i wanted to ask you all about a term i've coined, "controlling the customer"
heres the dilemma:
you want the bands feedback on the sounds youre tracking and mixing for them. for various reasons.
only problem is, the drummer thinks the kick drum sounds terrific when its too loud. stupid loud. so i shut him up and then turn it back down when he goes away. which is wasting time and dishonest.
what are some techniques you employ to stay moving forward AND keeping everyone happy? IE, control the customer.
i waved my hand and said "you need to trust me" but my jedi producer powers have failed and i got a lecture about how "the band is about me".. type of nonsense that haf me thinking... gosh, he doesnt *look* like axl...
I almost always scoot everyone out the door at the end of a tracking session and tell them I will send them sample mixes to listen to. Then when I'm mixing I'm by myself and free to make whatever decisions necessary for a good mix.
Often times a band member with a concern like the drummer you mentioned will forget their concern in the ensuing days or at the sound of the proper mix.If they persist, I'll explain to them various reasons why their view may not be best, even using examples from other artist's recordings if necessary.
But yes, keeping control in the control room is a frequent challenge!
I often used the argument that it will be a problem for the mastering. Since it'll be done at a later time, the customer often have no idea how the sound will change.
Other than that, I did try to make the other members of the band vote with some success from time to time.
Also, you can make the guy realise that a lound bassdrum cause problems by adding a fast compressor with slow release and make him hear that it makes cuts in the other instruments.. You either need to be wiser than him or make a stem cut just for him ;)
I always am willing to agree, but put the seed of doubt into their minds - plus the little thought that it will be their fault.
"great - we'll get you up there in the mix. Most drummers aren't quite that brave putting their fine detail up for scrutiny - great - let's go with it. I doubt most people will hear those little timing things - it's art, isn't it".
You can also use their own weaknesses. If they can't see your fingers, ask "how's that?", they'll ask again, and this time you trim back the sound slowly then put it back suddenly so the increase is obvious. Only the really musical ones don't get taken in, and then you need to decide if their request perhaps does have a bit of merit?
A mix engineer is an amazing amalgam of technical and psychological skills.
I usually ask the Garbage, I mean garage, bands, (Garbage is a good band, not to be confused with garbage bands) how many recordings they've made in studios? In honest to God real studios? Of course they respond they have. Yup, in Billy Bob's basement studio. It's professional! He's got all new Barringer stuff. Right. Check. Got that.
So then you ask them why they came to you? When they knew how to do it better? Oh... they didn't have any equipment. I see. And of course that's how you know how to do it better. Because you hit the loudness button on your car stereo. Right.
My biggest problem is I can't suffer fools. So I will work with amateurs anymore. It doesn't pay. It's grief you don't need for peanuts. I can't deliver trash. I have a track record. And what's a lousy recording going to do for your reputation and your business?
With one client, once, I took the digital multitrack tapes, throw it at them and told them to get the hell out. That's when ya get to do it the way you want to. That's when they'll beg ya to finish it, your way. Or they'll do you a favor and leave? And your reputation won't be tainted or soured. But ya might get the reputation of being tough to work with? Yeah... tough on folks that have no talent. Are clueless and telling you what to do. No. It don't work that way. You can remind them that you are a professional at this and they're not. I'm not dare to coddle people like a babysitter. Though I know engineers that are just like that. They're like bumps on a log. They are good little children engineers that never speak unless they are spoken to. That's not an engineer. That's not a producer. That's a guy with a job. And you have to weigh those differences for yourself and your marketplace. Maybe this is the only band in the town in which you live? In which case, I would have fresh steamed Maine lobsters and Rib Eye Steaks waiting for them. (I hope they don't like lobsters? More for me.) And then you can get away with only having Barringer equipment. Otherwise, not.
of course you indicated you are not totally accomplished at this type of an undertaking, yet? So are ya sure it wasn't lacking in low-end? And if so? How would you validate that for them? Do you have more than one pair of monitors and headphones? Does anybody have a car stereo or are they old enough to drive yet? None of us use a single source of monitors. I usually have between two and three different pairs and sizes. Along with different sized amplifiers and types and/or amplified monitors.
