Name Ted Jensen
Company Sterling Sound
Role Title Managing Partner & Chief Engineer
Headquarters 88 Tenth Ave, New York, NY
How did you get started in the music business?
I was always interested in music, sound and recording. I knew since high school that I wanted to be involved in recording in some way. My earliest experiences were building some of my own recording and monitoring gear and recording local bands. I even did some live recordings for the Yale Symphony which I thought was just amazing fun; their concert hall was just down the road from where I grew up.
How did you come to be at Sterling Sound?
A friend who was a manufacturer's rep and had Sterling as a client, told me about an opening they had for someone to make tape copies.
Name three people whom have been critical to your career?
One would be Lee Hulko, the original owner and engineer at Sterling who hired me, and was either brave or foolish enough to entrust me with some significant projects early on. Two others who became friends, mentors, and clients, with whom I've done many wonderful projects with, Bill Szymczyk and the late Phil Ramone. I’ll always be indebted and extremely grateful to them both for giving me a shot before I had any track record to speak of.
Tell me about the last year you’ve had personally and professionally?
Professionally, one highlight was working closely with Coldplay on a number of projects. You couldn’t ask for a more potent mix of talent, professionalism and just great people. And personally, I recently acquired a dog and a cat –both rescues, best buds and a constant source of entertainment.
What challenges have you faced?
An early challenge in mastering was making the transition from just cutting the lacquers used for vinyl production, to including digital processing for cd and later the various download formats. Lately I guess more or less the same challenge anyone in the business faces which is dwindling budgets and trying to find a place in the world of free music.
How do you celebrate?
Let’s just say the methods and materials have evolved a bit since the early days.
Which artists inspire you on a visual / creative level?
I’m inspired by working with anyone who makes me go beyond what I might ordinarily do left on my own, that makes the result better than either of us imagined.
In what ways can people be more socially responsible for the health of our music industry community?
That’s a tough one since it really involves a cultural change. Somehow, buying music stopped being cool. Hopefully streaming / subscription services can help bring money back into the equation but more work needs to be done to be more equitable for the artists. So being more socially responsible means support the bands / artists you like. Go to their shows, buy their music, maybe get a t-shirt. It also means a fairer share of the streaming royalties for the artists.
If you could provoke change in any area of the music business, what would it be?
Let’s get a larger piece of the smaller pie to the artists.
Tell me about something you learned the hard way?
Well, one thing would be something that should be obvious to anyone living in the 21st century, which is to be extremely careful about what could wind up in print or on the internet. I had done a Metallica project which was not well received on a technical level by many of their fans. Much of the vitriol on the various message boards and web sites was directed at me. One fan got through to me via email and nicely asked for my take on it. I replied in a private email that the sonic character was a conscious decision by the band and producer, not me, and said some unflattering things about the production. The person then copied and pasted my reply to the band’s website.
What is art to you?
Well for me in what I do, my art is in making others’ art shine a little brighter.
*Photograph by Isaac Rosenthal