How To Become an Audio Nomad, Produce Music & Travel The World
I remember the time when I first built my humble home recording studio. I started off as a music arranger, but the thought of having my own recording studio and a space to work began itching in very quickly.
So I read all the best-selling books to building a home studio I could get my hands on and scoured the internet for almost every tip & trick I could get, to build a home recording studio. What are types of acoustic foam I could use? The construction of the entire room. Everything.
Few months down the road and finally found myself in a humble self-built recording studio. It wasn’t the best studio, but it worked.
Composing and recording music in the small studio of mine was a dream came true. I loved every minute of it. Even my friends love visiting and hanging out at the studio. It was surreal, fun and most importantly, very inspiring to make music in.
However, few years down the road, something changed.
The recording studio that I was making great music in didn’t feel so inspiring anymore. I dreaded sitting to work in that studio.
That was then I realized that making great music is not just about sitting in an oddly shaped room for the rest of your life.
I started taking my work outdoors. And work while I traveled to different places. The experiences I gain through the travels gave me a different thinking perspective and have added to the creativity of my music.
Then I realized, that I’m wasn’t the only music producer doing this. There were many music producers, who travel the world while working and making really good music.
The ‘traveling music producer’ and why do it?
You may be a music producer who owns and produces music at your own recording studio. As time passes, you may feel like you lack inspiration because of the same daily routine.
Maybe you just want to meet more people to collaborate with.
Well, the most interesting thing you can do is travel. Traveling as a music producer may be fun but it is not going to be an easy thing to do.
Though, there are many perks, to traveling as a music producer.
One of them is meeting new people who have the same interest. Often, you get to explore the different musical influence and styles people bring with them. That itself, would at a lot into your music arsenal.
Expanding your circle of music producers, audio engineers, and your network will come useful when you need help in certain situations.
However, despite all of it sounding like a dream, it’s not easy to travel as a music producer, mainly due to the many pieces of equipment you’ll need to produce music.
Besides, traveling takes up lots of time, energy and money. You need to plan your time properly, the type of music gear to bring along, manage your money well & business well – along with many other things.
Let’s start with the music gear a traveling music producer, or the ‘audio nomad’ brings.
What You’ll Need For Your Portable Recording Studio
You may have the best studio monitors, mic preamps, and audio interface, in your recording studio but when it comes to traveling as a music producer, you often don’t get to carry that many gears with you.
The most important thing to bring along is the necessities to be able to produce music, such as:
- A decent pair of monitor headphones
- A portable audio interface
- Portable audio recorder.
- A carry-size MIDI controller
- Decent spec laptop
- A hard drive or SSD containing all of your sessions.
The difference between bringing along an audio interface and a portable recorder depends on what you do as a music producer.
As a traveling audio engineer, a small sized audio interface usually does the trick.
You could go without a MIDI controller, but according to most music producers that we’ve talked to, having at least carry-size MIDI controller helps.
I’d advise getting a MIDI controller with more keys rather than pads. While pads may be fun to play with, when it comes to practicality, you can program drums using keys as well.
It is key to keep things minimalistic when traveling because you don’t want to have a bag or luggage filled with heavy gear, weighing you down.
Also, note that with extra gear, comes the extra cost. If you fly a lot, flight companies would often charge more for heavier or bulkier items that you bring onboard.
Keep in mind, that besides your music gear, you still have your daily living essentials that you bring along.
Here are some examples of really bang for your buck equipment when traveling as a music producer.
Audio Interface/Portable Recorder:
- Focusrite Scarlett (Solo, 2i2, 2i4)
- Audient iD4
- Apogee Duet (Only for Mac)
- Presonus 2|6 USB Audio Interface
We’ve briefly talked about music gear for traveling, but if you like to explore travel-friendly recording gear, check our old post out here: The 5 Studio Equipment You Can’t Leave Home Without.”
