People are interesting creatures.
Often we don’t know something. That’s not so bad, because we can go look it up and educate ourselves. But it’s much worse when we don’t know that we don’t know something. The worst form of that is when we think we know something, but we actually don’t. That false confidence actively holds us back from learning.
A lesson to you: even when you think you know (a lot) about something, never rule out the possibility or learning more about it.
But I’m not here to talk about you. This is about the artists and musicians you work with.
One of your jobs is to make your artists sound as great as you possibly can. But sometimes you and your artist might disagree about the best way to do that. You might want to overdrive everything, but your artist hears it as distortion. You might want to record electric guitar with a nice valve amp, but your artist wants to use his crappy digital first-gen Pod because that’s what he’s used to. Your artist might think he’s too good for Autotune, and you disagree.
Here, you have an opportunity to educate.
You are the one with the skill and experience. You’ve done this before. Probably many times over. You’ve seen the movie and it doesn’t end well. So you patiently explain that – dispute your artist’s suggestion – you’ll both get a better result by doing it your way. Most people will be happy to listen to you and take your advice. Your the expert, and they’re hiring you because they trust you.
But sometimes you’ll have an artist that is convinced their way is better. And either they’re too closed-minded to take on your advice, or it would take too long for you to sufficiently educate them to change their mind. You’re there to make a recording, not give a class in DSP or sound physics. It’s critically important that you recognise these situations when they arrive.
From here, there’s two ways this story can end.
The sad ending is when you ignore your artist’s wishes and do things your way, either in front of them or after they’ve left for the day. If they don’t believe in the process, they won’t believe in the result. And if they don’t believe in the result, they’ll feel as if they’ve wasted their time and money working with you. You violated their trust. You chose to sacrifice their trust for a better recording. And if you think that’s a good idea, you suck.
Let me tell you: The trust of your artists is more valuable than a recording.
The happy ending is when you swallow your pride and go with the artist’s idea. Even if you know there’s a better way. Even if you won’t be proud of the result. Get over yourself – its not about you. If you choose to be the cool producer or engineer that gives the artist exactly what they asked for, you strengthen the trust and develop the relationship. Instead of turning the relationship into a dead end, you open it up to possibilities of more work, referrals, credibility and portfolio development.
And the opportunity to provide a bit more education to that artist next time s/he visits.