Being an audio engineer for the last 15 years I’ve seen a lot of mistakes artists make in choosing someone to mix and master their music. Here are five of the most deadly.
1) Hiring your homie
This is by far the biggest mistake up and coming rappers make. Unless your friend has a ton of experience mixing songs, he’s probably going to royally screw up your mixes. And I get it, he’s free or doesn’t charge a lot, but how can he take your music career seriously, if he doesn’t make a living from it? Do you think your friend is going to make the changes you requested to your mix in a timely manner? No if he didn’t get paid for it, you’ll get your changes back in weeks or months if ever.
I’m not saying you have to spend millions on an audio engineer, you can find pretty goods ones for around $100 per song (You can even try our mixing and mastering services). A good audio engineer will not only mix your songs, they’ll provide valuable constructive feedback. I personally try to provide all my clients with a little nugget of advice that’ll help them out.
2) Mixing your own songs
I’ve already spoken on the artist as hero myth previously. But what I didn’t add, which I only realized after writing that is that I myself as an artist would have made it much further if I worked with others. I would hear the phrase, “No man is an island” and think, “It would be awesome to be on an island”. But I only make light of it, because it is so painful to admit. It’s only now when I started to hire my first employees that I realized I have severe trust issues.
Ego aside, mixing your own music usually leads to disastrous results. Remember Tyler The Creators last album where he mixed every song terribly on purpose cause he thought he was on some Kanye “shift the paradigm” type thing? It was a complete fail.
Yes mixing is an art, it’s not a commodity. It’s like painting, anyone can pick up a paint brush and paint something but that doesn’t mean it’s good. And I definitely respect artists that attempt to mix their own stuff because then they can see how hard it is. But I look at it like this: if you were a piano player and heard me play piano you’d probably say, “yeah you’re okay, but that’s not your thing”. I feel the same way when I hear artist’s mix their own stuff.
3) Not listening to previous work
Most good audio engineers will have before and after samples on their site so you can get an idea of what your song will sound like. Keep in mind, your song may not sound like the samples, it may sound better or worse, depending on how well it’s recorded and produced.
However, I recently mixed and mastered a country rock album and it turned out really good and the artist loved it. In fact, he said the mixes I did sounded better than his previous audio engineer, who was charging double the price! Now I don’t say that to brag (okay maybe a little) but most of my experience is in Hip Hop, Reggae, R&B, Gospel, Top 40 and EDM (basically black music minus EDM). Now if this artist didn’t take a chance on me, he wouldn’t have had such a good experience, because I didn’t have any country samples on our site.
4) Going all in, too early
Sometimes I’ll get an artist that wants me to do their whole album of the rip. Meaning I’ve never worked on any of their songs before and they out of nowhere want me to mix and master their whole album. While I’m flattered (I love you more than you’ll ever know) a better approach is to get me to mix one of your songs and see how it goes. See if you like the mix, see if you like working with me, see how you’re supposed to send the files, get a feel for the whole process before you commit to a whole project.
5) Hiring the cheapest audio engineer
Just like you can get jeans for $10 and jeans for $2000, audio engineers vary wildly in their pricing. I personally would stay away from anyone in the sub-$50 range as they’re probably not taking their career seriously and wont have the kind of mentality to take your career seriously either. For example, a man whose job doesn’t contribute to taking care of himself or his family is not going to take that “job” as seriously as the job that does. I imagine audio engineers in the $1000 range would say the same thing about me though, so it’s all relative to the level you are at as an artist and your budget. But you should always aim to pay a little more than you want to as this is your art afterall: Treat it like the most precious thing in the world (because it is).
What do you think?
Our motto is “Every great artist starts with a great audio engineer” and it’s because we believe that a great audio engineer can provide so much value to an aspiring musician. By choosing your audio engineer wisely and not hiring your friend, or doing it yourself or not listening to past work or basing your decision solely on price, you’ll jump start your music career.
In the comments section, let me know if some of the mistakes you’ve made hiring an audio engineer.