8 Steps to a Timely Holiday Album

Happy Holidays from Studio West! Yes, we realize that it is May, but for anyone in the know, now is the time to start planning your holiday album. With holiday music hitting the shelves anywhere from October to early November, getting started now means that you leave yourself plenty of time to get something amazingly jolly together for this season.

Lighting up the board like an Xmas tree!

Lighting up the board like an Xmas tree!

If you are still thinking we’ve gone a bit crazy, the team here at Studio West has compiled these helpful tips to maximize your timeline and get you Greeting the Seasons on time:

1.     Prep Now

Time flies. Trust me, nobody understands that better than the team of busy musicians, educators and techs here at Studio West. So before you glance at the calendar and realize that November snuck up on you, take a few minutes now to lay out your Xmas album plan of attack. 

Break out your calendar and block off time to get with your bandmates, mentors, or fellow musicians to start mapping out your play list. Holiday music is one of the biggest markets out there, so it’s a good idea to make sure you know exactly what you want from your album. Is your goal to write all new songs for the season, or are you looking to put your own twist on a few holiday classics? Are you flying solo on this one, do plans include a full orchestra, or are you somewhere in between? What is your budget? How quickly can you pull things together based on your summer schedule? 

These are all valid questions that should be addressed before you start. If you want to write your own music, now is the time to get writing and arranging. Give yourself a deadline of when you want to be in the studio so you can have everything completed and arranged before you shell out funds for studio time and audio tech (nothing is worse than wasting time in the studio messing with the lyrics when you could be spending that valuable time capturing your incredible tracks). 

Writing music not your wheelhouse? Then a good idea would be to dig into the catalog of royalty-free holiday music online. There are a slew of royalty free songs at your fingertips—a Google search is all you need to be on your way. Alternately, there are always the popular of-the-moment tunes that require you to secure the rights (more on that in another blog; just do your research!).

Whatever path you take, be sure to do your research so there are no post-production surprises that could cost you your hard-earned cash.

2.     Time is Money            

After checking off Item 1 on this list, you should know where you are headed with your album. Now let’s lay out a basic timeline to get your tunes prepped, recorded, mixed, mastered, promoted and hitting the (virtual) shelves in time for Jolly Old Saint Nick. Bear in mind, these are suggested timeline and should always be verified and altered to meet your needs.

     May/June– Pre-Production

     July – Studio Time

     August– Mixing/Mastering/Additional studio time

     September– Promotion

     October– Release

3.     Pre-Production – May/June

Depending on how fast you write and arrange music, this time can vary. For our purposes here we will allow for six to eight weeks to get everything set pretty much in stone before you head into the studio. The more time spent here, the better your session will go. All music should be written, arranged and rehearsed before you pack up and head into the studio.

Also, think about how you want your tunes distributed. Are you looking to go completely digital, or do you want hard copies available for any live concerts? What does it look like for you to get on iTunes, or is this going to be strictly on your bands’ site? Producing hard copies and getting on digital platforms takes time, so find your path and account for these in your planning.

4.     A No Sweat Summer – July

While everyone is out melting in the blistering heat, you and your team should head into the lovely climate-controlled recording booths. Have realistic expectations going into the studio and know what you are booking. If all of your arranging and writing is done before hand, expect to spend at least 4-8 hours in the studio per song. The best person to help figure out your booking needs is the Studio Manager. This professional knows what the recording studio has to offer and will give you a fairly accurate timeline based on your set-up (a singer/songwriter on an acoustic guitar is going to look very different from a full metal band with four lead guitars).

Also, ask how the professional studio can help you and identify what supports you need. While your BFF might be a great home-studio tech, professional studios offer the latest in technology and are well equipped to blow a home-studio’s sound out of the water. Instead of trying to save a few bucks on the front end (and paying for it in post-production), bring on a professional audio tech that is familiar with the studio and knows the space and tech well enough to capture the best sound possible. This type of assistance can make a huge difference in the final product.

5.     Cover Yourself – July

In addition to getting all that beautiful music laid out in ProTools, this is a good month to get a start on your cover art and promotional plans. Good art takes time and you don’t want to a rushed cover to turn away consumers from your music. Also, check back on your release plans—still on track for those digital music/hard copy deadlines?

6.     Mix It All Up – August

We are now at another crossroad—are you going down the path of mixing and mastering the tracks yourself, or are you going to leave it in the hands of capable professionals? Congrats if you plan to do this yourself! If you know the systems to properly tweak your sound, this is a really rewarding and fun stage of your album production. For those looking to have a professional dive in, talk through your timeline when you book your studio time. Most professionals take 4-8 hours to polish up each track; and count on some back and forth as they check in with you to make sure everything is up to your expectations.

7.     Look at Me! – August/September

Its promotion time! Get the word out about your upcoming album and start building the excitement. Tease tracks on your website and across social media platforms. Set a firm release date and plan a release party. Post those production pics you took in the studio and gather up an email notification list. Enjoy this part—you are almost there!      

8.     And that’s a (gift) Wrap – October/November

Surprisingly, studies show that Christmas shopping starts as early as October. If you want to build momentum and get the word out a little early, mid-October is great. Alternately, if you want to hit the season with a bang, create a lot of build-up before hand and shoot for an early November release. Once you are ready to go, hit Send on an e-blast with purchase link and light up your Insta-feed—after all this hard work, you earned it!

Here’s hoping you now have an idea of what Holiday delights you want to produce and how your timeline will unfold. 

For those in the San Diego area, Studio West is here to help. Give us a call and book your summer studio time—you bring the talent and we will provide the Santa hat!


Early Seasons Greetings,

The Studio West Team


Anything we missed? Comments and feedback are welcome!