December 31, 2016 - 3:41pm
I must say... I've been crap at updating and posting anything here since the end of summer. This is always a good and a band thing. I've said it before, when you're busy you often neglect your website and socials (to an extent). When things slow down... what better time to update the ol' website!
... and things are not slow!!
I had a few other posts I wanted to do and maybe I'll sneak them in early next year... mainly talking about new music I've found (I listen to other bands aside from Tame Impala *cough*), but I'm anxious to start sharing my experiences working with, playing in, and managing my new band Never Say Die.
As far as the managing thing goes... it's been a real eye opener and eaten up a lot of time since we launched in October.
Bands/Artists I've worked with over the years are always asking questions and looking for advice... so it's one thing to give my thoughts from the sidelines, and another to get my own hands dirty and be part of doing the work myself. Even though we're only a couple months in, I have a better idea now how long things take, what's doable, and what you really should be outsourcing.
Bottomline... things take time, things cost money, get advice from many people, and don't expect results instantly... which is a big one since a lot of people are impatient these days... or drag their heels getting the process going.
... again... just scratching the surface, but in the last 3 months, we've: launched the band, done a couple photoshoots, got the basics of our branding together (for the next 6 months hopefully), booked a US tour (dates up soon!!), launched an album pre-sale, and have our debut album coming out at the end of January... which is sorta quick, but we felt there was too much opportunity lost being on tour in the US without a physical copy for sale... plus it was ready.
... I love it though. I like making records but I feel energized... and partially feel like that 15 year old kid again promoting my band online... except it's on Twitter and Facebook, instead of ICQ and MySpace.
... seriously though... different decade but the fundamentals of *cough*shameless*cough* self promotion remains the same... plant seeds in the fall if you want to eat in the spring... or something like that... you know what I mean...
On a sidenote before I go... the old studio.... The Pawnshop.
Many people ask about it... a number of people didn't realize I even moved out last year. I'll be honest... I miss the area, I miss the food, I miss opening the door and how quiet it was every morning.
... but like most of us think back on old memories/relationships... I only miss "the good ol' days" of how it was... summer camp style... not that I ever went to summer camp... you know what I mean...
For at least a year and a half before I finally gave my notice, I was already mentally set to move onto the next chapter. Once the pieces fell into place to make the move, it was an easy decision at the time... tougher than I thought at the end, but after a year of new experiences, workflow, and meeting new people... I really don't miss it, because I wouldn't want to go back to it... things are good(er) now and have only been getting better.
Last thing I'll say is cliche... but I really am looking forward to next year... and I always feel like you've had a good year if you feel like you've spent the year setting things up for the next one.
Life is about momentum and I feel the few people I know who are truely unhappy (admittedly or not) feel stuck or lost... everyday try to do what you can to move forward. Think onwards and upwards, everday... it's not about the size of the steps, it's simply about steps.
I hope everybody had a great holidays and you're surrounded by friends, family, and loved ones tonight.
Party responsibly. Don't drink and drive... and double check those Uber surge prices before you hit accept!
See you next year.
- Mike :-)
P.S That pizza was from my birthday... decided 2 pizzas was too much pizza, so I got both pizzas on 1 pizza. #pizzahack
January 12, 2016 - 4:45pm
... sometimes you wake up at 4am thinking "today isn't going to go as planned."
I got a call yesterday evening from Matt (Age Of Days - bassist) and I could tell right away something was wrong.
Me: "Hey, how's it goin'?"
Matt: "Hey Mike, not good... not good at all."
I knew Tim had been sick but I didn't realize he was this sick.
We were scheduled to fly out to Calgary today... should've been at the airport a while ago and should've been in the air right now.
Age of Days was booked to open up for Theory Of A Deadman on their 15 year anniversary acoustic tour out in western Canada. Something we got wind was a possibility in the fall and something we were all looking forward to.
The call finished up and I waited... one way or another for confirmation.
... wandering around the house, mentally continuing to pack while the lady and housemate continued bringing up the topic of my flying out to start an awesome tour tomorrow... cracking jokes about the weather and shenanigans that would ensue for the next 20-ish days.
... meanwhile in the back of my mind I'm sort of stunned... thinking it might not actually be happening now.
... I joke (half joke) often that I don't count any chickens before they hatch. Not to be pessimistic, but nothing is happening until it's happening... and I said it several times leading up... but I assume it's (95%) happening once flights are booked.
