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executive decision

Discussion in 'Recording' started by sammyg, Oct 22, 2004.

  1. sammyg

    sammyg Active Member

    Hey Guys,

    Has anyone been in this sort of situation? ( im sure we all have).

    You have mixed a track for a client and its 90% done, then, when you invite them in the studio to have a listen they say " hey I think that part should sound a little bla bla bla bla.....(you get the picture). what do you do when you know that what they are suggesting sounds bad BUT THEY LIKE IT!!!! You are being paid by this guy, band, whatever, do you bite your tongue and change what they want in order to avoid conflicts and have a bad sounding track with your name against it, or battle it out.

    Or do you:

    change what they want and just tell them not to put your name on it??

    This is a tough situation, I have found that most musicians what to change things so "they" sound better or louder, self indulgment, they dont see the big picture, when you try to explain to a guitarist that people are listening to the vocals and not his stupid little bend he does for half a milisecond it goes in one ear and out the other!
    (im not saying all guitarists are like this nor do I have anything against them, just an example). A lot of musicians are too busy listening to their own playing rather than what the whole thing sounds like as a unit.

    what would you do??
    How have you tackled this situation??


  2. therecordingart

    therecordingart Well-Known Member

    I had a similar problem. I had a metal band come in and here were just some of the problems:

    1. The drummer didn't understand how to play to a click track and couldn't play unless the guitar play was in the same room so they can nod at each other when they change riffs (there is a problem when a drummer can't "get" a metronome)

    2. None of the musicians could play on time with each other

    3. The drummer thought that when metal drummers are playing fast double bass that it doesn't matter if they are playing on time with the rest of their beat. We argued over this for about 2 hours!

    4. The bass player wanted to play through a guitar amp and said a lot of bands do it

    5. They wouldn't let me change anything to get them a decent sound...instead they just wanted to sound like slipknot...and they didn't!

    I'm being dead serious with the above and that isn't even touching the surface. They absolutely loved the finished product and printed my information on all of their CD's. That was like a kick in the chest to me because it was the most awful work I've ever done. Sound quality good...everything else BAD!

    I couldn't tell them not to put my info on their disk and then try to come up with an excuse as to why.
  3. sammyg

    sammyg Active Member

    gee, I thought I had problems!!
  4. Ellegaard

    Ellegaard Active Member

    I believe it's very much a question of being diplomatic, being able to reach compromises and discuss matters in a peaceful way with your customers. For instance, don't tell the customer he's wrong, that it's not tasteful, that it won't work, or whatever - in most cases, the guy won't believe you anyway. Rather tell the customer that it is your experience as a producer that this and this dynamic change isn't going to do very well in the big picture. Chances are your customer might want to hear it his way anyway, and if so, let him hear it, and discuss what's good and bad about it. You can always change it again later. But by insisting you're right and your customers are wrong, you might end up losing them for good.

    It might also be a good idea to make it clear from the beginning that you are working together with the band, not under them or against them. While you have limited influence as a producer on the guitar solos, drum fills, chord progressions etc. during the tracking, mainly leaving that part to the musicians, the producer should have the final word in the mixing process, although you should be open to suggestions. Easier said than done, I know, but I think that's about the only right way to go. To a certain degree it's also your responsibility that the clients will be happy with the end result, more than you, because after all, they're the ones who are paying for it. And we all know that all such sacrifices and compromises have to be made - both as musicians, producers, work colleagues and with girlfriends and wives.

