The environment in our jobs is tough, the music industry is on a Titanic-course.
All the more, the most critical skill in our jobs is dealing with clients and their feedback. When you have paying clients, you obviously want to keep them.
In addition to all the nerdy audio chapters, this is a major part of my new book (available NOW), and I’ll guide you through the most dangerous pitfalls.
If you’re planning a career in music production, or audio engineering, the following is probably more important than your audio skills.
Pay attention – this is an investment in your future!
Your mix is done. You’re happy with it and ready to play it for the client for feedback.
I hope you didn’t prematurely send any half-done rough outtakes up to this point – which would be as unprofessional as a chef asking you to come to his kitchen while cooking to check if his soup is „going into the right direction“.
Unless the client is personally listening to the mix in the studio, the mix will be most commonly delivered through e-mail, sending either mp3s, or a download-link to an mp3.
The first pitfall to avoid is sending the mix to the wrong people, in the wrong order.
There can be a ton of other people who suddenly come out of nothing and give you input – from the artists mom/dad/uncle to various people inside the record company, even radio stations or radio promoters sometimes call and ask for a change in the mix!
If you follow the rules above, and do great work, you’ll be pretty safe. Also keep in mind that when an artist manager is asking you to do a mix, they are representing the artist who is ultimately paying you. Often the manager might deal with the first round of feedback, but the artist will very likely have the final say, so expect them to join at any point.
For delivering the first completed version of my mix, I stick to this template most of the times.
After you’ve sent the e-mail, it is OK to send a reminder after 6-9 hours and it’s also OK to call or text the client the next day if you haven’t heard back from them. After all, your e-mail could have landed in their spam-folder, while it’s totally possible the client was very busy and didn’t find the time (yet) to listen to your mix or write an e-mail for feedback.
It is professional to expect timely feedback, however, if it takes longer than you like, there is nothing you can or should do. Just make sure the client has received your e-mail, and wait for the feedback.
FEEDBACK: WHAT TO EXPECT
Be ready for anything – client feedback comes in many different shades!
I recommend to acquire a deep understanding of the different communication styles we find in people. One of the most widely accepted models around communication types is the „DISC“-model, which categorises 4 main types of communication styles by two critieria:
1. Is the person Outgoing or Introverted?
2: Is the person Task-oriented or people-oriented?
I’ll be going in more detail about this model in the near future, and recommend you to look into it.
Here’s an introduction podcast you can listen to online from the very respected management consulting firm Manager Tools, I promise it’s worth every second looking into it:
There is a actual test you can do to determine which style are you, and I will put together a page around DISC soon which further reading links.
At the core of all this, you have to develop the skill to adapt your communication (things you say, how you say them, your body language) to ALL the different types that exist.
This is a skill that differentiates the most successful professionals in any field from the ones that struggle – at least when the job includes dealing with people.
The first thing you do after receiving e-mail feedback is to immediately reply, thank them for their feedback and confirm you understood it or ask questions if you didn’t, but not before you’ve read the e-mail a couple of times. Give them a time-frame of when you’ll be able to get back to them with an updated mix.
EXAMPLES FOR CLIENT FEEDBACK
EXPERIENCED PROFESSIONALS (A&R, PRODUCER)
…will get back to you very quickly and e-mail you a list of the most important bullet points. They know what they want and usually after listening to the mix twice they know what changes they want.
This is very easy to deal with. You go through the different bullet points and offer a fix or solution to it. Reply to the e-mail in quote-style and explain how you addressed each bullet point. You can stick mostly to technical terms in your response.
Artists, unless they are very experienced and through a lot of albums, will tend to take a lot more time to consider their feedback. They also tend to listen to the mix many many times, and often respond in great detail with how to feel about the mix.
I often get long e-mails with great backround information on how they felt and what they thought when they wrote the song, and how these feelings relate to the current version of the mix.
You need to invest time to careful reading their feedback and trying to break up their prose style of language into executable bullet points of feedback.
Make sure to fully address their thoughts and how you translate them into any technical terms of mixing.
You can include technical terms, but don’t forget to talk about how and why what you’ve done FEELS that way,
“I’ve added a 3D-type of echo with reverb to the Lead Vox in the chorus, to give it that “spacy astronaut feel” you’ve mentioned in your feedback.”
EGOMANIC TYPES OF CLIENTS
Egomanic types of characters, guess what, they exist in the music industry.
I remember a mix (and production) I worked on, that would end up becoming a Top 5 record for a major pop act.
The mix was long approved by pretty much everybody at the label, and there were a lot of people involved from “VP of Marketing” to “Label President”.
But one A&R guy who was (kind of) assigned to the record, wanted to keep arguing with me – I think he didnt feel his influence on the mix wasn’t big as his ego yearned for.
Anyway, beyond approval by all of his bosses, he kept asking for changes that would not really make a difference (example “move the lead vocal 1 degree left in the stereo field”) and his feedback culminated in the following request:
“Can you please tilt the lead vocal reverb trapezoid-shaped in the depth of the room!”
When he said that on the phone, I had no idea what he meant, but at the same time I knew that I could not openly tell him my thoughts about what type of person I thought he was, and where exactly I’d like him to stick his feedback.
“Oh yeah, I know EXACTLY what you mean. That’s great feedback. Let me work on that and get back to you.”
After the phone call, I literally ROFLed for a few minutes.
Obviously I had no idea what he referred to with “trapezoid-shaped reverb” but I had to find a solution for the dilemma.
The lead (rap) vocal that this song had was sounding direct, had impact and whatever “reverb” he was after could only mess it up. I played with the “small room”-reverb that was already on it, and (perhaps) added a tiny bit of a pre-delay to it when it suddenly struck me!
Emagic’s Logic was at V4.7 at the time and it had a reverb plugin called “Platinum Verb” which had a GUI of the plug-in that would show different shapes of rooms.
OH MY GOD! THIS MUST BE IT! THIS IS WHAT THE GUY HAS SEEN SOMEWHERE!!!
I didn’t actually change anything and certainly did NOT use “Platinum Verb” in the mix, but I sent him an update, called him and said:
“I’ve played around with adding a tiny bit of room sound on the Lead Vocal, and I found that the Platinum Verb plug-in sonically does exactly what you’re were after. Have a listen and let me know!”
5 minutes later I had a reply in my mail saying:
“Spot on – you’ve nailed it! I love Platinum Verb. Mix is approved!”
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The environment in our jobs is very tough, the music industry is on a Titanic-course.
All the more, the most critical skill in our jobs is dealing with clients and their feedback.
When you have paying clients, you obviously want to keep them.
In addition to all the nerdy audio chapters, this is a major part of my book, and I’ll guide you through the most dangerous pitfalls.
Mixing is Martial Arts – 80% preparation and 20% inspiration.
The eBook “YOUR MIX SUCKS” covers you from DAW preparation to delivery – an investment for your life and your future.