People ask me all the time what it’s like making a record. And after countless hours of searching high and low for analogies, I think I’ve finally stumbled on the best one.
Making a record is like building a car. The artist is the designer. It’s THEIR car. They’ve spent many months/years working up the ideas, putting it all together, until they’ve reached a point where they were ready to build it. The producer is the Head Engineer. It’s his job to take the ideas of the artist and pan them out, expand on them, make it into a product that is feasible, but still stays true to the artist’s intentions. The engineer is Mechanical Engineer, it’s his job to take the ideas of the producer and artist and make it into a real working product.
Once the ideas are in place, it’s time to build. You hit rehearsal halls, you make demos, you hit the studio. You put things together, you take it apart, you try things, you fail, you succeed, until ultimately, the car is built. Then comes the next step:
Mixing. It’s the most important thing in making a record. You have a great car, but now you have to grind and buff the edges, paint it, choose the interior. You going leather, you going vinyl? How about the cd changer? IPod ready? No matter how well built the car is, it’s not going to be bought if it’s just a giant pile of sheet metal. I’m not saying every car has to be polished and spit shined (give me a 49 Ford Coupe with a coat of flat black and no gloss any day), but every one still needs to be presentable.
Last but not least is the Mastering phase. Mastering is the coat of gloss. How shiny do you want it? You want a long lasting coat? It’s the final step before it’s time for manufacturing. When all stages are done correctly, you can’t beat that feeling. Sure, there are plenty of other cars out there, but now you have something that you’re proud of, something you want to sell, something that is competitive on the highway.
But for some reason we’ve forgotten that. We’ve lost that drive. We’ve lost that pride. Most artists would rather have a mediocre record that they must constantly apologize for than to have a something they want to promote for the rest of their lives. The trend has now gone to spending all the budget on Mastering rather than mixing. I haven’t figured this one out.
Why put a high gloss coat on an unpolished, unpainted car? It just doesn’t make sense.
Be proud of what you do! When we’re too old to go out and play our music live, our records will still live on! It’s our immortality! Quit making excuses. Make good records.