3 Solid Advice When It Comes To Travelling
1. Managing Your Time
Time is gold when it comes to traveling and you have to make the most out of it. This is because opportunities and open doors are at hand and you don’t want to miss them.
Because traveling takes lots of time, naturally you’ll find that you need to work at odd hours, where others are not working.
Always watch your time. You’ll hear all sort of advice such as, get up early in the morning! Use this app to stay super productive! Want to know how to stay productive and manage your time wisely?
Stop obsessing over the perfect productivity app or perfect strategy to use.
Here’s what works for me:
Write down 6 things to do every day. (Only six!). I know music producers and folks, who often write a really long list of things to do and then completely fail to finish everything. After a while, they stopped the habit of writing a to-do list.
The reason for writing only 6 things to do, is so you focus on your top priorities only. They could be something like this.
- 9 AM – Finish Ricky’s mixing project
- 11 AM – Clean up and transcribe orchestral scores.
- 1 PM – Lunch & meet Steve, the producer
- 3 PM – Vocal recording with Nancy
- 5:30 PM – Settle flight tickets to Peru
- 8 PM – Dinner & scale practice.
Write it down in a book, a piece of paper or Google Calendar. Where you write it doesn’t matter. Just commit to only 6 major tasks in a day and stick to it.
Do that, and you will see just how much you are able to actually achieve in a day.
Other than that, when traveling, try not to waste too much time lazing around in the hotel. You may be there only once in your life, but be extremely careful of setting up your calendar for work and pleasure.
2. Spending Money Wisely
It’s expensive to travel.
When traveling, always keep track of your spendings and plan for the future.
Exchange rates in different countries differ depending on where you officially stay. It is good to keep this in mind because if you are traveling to a country with a high exchange rate, you may want to plan how cash you want to spend, exchange and bring along.
Rule #1 – Everything Can & Should be Negotiated
Don’t live like a beggar, but whenever its possible, you should negotiate. I’m not saying that you should start negotiating the price of your flight tickets. Then again, it’s possible to hunt down the cheapest flight tickets with the use of clever alerts.
Things such as apartment rents or project fees can be negotiated.
Let’s take your apartment rents as an example.
Before going into a negotiation, you need to know what you bring to the table. Going directly to the owner and saying, hey, I want a $100 deduction in the rent, isn’t going to get you anywhere. Negotiation starts by clearly understanding the intentions of both parties and positioning your offer in a way that clearly benefits you and the other side.
Landlords will be happy to lower the rental rates for:
- A longer lease, giving them security for the next few months
- Tell them that you don’t smoke at home (So they can easily rent it out to the next tenant.)
- Offer few months/weeks of advance payment.
What other offers that you can think off when negotiating?
Rule #2 – Don’t Minimize. Maximize Effort Instead
In his book, Grant advises people to start taking more action rather than to downsize. When people are hit with financial difficulties or project setbacks, they often look to cut down expenses and start spending even more frugal.
For us as music producers, this means cutting down on buying new plugins, audio equipment and maybe lattes at the local coffee shop.
However, cutting down on $5 lattes every day isn’t going to make you rich. What’s going to make you live comfortably, is when you maximize your effort and start producing more. Start looking for more opportunities for work and projects that you can take on.
Often you’ll find that with the right effort placed in, you’ll find yourself getting exposed to more opportunities. Always maximize effort, not minimize your standards.
Other than that, make sure to give yourself a spending budget limit. While maximizing effort and looking for opportunities works great, you’ll need enough time to do it. Don’t blow all your money into touristy stuff when visiting a new city or location. Often times many travelers, get carried away and spends money on unnecessary things, just because they’re visiting a new place.
Businesses know this habit and often use it on their customers.
Have you walked into a restaurant before, telling yourself that you’re going to only spend $20? As you flip the menu, you ordered a lasagna for $15 and a drink for $2. The waiter then told you about an offer to get an extra dessert for only $5 extra. Chances that you’ll get the dessert is high, because you thought, “oh well since I’m here, I might as well get it.”
