“The income disparity will come to the forefront now”, believes award-winning mixing engineer
If you heard the term “mixing and mastering engineer” for the first time and immediately made the connection with a branch of engineering, don’t worry, you’ll be forgiven! Not many have any idea about it, and yet, without it, music as you know, would never exist.
In the music fraternity, though, mixing and mastering engineers are revered highly for the work they do. But like everything else, the COVID-19 pandemic has put up a question mark over their future, too. Ever since the countries went into a temporary lockdown one after the other, work dried up and instantly became scarce. And for the back-end personnel — the ones you don’t see on stage — that meant trouble!
“It’s been really difficult to mix whatever songs I’ve mixed during the pandemic”, shares Kohinoor Mukherjee, an award-winning mixing and mastering engineer from Mumbai, India. “The amount of work needed to mend a song has become humongous. You have to take out all your knowledge and tools to rescue a track and make it professional”.
That’s not the end of the story. Understandably, the quality of work has dropped, but more importantly, the acceptance of good work has also gone down a bit. But, that boils down to only the last few months of a pandemic-stricken world. To quote Kohinoor, the situation now is such that, “mediocre work has become the benchmark due to this virus and quality music is getting caught up in between.”
So, what’s the solution then? Kohinoor has a simple one: the musicians and engineers should take necessary precautions and get back to where they belong: in the studio! “Once things start getting a little bit better, musicians and engineers should return to the studios to record music, but only if they follow strict guidelines and take necessary measures. That will revive good music once again.”
Right now, though, mixing engineers need to really get their work mode on. Most tracks recorded now are done at home, with little to no professional equipment used. They need to realize that programming a song after they hybrid the source tracks will ruin the audio quality massively. The instruments are being recorded at different places, and the sound quality is varying. The trick is to match every single track down to the final beat and then mix them accordingly, while also keeping in mind that the final mix doesn’t hurt the quality of the mix.
But, not everything is looking all grey and morose! “As of now, it’s quite difficult to bring a song to an acceptable range so that it matches the earlier professional releases. But, hopefully us mix engineers… we’ve dealt with the worst and now we can use whatever we learned in these past few months to make the songs sound better. The good thing is everyone’s really putting in the hours, everyone’s working hard now to get the songs done right. So, there’s that”, believes Kohinoor.
Having said that, the truth remains that the current condition has already proven to be difficult to the freelancers in the music industry. And if the pandemic situation doesn’t get better any time soon, they may have a lot on their plate! The situation is going to make things worse for independent artists or sound engineers who aren’t under any particular label.
According to Kohinoor, a veteran in the Indian music industry, “the income disparity in music is coming to the forefront now. Our hands are tied and it’s going to be challenging for the back-end people now to get things up and running smoothly! It’s a litmus test. Think of it like a chain and we’re the last ones to benefit. I don’t have any issue with that, because in the end, music is entertainment and the face matters and the people at the front matter. But the fact is that this disparity will worsen.”
That sounds a bit scary for the people who play lesser-known roles in the music industry. But, like Kohinoor mentioned, everybody’s hands are tied and all we can do is wait for the storm to pass — because, it will — and hope for things to get back to where it was left off.