Producer’s SkilL: Moving On
14 NOVEMBER 2021
written by Mike
Draft 1, draft 2, draft 3, 4, 5, 6, 7! Does it ring a bell?
Most people who work in creative industries ask the question – is this version good enough to release?
Or should I spend a little more time on it?
Podcasting is no different. Even with the simplest podcasts, there is always something to adjust.
A little cut there, edit here, a bit of noise to clean up.
And while you do that, it feels like working, like you are doing something.
However, I would argue that after a certain point, the extra work is often counterproductive.
The question is, where is that point?
The answer is – it depends if you are an amateur or professional.
And let me make a distinction between the two. I’m not talking about skill, experience or knowledge.
When I say amateur, I mean a person creating the work for themselves, for free, or trying to start and work on a portfolio.
They can even make money from it, but it’s a side hustle, a little extra cash.
A Professional is someone who is working a job, and the work pays the bills. It is the primary source of income. So when someones ask – what do you do for a living? It is mainly that.
Before my first proper audio job – and I did small jobs here and there – I was an amateur.
I had no deadlines, pressures or incentives to finish the project. I could work on them till the end of the day.
Of course, the fear of being judged by others also played a part in that.
However, it was my job at the movie studio that opened my eyes to how professionals work.
And it was nothing like I ever expected!
Various documentaries, movies, and social media make us believe that we can sit in front of our piano, drawing board, or whatever, then wait until creative inspiration comes.
The magic happens, everyone comes in with incredible ideas, and the final product will bring us fame and fortune.
Maybe that was the case in the past when there were like two bands – Beatles, Rollings Stones – and everyone listened to them.
Today, content is king. And that means quality and quantity!
Don’t get me wrong, and I still believe that quality wins over quantity. However, the overall winner will be someone who can do quality content with and release often.
That’s not easy.
Back to my job at the studio.
We worked on big projects, big blockbusting movies.
Before joining the team, I always thought that this kind of high profile work would be very organised, creative and magical.
When I look back at that time, there was magic to it, no doubt about it.
However, it was far from what I expected.
Chaos, stress, strict deadlines and last-minute changes were our everyday bread.
You couldn’t stop and spend hours on one tiny thing when you had a thousand other things to do – and the deadline? Yesterday morning!
I remember when I was unsure about something, I asked my boss – highly respected head of the sound mix department and one of the most brilliant people I knew.
He said to me
‘If it sounds good, then it is good!’
Because it wasn’t just him working on the project. It was hundreds of people, and what it counted was to get the results before the deadline.
As good as possible, of course, but still, it was a job to finish.
I took that advice and applied it to many things in my life – podcasts, of course, being the one.
When you produce podcasts as a job, it is not just you and your standards that matter. There is a team of people as well as listeners who expect the job to finish. The fact you would like to spend more time on the project doesn’t matter. The intention does not matter.
What matters is the final result.
If you’d ask me to listen to my old work – be it older episodes or projects I have done. I would cringe thinking, ‘how on Earth could I release it. I could make it so much better now!’
Yes, now. With more knowledge and experience.
But at that time, I did the best job I could do and moved on.
That’s the point.
It is a point when you have done the best you could and know it is time to move on.
I worked on an episode and finished it 2 or 3 weeks ahead of time, and it is just sitting there.
Do I go back and tinker? Adjust more? Perfect the mix?
I know I’ve done the best job I could according to my schedule and deadlines, and I have to move on and get on to the next thing. Otherwise, I will never finish.
Or there was a different situation some time ago when I worked on a project with a deadline in mind.
It was stressful, I was doing all the production and music, and there were many fixes, drafts and re-does on the way. In addition, I was working morning to evening every day.
Then finally, we finished it! The last draft was ticked off.
However, then the deadline was moved by three weeks! This meant that suddenly, with my time to spare, I had extra four weeks!
Did I go back and start re-doing stuff, remixing or re-working my music?
I’ve done the best I could at that moment, and even though I knew I could spend more time on it and tinker and adjust and improve, I didn’t go back.
It was time to move on,
I think you understand what I’m trying to say.
When you work in the creative industry, your thinking and approach change.
It’s not about being a perfectionist and working on the project forever. It’s about doing the best you can, given the expectations, deadlines, budgets, limitations and thousands of other things you must consider.
It is the only way to stay sane and healthy.
And don’t get me wrong. I want to go back; I want to improve these projects and make them better.
In my heart, I am still a perfectionist, but I counter it with realism and what is expected.
I do try to go above the expectations whenever I can, but I know where to stop.
The art of moving on is counterintuitive and extremely difficult, but in my opinion, it is the way to long and healthy success.
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