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How do you guys put up with listening to bad music year in and year out?
Old 2nd June 2014
  #1
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How do you guys put up with listening to bad music year in and year out?

I usually hang out at the Electronic Instruments forum but read a couple of mastering books recently and decided to check this forum out. I read the highly entertaining and educational thread about how to make money in mastering that is still going on- this might be the best thread I have read anywhere on GS.

But while reading this thread, I realized that I could never be a pro recording or mastering guy- there is just too much bad and dull (same thing) music out there. I am very sensitive to quality stuff. Once, I went into a Best Buy to look for cameras- but the auto-tuned Paula Abdul type garbage coming out of the overhead PA literally forced me to put down my merchandise and leave without a sale- I could stand being in there one more second.

Yet when I read the thread mentioned above, people kept talking about doing what they loved so much- mastering. To me, this would be a nightmare job and I would be throwing stuff at the clients for subjecting the world to this sound (obviously I do not have the right personality type for the mastering profession).

And don't tell me most of the music your clients give you is really good or original. I have heard too much on the internet and at bars to believe that.

So- you guys love, love, love music and have high production standards. This is pretty obvious by all your posts. Yet you deal with ear torture on a yearly basis- how do you do this? How do you go through the day listening to lame self absorbed vocals, lifeless dance music, country and rap songs that all sound so similar. How do you get through the day? What do you say (and not say) to your clients?
Old 2nd June 2014
  #2
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Paul Gold's Avatar
 

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No one pays you to like it.
Old 2nd June 2014
  #3
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Shawn Hatfield's Avatar
The only thing I'm sensitive to, is what can be accomplished on a technical level. Taste is a funny thing and I'm just happy to be working with creative people, regardless of whether it's my cup of tea or not. Mastering day in day out is the furthest thing from torture I can think of.
Old 2nd June 2014
  #4
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Conundra's Avatar
 

Verified Member
Yeah, not every track is going to be to your personal taste but there is a lot of satisfaction from making something go from ok sounding to great sounding.

When the client is really happy with what you've done, it's a really good feeling too.

Cheers

Conundra
Old 2nd June 2014
  #5
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Jonathan Race's Avatar
Regarding style, I'd say most guys are going to be happy listening to a wide range of genres. (the guy that just listens and likes Death metal is probably going to have a hard time finding a great deal of work outside of that area!)

If we're talking production level that's a different kettle of fish. Say you get a B grade mix/song then it's going to be more pleasing to listen to over and over and can be nice just gently lifting it to an A grade. However say you have a D grade and you're having to work it hard to get that up to possibly a B then yes it's probably going to be quite stressing and less of a 'nice' session but at the end you still walk away with a 'better' more sonically pleasing result which has it's own satisfaction.
Old 2nd June 2014
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lune View Post
And don't tell me most of the music your clients give you is really good or original.
and don't tell me how my clients music sounds unless you've heard it.

i like most of what comes in. the stuff i don't like? who cares what i think of it. i just make it sound better. that's what professionals do.
Old 2nd June 2014
  #7
To be honest, I only really notice the quility of the music if I really like it. Otherwise I just see it as "sound". You can't get precious; that's not what you're being hired for.
Old 2nd June 2014
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lune View Post
I usually hang out at the Electronic Instruments forum but read a couple of mastering books recently and decided to check this forum out. I read the highly entertaining and educational thread about how to make money in mastering that is still going on- this might be the best thread I have read anywhere on GS.

But while reading this thread, I realized that I could never be a pro recording or mastering guy- there is just too much bad and dull (same thing) music out there. I am very sensitive to quality stuff. Once, I went into a Best Buy to look for cameras- but the auto-tuned Paula Abdul type garbage coming out of the overhead PA literally forced me to put down my merchandise and leave without a sale- I could stand being in there one more second.

Yet when I read the thread mentioned above, people kept talking about doing what they loved so much- mastering. To me, this would be a nightmare job and I would be throwing stuff at the clients for subjecting the world to this sound (obviously I do not have the right personality type for the mastering profession).

And don't tell me most of the music your clients give you is really good or original. I have heard too much on the internet and at bars to believe that.

