[Sky’s note: this was an email sent out to our email list a few months ago. Join our list]
Is it better to work up to greatness, or to be great to begin with?
This past week, I’ve been spending a lot of time with a good friend, currently attending ICON Collective in Los Angeles. ICON is by the far the top electronic music production school in the world.
When he first started ICON, he told me something.
“I’m not going to release anything unless it’s good enough to be on Buygore.”
He has amazing music hidden away, waiting for the right time. He sends it to friends, gets feedback, but stays lowkey until he knows his skills are sharpened to kill.
This sounds ridiculous at first. How am I expected to make music, then never publish it? What about my current fans? What about starting as a local DJ and then working my way to the top? Isn’t that what it’s about?
The Two Paths
1. The used-to-suck producer. The UTS producer starts a SoundCloud and releases the WORST mashups, bootlegs, etc. that you or I can imagine. He 100% relies on his friends, who don’t produce music, to hype him up and say how good he is. I think we could all name 5 people who are like this.
Over time, the UTS producer gets better, and works his way up the ranks. The tunes get better, the live shows get more prestigious. There’s a long trail showing the progression of the producer from used-to-suck, to kinda-good, to great. It’s awesome. He’s a hometown hero. But by hiding the learning process, he could have been a seemingly overnight-success.
2. The who-the-fuck producer. Who the fuck is Marshmello? Zhu? Slushii? WTF producers receive ridiculous amounts of attention because they seem to come out of no where. While we know these producers worked extremely hard to get where they are, there is no evidence of them really ever being bad at music. There were no photos of Marshmello DJing his senior prom, or shitty dubstep tracks from 2011 still on Slushii’s SoundCloud.
These are fresh identities.
Turns out, Slushii is a dude named Julian, who decided to burn his brand as a UTS producer and become a WTF producer. He changed his name, created a new identity, and is released a shit ton of good music before anyone who catch up to who he actually was.
In a month, Slushii has gone from 0-50k followers on SoundCloud, signed a management deal with one of the most prestigious manager , and has been featured on all the blogs producers salivate over.
1. Do I want to be a UTS or a WTF producer? Do I want to come out of nowhere or be a slow, steady build? Every producer is different, but I find the slow-building UTS producers are often frustrated with not making progress, while producers who wait to release find massive success in a short timeframe.
Blueprint for WTF Producers
1. Don’t release a track unless it’s good enough for your favorite music channel. It doesn’t have to be Bassnectar or Above & Beyond or Porter Robinson, but good enough to be released through a good outlet. Get your first track featured or debuted on a prestigious promo channel.
2. Don’t release a track unless you have two more to follow. Consistency is key. Don’t be a 1-hit wonder and release a good tune every three months. The best producers release as much good music as possible because they know that their audience grows every time they release a song.
3.Don’t release a track unless your identity is on point. Dig at finding your sound, pay for good logos, think up a good name, find your image. Hell, buy a clean looking website (which, shameless plug, I can design for you–reply if you’re interested). Make yourself appear as legit as possible from the start.
4. Develop relationships in secret. Build your network along with your musical chops. Befriend talented producers, bloggers, and other industry people who have a good head on their shoulders. The easiest way to make friends is to give, give, give, give, give. When the time’s come to unveil your WTF project to the world, call in all your favors you’ve been building up for years (not days, months, not weeks, years). [Read more about building relationships in the music industry]
5. Do the work. Nothing will replace doing the work. Sit down every day and sesh out your DAW. Write a song every day, or every week. Be consistent. You improve over quantity finished, not time-spent on projects. Send tracks to friends, get feedback, fix things repeat.
You will know when you’re ready to be the headliner.