First off as always I begin with a disclaimer. These are just my views and I share to try and help people. If you don’t resonate with the information here then leave it. I don’t claim to be all knowing or to have any authority but I have made music my world since a young child so this world means a lot to me and as a teacher of music production I want to share what I can.
I am aiming this blog to people who are without success or on the road and could use some encouragement and some advice. So here’s my wee take on how to be a successful music producer.
Anyone can make music of any style in their own homes these days and its an exciting time to be alive. Below I have categorised the different types of music producer in today’s age. Below each categorisation is some guidance for each, as success is achieved differently for each. I have noticed from seeing the different types of producers out there trying to promote themselves online I see a pattern of similar types appearing again and again so I have made each stereotype there own little chapter :–)
The pad bashing Instagram music producers who can build successful followings by showing off their ability to make music by layering tracks using a launchpad.
The launchpad is just a means of performing electronic music live. In that sense you still need to be a good music producer to be able to perform good tracks people will like. So stick around and I will get to that. With a lot of the videos I watch I am pretty sure it is impossible to launch every single sound using a launchpad and the performer can only launch a limited number of parts from the song. Saying that the launchpad has become an instrument in its own right and the more you practice the better you will get. Sampling is the main field of music production that would be a focus for a person wanting to be a launchpad musician. This is because the launchpad is just a controller for a sampler inside the DAW. Most commonly the “Drum Rack” in Ableton. With Shawn Wasabi, a pioneer in this field is not only brilliant at performing with a launchpad but most importantly makes really catchy, innovative and also relevant, popular sounding music. Instagram is a great platform to promote this kind of music for a music producer.
—///Mumble Rap / Trap music producers. Hip Hop “inspired” music which has taken the world by storm with its heavy popularity dominating Soundcloud/Spotify streams and without doubt the field with the most money being made. However everyone is trying and the competition is out of control.
So this particular field is a tough one because everyone is doing it which means the competition is about a trillion times that of anything else. There is a trap here (didnt mean the pun haha) that happens with any style actually but especially popular ones. This trap is when you try to recreate something that already exists there is the possibility you make a weaker version of something that already exists. Obviously this will set you up to fail. I think to be successful here you should work hard to make something that pushes the genre to the next level with your own touch or added flavour or fusion. With popular music one must study the trending sounds and innovate upon what is popular. This takes having a natural talent for listening and production in general. As always is good to listen a lot and don’t cut corners. Also have a million pound studio in LA and lots of friends in the business and a like for huge amulets and gold teeth really helps have success in this business.
—– //// Genre specific electronic music producers. EXAMPLE : Drum n Bass / Deep House / Techno / etc etc etc , basically all the genres on Beatport. An artist in this field relies on mostly gigs and whatever they can get streaming selling, records / tshirts etc \
So this is a category I am in as I make psychedelic dance music inspired by techno and other styles. You can check at my Soundcloud :–)
(Above – Me playing at a festival in Guatemala next to lake inside a volcanic crater)
I will give a little background on my journey to give you at least a little perspective on how I managed to have some success in doing what I love with music.
I started playing guitar at a young age and also learnt, drums and piano. I spent all my lunch breaks at school making weird music in the practice rooms of the music department. I also studied music and music technology at college and continued to play in bands and stuff. I started learning how to write electronic music after being inspired by Aphex Twin.
I set up a makeshift studio in my cousins shed and sat there for a half a decade learning the basics of Cubase. I eventually moved on to Ableton and got good studio monitors and now I get paid a good amount for a gig and have traveled to more than 20 countries doing it. I also teach Ableton online to supplement my income and get me through the winters. Over all I have been hard grafting for over a decade and still feel like I am just getting started as there is always so much to learn. I now also teach and run this website and have a YouTube channel where I put free tutorials. Making underground music, this is what it takes to have some success doing what you love for a living. Perhaps if you are making a more commercial music and make it commercially more listenable you can make more money and take less time for sure. I am making an underground version of an already pretty underground style so I set myself up to have a hard time but its worth it in the end from all the amazing experiences I have had traveling meeting people and performing all over the world and being able to sit in my studio all day for a living. That to me is success and is just the beginning.
These days you can pretty much make any style from the comfort of your own semi affordable bedroom studio. You name it / post rock / metal / orchestral / you can make it at home and if its good enough, get some success. This is an exciting concept of today’s times.
