Dealing with customers who cannot deal with pressing plants

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Dealing with customers who cannot deal with pressing plants

Unread postby jesusfwrl » Wed Feb 22, 2017 11:41 am

This is a question directed towards mastering studios, without their own plating and pressing facilities.

Do you offer to make plating and pressing arrangements on behalf of your customers? Or do you limit the scope of your business to mastering exclusively, and let the customer figure out where to plate and press?

How do you deal with customers who do not appear able to figure out plating and pressing on their own?

Alternatively, from the perspective of a plating/pressing facility, how much of your work is dealing directly with the customer, how much do you deal with recording and mastering studios, and how much do you deal with dedicated brokers? What do you prefer?

Personally, I would prefer only doing the mastering and shipping the lacquer out to where ever the customer instructs me to, but I certainly see that there are always customers who would find it very difficult, if not impossible to arrange the rest of the process successfully without too much confusion.

At the end of the day, our aim is that the customer is really satisfied with the final product, even though only the first step of the process is under our control as mastering engineers.
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Re: Dealing with customers who cannot deal with pressing pla

Unread postby Greg Reierson » Thu Feb 23, 2017 10:42 am

Send them to a trusted broker if they need that much hand-holding.
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Re: Dealing with customers who cannot deal with pressing pla

Unread postby diamone » Mon Apr 17, 2017 2:58 pm

Everybody I know or know about has contracts with all the major plating and pressing plants - so it's usually a staffer's job to ask the customer what price range he has in mind and what quality he's looking for and then try to strike a balance inbetween.

Obviously you are not going to get a 200G vinyl LPs plated and pressed at e.g. RTI for nine cents a disc like you can get 45s at United in Nashville or the reverse - so generally the staffer in question at the mastering lab will either A) already know the various combinations of plating and or pressing plants around or B) if they are new will certainly find out as part of their learning curve.

These same staffers that quote the prices for the mastering lab in question will generally also have the rate cards for all the same major plating and pressing plants - and will therefore find out what price range and product quality the customer wants while they are in the middle of setting up their cutting contract.

After that's done, they'll ``try'' to go over the various plating and pressing options with the customer - but if they're clueless - then the lab staffer just picks one of several middle of the road options on the customer's behalf - adds in their cost to his own and prepares the accounting dept for the incoming receivable.

Then that same lab staffer (or another one) does all the logistics and coordination himself just like they do for the major labels - pack and ship the lacquers (or DMM plates) out to the plant and monitor the project through their own contacts - gets the test pressings back - calls the customer to come in for a listening test - makes changes if any and then OKs the run - gets the finished product back, customer picks it up and goes on about their business.

Some of the bigger mastering labs even have marketing depts as well and a couple of those have relationships with local indie record stores that are looking to pick up anything that's out there to see if it will sell to their offbeat crowd that patronizes them (in the case of L.A. N.Y. and Nashville anyway).

Meaning - the less the customer has to worry about the better.
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Re: Dealing with customers who cannot deal with pressing pla

Unread postby jesusfwrl » Wed Apr 19, 2017 11:27 am

Thanks for your replies Greg and Diamone.

These two replies pretty much cover the two opposite ends of the spectrum. In the beginning we tried to offer to communicate with the plating/pressing facility on behalf of the customer but quickly discovered that this requires dedicated staff as it is very time consuming. It also seemed to invite constant extra wishes and last minute changes ("How much for black sleeves? What if they also have pink dots? Can't we just stick the labels on afterwards?"), as well as occasional weirdness from the factory side which is difficult if not impossible to explain to the customer without them getting pissed off, so we have decided to leave this task up to whoever is interested in dealing with it.

So, we are currently offering to cut the masters and ship them to any facility the customer wants to work with. If the customer comes over in person, we can show them some test pressings and records from different plating and pressing facilities to help them make up their mind, but that's about it. We also offer to receive and evaluate test pressings and let them have a listen to them on our full range monitoring system for approval.