There are those of us that are accustomed to working on a single pair of control room monitors. Once we have become as intimate with them as we have our personal underwear. And we've listened to everything by everybody on those monitors. And we've had them for a few years doing so. Until then? There's MasterCard.
I have had end used a set of commercial and personal recordings as references. I use these for myself and if necessary, demonstrate what they sound like and should sound like, to others. Without a reference? How do you know what the hell is right? The room could be wrong and the speakers could be right? The room could be right and the speakers could be wrong? The room could be wrong, the speakers could be wrong and the engineer could be wrong? There are so many variables. And if they can't understand that? Send them away. You'd do better working at Wal-Mart if ya need the cash that badly? In that case.
So it's really imperative that you get your recording and mixing chops down. You really can't experiment on people and charge them money. You could tell them that you'll give them a discount because you're new at this? And you'll work with them the best you can. You can then tell them that you are now all collectively like the Beatles or Steely Dan. Creating your sound as you go along. But you're sort of being a little bit like Jethro Bodine in the Beverly Hillbillies who always wanted to be a BRAIN SURGEON! Philip and I would laugh at bands that would give us a BS like that one giving you can use that brain surgeon Jethro Bodine line somehow on them. George Massenburg used to get upset when these garage band guitarists would take 20 minutes, to tune their freakin' guitars up! And where I once heard a band walked out on a recording session with George, when he suggested they send their guitars back to the factory to have them tuned LMAO! And apparently that story is true. It's perfect! He finally got out of the Baltimore hellhole and away from those Garbage Bands. He did a little better for Earth Wind & Fire, the Emotions, LittleFeat, Linda Ronstadt and a host of others. Working with people who knew how to tune their guitars in short order time. Like any professional would. But when you're working with amateurs? That's what ya get.
So since you don't have a reputation to protect as yet? If he wants muddy kick drum? Give him muddy kick drum. But tell them that when they realize how awful that really sounds? You're going to have to charge them more for a remix. And charge them good as in a lot. Then next time, they'll listen to ya.
When you work with true professional talents. It's all different. They are there to do their jobs. They note you were there to do yours. And you are doing yours for the producer who is their producer. The producer has final say, not you. And if you work well with your producer and your producer likes working well with you? Then you're good. You're a team. You're out to conquer the music world. But when everybody is trying to cook that PIE along with you? You know what you're going to get. A burnt, awful tasting POS.
You can do it either way. But then you could also charge either way? You can charge by the hour? You can charge by the song? You can charge by the package. However you want to work it out? By the hour will make you more money with ass holes like that. And you might like that? You want more mud? Sure... how much more? Is that enough or do you want more? Here take a listen to more. Wait let me plug in my sub harmonic synthesizer. I can give you more. Would you like me to double that with a digital delay? How about an enhancer on top? I think it needs another 6 db at 3.7 kHz, not 3.5 kHz? Here listen to both. A or B? A or B? Yeah baby! By the hour! Not by the song. No.
Charge for a 4 hour block. And only in 4 hour blocks. What if the mix only takes one hour? Well it's not your problem. They wanted stupid stuff and you gave them stupid stuff only for them to later figure out it was stupid stuff. Why should you pay for that? So you're not a loser you're a winner. Regardless of what kind of ass holes they are. And if they walk out on a session with you, without paying? And it's original material you've recorded? Youcopy right it, for yourself. Because chances are? They probably haven't? Or he just post it on YouTube or Sound Cloud and indicate it as what mistakes these guys made in the studio and why Their recording sounds so bad. Complaint with plenty of LOL's & LMAO's in your descriptions. It might actually keep them from getting hired at the local bar? And then will come apologize to you and offer to pay you for that recording and make a new one with you. Because you're the only guy in town.
If you're not the only guy in town? Better get with the program. Only Jethro Bodine can become a brain surgeon overnight.
Mx. Remy Ann David
I'd say that 90% of the time, I'm mixing as we go along during the tracking, anyway. A little EQ nip here, a little gain tuck there, some GR, etc., so that as the song is moving along, they are getting used to the mix as I do it.
With bands, especially those who were first timers, I used to tell them at the top of the project to choose 1 representative, 2 at the most, to attend the mix session, and I would lay down the truth and tell them why - that having the whole band there was like having too many cooks in the kitchen, and it was going to cause problems and end up costing them far more than if they just chose one rep to sit in and advise.
