Just wanted to thank all of you for your efforts in this contest. I understand that anything creative rolled into a competition is bound to get a bit divisive but I just wanted to underline that we have and will continue to listen to more than the shortlist of submissions. Not giving anything away just yet but I wanted to be clear on that
We've though quite a bit about some of the feedback on the track and I just wanted to post some experiences and thoughts. At the end of the day, this process sort of simulates working with a customer for you guys so here is some of our thinking -
I appreciate that there is a philosophical discussion about the levels of mixing versus fixing occurring. Looking at it from a band's perspective, we had a pile of tracks consolidated with some good performance bits and some not so great in B2B. We never recorded or arranged the track for analysis from over 70 mixers and would have perhaps been a little more vigilant in what we provided if we had known! This was taken from the first day of tracking we actually recorded as a band (ever) and I feel there is a level of roughness that reflects this.
While no band of our genre wants pristine mixes and Kanye autotuned vocals, I feel there is a happy medium between mixing and fixing. I think many mixers in the industry will now correct a note here and there to enable it's placement in the mix. How far should a mixer go? Thats a tough one. I don't want a "creative replacement" of a song to a drastic extent but I think I have to also respect the ears and talent of the mixer too. My preference as a vocalist would be to nail all tracks up front and after some very painful reflection via this process, I would probably re-record this track if i wasn't so horribly scarred by this discussion
But we have worked with two mixers on our EP and i want to share the customer experience with the different philosophies. Mixer 1
Involved himself in the creative process, definitely fixed some issues, clearly added character to the mix and as a result we were thrilled. We smashed him with revisions and really collaborated on a balance between imperfections, character and polish. Did we take liberties with the fact the mixer was a perfectionist and passionate about getting a good result? Probably. The tracks aren't perfect but they now sound great and Mixer 1 has squeezed every bit of potential out of tracks that were not brilliantly recorded or perfectly performed. We knew the passion, message and delivery was there and we wanted the best from this. Thats the key for us. Mixer 2
Was used for one track (Mixer 1 was unavailable). Mixer 2 is actually a US based pro who boasts a huge resume of working with grammy award winners. His online service was moderately priced, his samples were impressive and it was the best we could find - even if it pretty much killed our budget for the EP. But then - Mixer 2 returned a "level correction" mix. He offered us a tin can drum kit sound (because thats how it arrived), ignored the reference track (which was actually from Mixer 1) and generally sprayed flange all over the guitars ("I added some effects you see") and called it done. Nothing was corrected. Nothing was touched and perhaps, from a moral perspective, the mixer decided - "You give me a budget standard recording, I will give you a budget standard mix. It's too much of my time to do otherwise". He argued that the recording is what it is and he mixed it and this is the outcome.
Perhaps he is right. Perhaps we should re-record it at a higher priced studio and perhaps the track lacked quality. Perhaps all of the tracks lack quality. But as a customer, it sounded like we got a 45 minute level fix and a clear avoidance of any great time investment or effort. Of course the track would sound better in a $1000 a day studio recording. Obviously! But we had just worked with Mixer 1 and had some new expectations
I'm not saying this answers the "mix or fix" argument. But I will argue that the "mix and will fix" experience is much more pleasant than the "mix but won't fix" experience for a band. It's much better for a band and much worse for a mixer as I see it. But it is what it is.
This is the point of reference tracks in the process. It's not to say - emulate Abbey Road quality for us and we will give you junk. It's about tonal goals, fresh creative ears and there needs to be an honest upfront evaluation from a mixer. Maybe a mixer should feel free to say - "I can't give you these sounds guys". I think we would respect that - and we respect this feedback here on the forum. But I can assure you that Mixer 2 never said that. He mentioned that he was sorry we were unhappy with his mix and reminded us that there were no refunds (job done).
So my advice as both a happy and unhappy customer in recent months, is listen to the reference tracks and evaluate a track before you start. Mixing can bring out the best of a track - but it shouldn't recreate it. We also respect that there needs to be a decent track in there to work with. The mixer needs to feel a decent track is in there too - irrespective of taste. You can resolve imperfections but you can't completely overhaul a bad performance There is a creative balance in there and thats the collaboration a band needs. I guess it all starts and grows with that first conversation and the lines of acceptable effort need to be drawn up.