Exploring the Wild Side of Plug-Ins with Noam Levinberg - Progressions: Success in the Music Industry

Episode 105

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Published on:

7th Feb 2024

Exploring the Wild Side of Plug-Ins with Noam Levinberg

Noam Levinberg is a veteran mastering engineer and the founder of Safari Pedals, which has quickly become one of the most talked about new plug-in companies in recent times.

In this episode, you'll learn about:

  • How a plug-in designers' sonic preferences shape a plug-in
  • The parallels of releasing plug-ins and releasing music
  • How JUCE Framework has opened the door for a lot of new plug in companies
  • The importance of moving forward quickly to learn what resonates with people
  • How the passing down of audio knowledge has changed
  • The overwhelm of solo music entrepreneurship
  • Noam and Travis's experiences in commercial studios

Connect with Noam:

🌐 Website: https://safaripedals.com/

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https://www.youtube.com/@progressionspod

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Credits:

Guest: Noam Levinberg

Host: Travis Ference

Editor: Stephen Boyd

Theme Music: inter.ference

Transcript
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There was something in me that was really wanting to kind of get out and

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express myself and do wild plugins. That's mastering

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engineer Noam Levenberg, the man behind safari pedals. Safari pedals

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has become one of the most talked about plugin companies around. Their unique guitar

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pedal inspired interface has brought the fun of wildly spinning knobs right

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into our daws. In this episode, Noam shares his process for taking a plugin

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from idea to final release. What I like doing is

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starting from the end and not from the beginning. And

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what I mean by that is. Why he chose to echo a modern music release

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schedule by dropping a new plugin every month. It matches

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today's kind of pace, and it's 100%

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inspired by artists and musicians. That I respect the

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importance of creating something that draws a reaction from the user or

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listener. It gives you some sort of reaction, like, you like it, you don't

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like it. The first few seconds, for most people, I think, would probably lead to

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either buying it or not. And why he chose to walk away from a salaried

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audio gig to start safari pedals. And I had to trust my gut

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feeling and just do what I love, which is

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something that a lot of times is like the opposite of what everybody's

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telling you to do. This is a fun one. We hit it all from plugins

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to commercial studios and the current state of audio knowledge on the Internet.

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Stick around for my interview with Noam Levenberg.

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Boutique plugin companies like safari popping up these days, most of

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them were started by talented engineers and mixers that are

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kind of probably still, like, midway through their

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career. Right. We're not talking about people with, like, 40 years of experience. We're talking

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about, like, ten or 15. They're in it right now.

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And I just see so many people loving these small plugins,

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and I'm not seeing as much love for the

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legacy brands that we all grew up with.

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Do you feel like there's, like, new blood in this industry? Is it a revolution

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of plugins right now? Why has everybody got a cool plugin

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company now? It's a really interesting topic to talk about, and it's

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something that I've been thinking about for a long time now. A

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bunch of things led to this situation, in my opinion,

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and I think it's a really good change in the industry.

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I think that the biggest thing that led to

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this new rise of a lot

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of small companies is the fact that technology wise,

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plugins are way easier to program than ever

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before because of juice framework, which is

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a framework made for audio processing, which is

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based on C Plus plus, which is what everything is written on in

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terms of plugins and stuff. And it's just way

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easier to create plugins these days. And that

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combined with the fact that the whole creator economy and

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people now have more access to tools that we

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didn't have early on. So I think when I look back to

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my early career, when the computer kind of came into the

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studio, yes, you had

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some plugins. You had like the q ten from waves. I

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remember that being, like, shocking. I remember being

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shocked by having ten bands, being like, what can I do with

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ten bands? That's crazy. True. I also

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remember having a lot of issues with the computer and

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bugging out about space and stuff, and that was like

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a really expensive, I don't know, like g four. I think it was a g

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four computer that was worth a couple

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of. Couldn't imagine having a

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laptop and just running pro tools on a laptop or

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anything even remotely similar to that. And I think that

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today people have much better access to technology

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tools and cheaper in terms of

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hardware, which leads them to have more

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space in their budget to get creative with plugins

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and other cool tools. You know what I mean? It's totally true.

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The cost ratio between buying hardware,

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gear and plugins is like, obviously massive,

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especially when you talk about using UAD, for example. I can

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have a fair child on every channel for $300 or whatever they want to

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charge for it. So, yeah, that is true. Do you think that there's,

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I think about early audio

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development? Most of the big breakthroughs, I think,

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were they were done with or

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by users. Think about like Les Paul or

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like, you know, just game changing

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devices, and then you've got people that come in like Rupert

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neve, really just electronics and technical side. Do you think

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you need to be an end user to kind of have the

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aha moment and then you got to bring in the brains

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to expand on it? I think that's a good question, and it's

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not a yes and no answer, because there are people

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from both camps. I mean, my camp is

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obviously the end user camp,

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so I don't have a background in programming or

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anything similar to that. And I feel

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like there still is some sort of

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gap between the two. So when I want

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to build a product or a plugin, I

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kind of need to go through a bunch of

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loops in order to even explain

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myself to a programmer, to say what I'm looking for

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and what I want it to sound like. And the other side

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doesn't always fully get what we're talking about. Because

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we might be technical as engineers, but not as technical

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as developers. Right. So when you say something has a

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character or something has even like, oh, I want it

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to saturate. Okay, what is a saturator? Obviously

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that means distortion, but then there's like a million different ways to

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make something distort. And then it's a long journey.

