8 New Year Resolutions Towards Being A Better Producer
New year, new you? Okay, we’re tired about such posts on Facebook and Instagram. Let’s talk about some real resolutions you can make as a music producer who’s hustling in the very crazy music industry.
The problem with many resolutions is they are set too far beyond reach that people eventually give up on them. So instead of simply throwing out resolutions, I urge you to sit down, think and plan your resolutions properly.
Like you, I myself have looked into some resolutions of my own. So instead of advising you on your resolutions, I’d list a few realisti’ resolutions of mine in this post and hopefully you could learn from them.
1 – Commit Time For Learning
Ever heard someone say they don’t have time for practice or learning? I simply don’t have time! Look, I’m fully booked with gigs up to my nose. I’ve too much work. I’ve to take the laundry out.
Guilty as charged. However saying you don’t have time is simply an excuse. There is no such things as ‘no time’ but only priorities. It’s a matter of placing your immediate priorities on top of the others.
This year, commit some time into learning. We usually forget about taking some time off to learn & improve oneself while going through our usual busy schedule of working on tons of music projects and recording. Learning is important these days as the entry barrier to producing music gets smaller and smaller everyday. What really differentiates you from other producers is your skillset and talent.
So what should you learn?
Look into things that can potentially make you a better music producer. For me, I’ll be taking some time off to refine and practice on my chords. Here are some fields of learning that you could do this year to improve your production skills.
- Learn & study music theory
- Get your grips on chords & chord progressions
- Practice producing a different genre
- Learn the proper techniques of recording
- Practice orchestration and arrangements techniques
I’ve simply laid out a few things that I find most of students lack. Most of us (me included) delve into daily work so much that we forget to take time to improve our skills. The takeaway keypoint here is to commit your time into learning. Even if you have a very busy schedule, taking a few minutes to learn something daily will do you good.
Suggestions to put learning into your busy schedule
Listen to Audiobooks while driving.
Instead of wasting your hours driving on the road, use that precious time to listen to an audiobook. You can find a large selections of audiobooks on Audible. You could listen to an audiobook on the music industry, recording business or even about something totally unrelated to music. Just make sure you’re learning something new everyday.
Commit 30 Minutes To Learn In The Morning
Your mind is fresh in the morning and you should take advantage to absorb something new. Commit 30 minutes to learn from books or e-learning sites like Udemy or Groove3 before heading to work. Rinse and repeat process.
Some people find it better to learn at night before they fall asleep. While I find that to be unproductive for me, you could find learning at night more effective. Adjust your time accordingly, just as long as you take time to learn.
Learn from people better than yourself
Sometimes learning don’t come from books, videos and blogs alone. It comes from mentors and people who are more experienced than yourself.
While these potential mentors could have a schedule 10X crazier than yours, one trick I found is to buy lunch or dinner for them. Everybody have to eat and you can take that opportunity to buy him or her a meal, then learn from their experiences by talking and asking questions.
2 – Finish Music & Projects You Started
How many unfinished projects do you have on your hard drive? Be honest, the chances are you have tons of them.
One of my resolutions this year is to open those old projects which I didn’t finish and work on finishing them. Some of my old projects are as short as only 8 bars done, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is you finish those projects no matter how bad you think they sound.
This can benefit you on several levels.
You force yourself to be creative. Re-listening to my old projects & music makes me cringe but this is where you can force creativity out of yourself. Force yourself to continue from where you stopped. Don’t worry if it doesn’t sound too great. What matters is that you’re putting your creative juices to work. Besides, who knows? You might strike a great composition or arrangement hit from one of your abandoned projects, which you never will if you didn’t work on them.
You can look at monetizing your old projects. There have been countless of times when I took on a few old abandoned projects sitting in my hard drive, rework the melodies and arrangement and then finally finishing a piece of music which I then put up for sale on stock music sites. Because you already something half done, it’s faster to finish them up than as compared to starting a new song from a blank arrangement window.
One of the best stock music site I sell music on is Audiojungle.
3 – Leverage On A Website & Put Your Music/Recording Portfolio Up
It’s year 2016 and you don’t have a website up yet? I was reviewing the projects that I’ve done in my entire music career so far and I was amazed at the number projects & recordings that I’ve actually been through.
However I’m the only one who knows about them. My resolution this year is to write and post up about all the projects and beef up my portfolio on my website, reubenchng.com. This year alone, I a had a few new clients who contacted me for music work through my website.
While my website focuses on my portfolio and me offering my music compositions & arrangement services, your website could focus on many other things. Suppose you’re a musician or band who would like to get more gig bookings. Or perhaps you are good in mixing tracks and would like to offer your services online. Your website online can act as a namecard, portfolio page or even a sales page. After all having a website only shows people that you’re serious in what you do.
How do I get started on building a website?
There are many ways to get a website up without spending too much or even spending anything at all.
