Making Music gratefully acknowledges the assistance of the MU, MCPS and the Classical Recording Company in compiling this guidance.
Most music groups will have considered having a performance recorded, either as a memento or for members to sell for fundraising purposes. More often than not the logistics and cost of the recording are such that it never happens.
Why make a recording?
- The memento: Amateur choirs and orchestras all over the country spend many hours rehearsing for their concerts which are then over in one evening. The excitement and atmosphere of the event can be captured in a recording which will bring enjoyment not only to those who participate but also to those unable to attend.
- Education/artistic value: A recording may also help group members in their efforts to improve artistic standards. Since individuals can listen to their own performance at first hand, they are in a better position to appreciate both the praise and criticism of their MD!
- Fundraising: Recordings can often be sold at a substantial profit raising funds for the group or a local charity. They can also help recruit members and encourage audiences for your next concert.
- Sponsorship: These days it is getting harder to raise sponsorship for concerts let alone recordings; however it should be noted that a cassette or CD has a wider appeal and longer life than the concert itself. As all sponsorship is ultimately about spreading the corporate identity of the sponsor to a wider public, a recording is an ideal medium.
You must ask all performers involved if they have any objections to a recording being made. This includes not only the group members, but any freelance musicians involved, especially soloists. Where there is any doubt, it may be advisable to obtain permission in writing.
The Musicians Union (MU) guidelines to its members advises them that:
Unless you have been informed in advance and have agreed that your performance may be recorded you are not under any obligation to allow your performance to be recorded (Copyright Designs Patents Act 1988).
It is important to make the nature of the recording clear. If it is only for use by members or is for fund-raising, most professional artists will be happy to allow it to go ahead without demanding an extra fee. In this case it is normal to send the artist(s) a complimentary copy of the recording when it is released by way of thanks.
If the recording is going to be commercially available to the general public, then a recording fee should be negotiated with the artist(s) before the concert takes place.
If you are going to make a recording and then distribute it (e.g. make CDs or put it online) there are various permissions and licences you should be aware of.
We have a separate resource with more information about this - Copyright, licensing and permissions - Part 5: Recording and distributing music.
Who should make the recording?
A recording which is to be sold to members of a group or to the general public must look and sound professional. All too often a member of the group has a friend or colleague who would be happy to record the concert. Normally this is with amateur or semi-professional equipment often incorrectly used. Inlay card and side labels can be hand-written or at best typed and the overall effect is not one of professionalism. It is worth noting the importance of the visual appearance of a recording – you can see the presentation before you hear the music and if it looks shoddy the assumption will be that it sounds shoddy.
Many recording companies advertise in music journals or handbooks such as the British Music Yearbook and several should be approached before a decision is made. You should obtain a written quotation and a sample of a recent recording, even if only of the artwork.
It is also worth enquiring if the company or individual is a member or associate of the Association of Professional Recording Services (APRS), the only supervisory body in the recording industry whose members are elected by nomination and references. Remember that the cheapest quote may not include travel expenses or other hidden extras such as VAT.
What should we expect for our money?
In advance of the recording many companies will undertake a preview of the venue which will give a representative of the group a chance to discuss the programme, the layout of the performers and other technical details.
On the day the engineer will set up the recording equipment, ideally in an ante-room such as a vestry or green room with microphone cables running into the auditorium. Microphones may be slung from the walls or ceiling or placed on stands in the auditorium or on the stage. They will not be invisible but can, with thought, be made less obtrusive by careful placement. Normally the engineer would use the rehearsal as a sound check, moving microphones as required for the best balance. The presence of a recording company should in no way affect the rehearsal or performance or its enjoyment by the audience.
It should be noted that it is very unusual to achieve the optimum balance with only a single pair of microphones – it is however less work for the engineer! This is often called ‘minimalist recording technique’, and may be acceptable under perfect circumstances. Groups should however be aware that perfect circumstances are not common – don't be compromised!
A few days after the event you should receive a sample copy of the recording on cassette with artwork samples, normally derived from the programme notes and cover. If this is acceptable the cassettes or CDs you order should arrive within 28 days together with an invoice. Some companies request a deposit before the recording is duplicated/pressed.
It is essential that during any recording, the safety of the artists and public is considered. Cables should not be left loose where people could trip on them and microphone stands should not present an obstruction to emergency exits. Microphones slung overhead must be secure and should be checked before the audience is admitted.
Remember that a fire officer could visit at any time before the concert and if he or she considered anything to be a risk to the public, the concert could be stopped from going ahead until the risk was removed.
Association of Professional Recording Services
PO Box 22
Totnes TQ9 7YZ
Tel: 01803 868600
PRS for Music
2 Pancras Square
London N1C 4AG
Tel: 020 7580 5544
The Musicians Union
MU National Office
60-62 Clapham Road
London SW9 OJJ
Tel: 020 7582 5566
We hope you find this Making Music resource useful. If you have any comments or suggestions about the guidance please contact us. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the content of this guidance is accurate and up to date, Making Music do not warrant, nor accept any liability or responsibility for the completeness or accuracy of the content, or for any loss which may arise from reliance on the information contained in it.