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Yeah. And I feel like the best kind of

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goal is to get to a point where either

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there's two people and they're having a conversation.

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And what I mean by that is like an end user and then a

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programmer and they can kind of create

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something together. Or there's these type

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of superhumans that I've met, a

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few that can just do everything, and that's

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just like a next level thing. It's kind of like when there's like a

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producer who can play all the instruments and mix, and you're like,

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oh, that guy. That's insane.

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Yeah. So there's like an equivalent in the plugin word, like somebody

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like Mir, for example, who's like a friend of mine who

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has a company called Modelix. So he's like

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amazing piano player, but then also an amazing

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programmer and an engineer and like a bunch of other things.

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That's amazing. He has it all, I guess. What's the process

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of determining whether a plugin

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is working for you? Obviously

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you're going through different versions. You're probably using it in your own work, maybe sharing

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it with some friends. Take one of your plugins that's out, maybe like gorilla drive,

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right? Yeah. What was the process like getting that

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to market from the audio standpoint? Like, how many

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iterations of the plugin did you go through? I think I'm still

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learning the process, to be honest, and I'm trying to improve it

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in general. I will say that I did get to a point right now

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that I feel like is kind of a sweet spot in terms

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of the way it works. And

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basically what I like doing is starting from the

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end and not from the beginning. And what I mean by that

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is I'll usually sketch out the gui

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myself before having anything. Okay. So I'll

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just paint a picture and try and kind of decide where I

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want the knobs and what I want them to look like and

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kind of match whatever I have in my

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head to a picture. And I think that really helps my

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process because once you do that, you realize like,

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oh, there's not enough space for like a blend knob. Maybe I should

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make the knob smaller. But then I want

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it to look a certain way. And by the end of

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it, you kind of have like a visual representation of

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something that you want. And what I like

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doing after that is I actually show it around. I showed it around to

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a bunch of people and try to explain them what I wanted to do.

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And I look at people's faces when I do it, and

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just friends and other engineers and stuff, and I want to

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see they understand the concept of the plugin

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before it even lands on an actual

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audio file. Right. That's kind of the beginning. And

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I will say that the gorilla drive was the first one I did, and

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I didn't do that on the first one. And I kind of learned

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as I went along. But some of them did have some

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major changes done to them, following what

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people said. Because a lot of times you have something in your head, you're like,

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oh yeah, of course this tone knob is going to react this way, but then

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when you ask somebody else, he's like, what does a tone knob do? And you're

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like, oh, yeah, it

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doesn't say. So maybe I should label it some way.

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So a good example for that is like, I'm going to release next month.

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I don't know when people are going to listen to this, but in late

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October, early November, there's going to be a compressor coming out. And I

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have a knob there called speed, and

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it's a long thing, but I won't get into it right now. But the whole

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idea is to link the attack and release in certain

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ways that fit the ratio of the compressor. That's cool.

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Yeah, it's a pretty fun compressor to play

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around with. That's fun. But when I showed it around to friends, they didn't really

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get it. They were like, what do you mean, speed? Where is this going? So

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what I did was I kind of drew this thing where you can

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see slow and fast, and it kind of

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represents it in a visual way. Those kind of things really help

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me. Nice. But then after that, what I usually do in

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terms of developing the plugin is

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I'll take that gui and then I'll show it to

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the developer that I'm working with, which is usually a guy

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called David, who's a super talented programmer.

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He's a freelancer, basically, and we'll go through the features and

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stuff. And something that David is a genius

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because of this thing is

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instead of me explaining to him what I want,

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I basically have sort of like a back office of sorts

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of plugins. So I have a library of

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compressors and eqs and a bunch of other things

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that I can make it sound any way I want

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on my end. It looks terrible. Like, the

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Gui is very non user friendly. It kind of looks like

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a mix of, I don't know, like a bunch of stuff, right.

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But it's a tool. It's a tool, and I can basically

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do whatever I want with that, and then I can kind of send it

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the vids way with the Gui, and

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he takes the two and makes it one. That's awesome.

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That's like a very long answer

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to your question. You said

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speed talking about that compressor plugin, and I

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immediately thought to myself, I bet that's controlling attack and

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release at the same time in some kind of

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musical context, which kind of made me think about the idea

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of, like, you're making sonic choices based on your

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taste and your musicality. So

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what you choose to do with an EQ curve could

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be musical to you and not to me, in the same way that

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some people prefer this EQ over that EQ in the analog

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realm. Do you think your experience as a master engineer

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working in a bunch of different styles kind of has

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developed your taste in a manner where

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you might have a musical taste for

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your choices that maybe fits the broad range

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of ears out there? Does that make sense? It's kind of a weird

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question. Yes and no. I mean, yes, 100% yes.

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I feel like the subject you're touching on, I think, is

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the change that we're seeing in terms of the small companies and stuff. Yeah,

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because if you look to the early days

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of plugins, it was mainly kind of a

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utilitarian device or like a very

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technical device where like you have, if you take like an

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EQ, for example, you have like a frequency, a q and. And a

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gain knob. And that EQ either is trying

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to sound as transparent as possible, which a lot of the early

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digital plugins tried to achieve, or it

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has a sound, but the sound is usually kind of modeled after

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one particular outboard EQ that

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everybody wants, like a pulltech or like an SSL or something. And

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I feel like we got to a point where everybody has

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all those tools. It's built into all the programs.

