In my last blog, Everybody Else Is Wrong, I had a quote from Abraham-Hicks, a Dr. Seuss story and a Todd Rundgren/Utopia song. Everybody Else Is Right has nothing to do with any of that even though the title sounds similar…

The other day, someone was complaining to me that their client made them make a lot of changes to a project, and in his opinion, those changes made the project worse.  Of course, he made the changes anyway and the client was then happy!  And that’s how it’s supposed to be.

When I am providing any kind of creative service, like producing a recording or composing custom music for a marketing video, for example, the client (singer/songwriter, musician, video producer, advertising executive, etc.) is always right, even if they are wrong! And of course, there is really no such thing as wrong.  With creative projects, everything is entirely subjective.

In the end, it is their project and they have to love it.  It’s all about what they want, whether good or bad in my opinion.  It’s never about what I want.  However, if someone wants me to change something after I’ve put a lot of time and effort into creating a certain result, usually based on what they asked me to do, if I think their revision request might make the project worse, I will explain my point of view one time.  And if they still want me to change things than I will do my best to see things their way and try to make it work.  Ultimately there is no right or wrong, good or bad, better or worse, only preferences and opinions.

Using whatever skills, abilities, instruments and equipment I have,  I will do my best to achieve the desired result. I will try to figure out what the client wants in order to make them happy with their project.  When it’s all over, they have to live with it while I move on to the next project… Sometimes, many years later, a client could still be selling, and even performing with, a recording that I produced for them. It became a significant part of their life.  So what they want matters the most.

Different things are important to different people.  For instance, with my arrangements or mixing, some people love everything right away and don’t ask for any changes at all.  I do what I do and then it’s done.  Easy.  But some people are very particular.  They have something very specific in mind and will ask me to redo things, sometimes several times, until I get it right.  And the tiniest, most microscopic details can be of major importance to some people.  But that’s OK.  Let’s get it right, whatever that is.  At a certain point though it is time for me to mention one of my favorite quotes from Julia Cameron‘s wonderful book “The Artist’s Way“:

A painting is never finished.  It simply stops in interesting places.  – Paul Gardener

Sooner or later, we all have to let it go and call it done otherwise we will keep finding things to change forever! Next!!

Some singers I work with sing one or two takes and that’s it.  Good enough for them.  Done!  Some even ask me NOT to fix anything and to leave it raw, as is.  If something is a little out of tune, late or early, so be it.  They want it to sound honest and natural.  In complete contrast to that, some singers are seeking the ultimate perfection in their performance and require many takes, editing, tuning, tweaking, expression scaling, vibrato modifying, and then, after all of that, rerecording everything, and then going through the whole editing process all over again!  A lot of this may seem obsessive and ridiculous while it’s happening, but in the end, it’s good that we went through this tedious process.  All artists have a vision and I’m here to help them achieve it.  They may be planning on manufacturing thousands of CDs that contain their performance and their music and so it needs to be the best it can be. I will do it their way, whatever that is.  Everybody else is right.


One Comment

  • Very well put. Most producers/arrangers, myself included have worked with clients who have asked for changes. Of course, after committing countless focused hours on creating an arrangement or mix, our natural impulse will be to resist, especially if the changes in question undermine the structure of what we have put together or require significant work. In the end, of course, the client’s vision is the one that truly counts, and it is our job to realize that vision without being fussy or taking the aux bus to negative town.

    My own takeaway from the experience of client revision requests can be summed up philosophically with one word: LISTEN
    Listen–really listen–as objectively as possible to what the client is asking for. If he/she is not articulating that vision effectively, ask lots of questions about the project until the picture starts to come into focus.

    Practically speaking, I have found that it is wise and a huge time saver to show the work to the client at each major step along the way. For example, if I am producing a guitar driven track, I will not take the mics down or the guitar off the stand until the guitar arrangement/recording are approved by the client. It is easy to make changes at this stage–and very difficult once the whole song has already been recorded and mixed!

    Barry, thanks for pointing out that there is more to this game than mic technique & parallel bus compression; there are people involved!

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