You may have heard one of your friends who plays music, on some rare occasions, say the following:
I think the music will speak for itself. I can’t afford studio time, but if I just record what I have and send it out to the right people it will get picked up!
The band may be great, the songs may be killer, and your image may be up there with Rod Stewart. There is little doubt in your mind: your band is awesome, and hearing it in any form whatsoever would be a gift to those who are waiting to hear your tracks. Why wait to perfect it? What’s the saying? “Close enough for rock and roll?”
This optimism for your product is understandable: we have great instinctual abilities to rationalize and be optimistic toward our circumstances in even the most dire of times (otherwise, our species would have died off.) This healthy dose of confidence is great, it’s what makes every great performer shine.
In this particular case, you have to ignore it. You have to understand a very important thing about your tracks when it comes to publishing music: it’s a very saturated market, and people’s ears are more finely tuned for error than ever before. This is why you have, have, HAVE to mix your music and have it mastered by someone who knows what they’re doing, PERIOD.
People aren’t being snobby when they desire auditory perfection. Like a musician’s instinctual ability to protect their product in their mind’s eye, the listener has an instinctual need for a well edited, well mixed, well mastered track. In a chaotic world, a steady beat and a properly EQ’d voice helps define order in the listener’s head. People are literally addicted to perfect sounds because the noise of life is so jarring that they want to transcend that. Sadly, this means for a lot of people, only a perfect product can even register and everything else sounds like nails on a chalk board (or Yoko Ono, if you will.)
Editor’s Note: We apologize to the Ono family for this shameless reference, and will retract this statement if you have sought to acquired superior vocal skills since this performance was recorded.
So give the fans what they not only want, but absolutely need: your top notch mix. Make sure it’s audio butter, that it warms their listening ears instead of prickling them. If you can pull this off, you’ll do more than deliver your music. You’ll deliver a zen-like state of being. Who’d have thought you’d be involved in helping squeegee someone’s third eye clean?
We’ll get into how to find these mixers, masterers, and producers in futures posts. For now, we simply want to put one little fact on your radar: your music is your product, and your product needs polish in all fields. So don’t half-ass it.
A FEW EXTRA TIPS:
- Keep the tracks off the web until they’re ready for publishing.
- The rough mixes should only be played for trusted confidantes, and never sent out to anyone via e-mail unless they’re part of the gig.
- I highly encourage getting feedback from those you know and trust (and even rolling out demos to test the audience.) So if you want feedback try to have those people over so you can show them your music in a one-on-one setting.
- Remember, none of the obsessive perfection applies to pre-production tracks. Those can sound as good or bad as you want. They’re meant to flesh out song ideas, and don’t need to sound like a million bucks.
Don’t let the pursuit of perfect prevent you from writing! But don’t let the thrill of writing lead you to put out a half-finished product. Understand the balance between the writing process and the final product’s mastery. You will be much better for focusing on both.