So- you guys love, love, love music and have high production standards. This is pretty obvious by all your posts. Yet you deal with ear torture on a yearly basis- how do you do this? How do you go through the day listening to lame self absorbed vocals, lifeless dance music, country and rap songs that all sound so similar. How do you get through the day? What do you say (and not say) to your clients?

It's not the music that's dull and repetitive, it's the way many clients request their music to be engineered - LOUD and l i f e l e s s.

I am open-minded and happen to like a lot of what is in the Top 40(or Hot 100 - pick your charts! ) nowadays.

I like the arrangements, a lot of the lyrics, the message; I'd probably like it even more if it were allowed to breathe and snap a little more.

Also, the low-voltage PA grid in most retail store ceilings doesn't do recorded sound much justice, hyper-compressed or not.
Old 2nd June 2014
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hippocratic Mastering View Post
I just see it as "sound"
yep. i jokingly like to say it's all just frequencies and transients to me.
Old 3rd June 2014
  #10
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apartment dog's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lune View Post
....So- you guys love, love, love music and have high production standards. This is pretty obvious by all your posts. Yet you deal with ear torture on a yearly basis- how do you do this? How do you go through the day listening to lame self absorbed vocals, lifeless dance music, country and rap songs that all sound so similar. How do you get through the day? What do you say (and not say) to your clients?
Where some have found their paradise, others come to harm (Joni Mitchell)
Old 3rd June 2014
  #11
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dietrich10's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by scraggs View Post
yep. i jokingly like to say it's all just frequencies and transients to me.
There have been instances where after the fact (say a few weeks after a mastering project) I hear a song/track in a different setting and realize how good it is.
Most of the time I am listening without listening
Old 3rd June 2014
  #12
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Tarekith's Avatar
 

Verified Member
Hehe, the ever present client question "what did you think of my song?".

I always tell people (and I mean it), it's not my job to approach your music from the standpoint of do I like it or not. Hell, I'm a picky bastard when it comes to music, so I'd never be able to work if I only approached it from the standpoint of only working on songs I liked

To me its about sound first, what can I do to fix and/or enhance the music. Liking it or not doesn't really enter the picture when I'm in work mode.

Ok, sometimes you get some really bad stuff that comes your way. On those rare times, you just have a chuckle and do your best regardless.
Old 3rd June 2014
  #13
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sdbmastering's Avatar
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hippocratic Mastering View Post
To be honest, I only really notice the quility of the music if I really like it. Otherwise I just see it as "sound".
Same feeling here. I think that's a skill most mastering engineers have, we can easily hear sound for what it is and don't get distracted by the message/music it is conveying.
Old 3rd June 2014
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bendermastering View Post
Same feeling here. I think that's a skill most mastering engineers have, we can easily hear sound for what it is and don't get distracted by the message/music it is conveying.
This.
Funny thing when the artist ask what you think about the lyrics and you have no idea what the heck he was singing about, but just spent hours automating every syllable of his vocal performance..

It takes a while to develop that kind of hearing.
That being said, it took me longer to be able to switch back to a normal 'listening mode' when listening to music as a consumer.
I had a period of some years where I was constantly analyzing the sound in mix-mode or mastering-mode, which made enjoying music for what it is very difficult, and actually quite annoying.

Now I can switch between the different modes. Mix-mode, master-mode, casual listener mode. Although I'm still having difficulties switching to 'casual listening mode' on stuff I'm currently working on. Takes some months time.

P.S.: Welcome Thrill. Long time no see.
Old 3rd June 2014
  #15
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SASMastering's Avatar
As Paul said, mastering is predominantly about translation and all important sonic enhancements.

I enjoy working with all genres of music because I have a fairly wide palette for general listening. I have covered pretty much every genre. It is always extra nice to work with genres you enjoy. Even if the genre is not a favourite there is normally some elements of a track which might surprise you and engage.

The key is deriving satisfaction from helping people improve their music presentation whether thats top 10 UK selling albums, million album selling bands or some underground beats produced with serious passion and skill.

Being seriously and professionally equipped helps. Having the best tools makes the job easier whether you need to make tiny adjustments or if you need to mix appraise or make more radical adjustments.

