1 - „Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working“ - Pablo Picasso
As a music producer you constantly have to deal with lack of inspiration. „I’m not inspired, so there’s no point in opening that DAW“ - that’s what your mind tricks you to say to yourself. As a result, you start procrastinating and never finishing music (or never even starting out). The solution to this problem is to find the inspiration by actually working. It doesn’t mean that you have to find it just by working inside your DAW! It can get very boring to stare at the greyness of Ableton for hours. What I find helpful in that situation is to dedicate time specifically to listen to music. That way I’m able to get many fresh ideas and after a „30 minute listening session“ I’m ready to implement them. It’s very easy to forget the main source of inspiration as a music producer - which is essentially good music!
But what to do if even then your results seem disappointing? This quote by Ira Glass about „The Gap“ made it clear for me when I was starting out.
2 - „All of us who do creative work (in this case making music), we get into it because we have good taste. (You got into making music probably because you wanted to make the music that you loved, didn’t you?) But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions.“
If you have fun listening to music and you have good taste, it’s all that matters. It made a world of difference to me when I really understood it - it just takes work in order to get through the gap. This diagram by Seth Godin describes it very well:
Most people never get past the gap - they quit. In fact the only distinction that differentiates successful people from others is the simple reason that they didn’t give up! Setting deadlines for yourself is something that I found to help me very much when trying to get through the gap. Set a goal for yourself to make the next track in 7 days. I’m sure you’ll work harder than if you didn’t do it.
Being a music producer from some point doesn’t mean just creating music. It’s getting more and more important to know how to handle your social media properly. The next quote by Gary Vaynerchuk taught me what’s the right way to do that.
3 - „Jabs are very important - they are the lightweight pieces of content that benefit your fans by making them laugh, snicker, ponder, etc. (I’ll call it microcontent) - right hooks are calls to action that benefit your businesses (in this case - your music project). It’s just like you’re telling a good story - the punchline or climax (for example your new track) has no power without the exposition and action that come before it.“
Let me explain what this „Jab jab jab - right hook“ concept means. In a nutshell - you have to make your social networks appealing by uploading the right microcontent. Your fans are not only interested in listening to your music - in fact their engagement will be WAY higher when you upload a funny meme. Nowadays making appealing content is a necessity - Facebook shows such content to more people, what leads to more exposure for your music. It doesn’t mean you should go spam your fans with memes all the time! What it means is that you have to look for other reasons for people to follow you. It’s just a something to bear in mind when taking care of your social networks.
Let’s take Dillon Francis (a big EDM producer who’s killing it right now) as an example - this guy more than his music, uploads funny videos which people love. More and more often you see producers shifting from just „uploading music“ to making almost „lifestyle blogging“ content. People love watching what a music producer’s day looks like!
The next quote is by a producer called Electric Mantis, who is killing it right now after his Reddit post went viral. He wrote a post about how his favourite producer, Djemba Djemba, reposted his track. That post got on the main Reddit page and got him lots of new followers. The advice on using Reddit (and all online communities) by Electric Mantis is this:
4 - „Post your songs, but also be a part of the community. Offer constructive criticism to others if they ask and take part in the discussion. There’s a LOT to learn from other like minded producers and on top of that, you just might hit the right ears one day“
You probably know the old saying „To receive, you first how to learn how to give“. The same applies for music producers’ online communities. One of the biggest problems of producers is that they ask for feedback and post on groups to „check out their songs“ without giving any value themselves. It’s cool to be supported and given feedback to by others, but in order to have that you need to simply help other producers.
The last quote will be something that I find to be the biggest challenge when producing music, and it’s that…
5 - „To be a great music producer means to get the balance of quantity and quality of your work right.“
Every music producer at some point is challenged by these questions:
„Should I already finish this track?“
„Is the mix good enough?“
„Will people like this track if I put it out already?“
Of course, once you’re making a tune you always aim at creating the best quality music possible. But it’s important to have a broader perspective. In fact it’s sometimes (more often than not) better to increase the quantity of your work. Perfecting one piece of music won’t get you anywhere just as much as not having the ambition to progress from making total crap. It’s totally normal and it takes a while to get the balance right. In fact, I’ve written about a scientific experiment done on this issue, so if you struggle with finishing your tracks go ahead and read my last article on PML. You will find a foolproof solution to this problem there.
To stay updated with more quotes like this (and daily tips as well) go follow @productionmusiclive on Instagram. Good luck with your music production!
I’m k-pizza, a chill trap music maker who likes to share his experiences with other producers. I’m regularly going to show up with music and content at PML.
PML Beginners Course: Producing A Track From Scratch in Ableton