July/August 2010

Creative Accounting

Digital and Analog Albums

$1,730 & $204,790

While recording an album can be one of the most demanding and complicated projects a band undertakes, the financial side of recording has the potential to be very straightforward. Below is a comparison between two albums recorded by the same band: Minneapolis’s One for the Team. The first, Build a Garden, used digital technology that put most of the elements of production in the hands of the artists—cutting out the need for professionals, but ceding responsibility for quality to the band. The second record, Ghosts, released in March, was recorded at John Vanderslice’s Tiny Telephone studios in San Francisco in October of 2009. Ghosts was a traditional studio recording on two-inch tape, using equipment that has been around for decades.

The budgets are divided into three sections: recording, equipment, and post-production. Recording costs are the costs the band incurs getting to the studio and storing their music electronically. Equipment costs include equipment that is unique to each recording. The studio spreads the cost of this equipment over multiple recordings. Post-production is the cost of polishing the recorded tracks and printing CDs. 

This is an installment of Creative Accounting, an ongoing series that shows where the money goes for the major creative industries. Future issues will cover dance, fine art, television, and more. Eventually, the series will be collected into a single, indispensable volume, published by Believer Books.

—Christopher Benz


The Believer presents: Creative Accounting

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

Christopher Benz lives and works in the Bay Area.

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