I Don’t Want To Make Hit Records

Bill Cammack 2011-03-08As some of y’all know, I’ve been focusing on my music thing for around a year now.

I’ve been MAKING and recording music forever, already.. It’s just that with the new tools that are available, I decided I wanted to learn something new and get really good at mixing music.

I’ve done that now. I’m really, REALLY good at mixing. I know exactly what I’m doing. I’m about 1,000 times better at mixing than I was at video editing when I began my professional career by joining Diversion Pictures back in the day.

Actually, I should say “When I began my COMMERCIALLY-PROFESSIONAL career, because I did professional work for individuals and companies before I started doing videos for Diversion that played on MTV, VH1, BET, etc.

So.. Something’s been bothering me for several months now, and I wasn’t able to put my finger on it until today. Until about 20 minutes ago. I had the elements of the understanding, but it hadn’t become a concrete concept for me.

Little Boxes

When I’m on a self-improvement kick, I study incessantly. All I want is to be who I want to be instead of who I am right now. I don’t want to hang out with you. I don’t want to go to that party at the hotel penthouse. I don’t want to meet your foyine homegirl that’s sweating me.

The thing I found funny about studying mixing was that as I moved up the ranks of understanding, where I would recite the answers to questions before going ahead to read the answers because I had already read those same answers in so many other places, I came to a point where I ran into the same situation over and over.

I mentioned this to friends of mine. I would tell them “I’m watching these videos of big-time Mixers (actually, I suppose I called them Mix Engineers at the time, because I didn’t understand the difference until several days ago) and, invariably, instead of talking about mixing, they’re talking about the boxes that they run the signals through. o_O”

At first, I thought it was a fluke.. I thought I was just having bad luck with the videos I clicked on. Then it happened again. Then it happened again. Then it happened again, and it kept on happening until I got the picture that a high percentage of what I was “learning” from those videos was what people’s favorite FX boxes were.

To make another distinction.. Along the way, I found out that there are Recording Engineers and Mix Engineers. Many people are both. Recording Engineers are responsible for getting the information from the instruments into the computer (or onto the tape or whatever you’re going to use to create the final song). Mix Engineers are responsible for taking the elements and making them work together and enhancing them by any means necessary to make the recording sound good.

I immediately knew that I didn’t want to be a Recording Engineer. I’m totally, absolutely, positively, completely disinterested in that process. I don’t care HOW people get the elements recorded. I’m interested in the musical side of Post-Production, which is what I do already for videos.

I also found out that I didn’t want to be a producer. I’m completely disinterested in “making beats” as people call it. With Logic 9 I can make a beat in 5 minutes or less. It’s a complete yawn-fest.

What I like to do, similar to video, is take audio that has already been tracked and make it shine.. according to my personal taste.

The “personal taste” part is what helped me understand this situation today.

Tin Cans & String

So I had this conversation with a homegirl of mine, and I wasn’t able to articulate it to her properly, not because she was looking FOYINE as usual and I didn’t feel like thinking about anything else or because I was several beers down, but because I knew what the problem was TO ME, but I hadn’t intended to tell anyone else about it, and it just happened to come up in conversation.

What I had said to her was something like “It doesn’t matter how good you are at mixing, because at the highest levels, the difference is determined by how many thousands or millions of dollars’ worth of equipment you have available to you”.

That’s clearly an incorrect statement, but it’s all I had at the time. Of course, she beat the **** out of my concept by saying “blah blah my friend whomever blah blah great music producer blah blah doesn’t matter the equipment blah blah blah”, which was fine, because I was busy checking her out and drinking my beer.

Yes.. I realize that there are some people that “Got It” and some people that “Don’t”. There are some people that can make a great recording by beating on a table and rapping. There are some people that make fantastic live recordings with an acoustic guitar and an harmonica. There are some people that don’t even OWN computers that manage to create great mixes. There are even people that make up their mixes live on the spot. My hat’s off to all of them.

