clear conversation with the producer as to what the recording will be used for and what your rights will be. PPL will collect royalties worldwide from TV, Radio, Film, Singles, Album tracks and more.
BVs or choirs (unless otherwise pre-negotiated) will be registered on a track recording as a "non-featured artist". This means that your name will still be in the album/single details and you can still claim royalties as a BV-but you will not receive the higher rate as a featured artist. This is because you did not write the song you have been asked to provide vocals for. However if you have come up with an arrangement, new parts or sections, this should be discussed with the producer so that you can get the correct session fee, buyout and PPL registration.
Rates will vary based on what is required of you and the producers budget. Live work is out of the question for a while. Whilst everything seems to be moving online, the fees should reflect these changes so that you can still earn well. Negotiating is key here and be cautious of devaluing your service. Here is a contract template you can go by.
If you are a member of the Musicians Union they have a list of basic rates here and a pre-recording contract. However you are not obliged to work on these rates if they do not meet your own personal financial requirements. However they can be applied when the producer requires that vocals will be tracked. Charging per track needs pre-negotiation and the producer may not offer a buyout. Instead you would just receive a tracking/session fee and be registered on the project as a non-featured artist for royalties as standard.
BVs or choirs (unless otherwise pre-negotiated) will be registered on a track recording as a "non-featured artist". This means that you can still claim royalties as a BV but you will not receive the higher rate as a featured artist. This is because you did not write the song you have been asked to provide vocals for. However if you have come up with an arrangement, new parts or sections this should be discussed with the producer. This ensures you can get the correct session fee, buyout, PRS and or PPL registration. It is very important to keep an eye on the registration of the work you do. Once you have registered any new pieces of work, PPL, MU and or PRS (for writers) will pay you royalties each quarter and each year as required.
Ad and Film music differ in payment structures and can be an extremely lucrative option. The buyouts tend to be bigger and session recordings are paid largely by the hour. Once your setup is complete send out an intro email with appropriate links and contact details to offer your services. Here are a few you can contact:
These are just a few companies there are lots more!!
Get creative and if this is a route for you going forward it's a very lucrative and rewarding path. Please do not feel like you have to sound generic or like anybody else (unless that is the role required). Try and be versatile with your vocal, stay and slay in your lane! For example as an Alto, I can sing relatively high (Alto's are lazy Soprano's apparently lol) however I know what I can do to the best of my ability and stick with that and push myself in my own time. When something else is needed from me I adapt. The key to all of this during this time and thereafter is adaptability. If you can adapt, there are so many opportunities you can create, after all we are in one of the most diverse industries where roles are created out of nothing. Go for it!
If you have any questions please drop me a line here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.