Here is one chapter from the book, to give you a taste…
Choosing A Genre To Mix
You probably already have some idea of the genre you prefer to work in, and that you’re best at. I believe you should pursue work in that genre, exclusively, if possible.
The benefits of working inside a genre are many:
- You can focus your skills and talents. You can learn the best ways to get the sounds that your clients are looking for. If you familiarize yourself deeply with the genre, and the mixing techniques used, you will be faster, and better able to get a ‘sound’ that the artist is looking for. Getting the right guitar tones for metal or jazz are completely different. Both require a good deal of knowledge to do well.
- You will know what’s happening in your genre. Assuming that you enjoy the genre you’ve chosen, you’ll want to spend time listening to the popular bands, the new trends, etc. You’ll have a good guess as to where things are going, a good feel for which bands have ‘it’ and which bands don’t. This is a big advantage if you’re going to work with bands on spec. You want to be spending your time and energy on bands with potential, bands that will help you establish your name as a mixer.
- As you work with bands inside your genre, you’ll quickly become a ‘known quantity.’ If you do one great record in a genre, it can get you lots of new business within that genre. If you work in a genre regularly, the bands in that genre start to believe that you’re an ‘insider’ and that you have a special touch. This just feeds on itself, and your client list grows.
- You’re more likely to get label work. If you can establish yourself as a premier mixer within a genre, labels will have you on their shortlist of people to mix records that they want to have a little more polish. Some of these might be great jobs, where the label isn’t totally happy with the mix that the previous engineer provided. They will at least give you a shot at mixing a track, if they know your work.
- If you’re working in a genre, it becomes much easier to get to know the other players in that field. Magazine writers, bloggers, etc. When you mix a great record, there’s nothing wrong with talking it up, and if writers start to see your name on a lot of good records, they will notice, and mention it in their writing. This only benefits you, of course, as other bands and labels become familiar with your name, and call you to work on their projects.
- Marketing is much simpler. You do a demo reel that features artists in your genre. Your website should reflect the aesthetics of the genre a bit. Not too much, as it might peg you as a young kid, rather than a pro. But just a touch.
So, are there any drawbacks to this approach?
There are a few, potentially.
- The genre can die. If you are tightly associated with a genre, and that genre loses steam, you might see your income decline significantly. This is true of any career, of course, the lesson being that in good times, you should save for the bad times.
- If you are associated with a bad record, you can see interest in your work decline. Nothing kills a career faster than having a real clunker on your discography, especially a high profile record. If you choose to work with a band from your genre that is becoming very high profile, be sure to do great work. Of course, some things are out of your control. Plan to have peaks and valleys, and you’ll do fine. If you don’t like the direction of the project, either resign, or ask that they use another name in the credits.
- You might get bored. Just because you love a genre today doesn’t mean you’ll feel that way in 10 years.
For all of these reasons, I like the idea of using a pseudonym. If you choose to work in another genre, just choose a new pseudonym and go forward.
Start by thinking about the genres you listen to most. Is there a particular type of music that you really understand well? Maybe you’ve played in bands in that genre, or are an avid listener. Maybe you’ve done some successful mixing in that genre. Maybe you just especially enjoy working with that type of music. Make a list of 2 or 3 genres that you like better than any other.
Next, think about which of those genres has the most potential for you, in a business sense. Do you find that bands in one genre tend to have a little more money to spend? Is one genre maybe coming to popularity while another is waning a bit? Genres tend to come back around after a few years, of course, so if you are really great at a genre that’s a little out of fashion right now, it may still be worth focusing on it.
Now that you have a genre that seems like a good start, think about sub-genres. Is there a smaller group that you can easily establish your name with? If you have selected punk as your genre, for instance, there are subgenres like garage, or pop punk. Some have more commercial potential than others, but being the big dog in a small genre can still be lucrative and enjoyable.
Once you have a genre, try thinking about your ideal client. What do they look like? Where are they playing, where can you find out about them online? How are they paying for your services? Are they with a label, or self-releasing?
Some people like to put a picture of their ideal client up in front of them, so they can think about them while they work. You might not need to go that far, but it can’t hurt to be clear who you’re looking to work with.
You’ll want to become as knowledgeable as possible about your genre, both the artists, and the labels, etc. Commit to spending 15 minutes each day visiting the bigger websites/blogs that cater to your genre’s fans. Learn about the labels, the people running them, etc. See if there are engineers who appear frequently on the credits for releases in your genre. If there are, try to become friendly with them. Shoot them an email to ask about their mix on a recent recording, or perhaps they’d be willing to listen to a mix you’re working on, and give you feedback.
Success in a genre is partially skill, but it’s also partially politics, knowing the ‘players’ in the genre. The more people you know and who know you, the better you’re going to do.
END OF SAMPLE
Here is the Table of Contents:
Choosing A Genre To Mix
Do You Need a ‘Mix Name’?
Building Your Website
Building a Killer Demo Reel When You Have No Clients
Pricing Your Mixing Services
Pursuing New Clients Directly
Where to Get Referrals
Getting Clients by Teaching
Business Listings, Directories, etc.
How Long Should a Mix Take (And Why!)
Should I Take a Project I Hate Just for the Money?
Contracts, Agreements, etc
Taking a Greater Interest in Your Artists
Confidence – Believing in Your Skills
Finding a Mentor
Gear, Plug-ins, and Other Money Sinks
A Few Words on Getting Things Done
Establishing a Routine