The Best Piece Of Music Business Advice From Mastering Engineer Ian Shepherd

Ian Shepherd image

The last question that I ask every guest on my Inner Circle Podcast is, “What’s the best piece of business advice that someone has passed on to you or you’ve learned along the way?” As you might imagine, there’s been some gems of wisdom that we’ve heard as a result, and I’ve compiled many of them into the Music Business Advice Book.

One such piece of advice comes from British mastering engineer Ian Shepherd, who’s also a plugin developer and host of his own The Mastering Show podcast. He runs the Production Advice website and is the founder of Dynamic Range Day, an annual event raising awareness about the Loudness War. His advice comes from Inner Circle Podcast #112.


Ian Shepherd: The big one for me is that you need to be passionate about what you do. I lost a major Blu-ray [authoring] client, and that was a really tough time for me because I didn’t have my own mastering studio at that point. I got quite depressed about it and got into an argument online with a guy named Tony, who basically just caught me on a bad day.

He asked me what I was doing and I told him I was doing Blu-ray authoring. He said, “What? No mastering?” and I shot back, “No, I have to pay the bills. You don’t understand what it’s like.” 

I’ve found that whenever I go for the thing that really gets me excited, that I’m really interested in, that’s when the success comes.

He apologized and then said, “I’m sorry, but it just seems like a waste of your skills.” I kind of shouted back at him again, but in hindsight I realized that it was more about me and how I was feeling than what he was saying. He said, “Stop worrying about it. You could do a better job mastering on headphones than most people could in the best studio in the world.” 

I just sort of shrugged and got on with things from there, but about a week later, the guy who owns the studio I was using at the time sent me a mix over and said, “What do you think of this?”. I said, “I think the mix sounds great, but in terms of mastering maybe you should try this, this and this – but ignore me because I’m just listening on headphones.” He sent me this email back that said, “Damn you, you’re right. I hate you. You always do that to me.”

Those two things sort of locked together in my head and got me thinking that maybe I didn’t need to have a full-blown super-expensive studio in order for me to use the skills and instincts that I had built up over the years. 

It wasn’t an overnight thing, but from there on I started focusing back on the mastering and doing less and less of the Blu-ray and DVD stuff, and as soon as I did that, everything started to click. That’s when I wrote my first ebook, and that’s when I began writing about the sort of stuff that I really cared about on my website.

Prior to that I had been very busy and been making a living, but I’d been really stressed, and actually pretty unhappy. In hindsight I think it was because I wasn’t doing the thing that I was most passionate about.

It sounds a bit “new age” and stuff, but you do need to be careful. Lots of people say to “Do what you love,” and there is a risk that if you do the thing that you love you might accidentally kill your enthusiasm for it, but that’s not my experience. I’ve found that whenever I go for the thing that really gets me excited and I’m really interested in, that’s when the success comes. 

Those are the blog posts that people respond to, the videos that people love, and those are the albums that are a huge success. It’s the ones where it’s all about the enthusiasm and the joy of what you do.”

You can hear more from Ian Shepherd on Inner Circle Podcast #112.


You can read more from The Music Business Advice Book and my other books on the excerpt section of bobbyowsinski.com.

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