Cover/ Thumbnail Photo Credit : Drew Ressler /Rukes www.rukes.com
[ Warning :This post has a lot more to do with emotions/ habits, then actual production tips. Mainly for the people that are trying to climb the mountain of this industry, if dance music is just a hobby, feel free to ignore this post.]
If your trying to be more effective in producing better music, if your struggling with the harshness of this industry, if you ask for feedback but get ignored, this post is for you...
You’re playing your latest track to a crowd of 10k people.
(or dream big, picture Kaskades recent record setting Coachella set)...
The slow pretty part is playing, then
Everyone moves at the same time, you look out and see smiling happy people. They fucking love you, more importantly, they love your music. Your creation that you slaved over for years and years has finally come to the light.
The big dream as they say has finally come true.
How did you get there?
Make a few songs?
Post them on the web?
Get signed to a label?
Enter the stage where most producers drop out of the scene faster then they came in. The day reality hits you like a ton of bricks.
I call this the peak experience problem.
Let me explain.
The music industry, especially dance music culture is largely based around clubs, festivals, drinking, attractive chicks and some other stuff I’d rather not get into.
Unlike the business world ( people wearing suits, ties, working hard 10 hours a day) The world of being a producer seemed a hell of a lot more fun (and it is)
However, I only saw the fun parts, I 100% avoided doing anything that “wasn't fun”.
In fact anything that wasn't fun I would largely just ignore.
This means that I spent YEARS of trail and error that never needed to happen. Yes I eventually reached the same end point, but I took the long way around.
I would sit in my room for hours and just produce produce produce (which was fun)
When I came to a brick wall ( issues in the mix/ learning about a new topic/ or promoting whatever I was doing) I’d largely just ignore it.
My mentally was
“If I just make good music, I don’t need to learn that stuff. "
"If I just make good music, I don’t need to worry about promotion."
"Learning this complicated VST? Nah, I’ll just chill and work on this bass line, that tech stuff is over rated.”
This is truly how I felt, I avoid the stuff I didn't want to do and figured it didn't really matter in the end.
Flash forward a number of years...
yes, it mattered, in fact it was everything.
Let’s face it, everyone loves to sit in their room and make some tunes. It’s fun to post your track and let your friends check it out. It’s cool to get a new VST.
What most people lack (at least I did) was the ability to grind through the stuff I didn't want to do.
I didn't want to figure out a game plan to actually market myself ( I assumed, my music would be “found” by some magic label)
I didn't want to sit down and actually learn how to fix my mix issues. I would assume that it’s just “good enough” and labels / DJ’s won’t care.
I honest to god thought that I was some rare snowflake, more importantly, I didn't see the insane hustle that is needed to make it in this industry.
My vision was clouded by the drinking, parties, girls that you often see in this scene. I’m not saying these are bad as they are fun as hell, I’m just saying you must dig way way past the surface level to see how these pro's got from A to B.
Over the years, working with engineers/ vocalists / producers from all over the world I learned two very important things
1. Talent is over rated. I’ve met insanely talented vocalists, that will never “make it” as they simply don’t want to put in the time. This isn't a bad thing, it just is what it is.
2. The people that have made it, put in INSANE amounts of time and work into their craft. There's never some magic moment that they "make it", usually their brand builds very slowly over the years. I've meet pop producers that have had number 1 hits, the secret? Make a shit ton of music, over many many years.
There are a few rare cases that just blew up, but for the most part it’s hard work and slow growth. Sadly, most people focus on these rare zero to hero producers, the guys that just EXPLODE onto the scene.
I wish it could work this way for everyone, hell I wish music talent/ skill was the number one factor in "making it" sadly, its not. All I am saying is, don't plan to blow up one day. Most likely you never will ( I'm not trying to crush your dreams here) but realize it IS possible to gain 10-20-30-100 fans a day over many years, looking back its this type of growth that happens most often.
So everyone knows hard work and hustle is king in this industry.
But few actually do it.
