I was listening to an interview with producer Jimmy Iovine this week; it highlights what really matters when it comes to getting great work in the recording studio world.
The interview was part of BBC Radio 2's Tracks of My Years series in which Jimmy tells the story of his first break. He was working cleaning the studio, setting up mics and other tasks when he got a call from his boss asking him to work on Easter Sunday on a John Lennon session, to come in and answer the phones.
Jimmy came from an Italian Catholic family, and his mother told him that as it was Easter Sunday, he would have to go to church and then come home for a family lunch. Jimmy told his mother he couldn't blow off the job and so went to work.
When he arrived his boss stood there laughing and said he just wanted to see if Jimmy would come to work on Easter Sunday. However, that day they had lost their assistant engineer, so they gave Jimmy the job on the session.
A year later Jimmy was mixing the John Lennon tracks.
Since then Jimmy Iovine has gone on to work on some of the most iconic albums in music history with artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Meatloaf and U2.
Too many people seem to spend their time trying to prove how much they know, entering into endless pissing contests about gear and technique, often with complete strangers. It might massage your ego, but it's not going to get you any more work - I can't recall a single client I know who reads comments on blogs, forums or social media hoping to find the next person to cut their album or mix their TV show.
I stopped using Facebook at the start of this year; I just found I was wasting too much of my time either posting, reading or arguing with complete strangers over things that on the whole don't really matter. Even if they do, my opinion was not going to change much and coming to that realisation is sobering. Social media and forums have seduced people into thinking that now everyone can post at will they have the right to an opinion on everything. Ethically they do, but it doesn't mean everyone should give one, as the late, great Peter Ustinov once said: "opinions are like buttocks, we all have them but that doesn't mean we should get them out in public."
All my work comes from a recommendation from other happy clients, or from those who have seen some work and liked it. I can't recall the last client who asked me to explain how a compressor worked or if I dithered the mix. Knowing the answer to both those questions matters to me but not to my clients.
In the interview, Jimmy also talks about working with Bruce Springsteen; he said Bruce was such a perfectionist it nearly drove him insane. In a moment of exasperation, he went to the manager and told him how difficult it was for him to work with Bruce and he was quitting. His boss replied "Jimmy I'm going to tell you something that is going to blow your mind... it's not about you; it's about what makes this album the best it can be for Bruce."
You might think that knowing everything about recording gear and debating endlessly about technology and technique is a good thing. I'm always puzzled by how much time some of these people spend in forums and on social media and yet also have the time to create excellent work - it is frankly a bloody miracle! You might think that having an opinion on every aspect of music production is going to help - it isn't.
Don't get me wrong, knowing what to use and how to use it is a fundamental part of being good at recording and mixing, but if you want to get on in this business, then it's also essential that you show up, shut up and deliver the goods.
Learn more about the story of Jimmy Iovine and Dr Dre watching the Netflix series The Defiant Ones