Tales from the Jugular

Music Terminology - Creating An Album

By: Frank Hill
Published: Friday, August 27, 2004
Music Terminology - Creating An Album

People sometimes wonder why bands don't just do everything on their own to get their music to the fans. Why bother using a record company and other people at all if it means less money in your pocket? Well, a decent amount of money is needed upfront to get an album made and many underground bands are broke and have empty pockets to start with. Or you stick a musician in front of a hundred track mixing board and they're as lost as a vegan at Ted Nugent's Annual Wild Game Bar-B-Que. The band you love could have dozens of people behind them assisting in the final product, so here's a short list of what it can take to create a great-sounding record.

The Band - Any number of individuals from one musician to a large group of musicians who write and/ or play music.

Record Label - A company who releases the Artist’s product (manufacturers and formats into CD, DVD, Cassette, Vinyl, Videotape, Box Sets, etc.). In most cases they pay for the studio time (recording), distributing, marketing, advertising, artwork, photography, and copyrighting. The company's main goal is to release the product to distributors (nationwide/worldwide) and online stores. They work hand in hand with the band's management to get the best possible exposure for the group and profit from the release.

Studio - A room or series of rooms where music is recorded (or tracked), mixed and mastered. A studio usually consists of a control room with recording equipment where the engineer actually tracks the sound, and a soundproof room (or rooms) where the artist/musicians play. Can cost thousands of dollars per hour!

Mixing Board - Also called a sound board, mixer, or mixing console. This is the main electronic equipment with all the knobs and sliders that manages all of the sound inputs and puts them together into an audio output. They can have from 4 tracks to hundreds. Each channel has some form of amplification/equalization or controls to adjust the tonal quality of the sound and some way to add effects.

Producer - Responsible for all production including tracking, mixing, equalization, editing, song (track) selection/order, etc. Generally oversees everything involved in a project from beginning to end with a goal to produce the highest quality sound possible with the most marketability.

Conductor - If an orchestra is used a Conductor would get all the members in order. They're the ones that wave the stick around.

Arranger - Not really a "job", but may be credited. May play a part in the layout of the song to make it flow better or assisting in the overall structure of the song--extending a riff in places, shortening a part or two, adding strings

Engineer - Responsible only for recording (tracking) the artist/ band in the recording studio. Works directly with the electronic setup of the studio board.

Art Director/Designer - Responsible for designing layout for the CD cover, insert booklet, CD surface design, DVD package, etc.

Mixing - The process of adjusting sound levels, equalizations and effects/effect levels on all of the recorded tracks of a song (vocals, guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, etc) to create the best possible sound for each song.

Mastering - The process of adjusting the overall sound levels, equalization, and effects of all of the mixed songs so that they all sound uniform and create continuity on a CD.

Master Recording - The finished product (mixed and mastered) that is used for duplication and distribution.

Press Plant - Factory where master recordings are used to stamp out the finished music products that ship to distributors or stores. A fee has to be paid to the plant owners to have this done. Thousands of blank media material isn't free.

Distributor - The “middle-man” company who distributes the product from the record label to chains like WalMart, Best Buy, Sam Goody, etc. as well as other independent stores. The distributor is basically the liaison between the record label and a retailer. The larger distributors like Caroline and RED work hand in hand with labels and retailers to create advertising and promotion for distributing the album.

Retailer - Carries the product and sells it directly to the consumer--WalMart, Best Buy, Target...

Band Management - Acts as the liaison between the band and the record label, booking agent, the press, etc. to represent the band and their interests.

Booking Agent or Booker - Responsible for booking gigs for the artist/band at various clubs and venues. The Booking Agent also creates/arranges for package tours and works with the tour manager to make sure the band is being properly equipped and treated fairly by the venue.

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