    If you have this cleared out from the very beginning, I believe chances are the entire process will run much smoother. It's very important to have a clear vision from day one.
  5. inLoco

    inLoco Active Member

    i remember when that song by train bursted into the music seen (drops of jupiter) i read an article interviewing the producer and he said something very interesting...
    being train a band that has it's sound very based on guitar and the song being oriented towards more piano and orchestra he made 2 mixes!
    one with the guitars popping out and the other like he envisioned with the guitars down and a more orchestral presence!
    the band heard the 2nd first and guitar guys said like, where am i playing?... he then showed the guitar version!
    if i recall they used both versions on singles and cds...
    but i think this is a good example! do what you gotta do and do like they think it's best!
    sometimes when the bands hear the producer's way, they will say it's better and understand why!
    as a musician in a band i know that "fighting" for exposure is a common thing! everyone wants their instruments up front!
  6. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    If you ARE NOT the producer and are being hired as a studio only, in which the band itself is paying all of its upfront costs and time then SHUT UP and push the little red button...

    On the other hand, make a simple suggestion that you make two mixes...make the mix with them present (no questions) and ask their permission to make your own mix of everything on spec....tell them that they can live with both of them till printing and any mixes you've made that they now like can be paid for at that time...

    There is very little a studio can or should do with a client that wants it their way and their way only....At this time you are being paid to set up your gear and deliver the best sonically correct version of what they are playing without regard to quality..

    Now if you are being hired as PRODUCER as well as studio, then you've got a communication problem that, by your admission, seems to have no recourse at this time but for you to inform them you need to be able to do your job or they need to find other suitable means to produce their project....

    Its really that simple....
  7. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    You are of course correct.

    One problem today is that everyone knows more than you do about everything and you get a lot of people who know more about mastering and recording then you do...just ask them or more to the point of this discussion just listen to them.

    I had a client the other day who wanted me to boost 100 Hz and 10,000 Hz by 10 dB durning the mastering. When I asked him why he told me that a good friend, who is a recording engineer, told him to do that. I did what he asked (after all he was paying for my time but I suggested to him that this was not a great thing to do) and had him listen to what he had asked for. He said it was GREAT and it was just what he wanted so I burned the project to CD and he left after signing our normal contract saying that he was satisfied with the mastering. About three days later he called up and wanted me to take out the EQ because it sounded BAD. He also wanted me to do this for free since he "was not happy with the mastering". When I reminded him of my comments about not doing the eq the way he wanted it during the session he said he simply forgot about it and when I told him that he had signed a contract saying that he was satisfied with the mastering and that he would have to pay for the remastering he got upset and slammed the phone in my ear. 24 hours later after apologizing he was in my mastering studio redoing the tracks. Luckily I had saved the project two ways once with the "extra eq" and once without so it was an easy save and did not cost him an arm and a leg to have it remastered.

    Sometimes you have to out think the client and be ready for them when they come to their senses sometime in the future.

    I also had a client that was very easy to work with and we were getting a lot done UNTIL he went to his car and did a couple of lines. When he came back in everything we had done was bad and he wanted it all redone. I told him it would cost him for the redo since before his trip to the car everything had been approved. He fought me for the rest of the session but I got paid and then he called me up a couple of weeks later to apologize and ask if we could redo the last three tracks and he was willing to pay me for my time. He said he had "learned my lesson" and that there would be trips out to the car during the redo sessions.

    Everything came out ok in the end but it was not what I wanted to have happen during the session.

    The client is always right since they are paying the bills. All you can do is protect yourself but documenting what was done and why and having them sign off on the project when they are done so you don't get into problems later on. You can always make suggestions but since the artist is paying the bills they have the ability to call the shots. If you are acting as the artist's producer you can have more say in the artistic decisions but if you are the recording engineer you are being paid to record them and not to make artistic decisions.

    It maybe a hard lesson to learn but one you need to learn.

    Hope this helps.
  8. sammyg

    sammyg Active Member

    I guess this is why good communication is important before you even start the project.

