Should I jump at this chance to "Mix with the Masters?"
July 10, 2014 10:15 AM   Subscribe

Much to my surprise, I have been accepted to attend one of the Mix with the Masters seminars in southern France. But the cost is steep, and there are other factors to consider...

Honestly, I didn't think I had any chance of being accepted when I submitted my application. But somehow I made it into the group of fifteen engineers that will be spending a week at La Fabrique living with and learning from an A-list producer (who I'm not going to specify, but he is quite well-known, even on Metafilter).

As a long-time aspiring songwriter, this seems like a once in a lifetime opportunity. As an industry amateur who is admittedly a below average musician and whose recording experience lies entirely in his bedroom, it's pretty terrifying. But I can deal with all that...I have some very supportive fans and have worked with professional musicans before, so I have some confidence and experience in playing above my league. I have no doubt this would take my game to a completely different level, and the networking would be exceptional.

The real problem is going to be convincing my wife that this is a real opportunity, and not a scam. The price tag is steep: approximately US$5000 to attend (which includes a room in the mansion and three meals a day), plus transportation from the L.A. area to the south of France. Say about $7k in total. This isn't an impossible figure, but it's a pretty difficult one.

My wife is very supportive in nearly everything that I do, except for my music, which has been a source of tension in the past. When I told her I was on the waiting list for MwtM, she was not impressed, and now that I've been accepted, I'm not quite sure what to do. This is bound to cause all sorts of strife and arguments.

Looking online at the studio, the grounds, the producer I'd be learning from and the testimonials of the past participants...well, this seems like it would be a dream come true. I honestly think I will regret it in a massive way if I let the opportunity pass. But I need a reality check. Do I just have stars in my eyes? Would this really be worth attending?

And if it do I convince my wife?
posted by malocchio to Media & Arts (15 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: poster's request -- cortex

I can't speak to the legitimacy of the opportunity, but I'm sure many here can.

Assuming this is legitimate and as great of an opportunity as it seems: If $7K is "pretty difficult" for your budget, you will have to find a way to not make the expense hurt your wife. You have a stronger argument if this is to be entirely your financial responsibility. Take a second job or whatever it takes to pay for it. It will go better if you can go to her and say: "I want to go to MwM and here is my plan to pay for it [that hopefully does not involve taking on debt or requiring your wife to make financial sacrifices]." If you can't do that, perhaps this is not the best opportunity, as the cost to your marriage could be significant.
posted by Atrahasis at 10:48 AM on July 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Do you want to be an engineer or a songwriter? Seems like there might be a better way to spend the money if you prefer the latter. This is a pretty technical course, I have gathered.
posted by toastchee at 10:55 AM on July 10, 2014

So, you want to spend a "difficult" amount of money to take what is essentially a dream vacation without your wife where you get to do something that has caused tension between the two of you in the past? Frankly, that strikes me as a bad idea for your marriage. I agree with Atrahasis that you need to think about a way to do it without harming your wife's finances. Even better: find a way to pay for her to go, too.

An alternative idea: Judging from your MySpace page, you live in the LA area. If this is so, there are bound to be schools and classes that teach the skills you want/need for a lot less money. Maybe you could investigate that instead?
posted by griseus at 10:57 AM on July 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

What do you think it's a "real opportunity" for, aside from spending a week in an exotic location doing something fun amongst big shots? If the $7k will be difficult to come up with then you will probably feel its absence for a long time after the seminar is over. What do you expect will make it seem like it was worth it? If you are fully aware of the cost but this thing is so great that it's worth the price, that's one thing. But if you are pretending that the seminar will change your life in some miraculous way that will make the expense magically irrelevant, and that the only real difficulty is convincing your wife... well, I don't think that would be smart for you or fair to your wife. What, exactly, do you expect to come away with for your $7k?
posted by jon1270 at 10:58 AM on July 10, 2014

I think if you want help in convincing your wife, you'll need to explain more about what you hope to gain from this. What you've described sounds like a pretty awesome hobby vacation for you and your music-nerd friends, but from what I gather, you are considering more as a once-in-a-lifetime professional development opportunity. You need to be more clear about your goals: Are you trying to be a professional engineer? If so, does your wife understand that you are $7k serious about this goal, and that this is a professional goal, not just a personal one?

