We Recorded 75 Songs in 4 Days. Here are the Two Ancient Rules That Helped Us Succeed
How can you compete with those who churn out content nonstop?
Whether they’re releasing songs every month, publishing content every day, or recording a podcast every week, it seems like they’re producing at a higher level than us mere mortals.
I want to knock on their door and demand the key to their extra-dimensional office where time moves ten times slower so I can catch up.
But I’ve been a digital creator for over a decade and had the privilege of glimpses into this secret dimension. Today, I wanted to share the two principles guaranteed to help you get more done in 2024.
Let’s Go to a Music Festival
For two years before COVID changed the world, I had the privilege of being part of a team that recorded some amazing bands behind the scenes at the Bonnaroo Music Festival.
We recorded about 25 bands each weekend. They’d come in, and we’d record, mix, and master three songs each hour, resulting in roughly 75 songs by the end of the festival.
Our secret? Two rules of efficiency.
Studio in a U-Haul
I’d fly to Nashville and meet up with my friend Lij Shaw of Recording Studio Rockstars to transport his Toy Box Studio from East Nashville to Manchester in a U-Haul. We’d set it all up in a converted trailer behind the Which stage at the Bonnaroo Music Festival.
The trailer had three rooms:
- Control room
- Live room
- Radio interview room
It was called the Hay Bale Studio because we stacked bales of hay around the trailer to act as soundproofing from the stages outside the trailer. The hay would absorb most of the sound and keep the live room relatively tame for us to record full bands in there with minimal bleed from the outside.
(Except for Cardi B’s bass rumble. That shit was inescapable).
3 Songs in an Hour
The recording sessions for each artist usually went something like this:
Complete controlled chaos for 15 minutes as we were setting them up. Followed by 45 minutes of enjoying the music and listening to cool bands perform right in front of our faces.
You might think it’s pretty ambitious to record, mix, and master three songs in one hour, but we pulled it off because of this rule.
Parkinson’s Law states that the amount of work needed to finish a project will expand to fill the total available time until the deadline.
If you’ve ever written a college paper, you know how this goes. You have a month to finish the paper, so it takes you a month to finish the paper. But more likely, you’ll forget until the day before and miraculously, it’ll only take you 12 hours to finish the paper.
So if you only have an hour to record three songs with one band, you only have an hour to record three songs with one band. That’s all we got, so that’s what got done.
Luckily, you don’t necessarily do a worse job just because you have less time. It actually focuses your efforts. You can focus on what’s important that gives you the fastest and best results.
Finish Music With Deadlines
In your case, you can use Parkinson’s Law to finish more music.
Let’s take mixing, for example. If you had a week to finish a mix and went back and forth tweaking everything, adjusting the compressor on the kick drum, cycling through every single reverb plugin you had, and incessantly tweaking your EQs, it would take you a week to finish that mix.
And you still wouldn’t be happy with it.
Without a deadline, you’ll just keep tweaking it until you’re so tired of your music that you don’t even want to release it anymore.
But what if you limited your time and made the most of the time you had available?
I’m sure your mix wouldn’t sound worse. Having a deadline keeps you from overanalyzing and over-tweaking your work. So you’re actually leaving it in a better state than if you were to give it the death of a thousand little EQ cuts.
How To Be More Efficient
So when you have less time because you gave yourself a deadline, how do you make the most of it?
That’s when the Pareto Principle comes in.
The Pareto Principle, or 80/20 rule as it’s commonly known, dictates that 20% of the effort will result in 80% of the results.
I am willing to bet that you could do 80% of the work needed to finish your song in 20% of the time, using only 20% of the tools that you have. And you’d end up with a perfectly acceptable work of art.
80/20 in Action
So, when preparing for the recording sessions at Bonnaroo, we knew we had to work fast.
So we did a lot of prep work. We dialed in settings and sounds ahead of time because we couldn’t start from scratch every session. We knew what each band needed and were prepared for each artist before they walked in the door.
(Mostly…I’m not allowed to tell my Sheryl Crow story, but that session was….interesting).
At one point, I asked Lij what plugins he used to get those mixes done so fast. The answer didn’t surprise me because they were the same plug-ins I talked about inside Step By Step Mixing: How To Create Great Mixes Using Only 5 Plug-ins.
That’s the 80/20 Rule of Mixing.
Use those five plugins; you’ll get 80% of the way there. If you have a great performance, a good arrangement, and well-recorded tracks, you’ll have a finished song by the end of it.
Use This to Make More Music
If you struggle to finish your music and release your records, think about what moves the needle the most. What helps you get the best results faster?
Stop giving yourself an endless amount of time. Start treating yourself like you would treat a student and give yourself a deadline.
Chances are, if you have a deadline, even if it is a fake deadline, it will force you to finish your work, and you will be surprised just how good that finished work is.
You might still need a couple of extra passes or a little more polish, but having a deadline will help you make more progress than if you have an open-ended schedule without a finish line.
So, if you want to finish your work and share your music with people, use Parkinson’s Law and the Pareto Principle to make a bigger impact on your body of work.
Your creativity will thank you for it.
And your craft is guaranteed to improve.
If you’d like a simpler way to finish your tracks, check out my Easy Mix Approach here, which shows you how to templatize your mixes so that you can get better mixes in less time.