If you have big dreams, the below steps will help you get there.
Don’t be like me and avoid the “not fun stuff” most likely whatever isn't fun is 100% what you should be doing.
Everyone does the fun stuff, when producing gets hard or seems like to much work, most people will bail.
If you push past that period, your one step closer to your dream.
7 Simple Habits To Boost Your Production Hustle.
1. Time Management
Yes, this sounds boring as shit but hear me out. If you go to school, work, have a social life then you know your time is limited. You may produce here, produce there, but largely you are just slowly spinning your wheels.
If you have big dreams, your going to need to view your time as a resource. Period
Not only that, your going to have to do certain tasks even if you don’t want to.
Just say you only have 10 free hours this week. What would normally happen?
Maybe 4-5 hours of producing( looping the same sections, or trying to fix problems without proper knowledge),
Then 4-5 hours of checking facebook/ twitter/ insta because your “problem” is hard to solve and your loosing your mind.
( Note : I am 100% not judging here, but I have spent 1,000's of hours RUNNING from problems that I should be tackling instantly. Not only that, I would mind fuck myself that the issue wasn't important. I honestly think my skill/ reach / whatever could be 3-4 times greater if I didn't waste so much time in the first few years I was producing. As I said, if this is just a hobby this all sounds fucking crazy, but if you REALLY want to make it, deep down in your soul. Take a look at your daily habits, you may find you can be so much more....anyways)
In reality, it feels like you are gaining ground, but there are MUCH more effective ways of getting to your end goal.
With the same 10 hours you could.
Produce until you get stuck (2-3 Hours)
Figure out your issue ( or send out for feedback if needed) (1 Hour)
Do research to figure out your issue, with the modern production boom you can find almost anything on the web. (1 Hour)
Continue to produce until you get stuck again and repeat. ( 3 Hours)
In the remaining time you can learn new aspects of a vst, read the manual’s ( no one ever does, Madeon always makes this point) and of course you should spend at least 20% of your free time on promotion and networking.
To a lot of people the above will be boring or next to impossible, but there is so much music on the web now a days, you REALLY need to start your promotion effort asap.
If your thinking" this sounds like a lot of work" just hear me out.
A lot of producers, and I did for years will just produce " when they feel like it". All the guys I've met that are professionals do not do this.
It's more like, I go to the studio at 10 am no matter what. If I am sick and can't hear I will still go and try to make something horrid.
Usually, with this mindset you will sit down and get in the zone in 30 mins, back to your normal " yay fun" mode. Just this way, you'll get a lot more done each week.
( you may be saying, why would I want to do this, I'm not a pro. A great rule I try to follow...)
2. Learn to Properly Ask for Feedback.
Feedback from people that have been in the game longer is a huge huge help. However, these people are busy and 99% of the time will not take the time to respond to your feedback requests.
Especially if this is a random message that doesn't offer any value whatsoever to the producer on the other end. These messages largely get sent into the delete pile.
The reason being is that it takes 10 + minutes to give real feedback on a track. Even more if you listen to the entire thing. If every producer gave feedback in this manner they’d never get a damn thing done.
The best way to get better feedback is
Figure out your problem
Try to figure out a solution
THEN ask for feedback on that direct problem.
Example, your bottom end is muddy.
Can I have feedback ! Thanks ! You Rock
If you got about 30 seconds, I have a uber quick question on the bottom end of my track.
When I play it, the bottom end doesn't punch and it sounds really boomy, I feel its because the release times on the kick drum and sub line are bouncing into each other.
Do you think I should try to shorten the drum tail? What about adjusting the ADSR on the sub bass?
Here’s the track, don’t worry about the rest of it, just skip to 1:35 and listen to the bottom end if you can.
If not, no worries man ! Thanks for your time keep it up.
This style of message is MUCH easier for the other producer to respond to, they can most likely hear your bottom end issue in 15 seconds by listening quickly to the track.
Not only that, it shows that you tired to fix the problems yourself and have an idea of whats going on.
