There are always challenges and pressures to face in the production process, for some artists many of these pressures mount up making the recording process a nightmare - these artists are generally labelled as sufferers of Red Light Fever.
Red Light Fever is a mix of challenging and complex emotions that many talented artists struggle with when tracking in recording studios. It often stops artists dead in their tracks at points when they need to be totally switched on creativity and doubt free. If an artist has the Red Light Fever complex it most likely cripples their skills leaving them embarrassed and stress out as well. Never judge artists or performers that suffer with Red Light Fever as these guys are often incredibly talented... they just need help to find ways to deal with it. Time and practice are needed to fully combat Red Light Fever but there are some little tricks I've developed over the years working as a music producer that I've used to enable artists who suffer with Red Light Fever get tracks recorded with confidence while working around the complex.
The Red Light Fever complex differs from artist to artist. It is a paralysing mix of the following feelings:
- "I'm scared of making mistakes"
- "What if I sound bad"
- "What if the producer doesn't like what I'm doing"
Artists who struggle to perform in studios because of Red Light Fever generally feel under the microscope from the moment they walk through the door through. When I get a vibe that an artist may suffer with Red Light Fever I engage my first line of support - make them feel at ease with me, the studio and the time we have to work in.
Humour and camaraderie are great tools to use to help artists realise that the recording process, in its basic form, is no different from any other creative process. A point I try to drive home to these artists is that we are simply people in a room with roles to play in producing a creative thing - "Recording isn't a big deal, let's have some fun and see what happens"
- "I feel as though I shouldn't be in a recording studio"
- "I don't have much confidence in my abilities"
Artists that suffer with Red Light Fever often feel as though they are a little fish in a very big pond. For us music producers, a recording studio environment is the norm - nothing scary there. For some artists, the studio is a very intimidating space to walk into. When recording artists it is the producer's responsibilities to settle the artist into their surroundings and to encourage creative mindsets. If you focus all the artists' attention on recording over creativity then you are not going to set their minds at rest. Getting an artist to feel confident in their abilities is a vital pre-production process, one that can be achieved easily by getting the artist to practice on their own in the recording space or by jamming together.
- "I can't do this"
- "I'm not good enough"
Artists who suffer with Red Light Fever need lots of encouragement. It is the job of the producer to highlight artist strengths without being over enthusiastic while playing down negative moments such as throw away takes and mistakes. A good way to flip the balance is to get the artist to think that you, the producer, are working for them as artists with Red Light Fever often feel as though you, the producer, are in charge of the session. Enable them with the power to take control as this will help to diminish their self-doubt feelings and encourage their self worth
- "We've got so much to do in the recording session"
Any artist can feel the pressure rising when time constraints factor in but for Red Light Fever sufferers worries about getting things done in a set amount of time can really become an issue. If a recording session is planned with a set amount of hours then you must plan and structure the recording session so that you can be productive at an easy pace - this is key to supporting Red Light Fever suffers as in the studio they can feel as though time is going faster than it really is. Whatever the plan for the session, make sure that you are not too rigid nor expect too much. Only expect to get the main points in your plan completed. If you apply pressure in the forms of "we've only got an hour to finish this" to an artist that clearly suffers with Red Light Fever then you are not supporting the artist and you run the risk of just wasting time and ultimately upsetting the artist further.
- "I'm not as good as the person I'm working with in the studio"
This is loosely related to self doubt, however, I want to highlight this feeling as you, the music producer, may play a role in this without even realising it. The Inferiority Complex that Red Light Fever sufferers can feel make them shy away from being able to make creative decisions in the studio. Artists may even struggle with performances because they are comparing their creativity abilities against the skills of the music producer or other collaborators in the studio. In the past, I've had Red Light Fever artists say things to me like "I can't sing this line because I know you're listening for perfection" or "you know best, you're the producer". These aren't very productive points and my responses have always been in the lines of getting the artist to think of the recording process as teamwork - It's the artist's job to be their creative self and it's the job of the producer to listen to the bigger picture. Red Light Fever artists don't know that music producers mainly listen to the bigger picture of a mix, song or project. Artists that suffer with Red Light Fever feel as though they are under the microscope and that everything they do is being examined in great detail by someone (the producer) who they feel is far better than them. If you come across this with artists in the studio it is important to break down that barrier and throughout that misconception, that music producers know best - because we don't.
Help Others - Share Your Tips
Have you worked with artists who suffered with Red Light Fever when recording?
Do you use different techniques to support these artists? If so, please share them with the Pro Tools Expert community below.