That flight confirmation email is what puts my mind at least... makes things "Facebook official."
...but I woke up at 4am this morning and realized it was a thing... this tour is 99.9% no longer happening with Age Of Days... which sorta messes up the schedule for most of us in music...
It's a weird thing to bring up and I don't want to compare it to other great disappointments people experience (that are supposed to be "for sure"), but once you start telling people you have something awesome you're looking forward to, they (if you're surrounded by good people) start feeling excited too!
... plus everyone wants to be a rockstar!
That's a way cooler job.
... but most don't understand what it's like when things in music fall through... which is probably a major reason why so many people who are doing things, don't tell everyone everything they're doing... and the people who announcing things all the time (or announce future announcements constantly) probably don't have much going on... since so many things in the music industry fall through or don't go as planned.
Announcing major plans in the music industry is almost a calculated risk.
... and it's hard to explain to your friends and family what the implications of these things can mean.
... the planning, the rehearsals, the prep, the run of (perhaps tour specific) merch, the acoustic EP that was supposed to compliment this acoustic run... your reputation... sometimes it's hard to salvage all or any of that work... sometimes you just have to cut your losses. These are business decisions.
... and if you work in music full time, you're often booking things several months out, so when something falls through, you're sorta stuck/scrambling to fill the schedule... and time lost is time you don't get back... not to mention lost income. Music is an expensive career choice.
... one of the main reasons so many musicians can't stomach the idea of going both feet in... there's no guarantee of a paycheque... even if you finish the job!
... but if you want to be a musician, or in the arts in general... you care less about the money... that carries over from being a teenager. Sometimes you're doing alright and sometimes you're broke... but most importantly you're waking up doing what you want to do... what you chose... what you love or at least working towards it... and I think that's one of the secrets of happiness.
I'll admit, right now I don't want to be sitting on my couch, next to the loaner cat, listening to Tame Impala, thinking I should vacuum after I finish writing/posting this, thinking I'm glad I got the winter tires put on the car yesterday (it's officially winter in Toronto)... I wanted to be sitting semi-comfortably in a plane, listening to Massive Attack (ritual), playing Plants vs Zombies on my iPhone 5s, checking the progress on the little plane on the flight map channel on the tiny screen in the headrest in front of me... wondering if it's warmer in Calgary... and how many memories would come from the next 3 weeks.
... and the late nights and early mornings I'd spend writing about my travels.
... first world problems, I know.
... but that's not in the cards right now unless something magical happens... and this is not Dec 24th.
I still believe most things happen for a reason so I've been laughing it off most of the day... still disappointing though... we're all really disappointed... but it's not the first time and won't be the last I'm sure... again not being pessimistic. I know what I signed up for... I'm committed to music... regardless which side of the glass.
Today has felt like a long day... but 13hrs later I have a couple projects lined up and can sleep a little better tonight.
As far as I know the Disturbed tour is still a go... and we'll come out swingin'. Age Of Days has a lot of plans for 2016... just a gentle reminder to start the year... you can't predict the weather, and you can't take your health for granted.
Onwards and upwards!
P.S. Adult winter boots! +1
... I guess it took one more day than I thought.
I've been looking forward to New Years Eve since October. As much as I loved my old studio, and it's much more natural to say that now, I mentally checked out after new plans began falling into place.
... it's tough to keep focus on an old project once you're more excited about a new one... and it takes a lot of discipline to complete the remaining tasks... that being finishing up projects (because I'm going to second guess any mixes outside The Pawnshop for a while) before packing up the studio.
A lot of people are looking forward to their new gym memberships Jan 1... I was looking forward to the weight of the old being lifted off my shoulders. Again, loved The Pawnshop but it was time to move on.
... you know the feeling though... watching shores you'll never return to drift away... calling someplace home for a long period of time (an apartment, house, etc) then with the change of a day, it's no longer yours. Someone else has signed for it, they have the keys, and you can no longer simply walk in.
It belongs to someone else. You still have the memories made, but it belongs to someone else.
... a messed up concept when something has sentimental value... but I think it's the truth... and January 1, 2016 marked the first day in years that 170A Baldwin wasn't at my finger tips.
... but I woke up yesterday feeling the same. Feeling like I still had some part in taking care of the place... like I still had things left to do there.
