Everybody has terrible memories about revisions. It’s a pain in the ass process for most of us. But it doesn’t have to be like that. It can be a productive and collaborative task as it can be head-itchy if your mindset is wrong. I’m going to teach you how to deal with revisions efficiently and make everyone happy about it, including you.
Four years ago, I was doing my first paid job in the business. I was glad to find new clients, and I was trying to do everything they wanted me to do. I thought that if I could do this, they would be happy, and it’s the way how you do it.
Once, I went to the studio of a new client to meet with him. We recorded his vocals that day, and I took the project to my studio to mix it. He was writing his revisions via WhatsApp, and I was doing whatever he told me to do. After, I realized that his revisions like “Turn down the volume of the bass” on the third revision and “Turn up the volume of the bass” on the seventh one. I told him that it was the last revision he got on the tenth, and we finished the track after one last revision. But he even didn’t release this song, so my whole struggle was for nothing.
Thus, I realized that there could be better ways to deal with revisions. So I started researching the business side of the studio works. I tried too many different ways, and I came up with a mindset that I’m happy with the process.
First of all, you have to understand better the revision process and who you are.
Everybody thinks that their vision is the best vision in the world, and their mixes are great from the first version. I agree that we should feel like that because we can’t make outstanding records if we don’t. But we have to know that other people can have better ideas about their songs even if they don’t know about mixing.
Have you realized that I’ve said their song? Yes, it’s their song, and the essential thing that you have to learn about this process is this. If you make this personal, you will lose your perspective. I don’t say that you have to do whatever they tell you to do. It’s either a bad thing for them and the song. But you must know that it’s their newborn child. You can suggest your idea, say that it’s a bad thing for the track with your reasons, but in the end, you have to take care of their child with their way.
Besides that, social skills are the most critical skills in the music industry. If your mixes are great, but you don’t know how to talk with an artist, you will lose the job. You have to work on those skills first.
Musicians don’t talk the language that we talk all day long.
So, what about the process? How do we deal with the revisions? How can’t we get angry at the person who wanted an enormous amount of changes about our mixes?
First, you have to know that they don’t speak the language that we speak. We can talk about the attack and release times of a compressor for hours, but their minds don’t work like that. Even if they say that they don’t like the track’s low-end response, they can be talking about 200 Hz. You have to be their translator. You have to learn their language. Did they tell you to make the vocal sound warmer? Turn down the high frequencies. Maybe you can even try to saturate it a little bit if they don’t get satisfied. Did they tell you something is boomy? Check the low-mid frequencies of that track.
But it’s not always that simple. Sometimes they can tell you that they want to sound like a car crash. Or they want a sound like you’re in the middle of a forest, and you’re walking with bare feet. You would say, “What the fuck is that? Are you joking?” But don’t say those words to your client ever. Say it when you’re sure that nobody hears anything.
I don’t say that the clients are always right, but you can learn something from them. Ask for more details, try to empathize with them, and you will come up with a basic idea about what they want. Most of the time, the solution will be a couple of tweaks away.
They are artists. They need love for their passion. If you treat their passion nicely, you can make a better connection with them. If you make a better connection, they will trust you. If they trust you, they will listen to you when you say no to something. Yes, you can say no to something. But you have to tell and show them why. If they prefer the other way, it’s their song. You can just consult them, but you can’t make them love what you think is the best.
Determine some rules.
After the bad experience that I told you about earlier, I came up with some rules. I said that I won’t do more than three revisions. If they want more revisions than that, they have to pay for my working time. Sometimes I still use this, but I don’t need it most of the time because most projects tend to finish after a couple of revisions. But I still send my proposal with this information to the new and potential clients because I don’t know them yet.
Limiting your free revisions is good because they tend to be careful with their requests that way. They will think twice before they write something to you. Also, they will be glad when you say that you want to make sure they are happy with the results, and you can do a free revision if they want.
I found that three revisions are more than enough to make them happy, so I stick with that rule. I haven’t had to ask for extra payment even once because I haven’t had to do more than a couple of changes.
If you work with bands, it’s hard to make everyone happy because they just listen to their instrument. The guitarist doesn’t give a shit about how his instrument masks the vocal. They want to hear their part even when it’s not necessary. If you talk with every band member from a different medium, it will be hard to deal with the revisions. The solution is to speak with just one person during the whole process. It will make them talk within the band and come to you afterward.
Another point is not to accept revisions from any medium besides email. They can write to you by direct message via Instagram, after ten minutes via iMessage, and so on. You can’t know you’re doing the correct revision that way. But asking for emails will always make things much tidier. You can say that you’re happy to discuss something on the phone, but you want an email after that call just for a quick recap of the discussion.
Try online meetings for the revision process.
These days of the pandemic, I’ve done so many meetings online, and I’ve done so many revisions via calls. I’ve started to prefer calls on some artists because I’ve realized that it’s so much easier to understand each other when we’re talking. Some artists want so many little details, and I prefer to do the revisions on online meetings with them -at least the first one. Because this way, I can understand them better and do those minor changes with less effort.
I always want an email of their notes before the call. If I see their notes beforehand, I can get prepared, and I can calculate how much time it will take to do them. Limiting your time is a good thing because you can find yourself in a position where you spent your whole day in meetings. Tell them you have an hour to make the revisions if you think you can do it in an hour.
I was using a combination of Zoom and Audiomovers, but it’s not nice to send someone two different links and deal with two separate applications. Instead, I started using LANDR Sessions for those meetings. This way, I can run everything on one page. I haven’t had any bad experience with it yet, and I recommend you to use it for your meetings.
In the end, always name your mix versions logically. This way, you will make the conversation between you and the artist easier.
I always name my mixes like this: The_Band_Name_Untitled_Mix1_44_24
If it’s a master, it would be like this: The_Band_Name_Untitled_M1_44_24
In conclusion, please understand that it’s not your song. Thus you’re not a superhero who has a great vision about every record. Treat their song as it’s their newborn child, and try to understand their language. Limit the options so they can think about their requests better.
Also, please let me know if you have better ideas about the revision process. Or ask me anything instead.