Once you remove the exoticism of a mansion in France with Steve Albini, is this experience better than, say, $7k in local audio-engineering courses that last longer than a week?

I'm having a lot of trouble seeing how you will be able to spin this to your wife without knowing more about your goals and where you see yourself after this experience.
posted by Think_Long at 11:16 AM on July 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Does your wife have a hobby she could pursue in the some really cool way? Because I think they only way you do this is double down - send her to something super exciting to her while you are at this, and then have her fly in for a weekend at some place awesome in the South of France once your thing is done.

Otherwise you've got to gauge if this is worth the damage. In the long run spending 14k rather than 7k might be a lot cheaper in a lot of different ways.
posted by JPD at 11:26 AM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Have you considered the point of view that you have been accepted to this program simply because an untold number of people ahead of you on the "waiting list" decided that it was not actually worth it?
posted by grog at 11:30 AM on July 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Good questions!

This price is roughly twice what I spend every year on my record label (I will be able to write it off on my taxes next year, so that lessens the blow). So it's maybe less "difficult" than "not insignificant." My wife has her own substantial savings so her personal finances aren't really an issue, but of course my own finances affect her as well.

Yeah, I could probably learn just as much for less locally. The opportunity to network and get feedback at a level that I wouldn't normally have access to is the key component that I can't really get elsewhere.

The fantasy camp aspect of it is really appealing...I have to admit that's a big part of my desire.
posted by malocchio at 11:46 AM on July 10, 2014

If I were your wife, unless you were funding this entirely out of a second job, framed it as a hobby, and the week away didn't affect any of your current priorities, I would be really wary of this. From someone who is not in the business, the website seems flashy and scammy - the testimonials talk about how it's "life-changing," but there aren't any concrete examples of how someone's career took off, or drastically improved, from this week away. The application process seems thin, too. I'm sure this is really, really fun, and really, really inspiring, but does it pay off? It's being billed as a way to increase your job prospects, but it's presented as a "hang out with a famous person in a mansion in France for a week."

It sounds like you want music to be your career, but it also sounds like you are looking for a quick way to get ahead, since you admit, you're an "industry amateur who is admittedly a below average musician and whose recording experience lies entirely in his bedroom." You say the networking would be exceptional - what if the other 14 participants are at your level - what advancements could you get from that? How much contact do you think you'll have with your mentor after?

You do sound very starry-eyed - but your wife probably wants facts. How will you pay for this? How will this affect her? How will this affect your current job? What will you learn? What is the average pay-off, later?
posted by umwhat at 11:52 AM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Without knowing why you and your wife have had music-related conflicts in the past, it's hard for me to say you should or shouldn't do this. My husband also makes music as a hobby in a bedroom studio and if he had the opportunity to do this and really wanted to and the financial hit wouldn't be too significant, I'd want him to go for it. Even if the benefit would mostly be having a fun time making music with someone famous for a week.

I think you really need to figure out just how much of a problem this will cause in your marriage if you do this, and whether or not it would be worth it for that reason. It sounds like the career boosting aspects are pretty nebulous - maybe it would help you, maybe not - but making your marriage worse could be a real, concrete, long-lasting effect. Talk to her, see if you can work out a deal where she's able to do something roughly equivalent next year, maybe.
posted by something something at 12:23 PM on July 10, 2014

Yeah, this has a kind of sketchy feel to me, in the sense of "a starstruck person and his money are easily parted." I could be wrong - I'm in no way involved in your field and it could make sense to ask people specifically in that field. It probably is a very enjoyable experience, just nowhere remotely near $5000 great.

Still, if you really, really want to go, I would take the classic approach for situations where you're badly wanting something both expensive and not unambiguously necessary, which is to put it off.

