The Industry Is Speeding Up – And What To Do About It
Something recently has caught my attention, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot. The speed at which we are all forced to work in the audio industry is increasing. Turn around times are getting insane. I used to get days, if not a week, to mix a single. Now people call me and want same-day to next day turnaround time. I used to get weeks to mix a record. Now people want it by the end of the week when, oh yeah, it’s Wednesday afternoon! That would be fine in my world – however, it isn’t just me. After over a year and a half of nailthemix and over 120 episodes of the URM Podcast with pros around the world has taught me that nearly every pro I know is experiencing the same thing. This isn’t just a fad. This is the new norm. It is the cutting edge. If we don’t up our output, we are going to get left in the dust by those who do.
Now that we understand the stakes here, what we really want to know is WHAT can we do about it? Here are some productivity hacks I’ve put together which will help you improve your workflow.
Improve Your Organization (On All Levels)
How long have you been waiting to organize your drum samples folder? I mean seriously. We are always adding new ones and sometimes they just get haphazardly thrown in. The problems is that after a lot of time, one problem emerges: I can’t find the sample I need quickly because there are 10,000 unorganized ones in here!
Imagine if you sat down for a few hours and neatly organized everything from your sessions, samples, masters, stems, templates, amp sim tones, and etc. Think about how much time that could save you over a year. Even 10 minutes a day adds up to about 61 hours. That is, by normal working standards, an entire week and a half!
Organizing isn’t exciting for most people. Big surprise. That is why we all tend to avoid it. Sit down and build systems of organization for the following:
- File management
- Do you have all of your projects in a central location organized by artist, album, song?
- Do you have a clean way to download and organize new sessions? Don’t forget about discarding old files.
- Do you have a place to organize your masters, stems, and alternate mix revisions?
- What about file backups?
- Recall management
- Not so much a problem when you mix 100% in the box as long as you organize your templates.
- When you mix out of the box or hybrid, how are you cataloging sessions and organizing this system so that you can do recalls quickly?
- Preset management
- Are you storing your individual track presets?
- Are you cataloging cool amp sim tones?
- What about recording, mixing, or mastering templates?
- Method of doing alternative mix revisions
- Do you have a template that allows you to print multiple versions of a song like instrumental, stems, and etc?
- Order of execution in mixing
- Have you thought about the order you attack a mix in and what might be the most efficient and organized approach? For example, on a metal mix, would mixing guitars first, then sampling drums make sense versus doing all your editing first and then only having to worry only about mixing?
What Are You Focusing On?
We all have a ton of things to do every day. Let’s be honest though – only a few of those things are actually important to our goals, neither less important to them 5 years from now. While you may be stressing over a bunch of small things, the first set of tasks that you need to tackle are the ones that are the most important. It is very easy to waste a ton of time doing tasks that don’t really matter. To be more effective at identifying this, we need to understand a simple law of economics.
Economists say that 20% of the things we do produce the 80% of the results we need. The key is to audit your task list every day, and think about what 20% of the things you need to do are going to yield the highest amount of return on your time. Simply adding this 80/20 task audit into your daily working routine can have drastic results on your life.
An 80/20 Example:
20% of your mixing actions will complete 80% of your mix. Meaning, it is much more important to get a great drum and vocal mix than it is to worry about having the greatest possible guitar effect for a 2 second part in the song. If your macros elements of your mix aren’t amazing, you won’t win a mix off. You could have the best delay sound ever heard on those gang vocals, but if your lead vocal sounds bad, you lose.
In a day, you have to do the following:
- Check your email
- Call your mom and figure out what time this weekend’s family gathering is
- Mix 3 singles
- Get new shoes
- Meet a friend for lunch
- Check Facebook 99 times in case someone liked your latest rant post so you can get that dopamine spike
- Post a selfie on Instagram of you wearing your new sunglasses
- Do mix notes on 2 singles from yesterday
- Follow up on 3 possible booking inquiries from potential clients
Which of these tasks do you think are going to benefit your career? Do the 3 things that matter which are mix the songs, do the revisions, and reply to the client inquiries. If you do that, and the entire rest of this list is forgotten, not much will change in your life. However, if you DO NOT do the important things, it could be catastrophic to your career.
Since our time is not scalable, meaning that we can only optimize it to a certain level. In order to be more effective and productive, we must find ways to scale our time. A very powerful way to do this is to delegate low-level tasks that are time-consuming and interfere with you being your best. For example, if you are a songwriter, you are paid to write as many songs as possible so that you have a higher chance of getting songs cut and placed with artists. If you spend a few hours a day tuning vocals, that is a lot of wasted time. Instead, hire someone and write a few more songs a week.
Obviously, outsourcing costs money. The key turning point for you when deciding to outsource is:
- How much demand do you have? Meaning, can you pick up extra work in your free time?
- What is the cost of the hired labor?
- Is the revenue you can bring in greater than the cost of outsourcing?
These workflow hacks can make a tremendous difference in your life if you actually apply them. This is just a very small taste of a comprehensive system I’ve put together for keeping up with the modern music industry. If you are interested in taking your career to the next level, I’m hosting a free seminar discussing these topics. Join me for my Speed Mixing webinar and I’ll see you there.