A Producer’s Perspective: Part I
Greetings to all!
My name is Gene Maltsev and I am an independent record producer based out of Boston, MA. I manage a record label that’s been around since 2011. My role is to design, produce and distribute music made by classically-trained students from some of the world’s most prestigious schools and conservatories in the US. I’m here, however, to shed a little light on a process that, unfortunately, much of the public knows very little about. The process I’m talking about is the act of producing (as opposed to manufacturing) a record.
First, a word about what I do…
I’m both a producer and direct distributor of pop-classical music. On average, I speak to roughly 1000-2000 individuals a week, engaging in as many face-to-face conversations in some of the nation’s premier commercial shopping venues across the country. Therefore, when I go out and tell people about our project, I’m sometimes faced with hearing some of the most interesting reactions uttered by some of the more educated slices of the public.
But before I delve into that, allow me to take a step back and tell you how I got into this industry in the first place.
I’m not a musician by trade. I fell into the music business purely by accident. My career started in NYC where I was a licensed financial advisor for a large brokerage firm. But after about 5 years of cold-calling and attempting to mindlessly climb the corporate ladder, I was completely burnt out. So I decided to switch gears and started helping a musician friend sell his work during small performances on weekends.
He and I would travel to malls and other venues in the tri-state area where he played the violin while I’d be tasked with standing in front of his table (along with his music) trying to explain to customers what it was that we were doing at the mall. Of course, this may sound like total self-deprecation to most people, but to me it was a refreshing change from everything I had done in the past. In fact, I soon realized that I was really good at it; so good, in fact, that I decided to branch out and do the same thing in a completely different part of the country (only this time with student musicians).
After doing some research, I set my sails to Boston with hardly any money but a dream of creating my own label. More importantly, however, was that I wanted to create something that would have a positive impact on peoples’ lives.
At first, I hired local students to play music off of my friend’s albums (whom I paid in royalties). But after about a year and a half, I saved up enough to record our own albums.
The first iteration of our recordings (Vol 1 & 2) were done in 2011 and involved 3 musicians: one from Boston University’s College of Fine Arts, the second from Berklee College of Music, and another from the New England Conservatory.
The production cost, at the time, was roughly $10k and covered the cost of musicians, arranger/composer, and recording engineer. This did not cover any hard costs such as manufacturing, royalties, transit (from the manufacturing facility to Boston), or storage – all of which had to be paid after the CD’s were produced (i.e. recorded). This also meant that it didn’t leave us with enough money to record in any professional setting (i.e. recording studio). So, as a result, we recorded in a quiet basement apartment in Brighton (MA).
For anyone unfamiliar with the cost of studio time, it can average anywhere between $100-$350 per hour, depending on the quality of the facility. It takes about 45min to 1 hour to record one 4-to-5-minute track, and, at the time, we recorded 30 (over the course of several months). Therefore, it would have roughly cost an additional $3k-$9k, considering the amount of time it took to record the tracks.
Production Cost: $333 per track
Anyway, we made do with what we had at the time and were pretty successful with the results given that we later sold out at most of our events.
The next iteration came in the fall of 2012. At that point, we decided to re-record some of the original tracks from the previous albums as well as record a new “Holiday” disc. In total, there were 20 songs (“tracks”) – 10 were new and 10 were re-recorded/edited – which were laid down in a home studio. This time, I made the decision to record with 6 students from NEC and Berklee and the budget for this was $9k. Again, because of the hard costs of manufacturing, royalties, and other business expenses, there was no budget to record in a professional studio – all of the money left over from CD sales from the prior year had been reinvested into hiring more musicians.
Production Cost: $450 per track
In 2013, I decided to add a pop crossover album to our collection. However, this time, instead of just hiring more players, we also hired a recording engineer, a mixing engineer, a conductor and recorded in a professional studio to boot. The budget for this was now a modest $15k and resulted in the recording of 15 tracks in a 12-hr studio recording session.
Production Cost: $1000 per track