I got a message from Harrison (producer who's moving in as part of the studio/tenant reshuffling at the building) asking about a metal shelf I'd left with plans of picking up.
He asked about it, and said he'd found a use for it. It was part of my "studio purge" for sale list so it was good to stay there.
... and like that, the weight was lifted.
I woke up at 7:30am this morning, fed the (loaner) cat, made breakfast, and went downstairs to the office... finally inspired to write... and listen to music... I need to put in some hours listening in here... still haven't even put any acoustic treatments up...
It's the feeling I've been waiting for since late October... officially the next phase of things... career wise... and it feels awesome!
... 2015 started great but quickly settled into the same routine (not that it's a bad thing) and after a couple projects cancelled last minute in the summer... freeing up 4-6 weeks of cottage time... I remember floating around the lake with my line in the water, half venting to myself that things had to change... my current priorities weren't lining up with my goals.
... and as one of my mentors so eloquently put when people bitch about things they could change... "if you want to stop paying chequing fees, stop paying chequing fees".
... new projects, tour dates, co-writes, new albums/eps, new mix projects, travel opportunities, house, car (finally)... loaner cat... I basically moved 3 times in the last 3 months (you know how you're doing in life depending on who shows up at your funeral, and who shows up to help you move!)... 2015 ended in a whirlwind... but goals were achieved and new ones are now in place.
I feel lighter though... and thank everyone for the emails, texts convo's, and Skype/phone calls the past couple months... so many in this business are in the same position but don't want to talk about it... music is tough... and the line in the sand is just getting deeper between hobbyists/amateurs and professionals... and with that, where you spend your time is even more important.
... so this feels more like the New Years Day I was hoping for... so Happy New Year to everyone!
It's cliche to say "this year is going to be great" so maybe do yourself a favour and put yourself in a position where it has to be. When there's only 2 possible outcomes, that's often the deciding factor whether armies win or lose... for those of you who haven't read Art Of War.
- Mike :-)
P.S. Real winter boots are awesome!! Christmas boots!!!
... I'm keepin' the tags on as long as I can.
"I hope this works."
... when you run a business... any kind of business... there are two points which are the toughest. When to (actually) start, and when to stop... and although I haven't worded it so eloquently in the past, I've learned the phrase "strength to begin and the strength to destroy"... but in the life of an entrepreneur there's also the courage to pivot relaxing with its feet up in the bottom of your gut.
... and your gut is what drives you... especially when have big plans.
I wanted to post something a week ago since it's already official but I didn't like what I wrote... I'm up to 37 unposted/unfinished blog posts now by the way.
... I routinely look at my schedule, bank account, personal life, career goals, etc. I had a list of conditions written down in my business plan before I took over the studio...
October 6th all those conditions were met.
At the end of the month I'll be locking the door to The Pawnshop for the last time... the place I've musically called home for the last 7 years... I've always used the poppies pinned above the door as my official total... and a reminder.
It doesn't feel like that long at all... and that's the scary part... how quickly it's flown by...
My mentors told me early on that money is the easy part... you can always find money for something that's worth it... it's the time you can never get back... and to be careful how you spend your time and how other people will try and spend your time to free up their own.
... and that was the major upside I saw with the studio... how I'd be able to spend not only my time but with the bands and artists I saw potential in...
I remember crunching the numbers, consulting with a few mentors, friends and family, putting together a 5-year business plan, taking out my 3rd loan, signing the lease, shaking a couple hands... and what it felt like standing in the live room the first day...
I'm a big believer in externalizing things... I think it's good to (occasionally... and in a reasonable tone) let the universe know what your thoughts are... and I feel important moments in life should be accompanied by a few simple words adding up to a timeless phrase to help mark the occasion.
"I hope this works."
I remember laughing to myself and saying it a couple more times in the middle of the room...
It wasn't a "wtf am I doing?!" moment... but I just wanted the universe to know that I wanted to look back on my time here, regardless how long or short, and for it to be a net positive.
... 60+ albums/EPs, 700+ songs... from the first guinea pig 3-piece band I found on Craigslist to the last Age Of Days acoustic EP... Luke Michielsen's first full length album... Charlie Hope's debut children's album and Juno nomination... 4 Parabelle albums (and 1 DVD)... rehearsals... writing sessions... xbox vocal breaks... Team Canada/Leafs hockey gatherings... work slowdown during any and all Olympics... the many rants, debates, arguments, hugs, high fives, and laughs... and the times I've been a trusted ear for artists to unbottle the dreams that drive them and the fears that hold them back.
