Transform Your Rough Recordings Into Released Records, Even If You Only Have a Home Studio

How Much Does a Single Song Cost?

One of the biggest mistakes my audience of musicians makes is thinking they can go it alone.

The fact is, as highly as you may think of yourself, you’re probably not the best:

  • Drummer
  • Bass player
  • Keyboard player
  • Guitarist
  • Vocalist
  • Mixing Engineer
  • Mastering Engineer

And and and and…ad nauseam.

So, if you’re releasing your own music AND doing it ALL yourself, it’s unsurprising that you think your songs come up short.

(There are exceptions to this rule, of course, but we can’t all be Prince…or Ed Charles, for that matter…).

Delegating Your Music-Making

So, assuming you can calm your ego enough to persuade it to let go, you will need a team.

At that point, you have two choices:

  • Relying on musical friends
  • Hiring professionals

For my upcoming single, “Sympathy,” coming out on March 22nd (pre-save on Spotify here), I leaned heavily on collaborators to help me make my song come together.

Relying on friends is great if they have the chops you need.

However, don’t hire friends to play on your record just because they’re your friends. They need to have the chops you need; otherwise, you’re just doing your song a disservice. There’s nothing worse than asking a friend to help you and then being disappointed with their performance.

At that point, you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. Do you discard their recordings and risk ruining the friendship, or do you keep the performance out of misplaced loyalty to your friends, which will ultimately destroy your enjoyment of your art?

That’s why hiring professionals is often a better option.

Hiring a pro all but guarantees professional results—as long as you vet them properly. The drawback is that it can take time to find the right person, and they will cost you money.

For my song, I had the privileged position of hiring professionals who were also my friends. I knew I could rely on them, and I knew how to communicate and collaborate already, so I was confident we would get good tracks.

Of course, I did pay them. But I WANTED to pay them.

If you’re a local musician who only wants stuff for free, you’re directly hurting your scene by being unwilling to contribute to its economic growth.

Why? Simple.

The Velocity of Money

One of the most significant indicators of a bustling economy is what’s called “the velocity of money.”

What’s the Velocity of Money?

I’m a bit of an Econ nerd, having a degree in Business Economics, but don’t take it from me. Here’s Investopedia:

“The velocity of money estimates the movement of money in an economy—in other words, the number of times the average dollar changes hands over a single year. A high velocity of money indicates a bustling economy with strong economic activity, while a low velocity indicates a general reluctance to spend money.”

“A general reluctance to spend money.”

If that isn’t the indie musician in a nutshell, I don’t know what is.

If your money never changes hands with anybody else in the music industry, you actively reduce the velocity of money within the music economy. So, if you are a musician who never wants to spend money on products and services in the “music industry,” you are directly hurting the industry.

This might matter less on a macro level because you may not care about buying services from a big corporation, but this does matter at the local level.

If you want your local scene to thrive, you must contribute to its growth.

Of course, if you don’t have any money to spend, that is a completely different economic reality than the one I am discussing here. I fully support musicians’ rights to make art without spending money, especially if they don’t have any money. Make the best art you can make with the limitations you have. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were better because of the limitations.

However, I do not have sympathy for people walking around with vintage instruments, expensive microphones, and high-end audio gear, complaining that $50/hour for an audio engineer or $100 for a session musician is too expensive.

Therefore, I am happy to pay music industry professionals for help because I want to invest in the growth of my scene and use the money to make art.

Besides, paying my friends for the privilege of their professional talents makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.

So, How Much Does a Single Cost?

That said, I’m not paying major label, Grammy-winning prices. Stripping my supposed “online authority” in the audio space away, I’m still just a normal indie musician making art.

But, adding it all up, this is what “Sympathy” cost to make:

  • Studio costs for drums and bass recording: $300
  • Session musicians: ~$350
  • CD Baby distribution: $49.98 (with some added bells and whistles)
  • Total: $699.98

That does not include studio equipment I already have nor any of the tools I already use to run Audio Issues, such as my Canva account, ChatGPT premium, website tools, etc. This can easily add up to over a thousand dollars in a year.

I also saved hundreds of dollars on studio costs for the overdubs and avoided the expenses of hiring a recording and mixing engineer because I did all that myself. A few people were also paid through in-kind trade for certain products and services, like the Audience Amplifier and Easy Mix Approach.

Worth the Investment

Personally, I think the money is well spent. Many people have a scarcity-driven Scrooge mentality when making their music and can’t see spending money as an investment in their art.

I think money is worthless on its own unless it’s used to create something that makes you happy, so I think it’s 100% worth the investment. Working with cool people to make great art is the high point of having a creative career.

So, if you’re working on your next record and it’s not quite clicking for you, maybe you’re trying to do too much of it on your own.

Get outside of your control room and collaborate. I guarantee it will help you become a better creative.

Thanks for reading.


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Transform Your Rough Recordings Into Released Records, Even If You Only Have a Home Studio

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About me

About Audio Issues and Björgvin Benediktsson

We help musicians transform their recordings into radio-ready and release-worthy records they’re proud to release.

We do this by offering simple and practical music production and success skills they can use immediately to level themselves up – while rejecting negativity and gear-shaming from the industry. A rising tide floats all boats and the ocean is big enough for all of us to surf the sound waves.

Björgvin’s step-by-step mixing process has helped thousands of musicians confidently mix their music from their home studios. If you’d like to join them, check out the best-selling book Step By Step Mixing: How To Create Great Mixes Using Only 5 Plug-ins right here.