Recently, I was asked to do a favor for a friend, who was donating her time to an organization holding a big event this coming spring. 

Since most of those working towards this event were volunteering their time, I would no doubt bequeath my efforts too. In fact, her primary reason for asking me to become more involved in the production aspect, is because I was already active at a very basic level to ensure the event’s success. 

Since I would not be getting paid for my investment in studio time, song arrangement(s) and post production, I asked those I worked with and others I thought would be great for the project to grant their talents and time as well. 

The ask was to update a song of 25 plus years ago, which had been an indispensable theme for the organization, giving it a fresh, contemporary feel. Wanting to over-deliver, I asked a young keyboardist to provide me various approaches to the song as I fed him different loops and beats to inspire what would become three unique options. 

In addition to the original ask, the director of the organization also requested (since I was already ankle deep in the recording), for me to do additional edits on other recordings they needed. I obliged. 

My only ask of them were for them to supply dinner for the session singers on the date of the big recording. Although we only had enough time to record two of the three versions, all was well, since this organization did not even know they had options. They brought the food and refreshment. The recording went over with very few issues. The direction was unfolding into a “We Are The World” type situation and the vibe was great. I was pumped. 

I poured more than 50 hours into the editing & mixing of these two versions, including having asked a bilingual singer to come and record a Spanish version. Furthermore, I began working on the additional edits they’d requested, which were now turning into multiple pieces which needed to be synched to other songs. 

Instant feedback recoiled when I sent out the two versions. The second one was rejected immediately. No Issue. But I was chastised because I chose not to utilize all of the song’s verses, placing more emphasis on the chorus and adding elements of hip hop - and an extra melody - apparently a big “no-no.” 

When I explained my decisions, there was some concession, but there were also some changes they wanted. With any production, multiple adjustments are anticipated, but because of a clear lack of direction provided, they were now inspecting the gift horse from head to tail. 

“Let’s change the tempo;” “Let’s combine the English/Spanish version:” “Let’s shorten the intro and ending:” right up to… “Can you add extra tenor voices to the choir?” - and - “Why didn’t you use real drums and horns?” 

The evaluation of not “being pleased with the sound quality of the final master,” while simultaneously asking that I begin an edit on yet a third additional piece they needed caused me to pause. 

I’m no Bruce Swedien or George Massenburg for sure. Our humble studios are not housed in the Sony or Disney compounds. However, our team does good work and have the credentials to prove it. Rechecking our mixes and masters against each other keeps us accountable, competitive and growing. 

Knowing that the key decision makers, four of them, were not themselves professionals but consistently adamant about their opinions, some which opposed the others, became my second and third reasons to pause, eventually deciding to formally step out of the fray. 

I must admit, this decision brought raw emotional reservations of how my reputation would be perceived; especially since I had only began the second phase of edits asked for in the additional pieces. The imagery of bigger connections this production might lead to coupled with the consternation of disappointing everyone who had worked so hard on this project surrendered to the mantra that was drilled into me as a child, “Quitters Never Win!” 

But wait, I didn’t quit… 

I made a very smart decision to discontinue a work for people who didn’t know what they wanted after delivering finished product to them. 

These were not my clients. There was no written agreement and no monies changed hands. If there was anything at all to assess, it was the many hours utilized in making these recordings, in which the arrangements could be revamped to release in the future. The favor was asked for and answered. 

Winners are those who can properly evaluate and course correct when something is going wrong. If it looks like a project is headed toward certain danger, the only wise course of action could very well be stopping and hitting the reset button to avoid a total disaster. 

I Was Not Listening To Any Music While Writing This Post - Although I was Humming My Arrangement of the Song In Question…

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