You learn a lot about people when you're in emotionally demanding close quarters for long periods of time... you learn a lot about yourself too...
... so many good times.
So... am I quitting music/recording?
... well I shouldn't say that... but safe to say 99.9% not.
Considering the schedule... Dec/Jan things usually quiet down for the holidays and with Age Of Days heading out on tour Jan/Feb... and plans of touring a bit more in 2016, it felt like the right time to make the change.
... but the main thing about the change I'm looking forward to is having (a little) more free time and flexibility. There are other people I'd like to work with, other places I'd like to work in, and other things I'd like to do. The past year I've (loosely) started 2 more businesses I'd like to dedicate more time to... and tour... I really miss playing live... and I'm not getting any younger... apparently. (lol)
*"wrap it up" music fades in*
I'd like to thank everyone who's been a part of this chapter and helped make this little studio in Kensington Market the great place it's been. The people really do make the difference... anywhere... and I will miss the vibe of the market. It's one of a kind!
In closing, the great thing about the strength to destroy/pivot is you already have the momentum to start again and begin the next chapter.
... now... to find the right words when the time comes.
- Mike :-)
Taylor Swift Vs. Dave Grohl (Record Sales Vs. Streaming aka I'm too busy selling out arenas to care)
If you're even remotely interested in music, or I guess pop culture at all, you know Taylor Swift recently released a new album... and there was a big fuss over her pulling her music off streaming service Spotify.
I'll admit, I only have time to skim these articles but at the core is something that crosses my mind every day... especially as someone who makes records for a living.
What's more important... album sales? Or giving your fans access to your music through much lower paying subscription services?
... there can only be one right?
We have Taylor Swift stating recently she believes music shouldn't be free, and we have Dave Grohl's response that he's basically too busy playing arenas to care about album sales.
First off... it's safe to say both of these artists already built their careers and made their money before or during the collapse of the old music industry/restructuring of the new. We can't fault them for that, but we need to factor that into the choices they make and positions they defend. I don't think either have to sell records at this point (really) in order to eat.
... I'm just realizing now how all over the place my thoughts are trying to wrap my brain around this... apologizing in advance!
Let's start with Taylor Swift... she releases an album, her camp pulls her back catalogue off of Spotify because she feels music shouldn't be free and the royalties are too low for the streaming service... and encourages her fans to buy it... and then sections of the music industry applaud her for making a stand against crappy low paying royalties.
Keep in mind she was making a push for the first (and probably only) platinum-selling (1,000,000 copies) artist of 2014.
This is the goal here... selling copies... 1,000,000 I'm assuming.
I think she was en route to hitting that number anyway...
I saw a post pop up on my Facebook feed where she'd retweeted a fan's selfie holding her new album in the store... and then encouraged all her fans who bought the album to tag and share pics.
... this is a huge incentive for fans to buy the new album.
Who knows how much was spent on her promotional campaign at this point, but that probably cost all of $700 for her smartphone, whatever her phone bill is, and however long it took to set up the Twitter account and hit retweet... that's going to add some sales!
There was also a lot of focus on all the bonus material included with the physical CD.
This is something I stand behind firmly... if you want people to buy your album, make sure it's worthwhile for them! Make sure your core fans feel like they're getting more than their monies worth! Include the lyrics, posters, handwritten notes (*cough* copies *cough*), photos from the studio/live, etc. Basically anything you think your core fan might enjoy. Give them a little behind the scenes look, make them feel included, make them feel like part of a club.
That's what Taylor Swift did with the album package and that's what she solidified simply retweeting a fan pic.
So where does Spotify fit in with her? Well... call me cynical, but my guess is it's simply marketing/PR. The iron was hot, and this pushed her new album (and noble stance) on the state of the industry, record sales and no platinum selling artists (for better or worse) right in our faces.
Again, "music shouldn't be free"... except it has been if you think about it... it's the medium we pay for... and that Apple took all the money away from the record labels by providing a medium (iPod) that replaced the CD (medium), which replaced all the other mediums before it... and now we're in the process of replacing the iPod.
... "music shouldn't be free", keep that in mind for a minute.
Let's hop over to Dave Grohl's side of the fence... where he's too busy playing arenas to care about album sales.
