Today is important, and not just in the existential or spiritual sense…
…which it is.
When a potential client approaches me to record or produce their music, the first thing we do is schedule a face-to-face meeting to discuss the scope of the project and its particulars. The conversation allows me to clearly understand the client’s vision for their work and define the expectations of both parties, plus just hang out and talk about random stuff. The meeting usually ends within an hour or so, completed by the scheduling of a pre-production rehearsal. I’m attending one of those rehearsals this evening.
The purpose of tonight’s rehearsal is to ensure that the band is fully prepared to record their songs, and if not, suggest techniques and offer advice on how to perform the parts as best as possible. I have no idea what to expect, only that it’s a four-piece band with a drummer, bassist, guitarist and vocalist with 4 songs they want to record. This will be my first time hearing these songs — it will also be my first time meeting the drummer and the bassist of the band. Upon hearing them, I am tasked to immediately analyze and criticize what they believe is their best work, and tell them unequivocally how to make it even better. Moreover, I haven’t even been hired yet, so there’s no guarantee that I work with the group, even if I really want to. No pressure, right??
As a freelance producer and mixing engineer, my credo is “I want to help you make your music better…for you.” Therefore, I only work with clients whom I believe will truly benefit from working with me, not just record anyone with some money. When I agree to work with a client, I essentially become a midwife to their creative “babies”. In order for any important relationship to exist there has to be a solid foundation of trust. That trust can be established — or damaged! — on day one.
That’s why, for me, today is very important.
It’s important that I communicate to the band that I have their best interests in mind and at heart. I appreciate the responsibility I have in my “midwife” role, and they need to know that the integrity of their art is of crucial importance to me. It’s also important that the band members themselves are open to constructive criticism and guidance, and have a teachable mindset. I can’t help make others’ music better if they won’t allow it.
But really, the most important thing tonight is that everyone is present in the moment and being honest. Come to think of it, that’s what I ask of my clients with whom I work and most everyone else without saying it directly…
Be present. Focus!…on your personal performance, what you are thinking, doing and feeling, and modify your actions and behaviors in order to achieve the best results possible. Clear out the clutter and the worry and the external pressures, and concentrate fully on what you’re doing at the present moment. Delve into the details and do your due diligence like our ancestors did. The more knowledge in your arsenal, the more you’ll grow as a professional, as a person and as a human being.
Be honest. In his 2001 book Good To Great, Jim Collins shares a couple of musings from one of his favorite professors who once said, “The best students are those who never quite believe their professors.” True enough. But he also said, “One ought not to reject the data merely because one does not like what the data implies.” It’s important in the early development of emerging artists to give them the feedback necessary for them to improve, even if it’s contrary to their perception. Sometimes hearing constructive criticism can be uncomfortable, but it isn’t what happens to us or what we hear that hurts us, it’s how we choose to respond to it that affects us most. Thankfully, I can say that my clients all choose to get better.
So, today is pretty important to me. I want to help these guys make their music better…for them.
Thanks for reading.