Seriously, the more advanced you are the more you'd actually learn from working with a top artist, right? A relative beginner still has way too many beginner things to learn, and it wouldn't be the most efficient use of a very limited amount of time. The feedback and connections an expert is able to offer to a beginner are not all that deep. You'd also have much less to offer this artist for your own part. So in your place I would work out a plan with your wife to apply again in X number of years (like 5, or at least 2 - not next year). During that time, you (a) save a lot of money, (b) try to learn as much as possible in other, cheaper ways, (c) network a lot, (d) work your hardest to get recording experience out of the bedroom, (e) try to find other people who've actually done this program, as opposed to random testimonials, and evaluate both their accounts of the experience and their actual skills and connections post-workshop, and (finally) towards the end of the period consider if you still want it that badly.

I wouldn't worry about not getting accepted again - it seems to me that there's probably a very, very small applicant pool to begin with. It's just not an amount of money most people can afford, and I think many would also be in doubt as to its value.

Whatever you do make sure you're living within both your means and within the shared goals you have with your wife. Ultimately that is the biggest long-term investment you can make in your art.
posted by egg drop at 1:10 PM on July 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

I guess I think of it like fantasy camp. He's really into music. I'm really into food. I'll probably do a trip like this at some point. Gastronomic Tour of China w/ Fuchsia Dunlop. I'd hope to come back with a slightly better sichuan cooking game, but I'm not going to do it thinking I can come home and open up a Sichuan restaurant.

If you approach it thinking its an educational experience that will move your career forward the calculus is different and the need to underwrite the course is diffferent. Also of course - how material is the money versus the idea of spending the money on this if you know what I mean.
posted by JPD at 1:20 PM on July 10, 2014

Yeah, I do realize that the chance of this making a huge difference to my musical career is a very long shot. But it still sounds like shitloads of fun and it would be an enormous inspiration for me to keep writing and creating, the kind of which I've been lacking for a while. I don't have a large social circle and support from friends and family is virtually nil, so this kind of thing sounds absolutely rejuvenating. This is one of the intangibles that makes the cost seem worth it to me.

But you have all helped me distance myself a bit from my ambitions, and I think I can make my pitch to my wife without being so emotionally attached. Many of you have expressed what I'm sure will be her reservations and concerns very well, and in a way that doesn't feel quite so personal. I feel a lot better about the possibility of not going than I did before.

Thanks for all your input!
posted by malocchio at 2:20 PM on July 10, 2014

I don't know. You only live once. If I had $7,000 to blow (half my current annual salary!) I would totally do something like this, or encourage my non-existent husband to do the same. If we were well-off. $7,000 is a heck of a lot of money but it's not really that much in the grand scheme of things. It's just money.

I think the best way to frame this for your wife would be "I want to take a $7,000 vacation. Let's figure out a way to get you something similar. What's something you've always wanted to do but thought was too expensive? Let's make it happen."

If you balk at that because you can't afford two $7,000 gifts - because that's basically what this is, a gift to yourself - there's your answer.
posted by sockermom at 3:34 PM on July 10, 2014

ianae (or anywhere near it). but really, most of these guys are coming from a perspective/industry infrastructure/time that's different from what you're likely to experience, and probably using technology you're unlikely to see. they likely figured out a lot of what they know by noodling around, just like you're doing, connecting with musicians around them, and trusting their ear and tastes. the (very) little i do know about mixing suggests tastes and ears change over time. not to say they don't have things to say, obviously they do, but i wonder if you might genuinely learn more that'd be useful to you from local peers.

and, i can't help but think there's something exploitative about this. pretty nice deal for them -- 7000 (or whatever proportion they get) to be fawned over and eat mussels? not too bad. and, i really wonder what kind of professional networking benefit could come from it, since you're paying them, you know? not the same as coming at them via word of mouth. and support will probably be limited to that week.

i sort of think, if there are people liking what you're doing and wanting to work with you, you're doing something right. i also think, it's only really by working through particular pieces, with others, that connections get made and real learning happens.

what else could you do for that money -- what other gear could you get, what festivals could you play, what kind of promotion could you afford?
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:08 PM on July 10, 2014

« Older From the Portland Airport, to the Redwood Forest.....   |   Help my mom not get screwed out of her pension Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.