Dave just spent a fair amount of time and money travelling and documenting the making of Foo Fighters latest album Sonic Highways.
Again, let's just pretend the video/documentary aspect of making the album isn't the actual product and that the album isn't just the soundtrack to the documentary.
Do the record sales of Sonic Highways really matter to Dave if he's too busy selling out arenas?
Well... let's Google what Foo Fighters make (according to the internet) per show...
Foo's are sitting around $500k+ a show.
Let's check T-Swift while we're at it...
... so being conservative... $1,000,000+ a show.
... let's pretend for a minute, using easy math, that both of these artists are independent and selling their album for $10 on itunes. iTunes takes around 30%, leaving the artist with $7. We'll assume physical sales are the same.
$500,000/$7 = 71,428
... doing some further easy math, we can sort of compare those number into album sales... obviously needing to factor in all the overhead with touring, but touring at that level, we're assuming they're touring at a profit regardless.
It'd take Foo Fighters around 14 shows (1,000,000/71,428) to hit "platinum status" and Taylor would need 7.
I love easy math!
... I think you get the point though.
Another important thing to keep in mind, when an artist sells a record, that's a one time cost and unlimited use/access to the music. With ticket sales, that ticket has value up until the show starts and rapidly declines (unless it's a collectors item which is another blog post) until the show's end. If you want to see either artist again, even if it's the exact same show on the same tour, you pay for it again.
How many people do you know who attend multiple shows of the same band or the same tour? Maybe not so much here in Canada but I know a dozen living in the US who do.
Pearl Jam? Phish? Dave Matthews Band?
Back over to Spotify/streaming, yes the payouts are low, but streaming is a subscription service... which means continuous money (for listening to music) coming in, and being paid out.
Considering how things have changed... I think in the long term, subscription/"free" is better for several reasons (another blog post). We're still going through growing pains over what people think is fair price/royalties... but then considering how badly most artists were treated financially over the last 3-4 decades (once they saw the numbers), they should see streaming as a step in the right direction to more importantly, increasing their reach and increasing their fanbase.
... then again, the labels could probably launch their own subscription based service if they really wanted to.
To sum this up... what I think most musicians are failing to see at the root of this... is the focus of music is going back to what it was... performing live... in whatever form the audience demands and accepts.
I'd say these top tier artists know where their water comes from, and everything else is a drop in the bucket... record sales included. In my opinion, Team Swift used all this as part of marketing hype for (at the end of the day) touring, just like Team Grohl is using the Sonic Highway series as a piece of the promotional puzzle for their core fans... before the big tour.
Both artists know who they are and understand what their product is.
Both are too busy selling out arenas to care about album sales.
... and we can assume both are paying big money to have their singles played on radio... which is sorta like... paying to have people listen to your music... for free... what a second.
... my brain just exploded again.
Today I remind myself why I choose to do what I do for a living.
Back in 2001, I was sitting in a York University classroom with a couple dozen other wide-eyed kids buzzing with their newfound post-secondary freedom. My course was based around computer science with dashes of graphic design.
My goal was to complete the 2-year program, find a job somewhere on the US west coast in the game industry, and work my way into doing music and sound design.
I figured the gaming industry was booming, eventually overtaking Hollywood blockbuster budgets, so it’d be a safe choice. It seemed pretty obvious computers in general weren’t going away, so it was as safe as death and taxes as far as industries go.
The chair of our program knocked on the door before entering to tell us the news.
We were free to leave the class to go find a TV… nobody made the first move, so nobody did.
We were on the second day of the program and still very much trying to make a good impression on our instructors. Besides, I was pretty sure CNN would have it on loop the next week.
Later that afternoon I was back at my dorm. CNN to the left of me, my Adobe Illustrator assignment (due the next day) in front of me. I started thinking about my motivations. I wanted to finish this/these assignments so I could go audition with a band on bass guitar downtown.
Work now, so I can play later.
I thought if I had a decent paying job, I’d eventually have enough time and money to spend more time and money on music.
I liked computers but I loved music.
I started thinking about how many people in those buildings were there simply for money… how many actually loved whatever game they were playing as their career. How many were hoping to make enough money to retire comfortably or at least afford the lifestyle they wanted to live around work and sleep.
Was it the gaming industry I wanted to get into or was it actually music? Something around music/audio was the end goal after all.
