Nashville Producers Panel

31 10 2009

I’ve been recently reading “Behind The Glass: Volume 2” by Howard Massey, a book which gives in depth intereviews with top producers and engineers about their production techniques.

Chapter 1 is a transcript from an interview with the Nashville Producers Panel, a group of producers who have a worked with a number of popular artists in the country music scene such as Keith Urban and The Mavericks.

Part of the interview is a discussion between the producers about the decline in sound quality of records due to smaller budgets, and the use and heavy reliance on Pro Tools in modern releases.
The Panel seemed to be split between whether records were in fact sounding better or worse. However, producer Justin Niebank had this to say about the subject:

The other thing we’re dealing with – and it’s not just in Nashville, but in the pop and rock world too – is this level wars thing. Everything today is so limited and so compressed that everyone thinks that edgy is what sells. It’s hard to tell an artist or someone at a the record label that dynamics actually broadcast better. Why do old records sound better on the radio? Because they have dynamics…you give a radio limiter a brick wall of sound – a two by four – and it inverts. That’s why some records have this squishy ‘what- is- that?’ sound when you hear them on the radio.”

It was from reading this that made me realise how debatable this subject is within the music industry. From a professional opinion it would appear that “brick wall” mixing, is frowned upon. However, this is simply the opinion of one of four country music producers. One of the tasks I look to carry out in this project is to collect views and opinions from all areas of music: producers, recording engineers, mixing engineers, mastering engineers, recording artists, radio presenters, and of course the listeners. If professionals frown upon “brick wall” mixes, then why is there such a  growing trend for this style of mixing?