What’s a Realistic Album Budget?
Ian McFeron’s Kickstarter caught my attention because my band shared the stage with him at the High Dive in Seattle a few years ago.
Digging deeper, I noticed that he’s aiming to record in Nashville for the second time, another thing I have in common with him (I can’t imagine ever NOT recording in Nashville again, but that’s just me).
But what’s interesting to me and likely helpful to you is that Ian gives us a detailed recording budget as well as a detailed promotion budget.
No two budgets are the same but Ian’s looks fairly representative of an average budget that most bands should be able to use as a guide…
Knowing Your Exact Project Production Budget
This is an essential element of choosing the right Goal Amount. We preach the Kickstarter Flex Goal strategy a lot around here, but without knowing exactly what you need in order to make the finished product a reality, you could set your minimum goal too low or end up losing money on your project. Don't wing it!
NOTE: This post isn't one size fits all. There are many variables to budgeting for your album. Depending on your genre, project, or unique circumstances your budget can vary widely.
Just remember that anything is possible. Don't ask "can we do it", ask "how can we do it". We'll be covering this topic much more in depth in the coming months with more artist examples.
Break it down per track
When I work with my favorite up-and-coming Nashville producer, Andrew Petroff, he'll send me a budget break down like we see below, but his quote will be a 'per finished song' quote. I find this to be much easier to comprehend than breaking everything out like we see below (you should do both though). This also makes it easier to compare quotes if you're considering several producers. It also makes it easy to decide how many songs should go on your record.
From what I've experienced, you should be able to get a good indie rock band record made for around $1500 a track, not including stuff like flights, food, and lodging etc. If you're working with a newer producer who's trying to get projects under his/her belt, you might find that they'll consider $900 to $1200 per track. If the quote is quite a bit less, double check that they've produced albums that represent the quality you're looking for.
Again, every situation is different, but I get asked about this all the time, so I'm hoping this post will give you a rough idea of how to budget your album costs so you can do some rough planning. Don't forget to add in project reward costs and shipping costs!
Ian's Proposed Album & Promo Budget
Making the Record:
Airfare for 3 people to Nashville: $900
Lodging in Nashville- 1 month for 3 people: $600
Hospitality for Studio Musicians and Engineers (food, coffee, etc): $200
Studio Rental Fees: $1500
Recording Engineer Fees: $1000
Studio Musician Fees: $4000
Mixdown Engineer Fees: $1200 (Note: for a 10 song record, look for this to be closer to $3k on avg)
Mastering Engineer Fees: $900
Artwork: $250 (Note: This could be as much as $2000)
First Print of 1000 CD’s: $2500 (Note: This should be more like $1200)
Recording Total: $13,300
Promoting the Record: Radio and Print Media Campaign
Publicist: $3000 for 2 month PR campaign
Publicity Mailings: $600
Radio Promoter: $2800 for 2 month radio campaign
Radio Promotion mailings: $480
Industry Mailings: $200
Promotion Total: $7,080
Recording and Promotion GRAND TOTAL= $20,380
Know your album budget inside and out before trying to choose your Kickstarter Goal Amount. Assess your minimum viable project (the smallest version of your project that you can live with) and then set Flex Goals with two or more tiers of success.
Ian has a great video. He's a genuine and clear communicator. A few ways he could have improved his project would be to include a two tier Flex Goal. He was sorta hinting at this by giving us the budget breakdown, but without being direct, we can't call this a true Flex Goal Strategy.
For example: "We've got $3500 saved, so our first tier of success is $10,000 to complete the album. If we can reach $20,000, this album will get the promotion it deserves".
He would need to be very direct about the Flex Goal in his video, and then add a graphic or bolded text at the top of his description to make it very obvious that the true goal is $20,000.