The simple idea: record everything. Practices, jam-sessions, big gigs, little gigs, band meetings, video shoots, stopping at a taco truck in a different city every single day on tour. OK. So maybe the last example is just something crazy that only I would do (and cruelly inflict upon my band), but my basic point is that you never know when you’re going to capture something dramatic, magical, memorable, joyous, horrible, or otherwise noteworthy.
The simple tools: iPhones, a Zoom H4 handheld recorder, the built-in mic on your laptop, a flip video camcorder, and a hundred other small, affordable devices that will allow you to easily capture decent audio and video. I’ll bet between all the members of a 4-piece band, you’ve already got several of these tools at your disposal.
The simple reason: We live in a world that is hungry for new content. Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, Twitter. All these communities thrive because of our voracious appetites. We love to devour new things. It is a feeding frenzy out there and, as an artist, you want to be throwing enough food into water to keep the fish close by. So, firstly, you’ll be documenting the events and development of your band. Sure, 90% of it will be a snooze-fest, but that is what editing is for. You can use an audio program like Garageband or a video editing program like iMovie to whittle the content down to the barest essentials, just the best stuff that will grab hold of your fans.
Secondly, recording everything can be highly instructive. Was the singer out of tune? Did the drummer slow down on the bridge? What was that sweet riff we were jamming on a couple weeks ago? Did we say at the last band meeting that we were equally sharing royalties from ALL our albums or just the most recent one? When these kinds of questions arrive, keep your egos out of it. Simply consult the recording you made and avoid all the drama that accompanies selective memory and personal insecurities.
The simple plan: If possible, delegate. I suggest putting one person in charge of actually capturing the audio and video, and another person (or two) in charge or reviewing it afterwards. Maybe one person listens to the audio stuff and makes notes on particularly good or bad moments that the band will want to hear (either individually or together). Perhaps another person edits the video content and highlights the awkward or transcendent moments that you can watch at your next practice. I guarantee this process will be highly instructive, somewhat painful, and ultimately rewarding. As for recordings of band meetings, boring! Just store those away on a hard drive for reference.
I know it may seem like a ton of work, but with some planning, delegation, and dedication, it will all be worth it. Trust me, if you get the loudest applause of your life, if your favorite musician happens to want to jump up on stage with you to sing background vocals, if you just improvised the greatest guitar solo of your life, if lightening strikes and turns the crowd to JELL-O, you’ll want to have the cameras rolling!
-Chris R. at CD Baby