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You get it for free. Sometimes it's just there for everyone.

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And I feel like that's a great thing, because now we're at a point

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where we can really go crazy. And that's kind

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of what I was aiming for with safari is, to answer your

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question, it has, like, a sound. It's tailored

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to the sounds that I like, and I hope other

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people like, but it feels to me more like, I don't mean

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to sound full of myself, but to me it feels more

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like an artist releasing music these days than

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a company trying to create an EQ

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that works for everyone. Yeah, I

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feel inspired, and I like other people doing that same thing. Like,

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when I open up a plugin and it has a specific

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paste that somebody put in there, I feel that

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is much more inspiring and fun to work with than

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these kind of very

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professional and bland sounding plugins. Yeah, that's

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just my opinion. Yeah, I think

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a lot of the engineers or mixers that I know that have done a

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plugin, it's somehow related to

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them wanting to do something that fits into their

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workflow. So it's like exactly what you're talking about. It's like, this is very

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specific to the way that I like to work, and it's kind of cool.

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So I'm going to share it with other people and if they like it, that's

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cool. If you don't like it, that's cool. So I

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think it's an interesting comparison, the artist releasing

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music thing, because, yeah, I like that. I like that idea.

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Makes me want to make a plugin. I feel like, as an

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engineer, to be honest, up to the point where I released the

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plugins, I didn't have this concept in my mind, but once I released

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it, I kind of felt like an artist because it was like

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I worked on this thing for a bunch of months and

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nobody kind of knew about it. And then I released it. And

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sort of similar to artists releasing their

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first kind of album, they're always

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kind of really keen on releasing. And then they usually think

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that, oh, the world's going to kind of listen to this

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great album that I've been working on for months now. And

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usually the reaction is way slower in terms of

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exposure and getting reactions from people and getting

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plays and stuff. And I felt the same way. I was like, the plugins

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are out, just out into the abyss

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and nobody cared. It was like

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just like two website views per day for the

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first week or something, and it took time.

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It still is like a small kind of

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exposure. But, yeah, it was a really interesting experience for

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me because I swear to God, I looked back at all

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those albums that I made with indie musicians

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releasing their first album and I felt like, oh, I have a

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much better understanding of what you went through. You know what I mean? Yeah,

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totally. I feel that way about the podcast sometimes. And, yeah, when you

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start putting something out there, you start to relate more with these

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quote clients that you've maybe mixed or mastered for over the

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years and you start to feel what that journey is like.

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But something that I've noticed that you do, that maybe this is a little

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inspired by this parallel to releasing

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music. You've been consistently putting plugins out, like

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every two or three months. I feel like you've been moving fast. You keep

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giving people something new every month. Every month? It is

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every month. I didn't want to say every month because that feels a little crazy,

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but I know it's been fast. Is that partially inspired

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by the Spotify release? You

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got to keep giving people stuff, keep spreading word. Yeah, you're bang

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on. I mean, I felt like that was a strategy I wanted

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to take early on. I didn't know if I could make

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it that fast, but I planned on doing that

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before I even started releasing the first plugin. And I feel

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like it matches today's kind of

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pace and it's 100% inspired

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by artists and musicians that I respect that release music

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on a constant basis. And I feel like a lot of times you feel

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that movement from artists or even from podcasts as

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well. There are a few podcasts that when you see the

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amount of releases, you feel like you want to be part

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of that kind of wave of things happening.

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Yeah, it's fun. Yeah. I mean, I guess as you're

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releasing more and more, I talk about on the podcast all the time, you're growing

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with every plugin. What you've learned over the last

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year, putting out five plugins, you've probably accelerated years

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of growth that other people who have just done like one plugin a

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year. I get what you're saying. I think that a

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big part of it also relates to my experience as kind of

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a music facilitator of sorts, somebody

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that was around a lot of musicians and was around a lot

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of creators. And you kind of get

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this sense of, like, I could spend

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another even year on a specific

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project, or I can release it

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and kind of see what people

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reactions are and then kind of try and

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improve after releasing it. And I think that's another

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amazing thing that plugins have, that even music doesn't have.

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Just for example, I released the fucks echo chorus and then I got

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like 20 emails of people saying, like, why isn't

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there a width knob? I wish there was a width knob and

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I added a width knob and it's there now. That's awesome. I

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guess I could have thought about it earlier, but I feel

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like as long as you don't do something terrible and release it. It's

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better to just go with the flow, release something that you

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feel is right early on and then change it if

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needed. And also kind of, like you said,

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learn for the next plugin and kind of get

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more. It's also like a business strategy

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because I get a better sense of what the customers like and

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what they don't like. So the flamingo verb, for example, is my best

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seller. So I'm thinking about making another reverb.

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It's a lot of really good insights, I feel.

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Yeah, you give instant feedback. That's something I always tell artists, like,

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put a couple of songs out before you spend all this money and time

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making a record. What if your fans really love it when

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it's piano, when it's broken down and they don't like it when

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it's heavy? You get that feedback when something's out in the

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world. I agree with you so much. And I also feel like, I don't

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know, I have this whole theory about intuition and how

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music should be intuition based.

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And what I mean by that is, that's how I used to mix

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when I was doing a lot of mixing, I would try to kind of

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get to a point where the song as a song as

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a whole sounds pretty good after like 30

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minutes of mixing. And then obviously it takes more time

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to kind of hone on different instruments and finish the mix.

