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Awhile back, I wrote about giving yourself a good cushion for album releases, i.e. you shouldn’t still be frantically working on finishing your album on May 10 if you’ve had a big album release concert scheduled for May 14 on the calendar months ago.  Considering that it takes about 3 weeks for the average replication company to press, print, assemble, shrink-wrap, and ship your product, that should have been part of the schedule from the start!

Lately, I’ve been seeing more and more groups schedule mixing time with me several months in advance, only to find out that they are still tracking or editing on the day we scheduled to start – or worse, just started tracking a few days before.  Thus starts this month’s finger-wagging lecture from Old Man Bill, kids!   

As in any “production-line” process, each clog in the pipe creates problems for the people or processes that come afterward.  The usual order of events is something like this:

1. Get an arrangement together, rehearse it, and tweak it before going into the studio.

2. Go into the studio and lay down all the parts (“studio” meaning either a professional facility or your own recording system).

3. The most daunting task - editing (see my article about that elsewhere in this blog).  This includes fixing grooves, tuning, looping, etc - either editing yourself or sending the work out to any of the number of people who have now made this a separate business.  It costs money, but can save a lot of sanity, as well as give your tracks their first outside perspective.  Most are also much more adept at building a solid vocal percussion groove from your performances than the average vocal percussionist themselves.

4. Sending those edited tracks out to be mixed, or again, trying it on your own, but the above guideline applies here too!

5. Sending the mixed tracks to a mastering facility to prepare the final album.  This is yet another place where a fresh set of outside ears can help, but sometimes becomes a bit costly at the end of an already-stretched budget.  Your mix engineer can usually do a decent “fake” mastering for a bit cheaper if necessary, but all of us mix engineers will admit that a “real” mastering facility is a very different set of equipment and expertise.  If you can afford the extra $1,000 or so at the end, I believe most of us mixers would recommend that route over doing it ourselves.

6. Sometime during all this, you should have gotten the artwork, liner notes, and licensing of the songs done.  It’s amazing to me how many times I’ve had to rush through all the other stuff to make a deadline, only to find out that the group hasn’t finished these tasks (most likely because they thought it would be a quick process), only to see them have to wait weeks to start the manufacturing itself.  Most replication companies will not start your job until you show them proof of licensing, so don’t wait on that!  Make sure you’ve budgeted for it as well – the math is pretty easy, for 1,000 copies (the standard run) you’ll pay about $100 per song.

7. NOW, you’re ready to send it off to be duplicated…

The point is, of course, that there is not ONE deadline to keep your eye on, but many!  If you miss one, you can set off a chain of events that can not only delay your album release, but can add much unnecessary expense.  If you have booked time with a studio/editing/mixing/mastering facility in advance and everything gets delayed, you can sometimes still be financially responsible for that time if not enough notice was given to any of these facilities to re-book the time.

Give yourself enough buffer time between each process – remember, you still need time to get your project from place to place, and even then, some extra time to make up for any missing files, unreadable discs, or any of a myriad of other things that can (and do) pop up.

By breaking down each of these processes into their own deadlines (on either a whole project or more likely a per-song basis), you can save yourself a lot of panic as the overall deadline looms!