I returned from the audition later that evening and messaged a couple classmates still awake on ICQ. I made an appointment with the chair of my program the next day, and shared my thoughts with him. What he said always stuck with me.
“Education isn’t going anywhere, it’ll always be around when you want to learn.”
… it was the way he said it though… it was so casual… the way you give an old friend advice from the heart.
It was so f’ing cool.
He told me he’d dropped out early on and eventually went back in his early 30’s. He said he remembered me from the entrance test (I stood out a little at the time appearance wise) and he was planning on picking on me to scare the other students since he knew I could take it.
He said whatever decision I make, I’ll do well… and that I still had a couple days to decide… before the school wouldn’t refund my tuition.
There was no pressure to stay or go. It was just a much needed 15-minute chat about life.
Leaving his office, I’d decided to weather the potential storm. I wanted to do music… I’d rather fail in music than be just another with their prized pristine condition, American made Strat or Les Paul sitting on a stand in the corner of a room… who's perfected their delivery of the line "Oh, I used to", whenever someone asks them if they play.
I could do music.
It was a lot to take in at 17.
September 11 became my "New Year’s" in a way… or I guess my anniversary to remind myself what I’m doing with my life, and what “meaningful work” means to me.
My hobby outside of music/studio life is hockey... this is pretty clear once you get to know me. I love to talk about it and happy I'm surrounded by people who either share in the joy of adult rec sports or humor me by listening and asking... it is now (summer) playoffs after all!
I don't message (spam) people with Facebook invites about my games.
I don't invite (spam) people to like my team(s) Facebook pages.
I don't worry about how many Twitter followers my team(s) have so people take it seriously.
I don't daydream about how to play for a living.
I don't complain about how expensive it is.
It's my hobby. It's for fun. I love it. If I was running my hockey career as a business (attempt at a form of income) though... it's considered a money pit.
The topic came up recently, yet again, about bands and budgeting... and it got me thinking.
Here's the quick math on how much I spent the last year to play hockey:
Team 1 - $600
Team 2 - $600
Team 3 - $400
Team 1 - $500
Team 2 - $500
*This is obviously excluding things like sticks, repairs, new gear, skate sharpenings, etc. It really does add up though!
So easy math, over an entire year, I spent about $50/week ($2,600/52 weeks) on hockey, my hobby... which I love.
Feel free to do the math on what entire teams cost... but think about how much money that $50/week could mean to a band of 3-5 people. People who apparently love their band.
3 X $2,600 = $7,800
4 X $2,600 = $10,400
5 X $2,600 = $13,000
Now if you're in a band for fun, this might comes as a bit of a shock, especially if you've never really sat down and figured out how much being in a band actually costs you, even just for fun... or more importantly, how much money $50/week could've raised for recording, touring, merch, etc, if you're somewhat serious and career minded.
Something to keep in mind... if you're running your band as a business, this is money invested... not simply money spent... and these numbers are still quite low for career minded bands... plus it normally takes a few years to get things off the ground.
There's a great book called The Indie Band Bible (written by Mark Makoway of Moist) which has this golden advice under a "band tax". The cost to be in the band.
Bands cost money, businesses cost money, and you need money to get them rolling and keep them going. If you find a way to pool money in some way (in advance), you won't run into what I think is a common (amateur) mental roadblock of "we can't afford that"... without actually thinking more importantly (professionally) "is that worth it?"
What do you spend your $50/week on?
That's what your priorities are.
... and this gets factored in when negotiating budgets of any sort.
... and the same applies to how you spend your time as well.
... maybe some day I'll share with everyone how much I've invested in my business in order to turn making music into a living. It's pretty obvious that's where my priorities are if you look over my balance sheet... and I'm glad I wasn't afraid to run my business in the red the first few years.
P.S. Huge 3-1 win the other night by the way. :-)
I've been doing a lot of mixing the past few weeks and it's looking like the rest of this month will be much of the same.
One thing I love hearing (and questioning) is when bands talk about attending mixing and mastering sessions... then asking them...
"Why? What for?"
The answer is usually along the lines of ...
"So I can help."
lol... help do what? Be honest, you want to go and hang out... and it's easier to digest (and explain to your loved ones) spending $500 or $5,000 on your project if you're in a studio and around some gear with flashing lights and stuff. I get it.
