Once you begin your home recording journey and start looking into audio gear, you might be thinking ‘why is music production so expensive?’. Well, I can’t disagree. Music production can get ridiculously expensive, but ONLY if you let it.
Like all specialised niches, specialised equipment is required. It’s easy to fall into the gear trap, thinking you need an expensive set up to make great music, but that’s not the case at all.
You can also build an extremely professional setup on a budget. Really? Yup. I’ll get to that later on, but first let’s talk about why music production is so expensive by looking at the software and gear individually.
Why is Music Production So Expensive?
The main reason music software and gear is so expensive, is because they’re designed and built specifically for music production purposes. You can’t simply use any microphone, pair of headphones, or speakers to record and listen back to audio. The quality of professionally designed audio equipment is far superior, making it worth the investment. It takes a lot of planning and development until a product is good enough for this purpose.
Without a DAW, you literally can’t do anything. Generic stock audio software just doesn’t cut it. But why is music production software so expensive? Firstly, development cost. It takes a serious amount of time, planning, resources, and money to develop a DAW.
The software is incredibly complicated as it allows you to record, edit, mix, and master audio using VST plugins. Audio companies have to charge enough to cover their development costs as well as their ongoing maintenance and improvement costs.
This includes creating updates for new operating software versions, fixing bugs/errors, and continual development to upgrade the software. For example, adding new features, improving the design, layout, functionally, speed, and so on.
Still seem expensive? I don’t think so. A DAW is an investment. Unless you’re on a monthly subscription, once you’ve paid, it’s usually for life. You need audio software that’s reliable, user friendly, and speedy. The same applies to VST plugins, development, maintenance, and improvement costs are why some can be a little pricey.
A DAW is the first must have, what’s second? An audio interface of course. Without one you can’t actually plug in and record an XLR microphone or your instrument. Prices of audio interfaces vary immensely.
You can buy budget ones all the way from $50 to interfaces costing thousands of dollars. You can also buy poorly made copycats from international sellers, although I’d strongly advice against that. Mostly because you never knowing what you’re getting.
So, why are audio interface so expensive? Development costs. Seeing a theme here? Audio interfaces contain preamps, digital-to-analog and analog-to-digital converters, a headphone amp, sound card, drivers, buttons, knobs, and other controls.
They help to improve sound quality and reduce latency, all whilst processing a range of tasks that your DAW is carrying out. It takes audio companies a lot of time to develop an audio interface that can do all of the above efficiently without any issues.
When recording audio, you want to do so in high quality with accuracy. Cheap microphones just don’t capture audio the same way as professional studio ones do.
Manufacturing these kinds of microphones is a scientific process, involving analyse of sound waves and frequencies. They are intricately designed to capture sound is the most precise and detailed way. Not only that, but microphones have unique sonic characteristics.
They can add warmth, depth, brightness, and vibrancy to the original sound source. There are also different types of microphones suited for different purposes. Some are more sensitive, better at capturing more delicate instruments.
Others are less sensitive, often used for loud instruments. There are different polar patterns, which affect how the microphone picks up the sound source, as well as how likely feedback can occur. I could go on but you get the idea.
Microphones are complex. Their development takes a serious amount of time, which is why high-end mics cost so much. The end result is worth it though and there are plenty of budget microphones which also do a superb job.
Studio Monitors and Headphones
Consumer speakers and headphones usually add colour to music. Meaning they may boost the bass, mids, or high frequencies to add extra character or sparkle to the music. They’re designed to make pre-existing music sound even better.
Studio monitors and headphones are not. Audio gear companies design them to sound neutral and flat, revealing how the music actually sounds. For good reason too. Think about it, when you record and mix your own music you need to be able to listen to it honestly.
If you were to use a pair of consumer speakers, they’d be boosting the bass and highs, and you’d be thinking ‘cool, sounds great’, but you don’t want that. It’s your job to make it sound great through mixing. To be able to do that, you need the correct tools to listen.
As you might have guessed, it’s the development and manufacturing costs which are responsible for the costs of high-end studio monitors and headphones. But like all other audio gear these days, there are plenty of affordable options.
How Can I Make Music on a Budget?
All you need to actually make music is a computer, DAW, audio interface, and a microphone. Or if you’re an electronic music maker, you may not need a mic at all. With so many audio companies in competition, audio gear has become more affordable, advance, and accessible than ever before.
So, there has never been a better time to start music production at home. There are plenty of bundle packs from the likes of reliable companies like Focusrite and PreSonus to get you started. Not only are they affordable, the quality is superb.
Don’t Get Caught in the Gear Trap
My most important piece of advice to you is the above. Don’t get caught in the gear trap. Meaning don’t get fixated on having the latest, best, and greatest this and that. You can make incredible music on budget gear.
Many have done so before now and there’ll be many to follow. Having the best gear in the world, doesn’t make you the best musician in the world. It’s you who makes the music happen, not the gear. That’s not to say high-end gear doesn’t have its merits, it does, but it’s not the be all and end all.
Even if you have budget gear now, you can slowly upgrade over time. Just learn to work with you’ve got. Do it well and you’ll be amazed and what you can create. Most DAWs alone come with a huge array of plugins and virtual instrument to get you started. What are you waiting for?
Did you enjoy this article? I’d love to have a discussion with you in the comments.