Professionalism – idea or upgrade?

I meet person after person in forums & groups who ask questions like:

Should I buy the Sprogulator Pro Plugin? I intend to be Pro. To deliver Pro-quality work. I have a Sprong device in my DAW already but it doesn’t say it is “Pro” and everybody knows that Stock devices are not Pro. And that Sprougulator Pro is multi-spronguled so it follows that if one sprong is good then applying many sprongs at once has to be x times better. I need that Multi-Sprongulated Sprongulator Pro so I can start to deliver Pro-ness of my own. Wasting time on un-pro tools just wastes my inevitable Pro-ness under the weight of lack-of-pro plugins. So you better tell me to buy that Infinitely Sprongulated Sprongulator Pro Ultra Bundle or you’ll be hatin’ on me and my future like a loser hater.

Poor Deluded fool

The word professional has two meanings. Technically it means, makes a living from this activity. The broader, or deeper, meaning is that of a mindset of doing things well, with dignity and to a high standard, regardless of the situation.

The assumption is that one leads to the other. The corollary is that lack of one tends to lead to lack of the other.

At least that was true until a little while ago when in music-making it all became solvable by buying the Pro version. The idea is that if you have the Sprongulator Pro plugin then your work will automatically become professional in result, and therefore nature.

A skilled craftsman can use any tool available, even a broken ugly one if necessary, and get solid results.

The Completion Backwards Principle

Many manufacturers of Plugins, DAWs, and even hardware cottoned onto this marketing goof and started making model variants just like cars:

  1. Poverty Pack: a motor, four wheels, windy windows, and steering that requires some effort to use. So we feel we need to get the…
  2. GL: (Grande Luxe – ha!) which has an AM Radio, electric windows in the front, and power steering. It works but our neighbors will know we aren’t crushing it (oh how I hate that expression – should customers or workmates be crushed?) so we better get the…
  3. GLi: now with added fuel injection that we don’t really understand but the salesman says it makes the car go faster whilst using less fuel. But Bob up the road has an…
  4. XL: which has an FM radio and some alloy wheels. Plus the steering wheel is wrapped in leather (or at least they say it is leather – what animal they peeled for this I do no know as I can’t find a plether in Animals of the World). Bob’s buddy got the…
  5. XLs: which also has a wing on the back and a stripe down the side. It really looks like it goes faster with the word Sport in italics on the back. Like maybe Starsky might slide his bell bottomed bottom over the bonnet…
  6. … maybe…
  7. … if I…
  8. … got one…
  9. … of those…
  10. GTO Turbo: versions I would be golden. Women would desire me. Men would respect me. My boss would promote me. Bond, James (and Simon Le) would notice when I cruise past with my Miami Vice soundtrack up loud.

Did you notice how much the GTO and that Infinitely Sprongulated Sprongulator Pro Ultra Bundle share with each other?

High Hopes

Oh how sad is all that. Don’t get me wrong. Buy what you need. Buy what you can afford. Buy what you can use.

The GTO Turbo will look dead sexy and go fast. You’ll feel good about yourself with regard to it. But will you be any better off? With laws, you won’t get to parties any faster in that GTO than you will in the Pov. You’ll just have less money for beer.

You can try breaking the law with speeding – that the GTO is (apparently) better equipped to do – but then it is only a matter of time before you get to party in prison with big hairy blokes. I’m sure they are lovely people and great in the sack.

The reality is that the basic Poverty Pack car or Stock Plugin device ultimately does the same job as the inflated by marketing GT-Pro version.

This is nothing about Socialism, paranoia, or the like. It is about being practical. Being practical is one of the real hallmarks of professionalism. Skilled craftsmen don’t buy tools because they are pretty. Skilled craftsmen buy what works efficiently and keep that tool for as long as possible so they know it intimately. They get better/faster results. A skilled craftsman can use any tool available, even a broken ugly one if necessary, and get solid results.

When teaching a kid to drive, you don’t put them in a Formula 1 or James Bond car. Doing that pretty well guarantees a) their death or at least b) their inability to ever become a skilled driver. A kid is started in a very simple & direct car. A go kart even. To be a good (or racing) driver one must know how the basics work, how the rubber feels as it massages, and gets massaged by, the road; how the gearshift feels as it interacts with the gates in the box and ultimately the engine and driveshaft. The fancy car often stops you from feeling those essentials of driving.

That says that until you can really understand and use these apparently amazing features that claim to bestow Pro-ness the moment they are put in your Mix, you will be wasting your money and time – that should be used on learning – on fripperies that you can’t drive. Learn to drive, sorry Mix, like a demon using the stock devices. Then you can choose if the Infinitely Sprongulated Sprongulator Pro Ultra Bundle Cloud (for a low low $19.99 per month) is actually a better tool?

Pulp Culture

Or not as very often when watching real professional Mix Engineers work, they most commonly reach for stock devices. Unless of course, they are shilling for a plugin marketing company, then they only reach for that company’s devices like they are the only ones worth using.

When watching un-skilled people giving the vastness of their advice to prove how Pro they are, they commonly make a point of saying how Pro they are as a result of using the currently fashionable sprogulation quotient all over everything. Normally whilst leading us to the affiliate link they hope to make money from as a result of their self-anointed Pro-ness of sprongulation advice.

And we have to believe them because they own the Advanced Infinitely Sprongulated Sprongulator Pro Ultra Bundle Cloud Collective (for a low low $24.99 per month). Then we have to believe and proselytize because we bought that plugin too and need to justify it – seeing we can’t really use it and oddly we are no closer to Pro than we were before! Circular what!!!

King of Wishful Thinking

In a very related thing, I see lots of advice given that is poor or plain wrong. This advice is like the faux idea above that joining the Spiritually Advanced Infinitely Sprongulated Sprongulator Pro Ultra Bundle Cloud Collective Unity (for a low low $29.99 per month) will confer true professionalism – the guaranteed ability to reliably deliver quality results every time.


Bullshit is shit from a bull. No more or less. It matters not how it is spun, painted pink, or put on a stick at the county fair. Any farmer knows what it is. And will say so to prevent people from eating what is not healthy food.

It matters not how much the purveyors of such BS call the farmer a hater (or probably a racist) the fact is that eating poo will make people sick.

Telling people blatantly false things about how great music gets made both now and in the past, that these people never lived or even researched, hurts everyone. All those poor people who think that when they are told things like Editing is a function of Mixing, EQ always goes before Compression, and Mastering is getting dynamics right then go on to make a horrid mess when they send their material to someone else to work on.

Up On Cripple Creek

When the true professional has to either hand the work back asking for it to be prepared properly and re-submitted or for a fee to pay for the time to make it like it should have been in the first place, the person who has been led astray is probably going to be upset.

Because the new black is saying how right you are because you say you are and the people you listen to say it is so, it is very hard to adjust at that point because the whole foundation of this self-pronounced Pron-ess is so fundamentally wrong that you can’t adjust without having a spak attack.

This leads to calling the real professional who would love to be getting this job done & dusted a liar, cheat, thief, un-skilled…

We need to be a lot better at calling the foolishness that is spread around us. Saying that it is fine or we shouldn’t upset the poor deluded dears is not helping anyone.

Not only do we let the unskilled set up power-bases that they haven’t earned but we let them use that faux power to cripple the up-and-coming so they are less able to be successful; not only with their own actions but when they meet the real professionals and can’t do what needs to be done. This in-turn damages the real professionals as people think they do completely different things from what they really do and conversations on how to help a project become all but impossible.

professional: a mindset of doing things well, with dignity and to a high standard, regardless of the situation.

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