Lessons from the past decade: Number 4

1. It’s crazy challenging to be a professional creator
I know a few professional electronic music producers. These are people who have more talent, attention to detail, knowledge, and discipline than I do. They all have multiple jobs and hustle to make money. Its crazy challenging to have a creative pursuit be a source of income. You will mix a ton of stress in with your passion. I made a choice to make music a hobby instead of my profession about a decade ago. That was one of the best decisions I ever made.

2. Facebook likes does not equal happiness
In the last few years I’ve discovered the joy of not caring if more people discover my music. While I would be unsatisfied if I didn’t have an audience at all, I do not believe I would be happier with twice as many facebook likes. I just feel grateful that there are people out there who care about my music. That is sustaining enough. This is another advantage of not requiring music to be a source of income.

3. Hating your newest release
I usually feel lousy about my latest album by the time I release it (though I may not admit it publicly). I am totally burnt out on it, and all I hear are the flaws. I’ve talked with other producers who have experienced the same thing. So if you go through this, then you might be doing it right.

4. Making music is a lot of detail work
The emotional component that I’m capturing when I compose a track happens during a handful of hours. It probably takes a hundred hours to complete a track. When people react emotionally to my music, they figure that I was feeling deeply when creating it. The reality is that the majority of the time is it more like a puzzle that I am trying to put together. I’ve learned to enjoy a puzzle though.

5. Find a mentor
A high level goal for the past 5 or so years is to find a mentor. I feel so incredibly lucky to have found one. It is a paid mentorship, and it is the best investment I could have possibly made. To have someone your respect listen closely to your music and provide concrete feedback is amazing. You need to be at a place in your life where you want to hear criticism and things you should change though. You need to disable your defense mechanism and then sort through all the feedback at a later time.

6. Shortcuts are important
Even though I spend far less time working on music then I used to, I’m far more productive with that time. I learned lots of shortcuts. I’m not afraid to use tools like quantize and doing lots of note manipulation after playing something that felt like there was some juice in it. I usually limit a music session to moving some aspect of a song forward. It makes me feel like I’m always making progress.

7. Find the silver lining
Due to life circumstances, I took a 9 month break from music. It has been awesome to re-discover songs that I haven’t listened to from 9 – 15 months. There’s a gift there. Making an album is really hard. It was like someone handed me a bunch of mature ideas on a platter. This makes it simply joyous to work on these songs.

8. Bad ideas are part of the process
Remind yourself that trying things that don’t work out is not a waste of time. When you find yourself frustrated about a project, put it away and do something else creative.

9. See the forest
Don’t get so lost in the minutia in the track that you forget the feeling you are trying to capture. Most people won’t care about the minutia.

10. Lighting is important
It’s really important to be able to adjust the lighting in your studio. You want to set the right mood for music time.

See all my lessons posts

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Michael Johnson » 14 Jan 2014 » Reply

I’ve been a fan of your music for some time. You are one of the few artists that I never skip when I’ve listening to random play. I always enjoy your music. I was afraid I’d never hear new music from you again when you announced your tinnitus, but this sounds like you might be making a comeback! But even if you don’t, your existing music has had a positive impact on me.

Posts like this (you did another one I read a year or two ago) are an inspiration. They make me hopeful that if I am ever able to make the time to work on music again, I might be able to do something that someone else might enjoy and maybe even find meaning in.

Thank you for all you’ve done, and what you might do in the future :-)


ser tyrion » 13 Feb 2014 » Reply

So glad to read that tinnitus wasn’t totally crippling and you’ve found some new joy in music. I’m looking forward to listening to your new puzzles.

?? ?? » 5 Mar 2014 » Reply

l made a similar decision half year ago too. That, turn my most interests into hobby.
But I just started to worry if I made a wrong choice.
I am really grateful to hear from someone I admire that they did the similar choices.
I still have a long way too go.
keep it up, bro!

Miles » 12 Mar 2014 » Reply

I love reading your creative insights and I feel much more connected to you and your music because of it. And because of all that, in the end I feel much more connected to my most inspired self. So thank you.

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