You hear the music of course but never lose sight of the end goals which are a mix of technical and musical embellishment.

Barry Gardner
SafeandSound Mastering
Mastering engineer biog and clients list
Audio examples and mastering FAQ video
Old 3rd June 2014
  #16
Gear Head
 

When listening to music I will get all kinds of feelings and opinions, I just have to sort out the ones that are actually helping me to do my job. My personal taste in music is rarely of any use when mastering. People working with mastering/mixing/recording tend to have a positive and open attitude towards sound and music that makes the workday fun and clients happy. The alternative is to be miserable and/or out of work, simple as that.
Old 3rd June 2014
  #17
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Thomas W. Bethe's Avatar
 

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I like just about any kind of music. From Bach to Rock. I mainly do acoustic music mastering and feel most comfortable with that genre and its many subdivisions. I also get a charge out of doing hip hop and techno. What really upsets me is that people expect the mastering engineer to be some type of super hero and to be able to turn trash into treasure. They send in badly done recordings and expect the mastering engineer to take away all the problems and make it sound like Grammy winning material. When confronted with this type of material I communicate truthfully with the artist and tell them of the problems I see in doing their mastering. I also make suggestions as to how it could sound better and if they choose not to take my suggestions I master it to the best of my abilities. I am a very WYSIWYG type of person. I don't tell clients how GREAT their music is when it is not...and I always try to make things sound better when it leaves my facility. Sometimes I cannot do what the client wants but I give it my all...
Old 3rd June 2014
  #18
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lune View Post
... I could never be a pro recording or mastering guy- there is just too much bad and dull (same thing) music out there. I am very sensitive to quality stuff.
Then you could never ever ever do audio post for TV and movies.
Old 3rd June 2014
  #19
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I have been trying for years to surround myself with people that make music that i like. Sometimes it seems to work splendidly. And when the music is struggling they are nice people so it works out anyway!

z
Old 3rd June 2014
  #20
So many great replies here. You always hope the next project that comes through the door will blow you away. Sometimes, it does.

Paul is correct - You aren't being paid to like it. You're being paid to master it. And most MEs I know are true music lovers; that is, we love so many different genres and are well-versed in those genres that we can handle virtually anything anyone brings to us. That said, if you are mostly knowledgeable about opera, you're not going to waste your time going after hip hop clients.

I can only think of one project in the last 15 years where I just couldn't relate at all to what the artist was doing. I ended up not doing it because I didn't feel I could do the project justice for the client artistically. I could have easily said, "Your music sucks. It's only suitable for CIA PsyOps torture techniques." But that wouldn't have been true. Or I could have done the job, taken the money, and not been able to offer them any real guidance.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lune View Post
And don't tell me most of the music your clients give you is really good or original. I have heard too much on the internet and at bars to believe that.
I would humbly suggest that my clients do not frequent the parts of the internet or bars that you do. So let's chalk this up as being subjective?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lune View Post
So- you guys love, love, love music and have high production standards. This is pretty obvious by all your posts. Yet you deal with ear torture on a yearly basis- how do you do this? How do you go through the day listening to lame self absorbed vocals, lifeless dance music, country and rap songs that all sound so similar. How do you get through the day? What do you say (and not say) to your clients?
"Will that be cash or charge?"
Old 3rd June 2014
  #21
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edva's Avatar
I look at it as a challenge, e,g. how can I make something that I think is "bad" sound good? Sometimes a big challenge, but it can help with motivation, in my case.
I can think of at least two occasions that were especially challenging, for me personally. In both cases, I only persevered because the producers were good clients and we have become friends. One was expletive-laden rap, the other death metal, neither of which genres appeal to me personally. However, the jobs got done to everyone's satisfaction, and I was certainly "satisfied" to get them over with, and move on to something else. Not on my demo reel, needless to say!
On the other side of the coin, sometimes I am truly captivated by the beauty and artistry of projects that come through, beyond my expectations. Those are good times. All part of the gig, IMHO. Good luck.
Old 3rd June 2014
  #22
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thanks for the replies- I guess you guys have mastered the art of compartmentalizing your personal tastes away from your professional commitments when needed- which is what pros do.