So here are some more in general tips that can help everyone in general get to where they want to be as a music producer.
First tip is ….PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
This sounds like a cliche but in no way should be undervalued as it is the number one best piece of advice. The more you practice the better you become.
I will always remember reading this paragraph about practicing guitar and I always think back to it as I find it inspiring. I cant quote it word for word whatsoever but the meaning, I can share.
Imagine it takes ten years to get to “Point A” with half an hour practice a day. So imagine practicing one hour a day, suddenly it take us five years to get to the same point. Well now imagine 4 hours a day…. imagine 6 hours a day. True professionals will practice and work 8 hours a day like a normal job. Imagine how good you can get playing that much every day. Its a this level you can become a true master and success will follow.
don’t spread yourself too thin…
Try not spread yourself too thin if you really want to be successful with music. If you have lots and lots of things you like doing you will never achieve full mastery because you are spreading your time and efforts across the board. In this sense you will be kind of good at lots of things but not a master at one thing. Obviously this doesn’t apply to everyone as some people are just wizards and can just do millions of things like a master. Like Leonardo da Vinci for example. Myself I have to pretty much keep it music and cooking. If I start spreading myself I lose focus on the music so I have to reel it back in.
Laziness, distraction and procrastination.
This for me is a weakness I have struggled with a lot. I will be working one second and then without realising I am looking at BBQ sauce recipes online or watching a Evangelical Grandma Reacts to Cradle of Filth video. It is very important to stay focused and leave all the fun distracting things until you have finished your days work. So don’t have tabs open with Facebook or YouTube when your working or you’ll end up eating donuts and watching serial killer documentaries before you know it.
To avoid procrastinating which is probably everyone’s most common success killer we must realise that we only live once and their are no fruits to the things we do to avoid our true passions. Where as our true passions can give great fruits which will seriously enrich our lives and therefore the lives of our family and community. I recommend you watch this if you have a problem with what I am talking about. It should be a must watch for any master procrastinator because if you want success this issue needs to be dealt with so stick it on your watch later list. ( not in work hours or will be procrastinating watch a video about procrastinating and disappear into a wormhole)
So next I have a little philosophical point to add and that is to do with originality.
I heard Aphex Twin () say something in an interview once and I shall never forget. What he said was is that he didn’t write music for anyone else or for success or to be an artist but only for his own fulfillment as a person in general. I think because of this philosophy his music ended up being amazing because he wasn’t making a rubbish remake of anything else or was he trying to get famous making some popular music. He was himself and in the end he was very successful because of it. This is something I think everyone should at least consider. I think the world needs more people to write music for this reason and not just for money and fame because in the end even if you get money and fame were you successful? Have you actually inspired anyone? I would guess the answer is no. At this point the word success itself can be inspected. What is success in terms of a music producer. It depends what you want. If you want to be rich and famous then innovate upon already existing popular trending music and see how you go. If you want to be known for something truly special then dedicate to learning music inside and out and create something original that represents you truly. Success is in the eye of the beholder. But either way you need to work very hard and never stop.
GIVING UP AND FAILURES
Don’t ever give up and especially after a spectacular failure.
Failure is a means of learning and if you are to be successful you literally need to fail so you can learn from that mistake and afterward be more experienced. After many and many failures you start to become very experienced and this is how we climb up the ladder. We need to push through the moments that hurt us after a grand fail. It is hard but of course its hard, otherwise everyone would do it and then success would be meaningless. I remember I spent a year or so making music to get a live set together and a new album. I got my first gig in London on a proper amazing sound system and I made a full live set with keyboards and everything. I spent months learning the parts and more than a year in total making the music for it. The first second after pressing play at the gig I realised it was all fucked. It sounded terrible. I was removed after ten minutes as it was unbearable. The music had been made on such shitty speakers that what I made was nothing like I heard at the event. This crushed me and I felt like I had nothing and very little motivation. I had no choice to continue as music was my life venture so I got actual studio monitors and started again. Although it was a theatrical and spectacularly massive failure I gained like a million experience points as I was very sure it would never happen again.
It goes without saying to be a successful music producer you need to study music production. Learn your DAW inside out before you start installing millions of VSTS. This way you will truly master the techniques and processes which will enable you to really produce the sounds in your head. Learn everything you can and never stop learning.