Road to LA.
Blog series following my journey to becoming a “successful” music producer.
As I lay in bed trying not to binge watch another series of It’s always sunny in Philadelphia I stumbled across Medium, 3 hours later and I’m hooked (that’s 9 episodes worth, a real blow to my Netflix schedule). After reading a couple of self help articles, some how to be more open and creative tips and the all too familiar compression cheat sheets that promise to make your tracks as “phat as – insert your favourite producers here” I decided that it might be fun to start a blog series on my personal journey to achieving my goals, noting down things I learn along the way that may or may not be helpful for other budding producers.
I want to say I’ve always loved music but I’m not quite sure I did. Around 13–14 I took up guitar lessons at school, but I can’t remember being passionate about what I was doing, it was more of a “my friends are doing so I might as well”. Couple of bad bands later it was time to pick what I wanted to do, go to college or go to sixth form. I picked a music degree at Newcastle college as by that time it wasn’t just something to do at lunch time, I was starting to realise that maybe I like music a little more than just something to do with a couple of friends.
College days I would have to say were a breeze, I cherish those times I made friends for life, got on well with lecturers and exceeded my expectations of what I was able to achieve not to mention the confidence it instilled in me. But then fun time was over, time to get series and go to University, you know do something with my life.
I still hadn’t thought of music as a career, I didn’t take myself seriously as a musician. I liked playing in bands and being around music but did that warrant me spending 3–4 years studying a music degree at Uni. Big decisions lets say are not my strong p, with the added pressure of parents understandably looking out for you telling you to make the right choice, I made the decision that a safe backup degree in PR & Communications was the way I could please everyone including my confused 18 year old self.
Within days not weeks, I realised oh boy this might not be for me, I missed being around music from the second I woke up till going back to sleep. I missed the laid back vibes of college and the interactions with my lecturers and friends. Of course not being a quitter and telling myself “oh it’s just your first week, you’ll get used to it, it’s just a big change” which was a constant theme through out my entire first year, I stuck out the course and graduated with good results. Was it the happiest time of my life probably not, but sacrificing a little happiness not to disappoint my parents who’ve sacrificed everything and moved me and my older sister to a country where I can have the best education and a better life, was something I’m willing to do.
Realising what I wanted
Up till Uni producing and playing in bands were just hobbies, something by then which was a part of me I didn’t really do much else. Maybe Uni was the driving force for me to realise that I didn’t want to do anything other than music, it helped me realise I wanted music as a career. Or i just wasted 3 years and could of saved my self the hassle if I had done a music degree, the jury is still out on that one. Either way within the first year I got more serious than ever about producing, I fell in love with electronic music, I spent every spare minute I had between assignments learning the ins and outs of logic, seeing other people I met along the way careers sky rocket into the scene, hating myself for still being at Uni and not being able to give it a hundred percent of my energy. With those feelings and thoughts on a loop for the three year duration of my course once I finished it was time to do something about.
Ah goals we all have em, we all don’t stick to them, but I have a feeling I might stick with this one.
After graduating I told myself if a career in music is what I want then I have to give this my hundred and one percent, undivided attention. I’ve taken a year out relatively a short time to achieve such a monumental goal for the music industry but I had to tell the parents something, I doubt “hey mam hey dad so I’m not gonna pursue a stable job after Uni I’m taking a chance on music” would of went down well.
As to what my goals really are well pretty simple, live a comfortable life doing what I love which is produce music preferably in LA with my girlfriend. We both fell in love with the city after visiting and it’s been a dream ever since, plus it wouldn’t hurt to be in the hub of the entertainment business.
I quickly learned that being a “successful” music producer is way broader term than I ever imagined, there are so many different levels to the music industry it’s mind boggling nailing down where you see and place yourself. You have the top 10 percent producing for the biggest artists making the real big money, you have the smaller producers busting out single after single for smaller rising independent artists making way more money than if you were strapped to a 9–5 desk job. Not forgetting the many different genres under the electronic dance music umbrella, which is continuing to grow bigger by the day.
This is an issue I face everyday, I have such big love for so many genres, so many producers, I want to do it all I want to be a dance pop producer who makes phat hip hop beats and occasionally plays in a metal band. Surely I can’t do them all how can I become successful at one of them if I’m too busy dividing my time doing so many things. It’s an everyday struggle which I’ll probably write more about once I figure out how to deal with it and find the path I want to follow. The only good thing I can take away from the struggle and so should anyone in my position is that diversity is your best friend, to really stand out in the industry you need to be able do it all. There’s already some 14 year old kid who’s got more time and experience on you because they grew up with the technology more available to them at such a young age to be able to finish a whole album from their bedroom. Diversifying your portfolio, mixing genres and mastering it all is going to make you a one stop shop for any artist, so I guess it’s not all bad that I haven’t got it fully figured out yet.
I’ll be talking about smaller goals as I carry on blogging, as being a “successful” music producer is not as simple as I make it out to be neither are my dreams and goals.
8 months into my year out I realised being at Uni and not getting the time in to produce slowed down my learning curve. At first it was hard getting the tracks to a professional sounding level which was and is still so frustrating. After 6 months of an everyday battle the difference is staggering. The workflow is greater, the time put in to practice my craft is paying off, I’m still not a hundred percent where I want to be but who’s ever fully satisfied I just have to keep at it and practice some more. Plans are to find that missing 5% that’s gonna make my productions from amateur to professional and then the real challenge begins, finding clients, getting placements, releasing tracks.
What I want people to take away from this is that nothing can be done if you don’t take that first initial leap of faith. You’ll be forever regretting the things you didn’t do thinking of what could of been. Speaking of regret, don’t regret the choices you DO make as cliche as it is, if I had never done a degree in PR I might of never found out I was also good at creating designs, or that I had some interest in advertising and marketing. Everything you do in life will impact you somehow learn from what you’ve done, there’s knowledge and wisdom that can be absorbed from every situation your in so embrace it, this is something I’m trying to do more and more everyday at first I thought I wasted 3 years of my life but slowly as I change my perspective on life I’m beginning to realise that nothing is ever a waste.
So I think it’s probably time to end this first entry, that was longer than what I wanted but I’m glad that’s out the way, don’t worry they won’t all be this long props if you made this far. I’ll be writing about my progress and things I’ve learned along the way, more practical posts about music production itself and more advice on the less talked about emotional and physical toll music production brings as I go and work through it myself.
Thanks for reading.