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But you're looking at a broad picture of how the audience

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would look at it. I try to get that same approach with the

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plugins because you know how it is. It's the same thing with

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anything like inspired, based. Where you see a plugin,

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you click on it, it gives you some sort of reaction, like you

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like it, you don't like it. The first few seconds, for most people, I think

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would probably lead to either buying it or not. Oh, yeah. And it's the

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same for sure with music. Like, you hear the first few seconds

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and you get attached to it or you want to skip the

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song. Yeah, I mean, I have definitely demoed a plugin

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that has just been perfect and just really

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exciting for the thing that I was like, oh, I'm going to try this plugin,

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and then probably never used it again, but bought it immediately because it

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gave me everything I wanted in that 1st 10 seconds for that moment.

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So, yeah, I totally agree with you. This kind of parallels something I wanted to

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ask you about. I was talking to a friend of mine and we were just

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talking about plugins or hardware gear or whatever. He said something

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which I never really put together. He was like, the audio

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industry is very different from the music industry. And I

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was like, oh, wow. Yeah. Because as an engineer, you think about, like,

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plugins are my tools that I make music with, but you

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never really separate audio products

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from the use of those products. How have you kind

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of walked that line of what works in the

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audio industry versus what works in the music industry? You know what I mean? Are

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there parallels? Are they different? What do you think?

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I think that there are a few differences and there are a few

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similarities. I feel the biggest difference is the

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audio industry, in my opinion, is a much more

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technical industry in the sense that it's tech

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oriented. So there's a lot of innovation and changes

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and things that are happening quicker. Yeah. And I feel like the music

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industry is more like intellectual property when you

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strip it down. Okay. So it's more old

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school and has a lot of rules that never change, like

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mechanical rights, you know what I mean? These things that

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just exist and everybody accepts them because

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it's just what it is. You know what I mean? Yeah. I think that's, like,

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the biggest difference that I feel. But then I also feel

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like there is a middle ground. And that middle ground is sort

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of something that I've been thinking about a lot recently, is the fact

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that so many people are doing so many things

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combined. So, for example, I used to be a mastering engineer.

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Now I'm working as a company owner. There's

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like a vlogger who does mixing, and he also produces, and he

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also writes a song, and there's, like, a mixture that

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is much more mixed than what it used to be. Because

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when I was starting out, a producer was a producer,

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he wouldn't usually record the band, he would produce

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it, and then there's different tasks, and it was

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very separated. And these days it's so mixed

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up that there are pros and cons to it,

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but I just feel like it's a new world

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where the rules don't really apply anymore. Yeah, that is true.

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Yeah. I feel like another fascinating thing is in

Speaker:

this new world, there are things that are staying from the old one,

Speaker:

and they're totally new concepts, and seeing

Speaker:

them merge together, I feel like, is

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super interesting. I don't know. You're totally right.

Speaker:

There's so many people that are making technical things that are also like

Speaker:

creatives. There's people that are writing or whatever.

Speaker:

There's so much intermingling. There feels like so many things you have

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to do for people that are just coming

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to music and they're just starting their music journey. Do you think the

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fact that everything is so intermingled now is kind of

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empowering to those people? Or do you think it's a little daunting because you feel

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like, oh, shit, I have to produce my own record and record it and mix

Speaker:

it and master my record. I have to make my own artwork? Or is it,

Speaker:

like, exciting because you get to do it all? I don't really have an opinion.

Speaker:

I'm just curious what you think. I have to be honest. I feel like it's

Speaker:

more daunting, and I'll tell you why. I feel like there used to

Speaker:

be a few types of people that these

Speaker:

days, kind of, in a sad way, don't really get

Speaker:

to do their craft. Yeah. And what I mean by

Speaker:

that is, I feel like if you're starting out right now, like

Speaker:

you said, you have to know all these things. You could be a songwriter.

Speaker:

That's cool. But you need to know how to record, at least in a

Speaker:

basic level of recording at home. And

Speaker:

you probably need to know a bunch of other things as well. And

Speaker:

I feel like there are lost arts in this kind of

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blend of things, and one of them, in my

Speaker:

opinion, is mixing, to be honest. I feel like

Speaker:

old styles of mixing where

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you get, like, a song a day and you really kind

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of just do that. I won't say gone. It's not

Speaker:

gone. It's still there, but it's not happening so frequently as it

Speaker:

used to be. And I feel like these days, even if

Speaker:

a producer goes to a mixing engineer, it's a different approach.

Speaker:

Where it used to be like, hey, this is the production.

Speaker:

Keep going from there. I'm not done yet. And I feel

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like nowadays it's more about like, hey, I'm done

Speaker:

in terms of mixing as well. I blended everything in.

Speaker:

It sounds the way I want it. Please don't change it

Speaker:

and maybe make it, like, 5% better, you know?

Speaker:

Yeah. It's a different craft. It's so different. I

Speaker:

agree with that completely. I don't want to

Speaker:

demean my own career path, but if you're

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mixing great productions, it's almost like

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stem mastering. I mean, you're just looking to fix some problems and bring some

Speaker:

clarity because it already sounds fucking great. Yeah. So

Speaker:

what are you doing? The only thing you can do is give that extra five

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or 10%, and then you pass it on to the master engineer that adds that

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other two or 3% on top of that. I think that's the tier of

Speaker:

client that eventually you end up working with. Those people. I think early on in

Speaker:

your career you're going to find that as a mixer, you can be way more

Speaker:

heavy handed because everybody involved in the process, they're making their

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first record and they're all exploring what they want.

