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Yes But You Have To Pay Me

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When I first started getting really into audio engineering, I knew a more experienced producer who I used to talk production topics with all the time. Everything from the tools we liked, to new techniques, to daydreaming about gear we couldn’t afford. He was getting to be a pretty well known artist in his genre however, so over time we talked less and less.

Which is a nice way of saying he just stopped answering my emails one day.

I knew he was getting busier and it was taking all of his time just to try and stay on top of his new music career, not to mention other life issues too I’m sure. Still, it was a little upsetting in a way too, he had been a good source of knowledge and help, not to mention just plain enjoyable to talk to.

Now many years later, I find it interesting to be in his position.

I get sent a lot of music from people who want me to listen to their songs and let them know what I think. And not client work, just random musicians who’ve heard about me one way or another. On average I’d say I get between 10-20 emails a day from people asking me if I can listen to their song and let them know what they need to improve on. And for years I did, maybe not all of it, but most. I got to hear a lot of cool music, talk production stuff with like-minded people, and offer some advice on how people could improve their songs.

But lately…

The flat out truth is that while I’m incredibly lucky to do this for a living, it takes all my time just to do so. As a professional mastering engineer, my days consist of working with my current clients, thinking of ways to attract new clients, doing accounting and website upkeep, and the whole social media time suck. Any musician knows what I’m talking about, because being a professional audio engineer requires the same commitment of time to be successful.


Just like bands fight to become famous or self-supporting, other professionals in the audio field need to work equally hard to just be a viable business too. There’s a lot of competition out there, and it takes a constant state of vigilance and an extremely high work ethic to stand out these days.

As I slowly got busier and busier with the business side of things, my free time for listening to other people’s music became more scarce. Often I’d try and tell people I was just too busy to help, so at least they heard back from me. But that takes time too.

So for awhile I just stopped answering emails, just like what had happened to me years ago. At first it was a little depressing, I hated having to just ignore people to get my work done.  But slowly I just realized that’s how it is for any professional, really. An athlete or actor can’t spend all day replying to fan mail, or else they’d never be able to get anything done.  They wouldn’t be able to maintain the skills that got them famous in the first place.

With this realization came the idea to turn my track listening dilemma into an opportunity. I launched a track consulting service as part of my studio’s services. For a small fee, I can provide production and song writing advice to producers or bands looking for help with their songs. Instead of just ignoring emails from people asking me to listen, I can say “Sure, but you have to pay me!”. Well, I say it a little nicer than that of course.

My only regret is that my friend didn’t have the same idea back then.

Share your own experiences with this in the comments!

Erik Magrini

Tarekith is owner of Inner Portal Studio, a Seattle-based studio focused on providing mastering and mixdowns for electronic musicians around the world.  With over 14 years experience mastering releases from producers like Autechre, John Tejada, Venetian Snares, and Ben & Lex, Inner Portal Studio was also featured in the September 2011 issue of Electronic Musician magazine.