A few years later, I ended up as second engineer on a project with a legend. He had produced several albums I owned. I knew his work. I also knew his personality. He hit the ground running on the first day, barking orders and demanding instant action. He drank expensive coffee and even demanded it was made a specific way. He refused to to drink the first pot because it wasn’t right.
He would literally snap his fingers when he wanted something done faster. He assumed that every problem that showed up that week was my fault. This went on for about five days. About 12 hours each day. Rude, difficult, obnoxious and demanding. Fun times.
I treated it like the game I played with the little Nazi. I didn’t get upset or react or snap back. I just kept moving and did my job. Whether he spoke or yelled, either way, I handled it. It didn’t even bother me. The sessions went well, the project came out really nice. Everyone was happy.
When he left, he thanked me for a good week and said he had enjoyed working with me. It would have been different if I hadn’t been prepared by my little buddy. I had been trained to do my job and disregard the irrelevant stuff. I was trained to be focused. My skin was thicker. I had survived my first real challenge with flying colors.
As I write these types of articles, I remember those days. Being the young guy with the attitude. Thinking I knew way more than I did. Wanting the spotlight position at the board. Getting offended and my feelings hurt when people said things I didn’t like. Defending myself or attacking others over stupid stuff.
I get emails and comments from guys like I was. Tripping over the details and getting offended. Calling me names. It’s amusing. A few have ticked me off to the point where I felt like I need to respond. Most don’t. Those responses tell me exactly where they are -0- and most likely where they are not going to be.
The thin-skinned and easily offended don’t survive in production. It’s a tough business with a wide variety of offenses waiting for you. Nobody out there really cares about your opinion unless you are the one signing the checks. The “employee” or “freelancer” just needs to keep making things happen and keep your mouth shut. Do your job or find another one.
It’s as ridiculous as a boxer getting upset because someone hit him. It’s part of the career you chose. Deal with it.
There will come a day when some of you will be well paid and very thankful for advice offered here. (In advance, you’re welcome.) Then there are the others who will spend their life in mediocrity because they have to defend themselves instead of learning. (In advance, I’m sorry. I tried.)
I write a lot about attitude. I had times when mine was great and times when it was awful. My career suffered for a very long time because of a lousy attitude. My family suffered more.
I hope you can spend the rest of your life with a teachable and humble attitude. It will pay off.
M. Erik Matlock is a 20-plus-year veteran of pro audio, working in live sound, install, and studios over the course of his career, as well as owning Soundmind Production Services. He provides advice for younger folks working in professional audio at The Art Of The Soundcheck. Read more of his random rants and tirades here.
Matlock is also the author of several books, including his latest, Basic Training for the Church Audio Technician, which is available here.