Updated: May 27, 2022
"Learn how to separate the majors and the minors. A lot of people don't do well simply because they major in minor things." - Jim Rohn
Learning to collaborate with people whose abilities complement your own is vital not only to the quality of your music, but the success of your career. Whether you're a self-recorded artist or you've been recorded by a professional audio engineer, you want to outsource the final steps to professionals with the unique skill set to realize the full potential of your music. Finding someone that you can trust with your creative vision can be a daunting task, how can you find the best person for the job?
It can be tempting to bite at the lowest quote you can find for mixing/mastering services (by the way: if an engineer can’t give you a free, transparent quote, this is a red flag); the right professional for your project won’t necessarily be the cheapest or the most expensive, but someone that you can trust. Mixing and mastering are artistic processes, and there are as many unique styles as there are engineers. Make sure that the engineer you choose understands your artistic vision and can connect emotionally with your music.
Here are 4 tips to guide your research:
1. Ask Around
Before you take to the vast expanse of options available on the internet, think about your immediate social circle. More specifically, think about people whose goals are similar to yours. If you're an artist seeking to build a career, having a conversation with like-minded artists about industry professionals that they've worked with and trust can save you time, headaches, and build incredibly useful connections.
If you don't know anyone with first-hand experience or recommendations, think about your secondary contacts: people that could introduce you to more experienced individuals. You might be surprised by how few degrees of separation between you and your dream engineer there are!
2. Listen to Examples
Aim to find someone whose portfolio is consistent with the final product you have in mind; quality speaks for itself. The first place to check would be the engineer's/studio's website. If they don't have an extensive or public portfolio, consider asking for a sample. Many engineers will be open to mixing or mastering a portion of your song for free for proof of quality, especially if they are still building a portfolio.
3. Hire a Specialist
While a great engineer understands the fundamentals thoroughly enough to work successfully in many genres, it's still important to verify that you're hiring someone with appropriate experience and passion for your genre. If you’re a country artist, someone who specializes death metal may not be your best bet. A specialist will understand your needs more uniquely, and enjoy working on your project more because of it, which will translate to your final product.
4. Read the Reviews
Look for public customer reviews showing that, beyond delivering exceptional quality, people have had a positive experience working with the engineers you want to hire. Anyone doing good business will publicize good reviews, use that to your advantage!
It’s always worth reaching out to an engineer you’re interested in working with. Someone out of your price range may be willing to offer discounts, or will likely be able to recommend someone trustworthy within your budget. Either way, you’ve made a useful connection with an industry professional!
Want to learn how to send files to engineers like a pro? Check out these 7 essential mix prep steps to make engineers fall in love with you!
Interested in working together on your next project? I'd love to hear what you're working on, get in touch now!
Matt Villanueva is a producer and audio engineer living in Los Angeles. He spends any time outside of the studio shredding at the skatepark or kicking back with his bombshell girlfriend and heart-melting Chihuahua, Paco.