Today’s blog post is a little loose in following our focus on Recording Drums, but is a very integral part to the process, so it seemed worthy of this month's topic! This blog was actually inspired by a few of you who have reached out to the email this blog is usually sent from and spoken to me directly about the situations you’ve found yourselves needing some guidance - hopefully this will help a few more of you if you come across the same issues.
Let’s dive in!
This is a real pain to perfect in my own experience. I’m usually the first person to try and be realistic in how much I will work and what I ask for in return regarding my studios rates; but I also find myself sitting at my desk working until the later hours in the day, outside the sessions they’ve paid for, working on their tracks.
The reality is that you should try and set expectations for yourself and the band. Often, working with bands that are just starting out, or haven’t been on the scene for too long, is the bread and butter of most of the work that’ll come through the doors of any studio. A lot of the time, these bands will have unrealistic expectations of how far their budget will stretch which can cause a lot of problems; the biggest one usually being that they simply don’t have the budget to book in for a 2 week long session to make sure they have an appropriate length of time to record all instruments including live drums.
It's important to let a band know your process. Sometimes, setting up to record drums can last about a day with finding the right sound with the drummer you're working with.
What I have found during my time running a studio is that addressing this early on in a consultation can prove wonders for circumnavigating the tediousness of repeating yourself over and over, but also to build a foundation of trust that you’re doing your best to help them as much as you can before the sessions have even started. If the band doesn't have the budget for live drums, offer MIDI drums and explain the benefits of being able to adjust the drum composition as you record the other instruments. If they don’t really have the budget in general, find out if they have their own way to track their instruments and vocals, and offer to mix remotely to save on time and money. Even better, if you can offer them a lower rate this time around, you’ll be even more likely to have them as a returning client.
The more you can help a band with their first time recording with you, the more likely they will be to end up returning to you to record the next time they have a release planned that they want to record or even better, recommending your services to the bands they play with. And the more you can educate them on the cost of say the amount of days live drums will typically take, the cost of a live room being hired, etc, the better chance you have of them returning on the second time with a more appropriate budget and time scale.
About 3 months ago, I received an email from a lovely gentleman called Victor asking the following question: ‘Any tips on how to deal with Artists who have no clue what they are doing and constantly change their minds even after Arrangements and Mixes etc have been Locked-in?’
I think we can all agree that at one time or another, those who’ve been recording for a few years will have dealt with more than a few artists that haven’t quite found themselves creatively yet, or have a habit of being rather flippant when it comes to the mixing stage and changes they’d like to be made to the songs you’re currently working on for them. If you’ve not had this experience yet, I envy you as it can be a very grueling process with a lot of back and forth between you and the artist, and sometimes only a small amount progress if any between mix revisions. However, there is a simple solution to all of this hassle that you can implement immediately into all clientele from now on!
The 3 Revision Rule is part of the initial consultation process with all artists I work with. It basically lays out a plan of action that after the last session has ended and there’s nothing left to be recorded, I will begin working on the final mixes with the initial return of the songs being the first mix; this way, I can ask them while I have them in the room with me to listen through to the tracks, confirm with me that they are happy with how it sounds, and they can note any adjustments I can make while they’re not in the room. The key, is that if they then ask for any adjustments to be made after that first mix revision has been sent back, they must take the time to make detailed and concise notes for me to work from; the more detail they can give me, the more likely it is that when I return the 2nd mix revision that it’ll be finished.
This is a great example of how the band Maystones will write their mix notes for me. Now, after doing their 4th release, this has become second nature to them.
However, if they don’t manage to detail or explain what they want changing, they will only have one more opportunity to take more time to make a concise list of changes they want. I’ve always said to all clients I work with that I don’t care if the list is 5 bullet points, or 50 - as long as it’s clear what they want and they have worked as a team to get the changes each member of the band would like, I have no problem making those changes. However, if the band can’t take the time to make detailed notes, I can’t read minds, and the responsibility falls on the artist to convey precisely what they are after. Once the final 3rd mix is sent over, that is their budget spent and if they require further changes they will have to then book more time in the studio for me to make these changes, which in most cases, motivates the artist to get this right the first time.
As a last side note, I’d always recommend talking to your clients either in person or on a phone call. It’s very hard to convey that you’re doing your best to work with the artist and put into context how you wish to say something over a written message. 9 times out of 10, a friendly conversation over the phone will only speed up the process of overcoming any roadblocks you or the client may have.
As always, If you have any questions or you’d like to talk to me about problems you’re dealing with, feel free to reach out and write to me directly: Harri@jzmic.com - and until next week, stay creative!