It is the goal of the audio industry to facilitate the realisation of recorded artefacts – recorded and then distributed in the mediums of shellac or vinyl records, magnetic tapes, compact discs and now more commonly as wav or MP3s. Within the process of producing these artefacts, there are considered to be three stages of the production process:
The pre-production stage;
The production stage;
The post-production stage.
Whilst there are blurred lines between several of these stages depending upon what musical style (genre) one is working within, the acoustic style recording process essentially adheres to the following three stages:
The pre-production stage is about planning for the production of the artefact
The production stage is the actual recording process of the artefact. This process is commonly referred to as the tracking
The post-production stage follows the tracking stage, preparing each track so that it is well balanced in terms of instrumentation, levels, frequency and dynamics – in preparation for the final step of this stage – the mastering process – prior to the artefact being released to the public
Before we proceed to discuss the pre-production stage in detail, allow me to remind all of the actual purpose of the production process. At the heart of the production lies the actual reason for the artefact – the song or composition. This focus – the main reason for the production process – needs to be maintained throughout the creation of the artefact process. It must not become secondary to the process. It is often said that that to make a great song, you need to have:
a great song;
a great performance;
a great recording;
a great mix;
and great mastering.
Investing time in the pre-production stage is required if you want to:
act as per all business organisations with sound forward planning
develop a target for you to focus your project’s aims and objectives
minimise project risk by considering issues that may arise, in advance
allow for total transparency of your plan
– allowing for consideration of all factors
– which in turn allows for optimal communication to all concerned parties
– increasing the ability to delegate to external parties
set a plan in sand – have clear parameters around what the project is, but maintain flexibility as you need to make a change as matters outside of your control or consideration arise
minimise the risk of concerned parties not knowing what is going on, and either being unprepared, late, or no -showing
However, as I have observed many times with less experienced or aspiring engineers, the pre-production planning is however an often overlooked aspect of the production process. It is unfortunate, as overlooking this key part of the production process actually jeopardises the opportunity for success of any project. Successful project management is about good planning, followed by good execution of the plan, supported by good management and administration of those tasks.
Key elements of the Pre-Production Planning Stage
The key elements of the pre-production plan following will be elaborated further in the next blog in the series:
– know who your client is (key stakeholder)
– is the key stakeholder the artist, the musician, the songwriter?;
– or the recording engineer?;
– or the producer?
– or the record label?
– clarify what the scope of the project is
– confirm what the budget for the project is
– confirm any specifications of the project are (session parameters, output format)
Target musical style (genre)
– potential reference tracks
– target market
– market segmentation
– market platforms
– Studio site – what does the recording environment look like?
– is there a separate control and live room?
– is the live room sound-proofed and been acoustically treated?
– how many recording lines are available in the live room?
– what equipment is available in the control room?
– console type
– external hardware
– flexibility of routing options (ie a patch-bay)
– variety of microphones available
– degree of competence the artist has with their instrument
– quality of the equipment for recording environment
– degree of experience the artist has in a recording environment
Studio Production Specifics
– stage plot
– line chart
– data management
– data collection tools
– naming protocols
– session management
It is intended for this blog to continue in a series of Pre-Production Plan blogs.
Barney, Jay B and Ricky W Griffin. 1992. The management of organizations: Strategy, structure, behavior: Houghton Mifflin College Div.
Hracs, Brian J, Doreen Jakob and Atle Hauge. 2013. “Standing out in the crowd: the rise of exclusivity-based strategies to compete in the contemporary marketplace for music and fashion.” Environment and Planning A 45 (5): 1144-1161.
Mehrens, Christopher E. 2015. “Project Management for Musicians: Recordings, Concerts, Tours, Studios, and More ” Music Reference Services Quarterly 18 (2): 130-133.