Lesson 1: The 5 Mistakes That Almost All New Producers Make

Presented by EDM Foundations

 

People make mistakes in all creative fields.

Beginners tend to make more mistakes.

For today’s lesson, I’ll share 5 common mistakes that new producers make. Maybe you’ve made some of these mistakes, maybe you’re making them, or maybe you’re about to make them.

Whatever the case, think about them. Challenge your assumptions. Think about whether you’re using your production time effectively and whether you’re learning as best you can.

#1 – They think it’s easy (and become overconfident as a result)

If you know what the Dunning-Kruger Effect is, then you know why so many new producers make this mistake.

Whenever you pursue a new hobby or activity—whether it be creative or not—you have a tendency to think that you’re better than you actually are.

I experienced this early on as a producer.

I’d been making music for around 3 months. I was terrible, but I didn’t know it at the time.

A friend of mine was busy making flash games and wanted me to produce a song for one of them. So I did.

Yep, that’s right. The ripe old age of 14 and getting my first song on a commercial platform. Did I think I was the boss? Hell yeah I did.

So I decided I’d crack the freelance market and make a healthy living. You know, producing songs for adverts, games, movies. Whatever came my way really.

But I got rejected. Almost every time. The only time I didn’t get rejected was a job where I was paid $8 for a track. $8 for more than 4 hours of work.

As a new producer, when you think music production is easy, you put in less work. You start chasing opportunities that you’re not ready for instead of actually practicing and getting better. You start to develop an ego (which makes it hard for people to like you and help you).

My recommendation? Accept the fact that it’s hard, and that that’s not a bad thing. Almost all creative work is hard. That’s what makes it so satisfying—pushing through the pain. Working through the struggle.

#2 – They spend too much time on promotion

Great music accelerates well-structured marketing efforts.

In other words, even the best marketing cannot make up for average music. You might be able to get plays, but you aren’t going to get committed followers, and followers are what you need to thrive in today’s industry.

Given this, it makes sense to get your music to a significant level of quality before focusing on marketing. That way, your marketing efforts will go further. You’ll have a better shot at going viral, getting press coverage, and so forth.

If your goal is to be known, then the best thing you can do in your early days is to work diligently on your music. Don’t worry about getting on YouTube promotional channels or labels. Don’t worry about how many followers you have on Soundcloud.

Stop seeking validation and put in the work.

“Work is finding yourself alone at the track when the weather kept everyone else indoors. Work is pushing through the pain and crappy first drafts and prototypes. It is ignoring whatever plaudits others are getting, and more importantly, ignoring whatever plaudits you may be getting. Because there is work to be done. Work doesn’t want to be good. It is made so, despite the headwind.” — Ryan Holiday

#3 – They value fancy techniques over fundamental skills

Everybody wants to know how to do the cool stuff.

A new martial artist wants to learn the fancy spinning kicks instead of the fundamentals.

A new skateboarder wants to learn how to kickflip before learning to ollie.

And new producers want to learn how to make complex, impressive sounding basses before learning how to write chords.

Fancy techniques aren’t bad. They add to your repertoire of tools and ideas. But they’re the last thing you want to focus on as a new producer.

As a new producer, you need to develop fundamental skills.

You need to learn how to write good chord progressions and melodies.

You need to know how to arrange a track in a way that keeps the listener engaged.

You need to know how to program a great drum pattern.

You need to know basic mixing skills so that your track sounds clear and punchy.

You’ll find, also, that after you learn the fundamentals, fancy techniques will actually make sense to you because they have a foundation to lie on.

#4 – They don’t form strong creative habits

If I could go back in time and give one piece of advice to my 14-year-old self (the age I started producing), it would be the following…

Stop playing Runescape, you’re wasting too much time.

No, it wouldn’t be that. Runescape taught me a lot about life.

It would be…

“Produce music for an uninterrupted 90 minutes per day, every day.”

If you can form creative habits—like the one above—early on in your journey as a producer, it will make life a lot easier.

Not only that, but you’ll progress faster. You’ll finish more music. You’ll be more reliable (helpful during collaborations). You’ll feel more satisfied in general.

You’ll be in the 1% of new producers who actually care about forming creative habits like this. Unfortunately, most new producers just play it by ear. They don’t have routines. They don’t block out time. They don’t keep focus.

Focus is the other important part. You need a routine, and you need to develop the ability to focus.

A great book that talks all about the importance of focus is Cal Newport’s Deep Work. I also introduce some of the concepts in this article.

#5 – They give up too soon

“Expert performers develop their extraordinary abilities through years and years of dedicated practice, improving step by step in a long, laborious process. There are no shortcuts.” —Anders Ericsson

 

The “Talent Gene” doesn’t exist. According to Anders Ericsson, one of the leading scientists on the subject of expertise, innate ability plays a much smaller (and different role) than we think (source: Peak: Secrets From the New Science of Expertise, Chapter 8 – But What about Natural Talent?)

The reason I mention this is that I’ve seen many producers give up the craft because they feel like they’re not cut out for it, when really, it’s just a lack of deliberate practice which leads to a lack of progress which leads to a reduction in satisfaction.

I wasn’t cut out for production before I took it up. I played guitar and drums before making electronic music, and that helped, but I wasn’t naturally talented at guitar and drums before I took them up either.

It’s a lie. Everyone has been sold it.

Of course, that’s not the only reason people give up. The other reason people give up is because they find music production hard.

And that’s fine. Honestly, music production is hard. If you don’t want to accept the fact that there are going to be difficult moments, then it’s probably a good idea to quit.

But please, please realize that just because something is hard does not mean it’s bad. In fact, there’s something to be said about the satisfaction that hard, creative work brings to a person. Whenever I finish a track, or make massive progress on a project despite high resistance, I feel accomplished. I worked against the tide. I made it.

You can’t get this feeling when you’re doing something easy.

Embrace the struggle. It’s not always enjoyable, but it’s satisfying, and you’ll grow.


Question: Have you made any of these mistakes? Are you making any of these mistakes? Let me know in the comments section below.

 

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