Do Work You’re Proud Of
A few years I learned a tough lesson about the importance of doing good work.
I was working on a single for a metal band and I prioritized my time over the quality of my work.
Although the session went well in general, I knew I could’ve done a better job with the mix. The mix sounded just “ok.” Nothing spectacular but nothing terrible either. Everything was well balanced but I definitely could’ve spent more time making it heavier and more aggressive. The guitars didn’t translate well to every speaker system and the drums probably could’ve been punchier.
However, because the mix was taking way too long and the budget was so small, I decided to listen to my inner entrepreneur instead of my inner artist.
The inner entrepreneur was saying:
Dude…you’re making less than minimum wage at this point. You’ve put in much more time than the budget allowed. The tracking and editing already took too long! You need to finish this mix quickly if you’re going to stay in the black. Time is money buddy. You’re never getting it back. This is NOT what they taught you in business school!
However, my inner artist pleaded with me:
But…but…but…this is a piece of art you’re involved with that’s going to live forever! You can’t just ignore it! You have to make sure you contribute the highest quality work you can. Who cares if you put in two extra hours in the long run? It’s not a waste of time if you end up with something you’re proud of!
Of course, in this case, the inner artist was right. Even though I knew it didn’t sound good I just wanted the project over with.
The irony of the story is that it was a lose-lose situation for both the inner artist AND the inner entrepreneur.
The art wasn’t as good as it could’ve been and because of that, the band didn’t come back. And since getting repeat clients is the lifeblood of any business, ignoring my inner artist actually made business worse.
As a creative, we constantly juggle the creative satisfaction and the commercial viability we get from our work. The work needs to be creative enough to satisfy our artistic needs while still being in-demand to pay our bills.
However, don’t disguise your artistic perfection as an excuse for procrastination. Being an unrealistic perfectionist is just another way to procrastinate and never finish your art.
There’s a sweet spot where the quality of your work meets the skills you have at that moment in time. If you know what you’ll be proud of it in ten years, even if your skills have skyrocketed in that time and the work feels like a child of its time.
If you can look back and proudly say that you did the best you could at that time, that’s when you know you’ve found the sweet spot.
Do work you’re proud of now and you’ll be proud of it forever.
If you’re looking for someone to help you get to the point where you know exactly how good you can make your music, I still have room for about 1-2 more people in my coaching program.
Here’s what Patrick Mercier, a current coaching student, said after his second call:
“The second call was so great. I had 2 aha moments…one during the call and one after. During the call it was understanding that proper manipulation of the stereo field requires a grounding in mono. That makes so much sense and is characteristic of the issue that I’m noticing with my understanding of mixing in general. I’ve spent a lot of time jumping right into the more complex solutions and have missed a foundational understanding of many simple concepts. In general, the most invaluable things that I’m learning are when you catch on to the fact that I’m missing these basic concepts. You’ll state the concept…and then so many other things will just fall into place in my mind. Understanding panning was one of those. Chasing low mids instead of lows to get rid of muddiness was another. After the session, I messed around a lot with parallel compression. This is changing everything for me. The parallel compression on the drums (as you pointed to as a possible culprit) was contributing significantly to the peaks that I heard so I was able to tame that down and get rid of the peaks. But adding parallel compression to the bass was a complete eye opener. I’m realizing now that the bass sounded hollow prior to doing that. Mixing in some compression completely filled in the hollowness with wonderful, fat, meaty energy. So the bass now sounds super solid.”
If this kind of game-changing training is interesting to you, head on over here and let me know you’re interested.
Alternatively, if 1-on-1 isn’t for you, I teach my parallel compression tricks inside the Drum Mix Toolkit you can get here.
Keeping Track, Music Mixing