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Nobody really knows. I think that's a bit more

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carte blanche, I guess is an acceptable term to use there. Yeah.

Speaker:

It's interesting what you're saying, because I'm looking back at my career and I'm

Speaker:

thinking maybe I felt that way towards the

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end of my mixing career because I was doing

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great productions and great musicians.

Speaker:

That's a good point. But to go back to the initial question, I don't think

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it's like a lost art. I think when people step into this

Speaker:

industry and they're overwhelmed by the number of things that they have to learn

Speaker:

or start doing, I think it's more of a loss of

Speaker:

expertise. When you and I started,

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maybe I could focus on just being an engineer. I didn't have to worry

Speaker:

about these other things. If I were to leave school now

Speaker:

and start now, I don't think I'd be able to focus on just the one

Speaker:

thing. There'd be too many things that I need to do to really

Speaker:

reach the point that I reached in, like, ten years. It might take

Speaker:

2025 years to learn all those things. You know what I mean? I think

Speaker:

that sucks for people because they can't focus on the

Speaker:

thing. I totally agree with what you're saying. And I also think that

Speaker:

there's another aspect to it where when you're starting out,

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you don't really know to

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differentiate between

Speaker:

people telling you what's right and what's wrong.

Speaker:

And in that sense, I was really lucky because I was working in

Speaker:

a big studio early on.

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I only had, like, two or three opinions. It was like

Speaker:

the studio manager, the studio owner, and the two

Speaker:

engineers. You know what mean? Yeah, that was it. And

Speaker:

I feel like nowadays, when you finish school or whatever, you start

Speaker:

working, you go on YouTube and there's so

Speaker:

many different approaches, opinions, things to read about, and you don't really

Speaker:

know what's right and what's wrong. Yeah, I feel

Speaker:

like I'm kind of experiencing that as a side

Speaker:

thing where I'm learning how to edit video just for

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safari pedals and I'm trying to get a grasp of it,

Speaker:

but there's too much information. It's like I don't know who to trust.

Speaker:

And there's like this guy who's saying one thing and then the other guy is

Speaker:

seeing the opposite and I kind of feel like that's probably how

Speaker:

people are experiencing, starting their careers in

Speaker:

music or in audio, because it's saturated

Speaker:

with opinions. Yeah, well, I think most

Speaker:

cases, I don't think that there are

Speaker:

too many rules that have to be followed. There's definitely rules that

Speaker:

need to be followed. But if you're talking about, like, creative distortion

Speaker:

or something like that, I understand there being 10,000 opinions on YouTube.

Speaker:

But yeah, I've done the same thing. I've gone down the rabbit hole of

Speaker:

Adobe premiere stuff and color correction and stuff like

Speaker:

that for the podcast. Yeah, I guess it's daunting. That's

Speaker:

exactly what I'm talking about, man. Right? Color

Speaker:

correction is heavy shit. Color

Speaker:

correction is so hard. And I was sure

Speaker:

it was easy when I started. I was like, oh, yeah, I can do this

Speaker:

color correction thing. Did you think it was like EQ? Were you like, this is

Speaker:

just like EQ? That's how I thought about it. Exactly. I felt

Speaker:

like I got this, you know what I mean? And then it's kind of similar

Speaker:

within audio, where a lot of times you feel like you sound great,

Speaker:

and then you listen to a reference and you're like, actually,

Speaker:

it sounds terrible. Yeah, I feel that way with color

Speaker:

correction. I feel like I'm doing great, and then I look at a

Speaker:

different video and I'm like, oh, no, this is

Speaker:

so bad. It's hilarious. Well, but then

Speaker:

you get on the rabbit hole of like, oh, is it the camera? Should I

Speaker:

get another camera? It's the same way with gear. You're like, oh, that mix is

Speaker:

so good. Oh, they used a summing mixer. I should probably get a summing mixer.

Speaker:

And then you're just like, there you go. You start tumbling down the hill. I

Speaker:

know this is going to sound dumb to some people, but I've never experienced

Speaker:

that in audio. I don't know, maybe because I started

Speaker:

really early, like, I started as a kid, so I had other

Speaker:

people's opinions laid on me, but I never

Speaker:

felt like this kind of rabbit hole you're expressing where it's

Speaker:

like, oh, yeah, maybe I need a camera, maybe I need a new mic, maybe

Speaker:

I need this, maybe I need that. It was always kind of, I don't know.

Speaker:

But yeah, now I feel that way with video

Speaker:

cameras. And I can totally relate to people

Speaker:

experiencing that in audio. Sure. Because the

Speaker:

people with the widest reach aren't necessarily the

Speaker:

most experienced, not necessarily giving bad information either.

Speaker:

But it's tricky when you think about learning online. No,

Speaker:

but that's the thing. When you look at the people

Speaker:

kind of creating these vlogs and stuff, a lot of them are

Speaker:

great. I like a lot of them, but a lot of them are talking

Speaker:

with no experience. They're like, here's five

Speaker:

compression tips you need to know. And like, dude,

Speaker:

you're working like on six inch k's that you just

Speaker:

bought. You started this whole thing like six months

Speaker:

ago, maybe don't

Speaker:

start with giving other people tips. You know what I mean? Again, I'm

Speaker:

not trying to hate anyone, but I just feel like if you're a newbie and

Speaker:

you really don't know the difference, like, you don't know a difference between a

Speaker:

KRK speaker and, I don't know, like an ATC

Speaker:

pair or whatever, or like a Neumann mic, and I

Speaker:

don't know. Yeah, you're not in this whole world,

Speaker:

you can get really confused. Yeah. And there's things that take a long time.

