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Picking a studio, engineer or producer - discount the silly list of names.

How many of you have read a resume or bio from someone in the music industry such as a studio, an engineer or a producer and run into a strange list of names. You know, “I work with This Person who worked with That Person.” While this impresses a few fans and friends, it actually makes you look worse to the industry. The name dropping doesn’t fool anyone….anyone = the people who matter. Yeah, I’m talking to you, studios and producers. Instead of just appearing strong, why not funnel that energy into actually being strong?

There is referencing that is beneficial and then there is just outright bragging. Like I said, come off strong, but let’s clearly define that. Ego, bragging and arrogance are overdone. In a way, by going over the top, instead of standing out, you are just dropping yourself in to the bag with a truck load of other mediocre studios, engineers and producers. Instead, showcase what you have really done and how you really do things.

Too many musicians are presented such a line of crap when it comes to booking a studio or hiring a producer or an engineer. They spend the time, the money and the effort and then find out they were not able to get what they wanted or what they thought they would get for their recording.

It is the responsibility of the studio, producer and engineer to showcase what they have done. It is the responsibility of the artist to find out exactly what has been done at the studio and the reliability of the resume that the producers and engineers offer. Market yourself and/or your studio to its strengths. Be up front about what you are bringing to the table so when someone checks up on you, you still look honorable.

How does it really work in your favor to lie or exaggerate?

Studios talk about how so and so recorded there twenty years ago. Should that really be something that compels someone to want to use that studio? Was it the same engineer, the same producer, the same budget or the same session players? A lot more should go into the decision for someone who is choosing a studio. It comes down to what is happening now. People brag about recording in the same studio as this musician or that musician, but this really doesn’t help the musician.

It is basically the equivalent of someone saying, hey, I pitched two innings of baseball at Fenway Park in Boston for a little league championship. Now, while it is cool to be in the same room, that is nowhere near the caliber of the Red Sox pitchers that play professional baseball. It is like giddy-happy joy that “I recorded where Personal Musical Hero of Mine recorded!” Which is great, but doesn’t really do much for someone who isn’t them.


Listen to the most recent stuff from that studio. Find out who is engineering there now and their abilities. Find out what the budget was for the recordings and demos you hear.

I have done a great deal of over-produced and excessively budgeted albums that I do not use as samples these days. I play people the samples from the studio I use now, the team I work with now and under the budgets that I work with now. Hearing a two-hundred thousand dollar recording when you’re after a budget that is ten percent of that or less is the equivalent of a car salesman saying, “Hey, I know your price range is a Hyundai but let’s test drive the BMW to give you a sense of it.”

That makes no sense does it? Would you test drive the BMW? Hell, no. You’d find a salesman who actually listened to what you wanted and could afford.

When a studio says that this band or that band recorded there, make sure you know the details. Just because someone has recorded in a room or a studio or worked with a producer or engineer does not mean they that particular artist liked it. I have been credited with working in studios that I went in to as a favor for someone else or was paid to do a session in that I would personally never choose to return to. I know there are people I have worked with where I didn’t click with them and they didn’t click with me, so in turn, I don’t reference them as I am sure they don’t reference me.

The point is make calls, send emails, ask questions and make sure you know what you are getting into before you invest into it. Make sure you can find out all the information you can to secure the right choice.

Conclusion: Replace the soft BS with the hard facts.

Find out the facts about the rooms, the engineers, the producers. Find out what has been recorded there and find out the details, like what kind of budget was involved, how many days, what other aspects played a part of the recording. In the end, your recording is a key part of presenting your sound, your songs and music. Make sure you are doing it right, and with the right people and in the right places.

© Loren Weisman 2009

Reader Comments (4)

I can't understand why this is a problem. If one wants an assignment, it's like providing references. Not to brag, but to connect on common ground, so the client can be confident about professionalism and legitimacy.

So, who are you then? Did you work with anyone we know?

August 15 | Unregistered CommenterFredrik

I just maintain a list of credits and leave it at that. The vast majority of my work comes from word-of-mouth recommendations anyway. I don't bother making a sales pitch or advertising in any form. There are no referral incentives or discounts. It's all pull, no push. The question is - why does it work for my mastering business, but not for my music?

August 15 | Registered CommenterBrian Hazard

Dear Loren,
First of all, I agree with you, that you allways have to check the details of general statements like "I recorded ....." or "I produced..." Of course this does not mean today, that the band or the artist stayed for weeks with the producer or the audio engineer and the whole record was produced by an interactive workflow between artist and producer/engineer. BUT: Producing and recording is a business AND there is absolutely nothing wrong to drop the names you worked with. Even if an engineer just made the vocals for Madonna (for example) it indicates, that he was good enough for this job to be chosen. Same for a producer, just having produced the bassline of a track an artist came out with, does indicate the same. And by the way, this can be a bad thing for a producer/engineer as well. If the record of the artist .... sounds shitty, he didn't do himself a favour to drop that name.
I work with a lot of newcomer bands and produce them and you are absolutely right, don't choose your producer/engineer just by the names he dropped. Talk to the bands he worked with (via e-mail, phone etc), talk to the producer/ engineer himself to check out if the vibes fit and last but not least a lot of producers/engineers love to give you some records, they produced, to listen to them. After that basic research you should choose your producer/engineer. And maybe you will find someone who produced no big names but creates exactly the sound you want. But same thing can happen with someone who produced Metallica, Radiohead or any one else who impresses you.

August 17 | Unregistered Commentermarc

Hi Loren, I enjoyed reading your post. It actually made me think of the first time I saw the website for The Hit Factory condos in New York- it basically screams "come live where Stevie Wonder and The Rolling Stones recorded!" I guess the ideas you mentioned can apply to other industries as well ;)

August 19 | Unregistered CommenterAdam

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