WordPress is favourite platform to build websites and blogs. In fact, Audio Mentor is built on a WordPress platform. WordPress originally was meant to be a web platform for blogging. But through the years it has evolved into a robust CMS (content management system) that enables you to build great looking websites with all the functions you need from displaying your music tracks to selling them.
Best part of all? WordPress is free. You could register for free blog on WordPress.com or go the custom way and build your own custom WordPress powered website.
Here is a nice premium WordPress music theme that I’d recommend for studio owners & musicians: www.themeforest.net/musicthemes
And if you need to learn how to build WordPress sites, you can find some free courses on Udemy
Using Web Builders like Wix or Weebly
Another option to building sites is to use something like Wix, a website creator. While using a website builder might sound like a good idea because it’s simple, I wouldn’t recommend using website builders.
The reason for that is because you’ll be somewhat limited if you build your site with a website builder. In the future, you might want to put in extra functionality on your website, for example a payment system, your gig ticketing system or even a calendar for your studio booking. Unfortunately, website builders don’t give you that sort of flexibility when it comes to adding more sophisticated functions on your website.
However if you only want to build simple static sites, website builders like Wix or Weebly would be good enough.
4 – Collaborate With People Around The Globe
Working with different people opens up to new ideas and creativity. Another resolution of mine this year is to work with other people around the world.
Instead of trying to produce and promote music all by yourself, look into creative collaborations. Don’t know how to play the guitar? Find someone on YouTube and drop him/her a message to collaborate.
There is something you should know though. When people get your invitation emails on collaboration, they’ll be skeptical. What is in it for me?
So when you write your emails or messages, state down the reason you’d like to collaborate and how you could help him/her as well. Would you be able to promote the finished collab to your network of fans as well? Do you already have a music fanbase that you could potentially reach out to? Most would look into their benefits of a collaboration before actually working with you.
Looking for collaborators can be very difficult, won’t lie about that. If you’re unable to find people who are serious on collaborating, you can actually pay for ghost singers and musicians. And they don’t have to necessary cost a lot.
Suppose you composed an EDM track and you badly need a vocal take on your track. For as low as $5, you can find vocal secessionists on websites such as Fiverr. One of the problems I faced with trying to get people to work on my track is scheduling a good time for them to drop by the studio. So sometimes, when time is tight, I’ll look into websites such as Fiverr to get secessionists to work on my project. Besides vocal secessionists, you can also find musicians & secessionists who would be happy to record riffs on your track.
Pretty amazing? Yes it is.
5 – Take The Time To Learn Your Software & VSTs
If you follow my videos, you’ll notice that I do not own a lot of synths, VSTs and samplers. My setup is actually pretty minimal! Heck it’s 2016 and I’m still making music on Cubase 7.
Why you ask? Well, because that’s all I need to make great music. Having new soft synths and VSTs in your DAW can be exciting but I found many aspiring producers (including myself) not actually utilizing the VSTs and effects that we already have. It’s easy to fall into the temptation to buy new softwares and plugins everytime something new hit the shores. But that mindset has to go this year.
This year, instead of frequently browsing the internet and your mails for new software upgrades and plugins, do yourself some justice by actually learning the plugins you have in your system thoroughly. I previously bought Komplete 9 that came with lots of synths and softwares, but I’m yet to actually master all the synths. To be honest, I’ve yet to even try ‘The Finger‘ & ‘The Mouth‘ by Tim Exile that was included in the Komplete 9 package (now Komplete 10).
Yes, I’m guilty as charged, but I’m sure you are too.
Let’s take the time to properly learn to use the tools we already have. There is nothing wrong using stock plugins that came with your DAW. It’s production skills that matters at the end of the day.
6 – Pick Up A New Instrument
Do you have an instrument you’ve always wished you knew how to play but never actually learnt how to play it? This year is the year to pick up a new instrument.
As a music arranger and producer, it’s important to understand instruments and its capabilites. What is the lowest note a bass guitarist is able to play? Would a trumpet player be able to play a long music passage without having rests to breathe? How does a guitarist strum chords? Can flutist play a slurred octave in succession?
If you know the answers to those questions, you’re doing great. The truth is, many music arrangers who produce music don’t even know how low a bass guitarist can realistically play. It might not seem like a big deal since we are able to program MIDI, understanding instruments are the key essentials to being able to arrange & program a realistic sounding tracks.
As a pianist & violinist, I didn’t know how to program a realistic guitar riff back then. But it was learning about the guitar, the strings found on the guitar and observing guitarists play before I was able to arrange and program a realistic sounding guitar track using VSTs.
The best way to learn and understand an instrument is to experience playing it yourself. So picking up a new instruments can actually improve your sound. Alongside being able to play a new instrument, you also expand your knowledge when it comes to music arranging.
