In the early 2000′s Eddie Jackson often slept on the couch at Avatar Studios in NYC where, as a lowly intern, going home to his Queens rental seemed pointless what with a 16-hour daily work schedule (seven days a week).
Fast forward to 2012. Jackson has become one of the go-to engineers in the biz, as well as a musical brand unto himself. Sought after by top tier aural acts looking to put their tunes into trustworthy hands, Jackson skillfully takes tracks, recordings, ideas, riffs, lyrics, and brings them to flawless fruition (aka a hit song).
Gone are the days of hustling gigs, working tirelessly (and often thanklessly) for big name recording studios for spare change wages. Thanks to a combination of killer technique, years of dedication and hard work. and the digital boom, Jackson leveraged timing and talent, which garnered him massive success, as well as his own studio attached to his Los Angeles home (every producer’s dream). These days, Jackson can roll out of bed, walk down the stairs and create remixes, produce, engineer and more, on his own terms. Warner Brothers Records calls on him for tune engineering and mixing regularly, while Sony Red has Jackson mix engineering tracks and even play drums for their acclaimed artists.
For all the sonic sculptors trying to break into the world of music-making, check out these insider tips from the engineering aficionado…
By, Eddie Jackson
1. Go to School.
There is a definite argument against it but, I advise getting a degree. I studied at Berklee College of Music, and it was there that I met so many people whom I still work with everyday. For this side of the music business it’s important to learn all the fundamentals of how to be a producer and engineer. Get the “in” in rudiments by having a degree on your resume when applying for internships/runner positions at studios. My schooling helped me get in the door at my internships at Sony Music Studios as well as Avatar Studios, where I worked my way up the ladder from intern, production assistant, assistant engineer and finally staff engineer. Without the intensive training I never would have been able to have my own studio.
2. Develop your own style and be a cool guy (or girl).
Working your way up through a major studio, such as Avatar, is the BEST way to learn the real deal. You get to stand side-by-side with the pros, and learn actual production and engineering techniques, which you will later apply to your own unique style. Not everything works for everyone. One thing is for sure, everyone likes to work with someone pleasant and easy to get along with. It is not uncommon that you will be in a studio with an artist, a band, or a producer for a LONG time, so you better be cool. No one wants to work with a jerk, no matter what your job is on a session. I am not exaggerating when I say that just about every “first” opportunity I had in the earlier part of my career was because “I seemed like a nice or guy”, not because I was qualified. That comes into play once you’re established in the business, engineering or producing for artists, labels, etc. Then it will become more about how good you are, your style, and of course, who you’ve worked with.
It is important to have the right tools. They make you better. I like to work in the big studios here in LA and in NY where I get the best sounding tracks. You can’t beat a great sounding room, top-of-the-line microphones, an analog console, great outboard gear, and high quality instruments and players. I surround myself with all of those things as much as I possibly can because they make me better. This leads to that irksome problem of budget restraints. Sometimes you don’t have the budget to use the best studio. This is when I use my own studio and some tricks to keep costs down. I’ve Invested in the most important pieces of gear, a Pro Tools HD system, Logic Studio, a bunch of plugins, speakers (important!), and a room to put it all in so I can still mix and record projects with smaller budgets. It is important to put yourself in a position in which you can make any type of project work while maintaining a high level of quality control. This way, you’re always working and making the best product possible.
4. Stay on top of your game.
Never ever be lazy! It doesn’t matter how small the project may be, give it your all. Everything you ever work on, will have your name on it. It will always represent you and can forever be heard once released. Don’t attach your name to anything less than your best. Remember this always: you’re never as good as you can be. It’s foolish to stop learning your craft, because you will become obsolete. The music business is very trendy, so you need to stay current, adapt to changes, all while being consistent and true to your artistry.
5. Never be late.
Musicians and producers are often late… for sessions or deadlines; you name it, they tend to be late. Don’t be! Put yourself in the position where you are early, and always deliver on time. This will earn the trust of your clients who will tell their friends. Punctuality will help you become a “go to”.
6. Promote yourself, but don’t be annoying.
I may be the minority here, but I don’t love to play the name-dropping game to self promote. I prefer my work to speak for itself. The music business is so bloated with smoke and mirrors (is this the correct term? lets verify), and I personally find that doing a good job consistently, working hard, and making great music is most effective. That being said, some people are very good at being their own mouthpiece, and can get ahead that way.. it’s just not me. While you do need a website, twitter, Facebook to be accessible, these are not the way to really making it. However, hiring a good manager and lawyer can make you look good and help to streamline your business. Thats never a bad thing. Engineers are not Justin Beibers’… don’t forget that.
There’s a lot of people that want your job, so stay after it! The current state of the music in the digital era has made people more creative in making business happen. You need to as well. Don’t just expect work to come to you.
8. Stay current.
I find these these magazines/websites helpful to stay up-to-date with what and who is happening in music production. Still, mostly I find that doing the work, and getting hands-on with producers, musicians and record companies is the best way to learn and evolve your music-making abilities.
Mix Magazine http://www.mixonline.com
Rolling Stone http://www.rollingstone.com