This approach lets us focus on what we know how to do best, while leaving unrelated tasks to those who know how to do these best. Most customers seem to already have a rough idea of where they want their records pressed, so we do not need to interfere with that. For the few exceptions that need more guidance, they are probably better off receiving it from dedicated professionals with more time on their hands for this particular task.
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Re: Dealing with customers who cannot deal with pressing pla

Unread postby diamone » Wed Apr 19, 2017 6:16 pm

As far as I been able to tell NOBODY wants to deal directly with customers no matter if they are a recording studio a mastering lab or a plating/pressing facility. Everybody wants previously-knowledgeable people who know what they want how they want it and how they want to proceed.

Plating and pressing guys have enough trouble talking to EACH OTHER and/or their mastering lab or recording studio equivalents nevermind CUSTOMERS - recording engineers hate dealing with bands because the bands are clueless about the technology and process. producers hate dealing with engineers because producers are commercially oriented and engineers are perfection oriented regardless of cost. Both of those hate dealing with mastering lab people for different versions of the same thing and both of THOSE hate dealing with plating and pressing people for still DIFFERENT versions of the same thing - and they ALL hate dealing with the customer because they are all clueless.

Which is why EVERYBODY pays all these back-office staff whose only job is to run interference with everybody else. The only difference between them and a normal ordinary back office support staff is:
Andie Bergstrom wrote:Just because you are never going to get to do it, at least you'll know it's not because you don't know how
These people will be able to describe a process to a customer and insert or subtract numerous variables and come up with conclusions nobody else has time for - increasing your customer satisfaction level.

But then everybody has to jack up all their prices for everything to pay for all these liaison staff because of how easily a customer will become offended/litigious.

Which is why I always tell my e.g. students that if you want the best made product for the cheapest money - learn producer-ese, engineering-ese, plating-ese pressing-ese and distribution-ese - and then develop a thick skin i.e. hang around a factory floor or foundry awhile.
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Re: Dealing with customers who cannot deal with pressing pla

Unread postby jesusfwrl » Mon Apr 24, 2017 6:54 am

Yeah, I see your point, although I personally really like dealing with musicians/bands directly for recordings and mastering, it is always a lot more fun than having to deal with their record label. Perhaps this is because I was a touring musician myself for a number of years and there is a certain degree of mutual understanding.
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Re: Dealing with customers who cannot deal with pressing pla

Unread postby diamone » Mon Apr 24, 2017 12:44 pm

Part 1 of 2

jesusfwrl wrote:because I was a touring musician myself so there is a certain degree of mutual understanding.
Or more often than not - MIS understanding since you are both coming to technology from a music viewpoint anymore than the few times a group of engineers tried to make a band so they wouldn't have to be forever tolerating musicians all day long everyday.

We all know how well THAT turned out.

Which is right along the same lines like broadcast production guys trying to tolerate on air talent and cinema television guys trying to tolerate actors and directors and producers and technical theatre guys trying to tolerate playwrights etc etc etc.

Or - worse than that - record production guys trying to tolerate radio production guys trying to tolerate cinema/television production guys etc etc etc.

You ever go to e.g NAMM and try and get an intelligent engineering style response on some gear from an engineering viewpoint? You can't do it anymore than you can go to e.g. NAB or RIAA or anybody else and get an intelligent answer from a musicality and functionality viewpoint because they are all different planets.

The fact that guys are becoming bicultural or even tri-or-more cultural some say by necessity just shows you how much farther and farther apart all these worlds are drifting.

And then don't forget the endless culture clash between grunts and cubicle warriors that's been going on since the Dawn of Man and the whole scenario of `those who know how ain't allowed to do it and those who are allowed don't know how' and all the other more or less unresolvable stalemates around.

Remember back in the not too distant past - there was very clear lines about who belonged where and why.