7 – Learn A New Skill Beyond Music
It’s a common misconception to think that one should only focus on music subjects if your life goal is to be a successful musician, artists or producer. Have you met someone who has a daytime office job and then goes to play gigs at night?
The truth is there’s nothing wrong in doing something other than music. There are in fact many types of skills you can learn that would help you excel your music career.
Take me for example. My knowledge in web designing and digital marketing has led me towards being able to build a site to share helpful production & music business tutorials with people around the world. Acquiring the skill to speak and make videos, gave me the ability to be able to record tutorials and do webcasting. And finally my skills in sales & marketing has helped me sustain my recording studio and close more music deals.
So this year, think out the box. Don’t limit yourself. It’s time to acquire a new skill. My resolution this year is to study Economics. With a better understanding into economics, both micro & macro economics, I’ll be able to push my music career into greater heights.
You could have different skills that you’d like to acquire this year. Would learning the skill of accounting help you in your studio finances? Will learning how to do sales, help you in striking more music deals?
So where can you learn new skills?
Meet New People & Treat People Meals
Experience is often the best teacher. One of the best ways to learn new skills is to have someone to show you how. For example, I’m a dummy in investments. So instead of trying scour the internet to read about bias news everywhere, I reached out to a friend whom trusted & I knew was an expert in the field of financial investments, bought him a meal and started asking questions.
Subscribe To Magazines
If you’re a creative someone who gets distracted easily, reading magazines can be easier on you. While I personally feel magazines are 50% advertisements, 20% fluff and only 30% of the real deal, some people find it easier to lay back, relax and read a magazine. Check our your local newsstand, use the iPad newsstand app or browse Zinio for the titles you want.
Enroll for Online Classes
I’ve sing praises for online learning platforms because of the convenience and low price to learn new things. Here are some of my favorite sites to learn new skills.
Udemy – One of the best learning experience on the internet. Be careful when purchasing courses though
Groove3 – I learnt a lot of music production knowledge by just watching the videos on Groove 3
AskAudio – Ask Audio is something like Groove3, only that I found some courses to contain lots of fluff
Curious – Curious about the world? Curious is where you can learn any skill you want in the world. Even how to roll your tongue!
8 – Work On Different Projects (Diversification)
Again it’s a common misconception to think that being a music producer means only working on recordings and music projects. Working on different projects can provide you with great learning while also bringing in cash. This year, try diversify your work beyond only working in the studio and recording musicians.
The type of projects you can work on will differ to according to your current skill sets and whether you have a recording studio at your disposal. Here are 4 diversification ideas for the independent music producer.
#1 – Game & Sound Design
The gaming industry is growing fast because of digital delivery platforms like Steam, which made it easy for many people to search and buy games. There is also a rise of smaller game titles developed by smaller companies or even individual game developers.
So what’s in store for us, music producers? Well no great game is without good music and remarkable sound design. There are tons of game developers looking for music composers and sound designers to work with them. The game industry is showing no signs off diminishing but only getting bigger and bigger. Even big name composers such as Hans Zimmer and Brian Tyler are found to work on music for games.
#2 – Audio Restoration & Forensics
Do you know there is a market for audio restoration, dialogue noise suppression and speech enhancement? They are usually needed int he world of criminal and civil law, court and security.
Your job here is to extract and restore badly distorted or contaminated audio and improve the listenability and transcription for the purpose of audio forensic investigation.
For the experience audio producer, this would be in your expertise domain and can potentially bring you some good money. Softwares like RX 5 Izotope or CEDAR can be used for audio restoration & forensics jobs.
#3 – Voiceovers & Jingles
Voice overs can be profitable. If you have a great voice, you can lend your voice to commercials and product videos that are increasingly in demand these days. Get in contact with marketing agencies or video producers and tell them you’d like to send in a few voice demos.
In some cases if you don’t consider yourself a voice talent (like myself), you could be the ‘agent’ to help agencies recruit voiceover talents and record them in your studio. Providing voice over services in the studio has open doors to opportunities that I would have never got, should I never have provide voice over & jingle creation services.
#4 – Location Recording
Instead of hoping to record every project in your studio, think about providing location recording for your clients as well. There are people who will need location recording services. Some examples of location recording I’ve done are:
- Meeting & Conference Recordings
- Concert & play recordings
- Location music recording
- Film recording, documentaries & music videos
As you can see, there are lots of job prospects you can look at beyond the walls of your studio. Invest in a portable handy recorder like the Zoom H6 or better yet, the Zoom F8 Field Recorder for your location recording needs. Besides the good money you’re able to get from doing location recording, going out the studio once in a while can give you a fresh perspective.
I hope you’ll find some useful things in this long post!
I hope this year would be great year for you, while you keep pursuing your music dreams and career. What are your other resolutions that I’ve not mentioned in this post? Comment below because I’d like to learn from you too.