As a traveling music producer, you need to be aware of this and know how to budget your spendings wisely.
3. Live Like A Local
One of the biggest mistakes made by travelers or working nomads, when traveling, is to live like a tourist or foreigner.
When traveling to different places, the best way to budget your spendings and maintain a sustainable lifestyle is to live like a local. This isn’t the same as taking a holiday. You’re traveling to different places, but also working at the same time.
Observe what the locals do, how they transit around the city and where they get their meals.
Usually, the secret to sustaining a lifestyle in a foreign place is to simply live like a local.
Making Money & Working on Audio Projects While Traveling
Today, taking music production as your career is something only maniacs would do. Don’t believe me? If you’ve just finished schooling or college, tell your parents that you want to start a career, composing and producing music, and observe the way they look at you. Or if you’re married, tell your wife that you’re planning to quit your full-time job at the office and become a full-time independent music producer.
Its tough to survive and thrive as a music producer these days. Let alone, traveling the world and doing it.
The first thing you need to understand is that the rules of the music industry have changed. Drop the thinking of traditional music producers of the yesteryears. While musicians made some money by selling records on CDs, do you think CDs will still sell well in this era?
Yet, you see thousands of young aspiring musicians and producers, coming up with CDs & physical albums – just because that’s what musicians seem to do for decades.
So understand that the industry has changed immensely and learn to adapt to it. This requires you to start thinking creatively about bringing in music projects, creating income flows and building sustainability.
Quick Money Making Ideas for Music Producers
1 – Produce Music for Games
The gaming industry is growing at a ridiculous rate. With the availability of cross-platform gaming – desktop, console and mobile devices, the industry is showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, the mobile gaming market was expected to grow up to $108.9B in the year 2017 alone.
What does this mean for music composers and producers?
This opens up a market for producers to go into composing game music, creating sound effects, recording Foley, voice-overs and doing sound design. Even prolific film composers such as Brian Tyler, have been actively composing music for games.
It’s easy to get started with game music & sound design. Here’s a list of stuff you probably need at bare minimum.
- A decent music production laptop – Game music requires you to compose to picture. You’ll need the CPU firepower.
- Sound design plugins & samples – Collect as many samples as you can and get reliable VSTs instruments & synths. You’ll need them.
- An audio interface – If you’re doing sound design or foley, you’ll need to record sound, so get a decent interface.
- Online presence – You don’t have to be a superstar producer. You’d want to be active in game development forums and offer help to potential game developers you can work with.
As you’re starting out, you’ll find it easier to start working on projects with independent mobile game developers. There are tons of these people around, and most of them need help with good music & sound design to make their game stand out. Just reach out to them and offer help.
2 – Produce Stock Music & Instrumentals
The beauty of producing stock music & instrumentals is the recurring income you get – if your music sells.
If you don’t know yet, stock music or royalty-free music is usually bought to be placed into commercial screenings and applications. Think about music people use in a commercial, a short film, a game or a corporate video.
While selling stock music may seem like a low-income venture, don’t underestimate the power of recurring income. If you build a library filled with high-quality stock music that sells, you might even find producing stock music to be your main revenue.
There are few online stock music libraries you can try today.
To be successful in stock music, you need to put yourself in the shoes of the people who will potentially buy your music. What kind of music are they looking for? If I’m making a romantic wedding video, what kind of music would I want?
As for instrumentals, there are thousands of rappers and hip-hoppers looking for beats to put their lyrics in. Many of them do not have the skills necessary to produce a good sounding track, so that’s where you can come in.
3 – Make Sample Packs & Loops
Music producers around the world, especially computer-based producers are always in constant look for the freshest and most unique sample packs and loops that they can use in their tracks.