Simply put, the basic “ listen to my track, for feedback” messages take way too long to respond to, while the detailed one makes it much quicker to respond.
In the end, realize these people are hustling day in day out, there time is uber valuable, don’t waste it or try to take up to much of it.
If you take time to craft your email, if you show you care about that producer other then just " your cool " they are much more likely to respond to you.
3. Ignore all the bullshit.
The amount of time wasting that most people do on the web will destroy you LONG before you even get started.( I am guilty of this, It was so bad I pretty much killed all my personal accounts so I'd stop bullshiting with my self that I was " working")
Read any comments on youtube videos, not only are the negitive ones usually bumped to the top, its usually people arguging with each other because they have nothing else better to do.
If you truly aspire to great heights in what ever you do, largely ignore these people.
When you start putting your self out there, your going to have haters/ people will tweet you your shit sucks, people will message you that your music is horrible etc.
Seriously some of the messages producers send me ( that other people send them) are crazy.
I knew a guy that got stalked on every single song he posted saying how bad it was and how he should jump off a bridge.
I have a good friend in business that get’s 3-4 emails a DAY telling him he is a huge douche bag and yadda yadda yadda.
Just realize early on, the more out there you get, the more these people pop up.
When your on your path you are grinding man, you don’t give a fuck when a random internet troll says something.
Way back when, I used to fret over this, I’d spend 15 mins wondering why the person didn't like me. Eventually, I got so many messages I just stop caring ( and now I truly feel bad for these people)
So when the day comes when you get your first negative comments, just remember this section and grind on. Don't dwell on these people.
4. Learn Failure is a Good Thing
I used to freak out when I failed at something. Like, legit melt down status. After a long while I slowly realized that failure is AWESOME and it means you are pushing forward.
Your going to fail so much as a producer it’s not even funny, legit there is a smile on my face laughing about how many times I've failed (and still will fail).
Once you get over failure you can TRULY accomplish anything.
Most people are forever paralyzed by fear.
They will avoid the cute girl they have a crush on, they will avoid making an un comfortable call, they will not send their track to labels due to fear of rejection.
From the bottom of my heart, if you only ever get one thing from my blog get this, failure is all in your mind.
Due to the negative connotations in school of failing, most people tend to avoid it all their lives.
In the real world, if you don’t fail you will never get anywhere. Promise.
I challenge you... This week I want you to fail at 10 different things. Send your track to 10 huge labels, talk to that girl in your class that you've been mirin , try to make a song at a crazy weird BPM with a drum pattern that's never been heard before.
It's these actions, done daily, that will land you whatever you desire in life.
5. Be Insanely Positive
(ok now he’s getting weird)
yea yea I know, hear me out. As I said above, your going to fail a lot. Your going to have negative comments pop up.
Your parents and friends will most likely give you shit (and when you do make it, you’ll end up pissing off some friends)
All of this stuff is no bueno. Lame.
The problem I and I assume others had is that it was hard to continue my passion with all this negative influence.
I legit had friends laugh in my face when I told them my goals.
“ you can’t do that”
“ your an idiot, get a real job”
“ you need to grow up”
I ignored all of these people. It was hard, but I learned one simple key.
Be super positive.
Hopefully, ALL my posts come out this way. If I ever start posting negative shit, someone please yell at me.
Now this may seem silly, but a funny tidbit of info.
My two friends, one on Ultra and the other Dim Mak are the most positive dudes I've EVER met.
You could say, well duh, they live a cool life.
I do feel that has something to do with it. But the fact is I knew these guys back when they first downloaded Massive. Back when they did their first remixes etc etc.
Even then, they had this attitude, it was just a “every day is a great day” attitude. No matter what happened, it was all good with them.
I feel this attitude allowed them to push to these great heights.
They never worried about failure, not getting on labels, not landing tours. They truly just kept working and were 100% stoked to do so.
I also have a few old DJ friends that are uber negative, they never could reach their dreams because everyday was a struggle.