How many times during your training ages and eons ago did you hear:

No girls/customers/band members in the booth.
No producers in the booth (if you can get away with that),
Musicians stay on the production floor.
They have their e.g. bathrooms and lounge areas and we have ours.
They have their trainees and support staff and we have ours.
Are you a singer or a songwriter? Nobody's both. Pick a side.
Traitors (engineers who learn music or vice versa) will not be tolerated.
Semi-pro audio is the scourge of the entertainment industry.
It's the primary cause of all this trash being foisted on the public anymore.

And different versions of the same thing in the pressing plant and the mastering studio and the art department and etc etc etc.

But THEN after you LEARN your plant-ese and producer-ese and production-ese and etc etc etc to save money on your first record (or TV show or film etc) that experience is sopposed to be there ONLY to help you PICK A SIDE and then go on about your music or television or production or engineering or etc life like guys have done for a hundred years.

The fact that more and more guys anymore are cross training just aggravates everybody who picked a side (or is in the process thereof) because NOW since EVERYBODY is trying to learn EVERYTHING and do it ALL themselves - well - this is what happens.

Meaning the only thing all the guys who picked or are picking a side can tell you when your record or TV show or film comes out and its' not as commercially oriented as everybody wanted to be is `This is why you pick a side and stick with it'.
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Re: Dealing with customers who cannot deal with pressing pla

Unread postby diamone » Mon Apr 24, 2017 1:51 pm

Part 2 of 2

And before you talk about `how do I know' - I can tell you that I had the reverse experience - having to learn enough about scoring and performance in order to explain to musicians and producers that x y or z was not executable as written with the current technology.

Little background:

I grew up in engineering and by the time I was doing sound for e.g. community theatre which included a number of concerts - a great many lighting and sound effects were triggered off the music just as they would be triggered off dialogue in a play.

So I had to learn to be able to tell a B-flat 4-6 inversion chord from a B-flat normal chord or an ascending arpeggio from a descending crescendo and between a legato passage and the same thing pizzicato and etc etc etc. or I would be forever late or early on the cue - annoying everybody else - all of whom SWORE on a stack of Bibles they could keep the cues on track.

Til we made em all try it after six or eight weeks of training on the gear.

Yeah they could read the scores perfectly and always faster than us and could back seat drive their way to Chicago and back no problem `hey this # 16 and 18 fader cue is coming up, Dim Lights 5 6 and 11, kill First Electric (batten - lighting term) bring up the violin sections some here' etc etc etc .

But put them behind the board even after they know how and have been doing it for two months - they do `alright' (not `terrific' or anything - just `alright' just as we would do `alright' in their job under the same circumstances) but every single time they do it all they want is outa there to go back to THEIR job with the only takeaway being a greater appreciation for the other jobs.

And then now that everybody has walked in everybody else's shoes awhile - most if not all of the inter-trade drama goes away and Everybody Goes Home Happy.

But for those engineers who just HAVE to be in music because they can't explain what they want and how they want it in terms a musician can understand (or vice versa) - their product is always just going to be a little bit less than how they wanted it to be vs being able to find a group of guys they can let their hair down with (this applies to musicians since engineers never have any hair or certainly not long enough to let down) and go on about their business.

All that background is to tell you a story.

Back in the 4 track days, bands and orchestras were still trying to make 4 be 8 or 16 or 24 just like they are forever trying to do it now. The only difference then is - arrangers knew the technology (or thought they did) so they would chart something to supposedly take advantage of the 4 tracks and try and MAKE it behave like 8 or 16 etc.

This meant doing lots of call-and-response or point-and-counterpoint and etc etc and either having a couple-bar gap between the end of one and the beginning of another on the same track to allow for ringout - or to have two of the same part or even three with this section being on track 2 and this one being on 4 and 1 and 3 same thing (to minimize adjacent track bleed-thru especially if baffles were at a premium).

I had an act come in with the worst-looking chart I ever saw. It's a credit to the band that they could A read such chicken scratching and B) be able to put it to music and lay down their demo in a couple takes each. That works alright if you're in your garage on a Teac 3340 and you can splice and bounce whatever you want to wherever you need it.