Just goes to show you- someone's heaven can be someone else's hell!
Old 3rd June 2014
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Willens View Post

I would humbly suggest that my clients do not frequent the parts of the internet or bars that you do. So let's chalk this up as being subjective?
Since you cannot possibly know what I have listened to I will humbly chalk this statement up as condescending and ignorant. Maybe your clients violate the 80/20 rule- but if you have lots of clients I strongly doubt it. Heck most of the stuff I hear on the radio is professionally mastered and sounds very similar to other songs so I strongly doubt that your clients are a cut above this.
Old 3rd June 2014
  #24
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Paul Gold's Avatar
 

Verified Member
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lune View Post
I guess you guys have mastered the art of compartmentalizing your personal tastes away from your professional commitments when needed- which is what pros do.
I'd venture to guess that many of us come by it naturally. For instance I don't know the lyrics to my favorite songs. I don't think I've ever tried to extract meaning from a lyric whether it's business or pleasure listening. I like sound. I find meaning in sound.
Old 3rd June 2014
  #25
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i don't know the lyrics to songs i helped write....
Old 3rd June 2014
  #26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lune View Post
Since you cannot possibly know what I have listened to I will humbly chalk this statement up as condescending and ignorant. Maybe your clients violate the 80/20 rule- but if you have lots of clients I strongly doubt it. Heck most of the stuff I hear on the radio is professionally mastered and sounds very similar to other songs so I strongly doubt that your clients are a cut above this.
That was my point - I don't know what you've listened to. So I'm not really understanding the hostility. "Condescending" would be if I said, "You obviously don't know good music when you hear it", which I didn't, and would never say. Meanwhile, you have no way of knowing who my clients are. Nor do they get the sort of radio airplay anyone would notice. But I don't need to put any of them up for any pi$$ing match or defend against some ad hominem attack.

Your question was, How can MEs possibly work with such "bad" music all day long? My point was one man's ceiling is another man's floor. What you might find to be boring and cliche and worthless, others may find to be genius. And also, that it's not our job to make those value judgments. You are not an ME, so feel free. But we need to listen differently. That's all. Others here have explained how that works, better than I could.
Old 4th June 2014
  #27
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lucey's Avatar
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lune View Post
So- you guys love, love, love music and have high production standards. This is pretty obvious by all your posts. Yet you deal with ear torture on a yearly basis- how do you do this? How do you go through the day listening to lame self absorbed vocals, lifeless dance music, country and rap songs that all sound so similar. How do you get through the day? What do you say (and not say) to your clients?
Professionalism in audio is not about what you like, it's about what you can do.

I only really like 2-3 records a year out of 200. But I'm not listening to "like" I'm listening to help. If I'm listening and don't like it I stop working, because it's become that too personal mode. STOP.


Everyday I find something good in a song or record, bring it out, and make it tolerable. My tolerable = your awesome.

A record you like can be a distraction.
Old 4th June 2014
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by apartment dog View Post
Where some have found their paradise, others come to harm (Joni Mitchell)
others JUST come to harm


Great song there !
Old 4th June 2014
  #29
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Time Tech's Avatar
 

Bad music?

I've been very lucky in the fact that I rarely get "bad music" to work on.
Sometimes when it does land in my shop I think quietly to myself.."" I'm glad I do not have client attended sessions..."
Old 4th June 2014
  #30
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Adam Dempsey's Avatar
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lune View Post
And don't tell me most of the music your clients give you is really good or original. I have heard too much on the internet and at bars to believe that.
Sorry to disappoint you but I'm constantly amazed at the diversity, talent and quality (musically and technically) of projects that come in – whether from independents or signed, local or interstate or international. Maybe trying some independent online radio stations would be rewarding for you?
The only "problematic" issues tend to arise when there's been no collaborative process or objectivity injected into the project until the mastering stage, at which point we can become collaborators for clients who recognize that need. So we're always improving, helping complete things. The trick is in finding that balance: making a connection with it musically while not getting so close as to lose the objectivity – the classic justification for not mixing and mastering the same project.
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