Speaker:

I don't think there's an engineer out here, out there that would

Speaker:

say I learned compression in a year

Speaker:

right when I started to understand compression.

Speaker:

Exactly. You're talking about years and years and years of experience

Speaker:

just for great engineers. For people that have done this for a long time, they

Speaker:

will admit like, oh yeah, this clicked for me when I was like

Speaker:

29. I just happened to make it that far. You know what I mean?

Speaker:

Yeah, the compression thing, I'll never forget the experience of

Speaker:

sitting behind an engineer and seeing him tweaking

Speaker:

the compressor and thinking to myself, either he's

Speaker:

insane because I don't hear any difference, or I'm

Speaker:

like brain dead or something because I literally

Speaker:

did not hear any difference. And it took me a very long time to

Speaker:

actually understand compression. Yeah, not sure I

Speaker:

do.

Speaker:

Speaking to, like, I'm going to make an interesting parallel. Like,

Speaker:

we'll just say YouTube. YouTube creators that are like sharing tips or whatever,

Speaker:

people go because they resonate with that person regardless of their

Speaker:

experience level, in the same way that they're going to choose a safari pedal

Speaker:

plugin over a insert some other brand,

Speaker:

whatever, because there's something about

Speaker:

that person or that company that they resonate with, which

Speaker:

is also kind of interesting to think about because I think people are just

Speaker:

drawn to different things for different reasons. And

Speaker:

from the outside looking in, it's easy to be like, oh, these are bad tips,

Speaker:

but some kid is getting something out of

Speaker:

that. Maybe it's maybe 20% wrong or something like

Speaker:

that. Yeah. And anyway, just talking about musical taste and

Speaker:

choosing what a knob does and making a plugin, it's weird to think about that

Speaker:

when you think about tips or, like, TikTok accounts or some nonsense like that, so

Speaker:

it's weird. No, I totally agree. And I feel like

Speaker:

also, you touched on something that I really

Speaker:

resonate with, which is you usually relate

Speaker:

to things that you think are. How did you phrase

Speaker:

it? A lot of times, you'll watch something because you feel it's

Speaker:

relatable to you, or you feel like you're

Speaker:

on the same kind of wave of that person,

Speaker:

and that makes a lot of sense. And again, I think

Speaker:

the way people these days, or, like, young

Speaker:

producers, engineers, musicians, approach

Speaker:

this whole world is totally different than

Speaker:

how we, or me, as a bald person

Speaker:

with kids, looks at all these TikTok accounts and

Speaker:

stuff. And I'm not trying to, like, I take back any

Speaker:

kind of negativity because I feel like it's

Speaker:

not my kind of wave. You know what I mean? It's not

Speaker:

something that's made for me, so it makes sense that I don't understand it. Yeah,

Speaker:

well, it's like, I feel like you would probably agree. I'm more drawn to a

Speaker:

mix with the master style video than I am

Speaker:

a tips TikTok account. I think it's

Speaker:

because that generation, we learned from

Speaker:

people like that. And so when I want to go learn, I want

Speaker:

to go to those people again, when I think now

Speaker:

kids are so self taught, having their iPad in their hand, making beats on garage

Speaker:

band since they were, like, six, that it's all

Speaker:

about their peers for them and who they like. Not

Speaker:

necessarily. Not their idols or their

Speaker:

inspirations. It's just a different

Speaker:

mentality, I think. Yeah, that's so true. It's more of, like,

Speaker:

a social thing than how we look at it, where it's

Speaker:

more of, like, looking up to someone and

Speaker:

wanting to just learn from. Right.

Speaker:

I totally agree. I feel like it's less about learning and it's more

Speaker:

about socialization, which also makes sense because

Speaker:

there are no physical places where you

Speaker:

hang out anymore. It's like you hang out on TikTok or

Speaker:

Instagram. Everybody's got a studio in their backyard, unfortunately.

Speaker:

Yeah. You don't have that same community that you had, like, 30 years ago,

Speaker:

where the only place to make a record was in one of the ten studios

Speaker:

in town, and so that's where everybody met everybody. That's where

Speaker:

you learned stuff. Yeah. And I'm sure you experienced this as

Speaker:

well. I used to work in one room, and then you

Speaker:

open the door to eat lunch, and you see a guy that you.

Speaker:

I don't know. Like, met last week, and he's like, you want to hear something

Speaker:

cool in the other room? And you go to the other room, you're like, oh,

Speaker:

yeah, you mic the drums that way. That's cool.

Speaker:

Totally going to try that one time. Yeah. I mean, I used to get off

Speaker:

work at Capitol and just stay. You're just like,

Speaker:

I'm just going to stay here. Exactly. I feel like maybe that's

Speaker:

our equivalent to TikTok. Yeah. Staying at

Speaker:

the studio till 03:00 in the morning, like, talking nonsense with the tech

Speaker:

about how we fix something or going through the other rooms, checking out,

Speaker:

like, oh, that's how they're eqing this. That's cool. Like, looking at the console at

Speaker:

the end of the night, be like, what'd they do? Where'd they move the mics?