“label rejected me, fml, I suck, that label sucks, fuck them”
They would then be pissed off for 2 weeks about ONE rejection, or freak out with one negative comment.
The positive dudes where over it in 10 seconds and on to the next task ( while still being happy)
Now,I know not everyone needs to be this way, but I can safely say the day I stopped going “fml” and started going, today is the best day ever changed everything.
Try to flip your mood for a few weeks, see not only the changes it brings in daily life but also your music.
If your trying to write music for clubs...it’s a bit hard to do so without being stoked. I'm 90% certain that most of the clients that fly me out to work with them, simply do so as they know I am going to bring energy and passion to the session, if your making clubs tunes, this is everything.
6. Start your Promo Work NOW
A lot of producers I've met will legit make tracks for 5 years, once they get decent they THEN start the fan pages/accounts etc etc.
While I don’t think you want to make these day one, you do want to constantly be trying to grow your fan base.( I think it’s so important, I wrote a book on it) .It’s easy to do ( but can take awhile) if you start early your in much better shape.
A great example is a email I got recently ( named changed/ email shortened)
Here are my tracks ( insert tunes)
I’ve been making them for 8 years
What do you think my next step is?”
Long story short, the dude had KILLER music, but no fan base. zero zlich, nothing online. He’s been in the game SO long he could have hopped on the EDM boom in 2008-2012, back when the online world wasn't populated with so much music.
I didn't have the heart to tell him that if he had started doing promo work 6 years ago, he’d prolley have 100k Facebook fans and a sea of twitter followers etc.
His music is great, so he’s good to go there, but it would have been a HELL of a lot easier to start many years back.
If your asking why this is important its simple.
Owners of record labels are people.
People have needs, money to eat/ family etc ( or they just like cash)
If the owner of a label is sent one track that's “ average/ whats normal” but the guy has 100k facebook fans.
Or the owner is sent a fucking awesome track, but has 100 facebook fans. Who do you think the label owner will go with?
When I was new, I always said that the great music will be first, its all about the music !
In reality, with a lot of the large labels this isn't the case.
Smaller labels, sure, but the big ones are usually looking for a solid fan base + good music.
Of course if you have a legendary, new sound/ amazing mix that is the next thing you are good to go. Those are of course rare.
Long story short, start your music promotion efforts fairly soon if you are trying to make it in this industry.
What ever you do, please don’t spam everyone. It never works and is a royal waste of time compared to your other options.
7. Send Polished Tracks
I'll keep this one short and sweet. Stop sending "demo quality" tracks to labels.
The amount of people that send 45 second 50% done songs to labels is mind blowing.
Not only that, producers will send a track that still needs to be mixed and mastered.
Now, I understand you may not have the ability to do so at a high level, but make sure you ALWAYS send labels the 100% best quality track you can. No " demo quality" versions of the tracks.
A few label owners I know do not even listen to tracks if the artist says things like
" Hey, track still needs mastered"
" Here is a sample, its not mixed yet tho"
"I need some input, how do you like it SO FAR"
If your sending your work to a label to try to be signed, the label wants polished tracks. Period
Ideally, mixed ( to the best of your ability) mastered( to the best of your ability, or outsource it).
When your in the music industry, you get so used to loud, polished tracks. Even if your tune is musically awesome, its VERY hard to judge songs if the mix isn't ideal and the tracks not loud.
Again, I understand everyone's skill level is different, just always send YOUR BEST VERSION.
Cool there you have it.
Most of these seem like common sense, but at least for me I largely didn't do ANY of these for many years.
I truly wanted to be a part of this industry, but I would waste time SO much time doing tasks that didn't help me.
I'd do silly things like, beg for feedback,send works in progress to labels, get upset that no one "liked" me, spend hours pissed off when one person left a negative comment and I even thought that marketing and promotion weren't needed and it would all just work out.
In the end, the 7 changes above truly helped both my productions and emotional state while producing, I hope they can help you as well.