Most were fine with that - at least with me, I have no idea how many fights I caused away from the studio between musicians when they were choosing which one of them was going to be in charge - and some insisted that they all be there, at which point, I told them to tell me exactly what to do. And I would follow their instructions. So, when the mix turned out bad - as expected - I would tell them to please not use my name on the liner notes of the record... and if asked why, I would tell them it was because I couldn't have my name and reputation connected with such a bad mix, which usually forced a remix session :
"Don't take it personally guys... it's your song, if you feel you all know enough about the process, then hey, it's your money, I'm not gonna stop you. But this sounds pretty bad."
"dude, now look what you did! You pissed off Donny!"
"No way man! I was on his side! It wasn't me, it was Garth!"
"No it wasn't, it was Snake!..."
At which point I would jump in:
"Guys, Guys, relax. We can always do a remix tomorrow night... But I still need you to pay me for tonight's session."
"That's cool Donny, we're sorry, dude. Pay him... GARTH".
I prefer Donny's way compared to going hysteric like RemyRad and throw stuff at people.
I guess if you have enough business and you can afford to refuse some projects, you can have it your way.
But I'm not there, every project counts for me..
"...And if they walk out on a session with you, without paying? And it's original material you've recorded? Youcopy right it, for yourself. Because chances are? They probably haven't? Or he just post it on YouTube or Sound Cloud and indicate it as what mistakes these guys made in the studio and why Their recording sounds so bad. Complaint with plenty of LOL's & LMAO's in your descriptions. It might actually keep them from getting hired at the local bar? And then will come apologize to you and offer to pay you for that recording and make a new one with you. Because you're the only guy in town."
That's far too vindictive for my style.
First off, I don't have the time - or the inclination - to go on a personal character-assassination crusade.
Second, I believe in Karma... and it can be a real bitcha-roo. I'd never do anything to someone that I wouldn't want done to me. The web is a big place. If you start an attack campaign, you'd better be prepared to be counter-attacked yourself. And if you have enough time to do any of that, then you've got far too much time on your hands. Redirect that malignant energy into something more positive - like getting more clients, or figuring out a way to make the ones that are unhappy, happy instead - as opposed to going all Sonny Corleone on 'em.
Third, you never know when someone in that band is going to come into some serious project budget money at some point and want to use you again.
My policy is simple: I always held / hold the final master until the account is brought current or paid in full. It was that simple, and it still is. If you owe me money, then I hold the final mix/master until you pay me. I don't send it out with you on CD, or flash drive, I don't upload it to your DropBox account, r give it to you in any other form, until we are square.
But, I'm not going to cyber-slay you in the interim. It doesn't accomplish a thing, other than making you look like as much of an a s s hole as you think your client is. ;)
violence is cool and all, but i come from a school where you treat customers like gold.
all industry's are "small worlds", people gossip, so if youre offering engineering services for hire, never bridge burn.
as a matter of course, the most effective methods are those where you get the customer to think everything was their idea. its our job to make them look good, even if they are the biggest obstacle to that goal ;)
Well said Donny !
I do a little 'filtering' on the front end of a project to make sure the client & music are a good fit for what I do. I always hold a free pre-production meeting where I can size up the person and hear their ideas for the project. If it's not a good fit, I say so and we part friends.
One time a prospective client came in and during the meeting he played one of his original songs for me. Without going in to detail, the song promoted a very controversial moral stance which was extremely objectionable to me, and I could not feel comfortable with the thought of lending my time and skills to record it. Without being judgemental I simply honestly informed him of where I stood on the issue and that I wouldn't feel right putting my energy behind it. I told him I would be happy to work with him on other material, but not something which promoted that stance.
Ultimately, he chose not to work with me, which suited me fine. So sometimes I do say 'no' to a project... not because I'm so busy that I can afford to, but because I'm not willing to sell out and compromise my values.
By 'filtering' on the front end I also get a good idea of the personality type I'm confronted with and can assess whether this person is likely to mean trouble or not, and if I sense that, I'm sure to make very clear what my operating parameters and procedures are AHEAD of time so that if any trouble arises later I can remind them that they were told how things would be ahead of time. So far, so good!