But when you're in a $500 an hour studio (in those days anyway of 69 cent milk and bread for a quarter) - you don't have the time or the money for that. I had to spend two weeks helping them work on their chart 1) for legibility 2) for the fact that we were going to have to re-assign different mics to different tracks on the fly and two bars wasn't going to cut it for all these engineers who e.g. never played piano - and even after all THAT we STILL only got maybe a 7 or 8 out of 10 we wanted performance as well as engineering-wise.

I kept the original chart and the reworked chart, and 40 years later we tried it again with a new band who was also A-players same as the band who wrote and arranged it.

We also dragged out their quarter inch Teac 3340 demos they made in their garage off the original arrangements as well as the big half inch 4 track sessions with no editing or overdubbing.

We also spent three days trying to lay down the big half-inch session with the original charts from the quarter-inch sessions - and even then it would have taken maybe half the editing and overdubbing as the quarter inch sessions before deciding we were going to have to work on this before laying it down.

Working with all this material 40 years later is interesting. Having five times the mics six times the tracks and digital editing and bouncing techniques didn't make the end product any better - it just made the engineers jobs easier because tracks could be mostly blank except for something here-or-there.

Conversely, my re-transcribed charts from the half-inch session sounded TERRIBLE on the digital multitrack with everything squashed in wherever it could get a space. This barely made a decent MONO mix (which we made and sounded good enough on the radio to get them a local-label contract and a handful of gigs).

But when we went back to their original chicken scratching charts from the quarter inch sessions 40 years ago and laid that down all of a sudden it was like a veil had come off. Even though we didn't use the track assignments from the quarter-inch charts - we DID use the seating arrangements AND the mic placements.

Meaning if people were sitting next to people 40 years ago - the new versions of the same people were sitting next to the same people now. If a group had to be on more than one track during the course of production - instead of re-assigning tracks on the fly like playing a piano - we put another mic there and assigned it permanently to that other track. If baffles were there 40 years ago - baffles were there now etc.

All of a sudden it all came together. The coolest thing was it still had that 100% retro vibe of the original quarter inch session without all the grunge from being recorded in a garage AND without all the sterility we had to impose on it for the half inch sessions.

Point of the story (besides picking a side) is `Don't discount so much of this ``archaic'' technology or the charts used therefor.'

The technology may change - but I still teach this exact same kinds of chart arranging to this day (taking acoustic science into LARGE account and blending in of tones and timbres in sections with related tones and timbres) - and almost everytime I do - even up to and including doubling up on some instrumentation (Bass 1 plays this line Bass 2 plays that line Bass 3 comes in and out in certain places to beef it up and the same for the other sections when they had to make do with one guy and a bunch of overdubs 40 yrs ago) - all these bands - even the ones with long-term arrangers at the helm - are always amazed that a little science can focus not only their music but also the performance and production thereof right down into the smallest laser pinpoint imaginable using techniques from 40 and 50 years ago.

Which is always fun to turn a new generation on to that if they're stuck on what to do.

Same thing for trying to deal with customers directly and being a one stop shop or leaving them to their own devices.

Yes it will either be great or terrible never inbetween - but sooner or later you will start being able to tell who you can talk to that has a wider range of knowledge and experience vs who doesn't with shorter and shorter conversations - and eventually you will become well-known and successful enough to where you can start picking and choosing who you will and will not work with and why.

There's no shame in sending somebody to a competitor because they have a better hand-holding ability than you do (or receiving from somebody else for the same reason). It goes on all day long everyday.

The end goal is still the same - satisfaction for both you as well as the customer.

How you both get there is immaterial.
2 Kinds of Men/Records: Low Noise & Wide Range. LN is mod. fidelity, cheap, & easy. WR is High Fidelity & Abrasive to its' Environment. Remember that when you encounter a Grumpy Engineer. (:-D)
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