Do record contracts for rock bands even exist anymore? It’s a good bet that major labels still sign record deals with artists that they feel guarantee them a return on investment, but does that old game of making a band do a ‘Best Of’ or ‘Live’ recording, that the label sees all the profit from and the bands sees nothing, still exist? I guess, for many independent artists releases their own materials on their own dime, a live album is just like any other release. So, when is the best time to record a live record?
One Big Holiday by MY MORNING JACKET from the album Okonokos
Let’s think of a few things you need to make a successful live record. Well, you need to have access to or the resources (money) to hire the best folks available to handle the logistics of recording a concert. You need to find the right room that is acoustically sound for a live recording. Most sound stages or concert halls good enough for this take up significant resources (money), and you can be almost guaranteed that you will need to pay union folks to do the work – more resources (money). Many of the great live albums to date have a mix of recordings from several different nights, as it’s best to take a wide sample size of material to work with and find the best of the best. Just look at the O2 Arena Led Zeppelin debacle for an example of why you should not make one date the be-all-end-all date for recording. If she goes wrong on day one, it’s best to have a few other days to work with. Again, this takes up resources (money), and you need to be at a level where you can guarantee a crowd 2 or 3 days in a row. Perhaps this is all too fancy pants, and a good ol’ shit show at the tavern recorded to someone’s GarageBand account could suffice. That works with some music, but not with all. And, if you have a label that wants to distribute the thing, you best make it sound half-way decent. So, the recap: you need a mobile recording studio and crew to set it up and work it. You need a good room that will allow you to have the space at least 2 nights in a row. You might need to pay a shit tonne of money to a unionized crew to make it happen, depending on the quality of the room you want to use. And, you need a fanbase that loves you enough to make it feel like a right friggin’ good time in there.
Frontera Trigger by CALEXICO from the album Scraping
In the end, like everything else in this shitty world, it comes down to resources (money). You’d also better be tight as fuck too, because this is for keeps. A bad live album can kill your live show, but an amazing one can fill the room. Many of the jam bands out there that cater to the ‘taper’ community, have been able to find great success with live recordings, as there is just so much to pick and choose from. Some of those hippies sure know how to use mobile recording equipment. The live album, Okonokos, by My Morning Jacket is seriously one of the best live recordings ever done, and sparked my interest in the band. That is one incredible live act. Another great live recording I have is by Calexico called Scraping The textures of that recording are incredible; so friggin’ trippy. Another classic is Santana & Buddy Miles! Live! That masterpiece was recorded inside the Diamond Head volcano in Hawaii. In a friggin’ volcano! Now that’s a room. Whatever you do, just make sure the band is firing on all cylinders and people give a shit enough about you that they’ll care you have a live album – there’s nothing worse than a band no one knows with a live album. – FATS