Speaker:

Yeah. Well, we're lucky that we had access to that, though, which is much harder

Speaker:

to find these days. Yeah, for sure. And I feel like, for

Speaker:

mean, I did the same thing, but I'm from Tel Aviv,

Speaker:

so I didn't have capital. I had the

Speaker:

equivalent version of the Middle east, which

Speaker:

is not as glamorous, but

Speaker:

still. Yeah, I love walking in my backyard and have a studio in my

Speaker:

backyard. And I follow plenty of TikTok

Speaker:

accounts and I enjoy watching or whatever, but I do miss going

Speaker:

into a studio for six days in a row, hanging out

Speaker:

afterwards, chatting with everybody. I

Speaker:

still like to get out every once in a while and hit one of those

Speaker:

rooms, but maybe I'm just getting old. I also like to sit in my backyard.

Speaker:

No, I mean 100%. I was talking

Speaker:

to a friend before we started the podcast on a

Speaker:

session I did in a really nice room with a Neve

Speaker:

console that we worked on for like three weeks

Speaker:

in a row. Nice. And that just doesn't happen

Speaker:

anymore. No, it used to be so fun.

Speaker:

You finish the session, you go have drinks.

Speaker:

It's like a phase in your life of

Speaker:

few long weeks. Yeah. You make a record with somebody

Speaker:

for a couple of weeks, a couple of months,

Speaker:

you're friends with that person forever because you guys made art together.

Speaker:

And I think people, I have friends that have made records with

Speaker:

plenty of famous people and they still talk to them years later. And

Speaker:

I think if you're on the outside of the music industry, you're like, you text

Speaker:

famous people and you're like, well, yeah, we're friends. We made a record for, like,

Speaker:

four months. It's cool. It's fine. But,

Speaker:

yeah, I did want to ask you before we go. I wanted to ask you

Speaker:

one thing, since we're kind of talking about our studio experiences, you and I

Speaker:

both have had very stable

Speaker:

salary moments in our lives where

Speaker:

we're making music and we know we're having a fixed income, and we

Speaker:

both chose to leave those situations. You at artless doing

Speaker:

mastering and all the audio stuff, do you have any

Speaker:

advice for people that are maybe like, even if they don't even

Speaker:

work in music, maybe they work, I don't know, at a

Speaker:

coffee shop, but they feel like they can make it full time in music.

Speaker:

They're like, at that point where they're like, I think I need this money, but

Speaker:

I also think I need to go do that. Do you have any advice for

Speaker:

people that are, like, right there at the precipice that are like, I think I

Speaker:

want to work for myself? Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I think

Speaker:

two things. The first one is actually

Speaker:

part of the reason why I left my day job and

Speaker:

decided to start this weird company called Safari.

Speaker:

I guess the first thing is I kind of got to a

Speaker:

realization that it doesn't matter the salary that I would

Speaker:

get. Like, even if it is a very high salary,

Speaker:

it still does not compare at all to having

Speaker:

an asset. I think that's, like, a really big lesson

Speaker:

that I wish I learned earlier in my career

Speaker:

where I would always choose having

Speaker:

an asset over fixed payment. And it

Speaker:

doesn't matter. You can make that same mistake as a freelancer as well,

Speaker:

where you'd be like, no, I don't want points on this record. I just

Speaker:

want you to pay up front. You know what I mean? Yeah. And

Speaker:

what I can tell you looking back is

Speaker:

those points and all these different types of assets they

Speaker:

accumulate, and they can really be

Speaker:

a very big investment in your own life and

Speaker:

in your own self. And sometimes you don't see it at the point

Speaker:

of time that you're actually making the decision. Yeah.

Speaker:

So after having a very long

Speaker:

time with the salary, I realized it. I was like, I

Speaker:

don't see how I can keep this thing going for another, like, 40

Speaker:

years or I don't know, like 30 years or whatever

Speaker:

number of years. And I can't guarantee it, but

Speaker:

I can probably guarantee if I can manage to create an

Speaker:

asset that continues to create revenue for me

Speaker:

in the following years. That seems like a better plan.

Speaker:

Yeah. And maybe, hopefully, things that I can even transfer

Speaker:

to my kids. That's awesome. That's one thing. And then

Speaker:

the second thing is just like,

Speaker:

it's going to sound kind of cliche, but

Speaker:

I really believe in going with your heart.

Speaker:

And I feel like if you're honest to yourself and you're

Speaker:

really 100% trying to be honest with yourself

Speaker:

and not lying to yourself, good things happen. It's just like

Speaker:

the way I've experienced life since

Speaker:

early on, and I felt like I wasn't honest with myself

Speaker:

anymore as being an employee. I loved working at

Speaker:

artless till the last day, but I just felt like there

Speaker:

was something in me that was really wanting to kind of get out

Speaker:

and express myself and do wild plugins. So I felt

Speaker:

like I had to go with that, and I had to trust my gut feeling

Speaker:

and just do what I love, which is

Speaker:

something that a lot of times is like, the opposite of what everybody's

Speaker:

telling you to do, usually, people are telling you, yeah,

Speaker:

don't trust your instincts. Go with whatever

Speaker:

is socially acceptable. You have a job. Don't quit the

Speaker:

job, dude. Yeah, have a good job. You know what I mean? That's just

Speaker:

my two points. I agree completely, and I think

Speaker:

you've got to trust your gut. I mean, we started this podcast. I said there

Speaker:

