Kenny's Tip of the Day - When The Client is Happy, BUT You’re NOT!!!
When you’re producing, mixing, engineering or even songwriting for an artist, there will be moments where that artist wants you to do things to the product that you disagree with. Something that is not just different but that you perceive to be bad. Or worse. That the thing that you’ve been working on for months is now destroyed. At least in you mind.
What do you do? The common belief is that this is a service industry. When the client is happy, we’re supposed to be happy. Afterall, it’s their record.
While this is mostly true, it’s not why we chose this profession. To simply make other people happy? We’re creative creatures too. It’s no fun building a masterpiece and not having it be what you envisioned.
But in the end, it is their work. They will be judged much more harshly than we ever will. We’ll go on and make another record right away while the artist (with their name on the product) will be using this as their creative output for many years.
So when this happens, I try to employ a few different strategies. When I see that we’re heading in different directions I try to use the power of persuasion. Just nudge the artist along the way to make sure that we’re both on the same page and also that we’re both moving in the same direction. At no point do I try to throw my 30+ years of experience or my multiple gold and platinum records into the conversation. I’ve seen that and it’s a bad look for everyone involved. It’s important to stay humble while we convince others to see things our way.
When persuasion isn’t enough, I try to take a step back and see if maybe they don’t have a better point. Maybe my experience has taught me to do things that are too safe or conventional. Maybe this project should be radically different than what my instincts have told me. Afterall, it is art. There are no experts. We have to leave open the possibility that our way is wrong. I know. Shocking. Right?
But when these techniques still leave me with the feeling that the artist is ruining the art that we’ve made together, I simply give in. Make the artist happy. Make their management and the record label happy and take a step back. If I’m still unhappy and I see a better way, I don’t talk. I don’t tell my story. I show.
I get back into the studio by myself and fix the things I wanted to fix all along. I then create exactly what is in my head and make a finished product that I am happy with. I don’t set up a meeting with the label, management and the artist. That’s a disaster waiting to happen.
No. I just send it to the artist. Telling him or her that I wasn’t 100% happy with what we did and here is what I was thinking. If they like it, we can take that down the road and get everyone's approval again. Worth the time if we both like the changes. But what if they don’t?
Well. Not much more to say here. It is their record. And I now have my vision in a place where I feel like I did my best. I can show my version to people if I want them to hear my work. Keeping in mind, I’ll never show this to people in a “Check out my BETTER version” kind of way. That’s petty. Avoid that.
But feel better knowing that you have the version you’re happy with and that the artist also has something that they’re proud of. Doesn’t matter if it’s different. It’s art. It’s subjective.
You can learn more by watching my videos at www.groove3.com
I hope this message finds you well. Kenny Gioia