When The Mixing On Your Old Music Sucks…
If you’re anything like me – and I believe most producers are – you will be a bit of a perfectionist. And, unfortunately, on the journey towards becoming the producer you are today, you will have mixed some great songs to a not-so-great standard. When I sit and revisit some of the tracks I made 2-3 years ago, I lament the standard of my mixing and feel a strong urge to go back into the sessions and remaster them entirely with my now-improved production skills. In fact, I have been doing precisely that with my first solo release Volition, but at every stage I find myself asking
“Why am I bothering to do this?”
which leads on to asking
“Should I be doing this?”
This is an interesting question, which I will attempt to answer.
First of all, there will be many for whom this question is irrelevant. Those who had the budget to hire a professional for mixing and mastering their stuff right from the start, or those who had the foresight (and the time) to perfect their production skills before ever releasing any material: fair play to you people, you may as well skip reading this post. But for any readers who have found themselves with this same mixing predicament at hand, here are my thoughts…
YES, you should remaster your old material! Every bit of music you make should be, at the very least, POTENTIALLY superb. If it hasn’t fulfilled that potential, it just means that at the time you released it, you didn’t have the skills to attain it. So, when you do acquire those skills, you should put them to use throughout every bit of music you have ever released.
Your music is your commodity, as well as your expression of your creativity and musical genius. Potential fans will discover you on the basis of how good your music is, and once they do, they will search for more of your music, expecting it to be up to the same standard. If I were to discover a song featuring a singer who sounds amazing on that track, I will find out their name and search for more of their music. If I were to then find a self-released EP which, when I listened to it, had sub-par mixing, or the mastering wasn’t up to scratch, I’d be inclined to think “OK, maybe later on they’ll release some better stuff”…and then, chances are, I’d forget all about them.
On the other hand, if I were to perform that search and find an EP packed with great-sounding material (which comes from good mixing), I would download it, listen to it and become eternally familiar with the name and face of the singer. I’d check back periodically for new releases, follow the social network profiles, attend gigs near my area, and who knows what else! First impressions are absolutely vital in grabbing a potential listener’s attention, and you have no way of knowing which of your songs will be the first they go to when discovering your existence. If there is even a single song that you can reflect on, in the most frank way possible, and say “I could have done better“, you should revisit it and make it the best it can be.
Now, I hear the arguments right here:
“Just because YOU don’t like the way the mixing sounds, doesn’t mean someone else might not pick it up and think it’s the best song they ever heard!”
“Keeping the rougher sound of your early songs will show fans how you have progressed and evolved into what your are now.”
I acknowledge both of these arguments, and thus will only posit what I am saying as my opinion. To address the first concern, I would argue that you need to retain control of your brand, particularly in the times when your fan base is not large enough to point you in the direction they want. You know how you want your music to sound, and hoping that some curious listener might pick up on one of your ‘imperfections’ and fall in love with it is just too much of a long-shot when you don’t have many fans yet! Aiming for a high technical standard when in the early stages of winning new listeners is a much better way of turning the odds in your favour. If, further down the line, your large fan base begins to show a love for some sound that you yourself weren’t too fond of, that’s the time to pick the fans’ thoughts and run with them!
To address the second concern: no-one who has never heard of you will give a damn about hearing how you progressed to your current sound. When trying to entice your first fans, they will need to be won over by every single song they hear. If you remaster your old, inferior stuff when your skills improve, you can still keep hold of the original mixes and versions. Then if, later in your career, you have a fanbase that you know would love to hear how you progressed, you have a special something that you can offer them to make them feel the love! Adoring fans will be pleased that you are willing to open up to them and show part of the story that made you who you are…but music-lovers who have never heard of you need to be won over by quality, both technical and creative.
Of course, these are only my thoughts. I will not proclaim myself as an authority on the subject, and I’d love to hear any opposing views from listeners and makers of music! Please subscribe for future posts like this one, and either comment or hit me up on Will-Powerz Twitter if you have a point you wish to make on this subject.
Thanks for reading!