To some, using samples and loops are somewhat ‘cheating.’ But if you reframe your view around it, you’re simply buying recordings that you can’t record yourself, because of playing capability or mobility. How you creatively use it in your music, later on, is where the real creativity comes in.
That said, if you’re great with recording unique sounds and good at sound design, you should try to take a shot at creating loops and samples. Being successful in this domain requires you to be consistent in coming out with unique sample packs and try to be unique whenever possible. Creating the next 808 kick sample pack isn’t going to get you anywhere far. But coming out with a ‘Duduk’ sample pack might get you in a very profitable niche.
Don’t know what a Duduk instrument is? Google it, or listen to that ‘flute’ from the Dota 2 anthem below: (The person who created the video didn’t know what a Duduk is.)
Getting Ideas & Practice When Traveling
LakeyInspired makes music anywhere!
This must be the best part to travel as a music producer. You get to see new places, see the fascinating sites of the world and experience different things. This is when fresh ideas start to come in.
Sometimes just sitting down and working on something new is great because it forces you to bring something that is not just out of inspiration but rather out of pure hard work & experimentation.
I found that with traveling, you can quickly get rusty at your music and technical playing proficiency. Using an online virtual piano keyboard keeps you close to the art, where you can quickly take down musical ideas or audition as you travel.
An app I sometimes use, to get a quick fix at improving my music & technical playing proficiency is OnlinePianist. It works on my iPhone, iPad, or laptop, and normally I find myself practicing and learning with it during long bus rides or flights. The idea here is to maximize your time as much as possible and try to have as little unproductive downtime as possible.
Downsides To Being An Audio Nomad?
Being a traveling music producer or audio nomad is a huge commitment. It isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Despite what the media tries to tell you, while there are perks to being someone who can travel the world and make a living at the same time, there are few downsides to being an audio nomad.
The points below came from experience, and I hope it gives you some insights and food for thought before you boldly exit your front door, to a world full of mystery.
1. You will most probably be traveling alone (at first).
When planning your first trip and being an audio nomad, you will most probably be traveling alone. If you’re perfectly okay with being alone most of the time, then this shouldn’t be an issue.
However, if you’re someone who yearns for human interaction to stay sane, perhaps its time to polish your networking and communication skills.
2. You may find it hard to find a place to stay
The tough part about being a music producer who travels is finding a place to stay. Hotels would be out of the question, as your goal is to live like a local.
The trick here is to be resourceful to find places that allow you to rent or stay for a certain time length.
If you’ve never been traveling much before being a traveling music producer, you’ll quickly hit into homesickness. You’ll miss the comforts and stability of home, and perhaps your family and friends too. This is something to keep in mind if you are planning to travel.
4. Not knowing anybody at all
There is one fear that many people can relate to when traveling. The fear of not having anybody around you that will lend a helping help when trouble hits. If you’re traveling with a friend, then this shouldn’t be a huge issue, but when you’re doing it alone, you have to have plans for when trouble arises.
Who can you go for help? Where should you go if you’re feeling unwell?
5. Expensive plane tickets
Purchasing flight tickets can be expensive without pre-planning your trips. To travel for much less, consider using websites like Airfare Watch Dog to get alerts of cheaper flight tickets for the destinations you’d like to go.
There are many great and wonderful reasons to travel as a music producer.
Being able to see new places, absorb new experiences and collaborate with different music producers, is only the start of this whole exciting adventure.
But you want to look at sustainability, and this includes careful management of your money and time. If not used wisely, your traveling adventure could be quickly cut short.
If you’re seriously looking to attempt being a traveling producer, I suggest reading Aleix Ramon’s guide to being an audio nomad, learning from his experiences and then applying it to your own.
All said and done, I want to know what you think about traveling as a music producer.
Are you already a traveling music producer or audio nomad yourself? Are you thinking of diving into it? If you are a traveling music producer/audio nomad yourself, what are your favorite things about traveling and what do you dislike about traveling?
Let us know in the comment section below.