1. Quantity over quality.
In the words of Ed Sheeran, “Run the tap ’til the dirty water runs clean!”. This means you have to output a high quantity of music before the good stuff starts flowing. It’s like Malcolm Gladwell’s famous 10,000 hour rule, which states that is takes 10,000 hours of practise to become an expert at something. Whilst I think there are ways to cut down this amount of time (mentorship and course-taking being two of them), the general idea rings true.
Also, if you start and finish more music quickly (rather than obsessing over one song for 6 months), you’ll multiple the practise you have at creating each element in the song, e.g. 6 songs finished means 6 bass lines written, 6 drum patterns written, 6 melodies written, etc.)
2. Make music that you like – not what you think other people with like.
It’s an easy trap to fall into – chasing popularity and fame, rather than following your heart when it comes to the music you produce. But, if you always produce music that you like (or at least strive to), it’s a win / win situation. If no-one else likes it, yes that can be painful, but at least you’ve expressed what you wanted and enjoyed the process. If you just try and follow the latest trend, the chances are no-one else will like it AND neither will you!
Music production is a time-consuming endeavour, so it makes sense to enjoy the time you spend.
3. Be consistent – Consistency is key!
Gaining any traction in the music industry is a game of consistency. If you release a couple of tracks, then nothing for a year, you’ll lose all the momentum / following you may have gathered. It’s important to keep showing up, putting the work in, and it’s also a good idea to have 3 or so finished songs for a release schedule so you’ve always got a few months breathing space if needs be, where you can keep releasing music.
4. Set goals, but it’s essential to build systems that will help you form good writing habits.
I am a huge believer in the power of goal-setting, but goals without any system for fulfilling them can end up being a painful reminder of what you HAVEN’T done.
Goals are reached by developing good habits, and good habits are developed by systems that support those habits (I don’t recommend relying on will-power too much – it runs out!).
An example might be:
Goal: Finishing 2 tracks per month.
Habit: Producing for 2 hours a day, 5 days a week.
System: Setting a daily alarm for 5:45am, and letting anyone who needs to know that you are unavailable from 6 – 8am from Monday to Friday. Go into your studio for those 2 hours each morning, leaving your phone somewhere else so it doesn’t distract you. Reward yourself in the end.
5. Spend time producing rather than money on plugins.
Sometimes a new plugin will inspire us, but more often than not we buy them hoping it’ll “fix” our music. It won’t. If you learn the stock plugins than come with your DAW – inside and out – you’ll be amazed at the world-class sound you can achieve. What’s more, you’ll learn what the limitations of those stock plugins are, so when you do invest in a new 3rd party premium plugin, it’ll be for a specific reason.
6. Turn your social media followers into email subscribers.
You can then use that email list to keep your fans updated on your music, sell merchandise, let them know of upcoming gigs, etc.
Even if you’re just starting out, I recommend starting to build an email list as soon as you can – you won’t regret it.
7. Contribute to the music production community
he music industry is all about relationships! Music production can be a lonely activity, so reaching out to like-minded people online is a great way to start making connections.
Rather than asking and taking, try contributing, too – someone might really appreciate your help. Sure…ask questions – people love to help – but remember to answer questions, too, or link to resources you think other producers will find useful.
8. Be bold!
Don’t let fear of criticism stop you from getting your music out there. You WILL get criticised from time to time…that’s essential, and it’s absolutely fine.
There are three types of criticism:
1. Constructive. When you get feedback on your music from people who know what they’re talking about. This is essential for improvement, and worth listening to.
2. Misleading. This is where you ask your Gran if she likes your filthy, X-rated, porn sampling industrial drum ‘n’ bass track. Spoiler alert: she doesn’t. Similarly, if you ask a friend who’s only into Norwegian Death Metal whether they like your Deep House track, chances are they won’t. Not because it’s not good – just because it’s not to their taste. So seek feedback from the right people.
3. Destructive. From trolls and haters. This hurts, but try to remember it really isn’t personal. Delete, block, move on. It’s from people who don’t know you – most likely lashing out because they’re a) jealous that you’re trying to do something with your life or b) frustrated with their own life.
Once you accept that you can’t achieve anything without criticism, it makes it a little easier to bear when it (inevitably) happens.
9. Enjoy yourself – it will shine through in your music
This is key! Try not to forget when striving for your idea of music success that you started this journey out of a love for music and production. Life’s too short not to enjoy making music.
10. Look after yourself
A bit of an obvious one, but easy to forget. Stay healthy, stay well, and don’t cane it too hard (too often!). It’s much easier to produce music if you’re not perpetually tired.
Feel free to reach out: firstname.lastname@example.org