Here's the truth. Most mix and mastering engineers prefer not having people around during 90% of the mixing and mastering process... and in some cases, it's clearly reflected in their rates by charging more to attend, or less for unattended, depending on how you look at it.
Because we feel you won't get our best work if you're around... so it's a subtle way of giving you the hint.
... but... but why?
Because... well, off the top of my head, here's the quick list.
You're going to talk/make noise/ask questions/etc.
This is a sure way to keep someone from getting in the zone. Even if you think you're being quiet... unless you can sit still, making very little noise, as if you're not even there... you might as well not even be there at that point.
Side note: With the honesty box open, if you're paying hourly/daily for a studio, they might actually love having you attend. They're banking on it taking longer, you not being happy with the mixes the next day, and needing to come back for tweaks... and that's more billable hours for them.
Remember what their business is... and most traditional studios are in the business of selling studio time along with the rock and roll fantasy camp experience.
You're that person in the band looking for a free lesson.
There's obviously stuff to learn from any studio experience, but past the hobbyist curve, there's often someone in the band that wants tips and pointers on mixing, recording, production, etc, so they can attempt to do it themselves to save money... so they want to attend to learn. This leads back to the first point, where there's lots of questions and comments, and it's going to cripple workflow.
(... especially guys like myself who will gladly go through the history of whatever you wanted to know because I love talking about crap I care about!)
Sidenote: Sometimes we factor in their plan (hope) might be to take one mix/master and apply it to the rest of the songs, on their own, to help keep costs low. That's sorta like asking someone to build you one room, and you'll just use it to help build the rest of the house. How hard can it be right? I totally understand wanting to cut costs... but this is not the way if you understand the Time:Money ratio in business.
You have no idea how the speakers or the room sounds.
The bass is too loud right? That's probably because you're sitting on the couch in the back of the room. In a studio, you might be able to listen in context but you don't really know how the room/setup sounds.
I do most of my critical listening in 3 places. Chances are you have 2-3 places you do most of your listening as well. We'd rather you listen on systems you're familiar with, and get a better idea of how it stacks up against other material you've been listening to.
You need your point of reference and it's always better to listen there first, then send/bring your notes in for tweaks.
Sidenote: A personal favorite is discussing sonics, only to realize someone is making judgements on computer speakers, iPod earbuds, or sitting on the left side of their car. I know it still needs to sound like music there because many people are listening to music there... but... nevermind.
You don't have much to contribute early on.
... and by early on, I mean before the first draft ends up in your inbox.
I mean this in the nicest of nicest of ways. Just like how you probably shouldn't show people your song ideas/demos until they're in a presentable form, you should give the mixing/mastering engineer time to get things in a form they feel are presentable.
After the first draft of an album, that's when attending makes sense, if necessary.
Mixing can be a messy and odd process.
How would you feel if your mix engineer spent 45 minutes on a bass guitar sound... meanwhile the snare drum (after they've been working on the drums for a while) still sounds way too loud. It's probably going to freak you out and eventually you'll crack and make a comment along the lines of "is the snare going to be that loud in the mix?"
Again, the "quiet" thing. Please.
Yes, I admit I've sat in on my share of mixes and mastering (hanging in studios is different when you're on this side of the glass for a living... since you're often invited), but I don't question anyones process or workflow. I'm often several steps ahead while I'm working on something. It's not uncommon for me to "compress, eq, balance" several times before feeling like I have something I'm happy(ier) with.
Imagine listening to a mix for 6 hours then seeing your engineer zero the faders and start again.
Yup... glad you're paying for the mix (end product) now and not the process? This leads to what I think is the biggest reason mixers and mastering engineers I've talked to don't like attended sessions.
We're afraid to backtrack in front of a client.
Obviously past a certain point in your career you no longer care what people think... probably because those people don't question the results... but a big part of the creative process is knowing when you should undo/redo something.
Over the years I've seen (and also guilty of) some very creative approaches and explanations for backtracking when there's a client around. Bottom line, they decided, for whatever reason, to try something else... knowing full well they might even go back to what they had before... 2 hours later.
This leads to a big reality in the creative world...
Sometimes no schedule (with a deadline) gives the best results.
One of my favorite perks to mixing is I can can do it alone, whenever I want. I can work when forced too as well... but I absolutely prefer working on my own schedule for editing and mixing. If I had to wait for people to show up to start mixing, that's time/opportunity wasted in my opinion. If I feel like staying at the studio until 4am because I'm in the zone, I can, no problem!
