The cold doesn't do anything to reduce Santa Feans' drive to go out to a good show, nor artists' drive to kit their gear out for a night of snowed-in tunes. For some of us, though, it can be a time of hibernation—and that can be a really good thing. Sick of going outside? Now is the perfect time of year to hunker down and record your band, solo act, ambient installation or anything else you can dream up.
But first of all, why record? There are a lot of people booking fresh talent in town, and a lot of them will put you on a bill even if you can't send them a sample of your music. However, the odds are weighed heavily in your favor for a quick response if you can send even just a demo of a couple of your tracks. It gives a booker an idea of who you are, what you're trying to do, and also helps create more cohesive concert lineups. You probably don't want your plaintive acoustic reveries squared up against a touring sludge metal band. Describing your sound is one thing, but people want to hear what you have to offer. On top of bookers, it helps potential audience members. A bona fide sample of your music goes a long way to encourage people to come see you play. You're no longer just "some band" when someone asks their friend who is playing tonight. Now you're "some band" that can be heard. You know how people like to look at a new restaurant's menu online before they decide to go in and try it? Same principle.
But how, you ask? While the number of ways in which the digital age has destroyed the music industry are many, the accessibility to recording studios or home recording has increased. Santa Fe has several capably staffed and well-equipped studios. The Kitchen Sink (528 Jose St., 699-4323; thekitchensinkstudio.com) has all the gear you could ever need and a huge live room, not to mention award-winning engineers. A full day in the studio is only $600 (hourly rates run $80). If you spend the time to practice your material—and I mean to the point that you can nail it in less than four takes—that $600 could be the entire cost of your recording. There's also The Decibel Foundry (decibelfoundry.com, 395-6667) for artists leaning toward the heavier side of things. That'll cost you anywhere between $65 per hour to $600 per day, but there are other rates to be found in between, according to owner Augustine Ortiz. Lastly, Frogville Studios (111 Calle Nopal, 982-4001, frogvillestudio.com) is still going strong with flexible pricing for those who need it. You'll have to call or email for their rates, as there are a variety of options.
Did you already record your bedroom pop masterpiece? Any of these studios can help you master them—a step that might seem mystical at first but is definitely something you want to get done and definitely something you want someone else to do for you. The sound payoff of mastering your tracks (making sure they sound cohesive song to song and that there aren't crazy volume jumps, etc.) is crucial to a finished product.
Speaking of bedroom pop, you can go that route with home recording. While you're saving money in the long run, the equipment to DIY it does have a similar up-front cost to studio time—the difference being that it is a one-time cost if you take care of your stuff. If you have absolutely no idea where to start, head down to The Candyman Strings and Things (851 St. Michael's Drive, 983-5906; candymansf.com). The staff will know exactly what you need for your project, usually not much more than an audio interface and a microphone or two. From there, all you need is a computer (or a friend with one) and you're off to the races. Home recording has a steep learning curve from the get-go, but ultimately it's perfectly adequate for laying a solid foundation for your music and even the demos you can track using contemporary software (some of which is entirely free, like GarageBand, and/or have pretty great sound quality).
It is daunting. I get it. And times are tough; not everyone has access to these tools. But another thing you can find in Santa Fe is friends. If you go to shows, meet new people, and find the ones who love music the way you love music, you will find a way to start recording. Someone has a microphone collecting dust in their closet or can lend you a bass guitar or can teach you how to get clean, balanced recordings on whatever format works for you. Someone out there wants to start jamming with you. There is no force field between you and committing your ideas to tape (or .wav file).
The most common stumbling block in any musician's way is doubt. So, trust me, you want to record your songs—and you deserve to. And you'll find people that want to hear them.