I recently went to a Grammy event, and had quite a fun time chatting with some folk. About ten minutes in, we realized we knew one another, and suddenly everything changed. How did we not know this at first? Well the Internet of course.
Every post on a forum, every comment on a photo, every scathing remark on a blog (see what I did there??) is both forever, and public, and your name is associated with it. I’m sure through the years of reading blogs, forums, groups and the like, you’ve seen some of the same names repeated. You likely even remember the ones that had great insight. That’s what happened this weekend.
What does this actually mean? It means that talking to a stranger was a stranger until suddenly I realized that this stranger wasn’t strange at all. Rather it was someone that had already built credibility in my perception, these are people that you already know that you should listen to.
Should I listen to everyone when they talk? Absolutely. Do I? Absolutely. Do I rate the validity of their information based on their credibility? Absolutely.
There never has been a time wherein it was easy to know who you were talking to. We sit and chat in a place full of audio geeks and we boldly say things, and people boldly judge. No one sees your resume, your discography, your client list, your skill set, or your education. So how do they judge you? Well that all depends on the person doesn’t it.
Lets create some basic rules that will keep you credible.
- Never talk shit. I’ve worked for many many major pop artists at this point, and everyone enjoys talking shit about pop. Well the moment you do that in front of me, you may be talking about either a direct employer of mine, or friend. Also, unless it’s a rare case, I also know that you know much less than I do about that artist. At this point not only is it personally offensive, but I also know that you talk about topics you don’t understand.
- Don’t complain. Dan suggested this one, and I had to ask him to provide examples because I simply figured this was normal human interaction rules, but he’s right, this DOES come up. The example he brought up was “LANDR is taking away my business.” For a mastering guy, that might be true, but it certainly doesn’t make me want to work with that guy. In fact it makes me want to try LANDR on a mix, since apparently it’s working for other people rather than this fella’s masters. As an aside to this, we’ll throw in: 2.5) Don’t blame others for your mistakes. “I didn’t get to do X because of Y, and it’s not my fault.” It’s a form of complaining that positions itself in a way that makes the listener feel like they have to side with you about something that doesn’t matter to them. I don’t side with complaints, pretty much ever, I like viewing issues in a solution based manner, rather than problem focused.
- Don’t talk about gear you don’t use or own. Gearslutz is probably the best place to watch this happen. You’ll find a myriad of users saying X is way better than Y, yet they’ve never actually AB tested the gear, or better yet, never even heard the one that they didn’t buy. Everyone likes to justify their purchase by saying the other piece isn’t as good, but it’s not beneficial unless it’s unbiased.
- Ask questions, and actually care about the answer. There is a massive population in the world that asks questions just because they are waiting for the opportunity to answer it themselves. This means two things: the answer to the question doesn’t matter, and the person asking just wanted to impress you with knowledge or opinion. If you ask people how they work, they will happily tell you. People love to talk about themselves. If you give them the opportunity, and actually absorb, they tend to like you.
- Give people a reason to have to contact you later, this ensures that the relationship lasts longer than a day. It may be something as simple as a cool YouTube video you saw that talks about the same technique that your conversationalist just described. This also gives them a reason to ask for your card, rather than you handing it off for no reason.
- Answer objectively as best you can. When someone asks “what’s the best bus compressor” it’s a reasonably useless answer to tell people what you use on a master bus, unless you explain exactly why. No one needs to know what works for you, they need to know WHY it works for you. Almost every post on the internet where someone asks questions about things like best EQ or best blah blah blah, the replies are just people posting what they use. Pretty much throwaway.
- Don’t condescend. It’s far too easy to do this, and most people don’t even realize they are doing it when it’s happening. Often you’ll see questions posted and there will be comments like “I would never ever do that” (reminds me a bit of a hilarious flame war I was a part of with a guy that said never use an 1176 on snare), all this shows is a closed mind. Here’s the thing, think what you want, honestly post what you want, but if you want people to enjoy talking with you (and subsequently working with) then you don’t want to be the guy that’s always replying with comments that suggest “what you do is stupid, what I do is way better.”
- Be open to ideas that contradict your current way of working. I feel like one is pretty self explanatory. You might learn something new…
- Do not assume anything about the people speaking to you without some real reasoning behind those assumptions. This one is a fun one for me, because I certainly look young, and young equals inexperienced, amateur, student, or all digital to most, so often upon meeting me people make all sorts of assumptions. When people think they know more than you, they talk a certain way, when people think they know less, they talk a certain way. Try to make those ways the same.
- Act the same behind a computer, that you would in person. Well that’s pretty straightforward too, but people tend not to do that.
- If you tell someone to listen to your work, do not add caveats. If you think you need to let someone know that your work is less than their expectations, or less than the best it can be because ‘it was mixed in one day,’ or ‘I had to do it on headphones because of X Y Z…’ then simply don’t play it for them.
- Don’t name drop. Don’t name drop.
If you want to earn credibility, there are many ways, the most important of which is honesty. After that come the interesting techniques to show that you know things without saying what you know:
- Ask questions that include implied knowledge. If you ask ‘what EQ do you use on your vocal?’ the only implied knowledge there is that you know that people use EQs on vocals. If you ask ‘do you use the same EQs for cutting on a vocal versus boosting?’ it implies quite a bit. It implies that there may be a reason to use two EQs, it implies that you view the processes as separate, it implies that maybe you know the difference between linear phase EQ and a harmonically saturated EQ. The same process goes for any question, the more the knowledge question implies, the better answer you’ll get, and you’ll also earn some credibility with whomever is answering it.
- Listen more than you talk. Not that this is generally impressive, but it usually ends up meaning the few things you DO say are strong cut-ins.
- Definitions are better than opinions. When I say I like X better than Y, it doesn’t really mean much, it’s just an opinion. Explaining the physics, or specifics of the audible function of why I like X better than Y for a specific source or need, is inarguable.
Its a bit of a mess of a list, with poor organization, but I’m writing this whilst getting hopped up on a fantastic SO Yemen pour over here at Blue Bottle. I apologize for the rambling, and I may edit the crap out of this later, to make it make sense.
I hope this is helpful.