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  Different Opinions in the Studio  

Q) It has been frustrating having people watch over [my] every move while mixing and mastering. Sometimes their inexperienced ears don't agree with mine. I know the client's happiness is of the utmost importance, but where do you draw the line? -Jill

The client is always right. I make suggestions, but I'm not married to them. I use an A-B technique that always solves any question. If your system is LEVEL MATCHED you can simply ask them to bring in any commercial CD that they love the sound of to compare with. If you have great references, then usually things will even out in terms of opinions. Hits can't be argued with, and there's a lot of variety in music. See my page on commercial CD evaluation for some of my favorite references.

Do you personally do a [master] first and THEN have them listen, or do you allow them in the control room the whole time?

If the client wishes to attend the session, they are always welcome. By not being attached to my opinion, it's easy to not be frustrated if they prefer something different. It's just preference. If they really want something that I wouldn't be proud of, I ask to not be mentioned on the CD. That's hardly ever happened.

In mixing, however, I do spend the first 2 - 4 hours alone so that their ears are fresh when they come in the room, and they haven't steered my focus away from many intricate things that don't bear explanation.

It is YOUR reputation as a mixer and masterer on the line, right? I mean, it is YOUR product too, is in not?

I generally feel that being afraid of what people think of my work is imagining that there is some lack in my work. Since I don't feel lack around my work, even if it's not what I prefer, I'm happy to please the customer. I spend time showing them different sounding CDs, so they have a sense of what's out there. The cream rises to the top, and with effective A-B'ing, the commercial CD can usually resolve the different ideas. (I use the NEMO DMC-8 monitor controller to perform the A-B stuff.)

If you put your company's name on a crappy product, doesn't that hurt your future chances of more projects?

Nope. Crappy is all about viewpoint and preferences. If the lyrics are about violence, abuse of others or illegal drugs, I decline the job. More work just magically appears when I define the quality of who I am and what I stand for in the world.

I think that fearing less work manifests less work. Being confident and fearless manifests more of the work I'd really like to do.

I am having a heated debate with one of my colleagues about [these issues]. He sees no problem letting the client be there 100% of the time...

Me too.

...whereas I see it as a complete hindrance - always having the constant opinion (or various ones) of how you should do your job.

I simply let go of my need to be right. If you work better without observers, simply let them know your preferences, but let them decide. If they choose to breathe down your neck and you've informed them up front, then it's their choice to participate in your less-than-ideal methods during their project. Clear communication is the key.

There's as many opinions out there as there are artists. I always sincerely consider myself part of the project's creative team. For some reason, the respect I get from that approach makes everyone feel at ease and secure that they'll get a great product. Business is always based on the laws of attraction. You decide exactly what you attract by the way you are being in any situation. Trusting in the right outcome of willingness balanced with inner integrity is an easy state of mind to be in - with a little practice.

I am desperate to know.....

Don't be desperate! Life is too important to not have fun! As my 92-year old grandmother said, "Life is like a roller coaster. You can either say EEK or WHEEE!"

Q) If I'm 42 yrs old... just quit my securities trading job of 8 you think it would be too late to go to school for audio engineering? - Pete

Personally I think it's never too late to pursue your dreams. However, I think there's a reality to the personality profile of an engineer at any age: you need to be able to work long (often late) hours, stay current with a lot of technology which means a lot of research time reading magazines, etc., and you need to be able to manage the financial "ladder" we all climb - which at times is varied and requires patience and resilience.

If you're married or in a relationship, will the financial change from steady to shifting be ok? If you have kids are you able to see them enough and still work over-over time as required? Can you find studios to work in or bring business into? Do you have plenty of computer skills, audio background, musical feel and communication skills? Can you learn quickly and handle slow times when they occur?

It seems that many engineers(based upon articles they've written)appear to have soured on the industry as a whole???.

The industry isn't in a golden era. Sales are way down, the music can be varied in quality, the technology is changing so rapidly, there are guys who are the "Top Guns" who are still part of the work force, as well as a ton of interns working for free just to get a foot in the door....

By the way, my assistant is mid-40's and he couldn't get an internship anywhere after graduating top in his recording class.... studios didn't want someone his age.. probably because it's awkward to tell a mid-40's guy "Go get the coffee."

I think it all comes down to what assets are you going to bring to the table, and how able are you to anticipate the client's needs before they even ask. Knock long enough and demonstrate enough willingness to help - or just round up some artists and convince them to hire you as an indy engineer, and then just book the studio you want to work in. Make your presence known, tactfully. There's always room for someone with a positive attitude when others appear "sour."

Want to be more positive? ...even in tough times? Could it be
we have it good....

Updated 08/08/04
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JV's message to musicians: Make a positive difference with your music.