In my professional career, I’ve been in a position to listen to a lot of music submitted by hobbyists, up-and-comers, aspiring pros, students, etc. Thousands of tracks over the years. In my view, *production* – things like mixing, synth work, realistic sample usage / mockups, mastering – is the universally weak skill for so many people, and the factor that is MOST likely to mark a track as unsuitable for professional use.
For example, for a year I ran a small music library and of course got tons of submissions there. As soon as I heard a weak drum kit mixed too far in the background, I stopped listening. Same for mechanical-sounding string staccatos, mud in the low-end, compressor pumping, EWQL horns with no dynamics, etc. These issues were usually apparent in <10 seconds of listening.
Amazing production can make up for generic composition sometimes. We’ve all heard cookie-cutter trailer tracks and TV cues that are unmemorable, but at least serve their intended purpose (huge bombastic drums, sinister pulses, mega horns etc). But the reverse rarely if ever happens in my experience: great composition can’t save poor production. The average person can tell if something “sounds bad” even if they can’t identify why, whereas a generic composition that sounds good will pass by unnoticed.
That’s my view. What do you think?