“The Creative Safe Zone” – An Ethereal Concept

In my time in audio studios creating audio for music, film and television, I have been lucky enough to be present on numerous occasions when “magic” has struck. This is when a performance elevates beyond everyone’s expectations, and propels a project into the realm of “special”. Each time this happened, there was a common element…the atmosphere in the studio was charged with a “creative energy” fed by everyone involved…clients, writers, directors, engineers, producers, and of course talent. I realize this may sound a bit voodoo, or corny, but in my experience…the energy is real.


Bear with me while I lay out some background on this concept…


It has been my experience that the best creative ideas/takes/performances come from experimentation. This means trying something creatively that may not work. In fact, it has a tendency to not work over 90% of the time. Having said this, you may think you only need to spend the requisite amount of time and attention…and there it is. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. You see, attempting something creatively comes from within…in other words, for the talent putting the idea forward, they have an extremely personal attachment to it. As a result…if it does not work…the talent has a tendency to take any criticism of the idea very personally. When this happens, it becomes a barrier to new ideas, and finding that “magic” take.


Reaction by others within the session is critical during the experimental phase…they will either “feed” the creative energy, or will “steal” creative energy based on how they react (ie “Good idea, but what if we tried…” vs. “That sucked!!!!”). The truth is it is far more difficult to come up with an idea, than it is to shoot one down. Positive feedback has a tendency to facilitate new ideas, negative feedback creates a barrier to new ideas.


This is where a producer can help out tremendously by establishing a “Creativity Safe Zone”. This zone needs to encompass both the studio and the control room. All participants need to work to “feed” the creative energy, as opposed to “stealing” from it. This allows talent the freedom to not only bring their best performance, but to try things without inhibition. Within an atmosphere such as this, that “magic” take has a much better chance of appearing.


There are several things a producer can do to help facilitate the “Creative Safe Zone”…here are a few thoughts in that regard:

– Behave as the “gatekeeper” in protection of the “Creative Safe Zone”…this is done through careful use of the talkback, keeping the talent informed at all times of direction and feel, while doing your best to shield them from overly negative feedback

– Remain calm, and focused on the tenet “there are no bad ideas…only new directions to help channel creativity in a useful direction”

– Be open to ideas that are not your own…”Just because it wasn’t my idea, doesn’t mean it isn’t valid” (this was perhaps the most difficult lesson for me to learn as a producer)

– Discuss fees with talent well ahead of the session so that when they arrive, they are focused on performance and not finances

– Create a welcoming environment…provide a table for the talent to put their drink on that is at an arms reach, or a chair to rest on between takes

– Develop a personal relationship with the talent before recording to ensure comfort in the studio when experimenting



I encourage you to establish your own “Creative Safe Zone”, and then “feed” the creative energy…the chances of that “magic” take appearing will be greatly increased!


Passionate about the craft of audio


Brad Belcher


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