The flipside is sometimes I'm not in the zone or not feeling a particular song/album/ep that day and I'll decide to work on something else.
Better yet, maybe I'll fire up the xbox for an hour to take an ear break, walk around the market, read some blogs, play guitar and watch a history channel doc, etc. All the things I probably shouldn't do if I have people (clients) in... well most people... the xbox usually gets turned on for vocal breaks.
... and yes I know I probably forgot another 50 reasons not to attend... and if you are on this side of the glass, feel free to submit them and I'll add them anonymously.
Don't get me wrong, we do want you to be part of the process... we need to make you happy, first and foremost... but we also want to show you our best work. If you're around, we have to do some form of entertaining and also cater to the experience you're looking for.
An awesome part of hiring a professional is trusting they'll take care of whatever you've brought them onboard for. Again, we want your input once we have a draft we feel is presetable... and we're always nervous waiting to hear back after we hit 'send' on that first draft. It's been over a decade for me now... and it still hasn't changed.
The thing is mixing and mastering is a lot like driving... especially these days where we don't need 8 hands on a console to manually automate a mix... a mix we need to nail so we can move onto the next. If you trust the driver, you're going to get to your destination so it doesn't really matter how you get there as long as it's on time and on budget... just zone out a little and enjoy the trip.
- Mike :-)
P.S. Yes I know that bridge support is actually helping the bridge... but I thought it was too funny to pass up.
101 Tips To A Better Band: #9. Create ways to constantly get your ideas down... you need more than you think!
... so I have just shy of 25+ blogs and 70+ Tweets in draft form... some are well over a year old but for whatever reason, they were set aside.
Often it's because of the wording/rambling... but usually because of the timing. Sometimes I think some of the topics hit a little too close to home for who/what "inspired" them. Some of the blogs are #DearBands^10.
They always come from a good place in the heart though... but I gotta say... sometimes I just scratch my head as to what some people are thinking out there... or at least wish they'd be upfront and honest with what they're actually thinking.
I'm sorta comparing all these drafts to songwriting... I have lots of ideas in various states. Some flow naturally... some start with (what I think) is a great idea and take a little longer to develop/execute. This way I always have a deep pool of ideas to draw from. It can make all the difference in the world if you're a creative.
... and just like songwriting, you need to develop quick ways to get your ideas down... because you will forget the best ideas you have if you don't.
101 Tips To A Better Band: #7. Submit For Things (Grants/Awards/Etc.)... Even If You Don't Really Care About Winning
Another Juno Awards submission deadline passed yesterday... a handful of projects I worked on were submitted by the bands and artists... and a handful of projects were not.
In the past I never cared much... since I always felt like these types of things were out of my reach...
What's the point in submitting if you aren't going to win?
It costs money... I hate wasting money... and if I was to flush $50-$90 down the toilet... I'd hope the meal was worth it.
The thing is... it's not about winning... it's about giving yourself (and more importantly, your music) another opportunity (and approach) to get heard... this time specifically by industry folk. You're probably looking for help still... why pass up this really easy opportunity? This is a form of networking in my opinion.
Every week I get emails from new bands/artists... and every week I get a few "We're broke!? All we need is someone to help us out! We just need to get heard!"... someone looking for a deal routine... and me being me... I'll give them a half dozen ideas to consider to help provide solutions to their problems... if I think their music is good of course.
Huge pet peeve... and a sure way to get on my "wait... why do I care?" list... is shooting down every cheap (affordable) and easy idea. While it's easy to say "no" to everything... it probably took more energy to plead your case than to actually try something.
Submitting for awards/contests/grants/etc. probably won't bring you fame and wealth... well... from my experience at least... but it will get your music past some more industry ears. If your music is good or great, people will do their homework on you. If it looks like it could be worth/making money (important), they might want to get on board... or at least pass you along to someone who might.
So... with another Juno Awards submission deadline passing... as the old saying goes...
"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."
– Wayne Gretzky
It pairs well with this other old saying...
“Listen to your mother kids, aim low; aim so low no one will even care if you succeed.”
– Marge Simpson
Which one are you now... and which one are you going to be this time next year?
Mike Langford - Official Blog
Being on both sides of the glass, I get the chance to wear many hats in the music industry. This is a place to share my thoughts, views, predictions, rants, stories and news!