The fact remains that the equipment you have access to determines how much you’re able to manipulate the sounds that end up going onto a song.

I ran into this issue a couple of years ago, when I did a tutorial video about editing in Final Cut pro.


YouTube Link => http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CHh1tAA-UFE

When we released that video, I went to the Indy Mogul Forum to interact with the community members and ask if they had any questions.

Interestingly enough, several of the comments were along the lines of “Who cares about Final Cut Pro tutorials when we can’t afford Macs? :/”. This made sense, being that the show’s premise is filmmaking on a low-ass budget. However.. What I had to say was applicable to ANY nonlinear video editing software package, including iMovie and Windows Movie Maker, either of which come absolutely free with your operating system when you buy ANY computer.

I understood and empathized with their points. What use is it to say to someone “You can do what I can do if you buy this particular computer and then you buy this particular software and then you have the time to use it excessively and get really good with it”?

This is how I felt watching these videos, even though, granted, I was watching product endorsement videos, not “How To Mix” tutorial videos, because that’s what companies want to allocate their budgets towards.

I’m watching this stuff, going “That’s very nice and all that you ran a cable to a box and then turned a knob on that box and you liked how the kick drum sounded, but HOW IN THE **** is that information useful to anyone that can’t afford to kick in $3,000 for the ******* BOX and then another $275,000 for the ******* CONSOLE you’re sitting in front of?” 😀

Make It Happen!

So I was understanding that once you get to a certain level, your progress (towards what?) is impeded unless you become affiliated with a studio that already took out the business loans to afford all these toys…

Meanwhile, I had the good fortune of rubbing elbows with several DIY musicians. And I *DO* mean DO. IT. YOUR*SELF*!!!

What I got from them was that they were/are focused on their craft. No funding, whatsoever. No particular training in creating music. *ABSOLUTELY* no training in creating videos.. Yet, they were still makin’ it happen, because that’s what they want their lives to be. They want to entertain. They want to get their message out to the world. They want to express themselves.

Because of a music video project, I ended up meeting one of these DIY musicians, Yannie Falcon:


YouTube Link => http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUeBfwmWaO8

Now.. I don’t understand just about one single word of that song, but I love it! 😀

I know that “Mio” means mine, but I have no idea what a “Tiro” could possibly be. haha I don’t care what a Tiro is, either. It was just a weird situation, meeting her and chatting with her about her music. She and I do similar things, but in a totally different way. Meanwhile.. I’ve been studying for a year while she’s been writing, singing and performing her own handycam or flipcamera or whatever amateur-ass videos she makes, and she’s DOING. HER. THING. and getting her message out to whomever feels like listening to it. 😀

Granted, I’ve been dropping music tutorial videos this whole time, but it’s not the same thing AT ALL. I recognized as I reflected upon my conversations with Yannie that I wasn’t exactly on the proper path for myself, but I still couldn’t figure out what the issue was.

Since I mentioned her, here’s another song she wrote and performed that I filmed and edited the video for:


YouTube Link => http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7vUJymfUyE

On Our Way To Nowhere…

So now I’m thinking that I’m striving for “excellence” in a craft that depends on resources in order to advance, while other people are doing the absolute best they can with little-to-no resources whatsoever… There was something incredibly WRONG with this picture. 😀

So today, I’m watching more videos of professional mixers, and the interviewee is asked a question about sound in popular music.

His answer was essentially that what he does is a business, and that business depends on people buying what he creates. Their buying what he creates depends on his being able to provide them with the sound they’re looking for. The sound they’re looking for is dictated by the sound of the records they’re currently buying…

I suddenly completely ******* realized what my ‘problem’ is with this system.

There’s an amount of learning that you can do that empowers you to make people’s records better than they could make them on their own. The next level up, which I didn’t realize I was looking at, is where you make records sound THE. WAY. OTHER. PEOPLE. EXPECT. THEM. TO. SOUND.