was, like, a glitch in Riverside, and I was like, every time my gut has

Speaker:

said, I need to restart riverside and I haven't, I've had a

Speaker:

chunk of my interview missing. And I don't know. That's something that

Speaker:

multiple producers and engineers that I've worked with have

Speaker:

said. Like, after I've made a mistake, they've been like, what did

Speaker:

your gut tell you right before that happened? And I was like, not to do

Speaker:

that? And they were like, yeah. You're like,

Speaker:

yeah, I don't know. Something of that gut. Something. And trust

Speaker:

in your instincts. Dude. This has been so much fun. I got to ask you

Speaker:

the last two questions before we head out. All right. Which I believe you know

Speaker:

what they are. But the first one, which maybe we touched on a little bit,

Speaker:

is, was there a time in your career that you chose to redefine what success

Speaker:

meant to you? I feel like I kind of answered that, to be honest,

Speaker:

with safari petals, because my kind of goal for

Speaker:

success early on was, I want to work

Speaker:

with these ten artists that I wish I could. And

Speaker:

then once I reached that in my little world,

Speaker:

I was like, okay, now what? And the next kind

Speaker:

of goal change was, I want to have a steady income because I'm

Speaker:

having kids. I want to have a day job, which is something

Speaker:

that's pretty rare as an engineer. It's not something

Speaker:

that you usually experience. And once I got

Speaker:

that, after a few years, I felt like I want to create

Speaker:

assets, which is kind of the thing

Speaker:

that is happening now. That's awesome. Yeah. Is that a good

Speaker:

answer? That's a perfect answer. Yeah, I agree with those. And

Speaker:

then I know you have a company and you have products in the works and

Speaker:

maybe you can't share everything with us, but what is your current biggest goal and

Speaker:

what's the next smallest step you're going to go to take towards it? I

Speaker:

think my biggest goal is

Speaker:

to find a way to kind

Speaker:

of get safari to a point where

Speaker:

it feels like I'm on a safe island,

Speaker:

where it feels like everything is

Speaker:

working and I don't have to push the boat anymore so hard.

Speaker:

Right. Because right now, which is obvious, it's

Speaker:

predictable. Like, I knew this and I wasn't expecting anything

Speaker:

else, but I wake up in the morning and

Speaker:

whatever I do or don't do is going to be the outcome of the fire

Speaker:

pedals. Like, if I don't answer all the emails and if I

Speaker:

don't plan the next plugin and if I don't do the video,

Speaker:

then it's not going to happen. And I guess

Speaker:

my long term goal is to get to a point where it's an

Speaker:

actual company with other people that do other things

Speaker:

and I don't have to do everything myself.

Speaker:

That's awesome, dude. This has been a lot of fun. People should definitely

Speaker:

check out the plugins. I've been enjoying them. Please take a

Speaker:

second. Share with people whatever you want. This is your little spotlight moment.

Speaker:

I'm not good with spotlight moments. Or maybe just the website.

Speaker:

Yeah, you should check out safaripetals.com

Speaker:

and try the plugins. I feel

Speaker:

like if there's a message that I'm trying to

Speaker:

convey and push forward is people should go crazy

Speaker:

and just be creative and do your thing and don't be

Speaker:

afraid of anything. Just be

Speaker:

yourself. Be a studio animal, which is like a line

Speaker:

that I made up for safari petals and it's

Speaker:

great. See you on the other side. That's awesome,

Speaker:

Travis. Yeah, I really appreciate the podcast. I'm a

Speaker:

listener as well, and it was great talking to you and

Speaker:

you're an awesome host and I enjoyed it.

Speaker:

A it. I appreciate it. I don't know if I'm

Speaker:

awesome, but we're trying to have a good time here, but yeah, awesome.

Speaker:

I look forward to this compressor slipping out into the world. I'm definitely going to

Speaker:

check that out and yeah, man, we'll have to definitely keep in touch. Now

Speaker:

that you have a plugging company, you got to come to Nam in California. We

Speaker:

can go get drinks. I would love to meet you, Travis. We'll make it happen.

Speaker:

We'll make it happen. Amazing.

Show artwork for Progressions: Success in the Music Industry

About the Podcast

Progressions: Success in the Music Industry
Host Travis Ference chats with music producers, engineers, mixers, artists, musicians, and songwriters about the tips, tricks, mindsets, and ideas that helped them define their careers.
Insightful conversations about building and maintaining a fulfilling and successful career in the music industry. Music producers, engineers, mixers, artists, songwriters, musicians, composers and various other audio professionals sit down and share the tips, tricks, mindsets and ideas that helped them define their careers.

Created and hosted by Grammy nominated recording and mixing engineer Travis Ference, Progressions: Success in the Music Industry is inspired by the journey of his career so far. Travis is determined to set the next generation of music creators up with the tools they need to define their own success and live a happy, healthy, and prosperous career in the music business.

Don’t wait for luck. Start building your future now.

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About your host

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Travis Ference

Travis Ference is a Grammy nominated mixer, producer, and recording engineer based out of Los Angeles, CA. With over a decade of experience in the music business he has worked on multiple #1 albums, several top 10's, numerous RIAA platinum and gold certified records, as well as hit TV shows and blockbuster films. His work can be heard on more than 15 million albums sold and billions streams worldwide.

The inspiration for his podcast came from his journey over the last 5 years to redefine what success is for him, to take control of his time, and to ultimately live the life he wants while making the records he loves.