When clients are in your studio, you always want to make sure they’re as comfortable as possible. It’s just good business, right? But how often do you find that someone left not feeling all that great and you couldn’t’ figure out why? How many times have you inadvertently bummed out your client?
Here are some tips that might shed some light on the situation:
1. Don’t talk endlessly about how cool your gear is.
Many musicians or clients don’t know much about gear, and couldn’t care less if your 1073 clone has an updated output transformer or not. While the temptation to show off all of the wonderfully important investments you’ve made (to make them sound better) is overwhelming, I’ve found that many clients will just glaze over and lose focus if you try to impress them with a gear list. They are paying you to make them sound good and most of the time they don’t want to worry about the technicalities. If they did, they’d be recording engineers. Keep your gear descriptions short and to the point.
2. Don’t constantly compare their music to other artists’ music.
It’s very commonplace to tell a client “Wow, that’s a cool tune, it has that kinda ‘Beatles-meets-Green Day’ vibe to it.” While this kind of statement is meant as a compliment, (I mean, who doesn’t like The Beatles and Green Day?) it can be misinterpreted. Perhaps said client hates Green Day? Maybe they spent a lot of time trying to make their song that borrows a chord progression from “And Your Bird Can Sing,” not sound like a Beatles tune? It’s usually best to give your comments in a different format unless you have a close relationship with the artist and know his/her likes and dislikes. Instead of comparing their music to someone else’s try commenting on their own sound. For example, “That tempo really grooves.” or “That chorus is dragging a bit.” Besides, many musicians are striving to be 100% original and you just burst their bubble.
3. Don’t tell them how to perform their part better. AKA: the “Here, let me show you how it’s done.”
Like many fellow engineers, I am also a musician. I play guitar professionally and take the instrument very seriously. I like good tone and I notice places where cool guitar parts could fit into almost every song. However, if an artist is playing a part and having a hard time with it, I refrain from ripping the guitar out of their hands and showing them “how it’s really done.”
Even if I was a world-class guitarist moonlighting as a studio engineer, this does nothing but belittle the client and not much will wreck the mood more quickly! I have many long-standing relationships with clients who trust me and my musical abilities, so such action is O.K. with them, but I still keep this to a minimum when working with them. Encouragement is a HUGE part of being an engineer/producer and hints or suggestions are usually welcomed, just try not to be a jerk about it.