  9. maintiger

    maintiger Well-Known Member

    Some clients have in their minds an idea how they 'should' sound when in reality they didn't play it that way. They expect YOU to deliver the sound they didn't play. All you can do is to make sure you charge them your hourly rate while they change things in the mix. If you agree to do any of it at no charge, you are toast!
  10. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Yes like the recent heavy metal group that brought in a James Taylor CD for their "reference" to let me hear what they were looking for in a mastering job I was doing for them...HUH? Not sure what James Taylor and Heavy Metal have in common////> but whatever floats your boat.
  11. Big_D

    Big_D Well-Known Member

    Thanks Dave, Thomas and Xavier. That was very enlightening, I don't work with the public, my studio is for myself and a few select friends and aquaintances. But I am considering a couple of small projects to help offset the cost of some gear upgrades. I am glad to know where I stand should I persue it.

    Do you think maturity on the musicians part plays any role in this? I have found when working with a friend who has a small commercial studio that his older clients are more receptive to his ideas. The younger groups seem to want to sound like another band and the older groups just want to sound the best they can.
    Does anyone else find this to be true?

  12. inLoco

    inLoco Active Member

    that is obvious big_d!
    experienced people or the new guys that want to make a difference are more into recieving ideias instead of trying to copy other people's sound!

    but what i really think we all haven't talked about is the way a band works when one of the guys has the studio or is the producer...
    it's always better to separate waters! a musician plays and a producer produces! everyone trades ideias but the final decision has to be from the one qualified!
    it's difficult to work like this... anyone else feels the same?
  13. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Maybe....I think all situations are different...I am the Producer on my projects...however i am NOT the EXECUTIVE Producer....this is a multiheaded thing with everyone contributing what they do and also splitting costs....I own the studio....and I am the mixer...and the engineer, except when I'm recording my own tracks...then I personally prefer to work with an engineer....I dont want to divide my attention at these times...its not always possible and I can engineer and be talent, I just think I make a better musical product if I can just play....We have been working together for several years and though theres always going to be differences of opinion, we are mature enough to leave the ego out of it.We all have the same goal and that is to make a quality product for very little money.And this we do.It all comes down to being able to give up control and listen to your bandmates.Our band would sound radically different with only one person changed and this is something we realise and so we accept each other for who we are and why we sound the way we do.As the engineer I have to listen to what ideas get thrown around and try to enhance them with my abilites as well as produce a certain effect that has been called for.As the Producer I listen to all ideas and try to implement them as best possible....fortunately I know the engineer and have worked with him for years......!
  14. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    A smart man once said "If you want to be your own lawyer you have a fool for a client" (Mark Twain)

    People that try and do everything from playing to producing to engineering and mastering have only themselves to blame when the whole project goes wrong.

    There are people who can do it all but they are few and far between and I have only met one or two in my whole life. Most people have enough sense to know their limitations but some people don't and those are the ones that get themselves into trouble and don't realize that they are in trouble.

    Those are also the people that know soooooooo much about everything that they let simple things like tuning their instruments before the session and getting the panning right on the mix fall by the wayside because then are so busy trying to do everything they cannot concentrate on the smaller things that will eventually get them into big trouble.

    In the old days the musicians played the music, the producer brought it all together, the recording/mix engineer worried about the technical side of things and the mastering engineer put the polish on the mix. Now all those jobs maybe done by just one person who cannot see the forest for the trees because he or she is sooooo close to the project they lose their objectivity and cannot self critique themselves. What a MESS!

  15. sammyg

    sammyg Active Member

    interesting turn of events in the last 10 years!!!

  16. Doublehelix

    Doublehelix Well-Known Member

    I remember reading somewhere (sorry, I can't recall where), about a client that brought in a Led Zeppelin CD, and said they wanted their drums to sound like Bonham. The engineer's response was (paraphrased) "if you want your drums to sound like Bonham, you are going to need a plane ticket to England, a shovel, and a lot of deodorant".

    I find that setting expectations is so important! (As has been mentioned here several times.)

    I try to listen to customer's suggestions, but also try to be the voice of reason. Like Dave, I quite often act as producer in addition to engineer, and offer lots of production suggestions. When someone comes to me with a suggestion that I know is garbage, I make sure it is very clear that this is not going to work, and if it is truly obsurd, might even refuse to try it! (in a nice way, of course! ;) )

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