This is the missing link. 🙂 I’m sitting there going “The kick drum sounded fine before you ran it through the box. It sounds almost exactly the same AFTER you ran it through the box. What was the point of your running it through the box? :/”

Now I know what the point is of running it through the box. You want your sound to match what people are currently addicted to so you can make sales, because music, just like television, is a BUSINESS.

I was peering into a world that’s beyond my personal interest. I don’t give a flying **** about making a song sound like pop music or anything else for that matter.

Prepare For Liftoff…

This is what I recognized while talking with Yannie and other DIY musicians over the last couple of months… Would they LIKE to be recording in multi-million dollar studios?.. Sure. Can they afford that?.. Nope. Are they good enough to record in studios?.. I think so. Is *not* recording in a high-budget studio stopping them from being the stars they are?.. Nope. >:D

So.. While I will always be learning, because artistic endeavors always involve on-the-job training, the core of my studies are officially concluded, as of this very ******* second.

I’m now moving from the “Learning” phase to the “Doing” phase. I already know everything I need to know to make music that *I* like.

I dropped a collab remix with MrFresh 9 days ago, even though it seems like it was several weeks ago:

I’m Walkin’ (MrFresh:::BillCammack Regroove) by mrfresh

That project was on-point. We both use Logic, so he sent me the scratch .mp3 of what he was working on, I sent him some ideas back, he finalized the core of the remix and I finished it up.

I didn’t realize it last week, but I’ve already arrived where I want to be. If someone wants to make something commercial out of a project I’m working on, I’ll send them the Logic file or a stack of .WAV or .AIFF files and they can have a field day connecting a series of boxes to it and making it sound the way that people that still listen to the radio expect it to sound so someone might spend money on it.

I totally love, respect and admire what these people do, but it’s not for me. 🙂

They can keep the Chris Brown sound… The Kid is going Ramones, Iron Maiden & early Metallica. \m/ ^_^ \m/

It sounds like what it sounds like. It is what it is. You get what I give you.

**** making hit records! >:D

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2 thoughts on “I Don’t Want To Make Hit Records”

  1. Two thoughts:
    Whatever you do, do it for you.
    And..
    It’s nice to know (and really everyone should) the limits of the tools you have available to you whether it’s a hammer, a paintbrush, a camera, or an editing suite – because that will serve as a limit of what you can produce. That doesn’t mean you’ve got to be using every possible damn thing in front of you ALL OF THE TIME. If the source material wasn’t all THAT creative then all the middleman is doing is putting a dress on a pig and it’s more about his effort than the original “artist”. Do that one too many times and it’s called a cliche. And no, I’m not trying to say that Chris Brown doesn’t need post-production just that somewhere in there the art of making music got turned into… something else. Like more about the process than the end product.

    1. See.. That’s basically what I found out, Steve.

      It was very odd… It’s like you’re used to listening to some song you like, and then it’s like remember that overall sound?.. Well they didn’t play that in a hall. We added that reverb when we mixed it.

      Remember those kick drum sounds? We blended samples with the actual drum sound like extensions in Britney Spears’ hair, because the drummer wasn’t striking at a consistent volume.

      Remember that guitar sound? We added several versions together like this…

      Eventually, you realize that you can do a track in MIDI on your computer, replace it with the proper samples, play a couple of riffs over it, process it the right way, and you’ll end up with what sounds like (to you) a close rendition of the original song.

      Meanwhile, you USED TO THINK that someone pointed microphones at the band and let them do their thing. So your thinking has to become different. It’s more “photoshopping” than you would think, even in actual music, like Rock. I’m not just talking about drum machine samples and electronic synths.

      I was actually surprised when I kept running into “I put this box on it, then I put that box on it” because when I had been recording back in the day, I was only hip to volume changes and panning. I had a compressor, but it was only to make sure my mic levels didn’t clip on the way into the computer.

      So now I finally know what my ‘problem’ is. 🙂 I know how to get the sound *I* want. More learning would get me to understand how to get the sound THEY want, which I don’t care about, because that’s work, not fun.

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