Received these questions via email for an “Interview with a Music Producer”. I get a lot of requests for info from students and can’t reply to all, so hope this info helps others.
My name is josh. i am a 20 yr old producer/engineer looking to start my own music business for production /recording, and need a little direction. I was told by my mentor to interview some successful producers and it would be greatly appreciated if i could get these quick questions answered from your point of view! Please give the number given a call to talk more in
depth if you would like. Thank you and god bless!
1. How did you start producing and what gave you the motivation to stay with it?
When I was 21 I played piano for a living and also worked at a music store. Customers would often come in and have me play piano arrangements for them to record for karaoke and original songs. Over time I got requests for more complicated arrangements and acquired more equipment for more elaborate tracks. Then a contact at GTE asked me to orchestrate and write music for on-hold applications. That’s how I got started. As I received more complicated jobs, it was a challenge to keep growing so I could satisfy the client. That was my motivation. Was not something I planned to get into – just happened.
2. With all the music producers in the world,what made you think that you were still going to be successful in this field?
I’ve never thought about that. What does the word “successful” mean? For me it is accomplishing a goal and creating something that did not exist before – and doing it the best you can.
3. Did you have any doubts in your mind that you weren’t going to be successful?
Again, define successful. This phrase kept me going for a long time: Study hard and one day your chance will come.
4. If so,what did you do to prevent yourself from giving up?
I made a commitment at a young age that this was what I was going to do. Music or death. I didn’t allow any other options.
5. How long did it take you roughly to start excelling with your career?
It’s a very gradual curve. And you are always looking at “the next level.” Around age 27 my studies were starting to integrate and I was getting larger projects and/or being asked to lead productions. Around 30 I was casting a wider net with my name and around 35 started to feel like I had paid my dues. I’m still learning…
6. How did you build contacts and/or clients?
By doing the best job I can for each contact. I don’t hobnob or “make contacts” in the industry. I think it’s best to make contacts by doing a good job. I don’t feign friendships. Maybe not a good move for advancing, but it’s how I’m wired.
7. What are some of the biggest mental tools you can obtain to be successful in this field?
8. How many times have you fallen down, so to speak,and had to get back up and get yourself motivated again to continue?
Three times in my life I have been homeless. Each time I was back within a short time making more money and doing bigger productions than before. It was never a question of whether to continue, it was only a matter of how.
9. If there was one word you could use to explain your experience so far while working as a music producer, what would it be?
10. If you can come up withh one habit that could possibly ruin or stall a person’s career, what would that downfall be?
Telling others how to do their job, usually under the premise of being “helpful”.
11. Maintaining a successful career takes a lot of work and committment,how much time do you dedicate towards your work?
All of it.
12. Where there any past times you indure the most and why?
In my early 20’s it was difficult because I was learning a lot of new things at the same time and it had a long learning curve to make a living – was doing audio engineering and midi in a very wide net of styles and each one had so much to learn about it. Also in my mid thirties I had a distrubution company that grew quickly and crashed – took a LOT of willpower to navigate through that and end up on my feet.
13. Have you ever had to relocate in order to gain more business?
I lived in So. Cali for 20 years, but moved to the Seattle area at one point because they were short on orchestra conductors. It gave me a chance to acquire much needed skills in conducting and working with large ensembles. In retrospect it was one of the best moves I made. Was a springboard to my current work with Cirque Du Soleil. At the time it wasn’t so much of a business move as it was more “Wow, this sounds like fun, let’s do it.” If you have passion for something, you will do well in my experience. If you don’t have passion – forget about it.
14. Whats steps did you take to advertise and get your business out to the people?
As a player I was with Musician’s Contact Service in Los Angeles for years – got a lot of good gigs out of that, highly recommend. My studio was in the yellow pages all over So. Cali at one point – and we were one of the first studios active on the internet – so in the early days we got clients from all over California and beyond because of the net.
15. Have you ever embarrassed yourself? If so, how did you overcome the incident?
My MOST embarrassing moment was being asked to cover a viola section on synthesizer for a performance of J.S. Bach’s “Christus Lag In Todesbanden” (which is one of my favorite pieces). I begged the harpsichord player to rehearse with me but they didn’t have time so I sat in with the orchestra without rehearsal. I was very young and am embarrassed to say I didn’t realize that Viola played a different clef – so every note I played was the wrong note! I played through the entire piece instead of stopping. The conductor told me not to worry about it afterwards, that the notes are gone and forgotten. But it haunts me and I think they are all still ringing out there somewhere….Yuck! So now I ALWAYS rehearse pieces with players, no matter how simple.
16. There are times in a career when life isn’t going your way, how do you keep your mind on your work without losing focus?
You focus on the art of what you are doing. Money, relationships, even having food in your fridge will come and go. The art will stay. Focus on that.
17. Have there ever been a time where you haven’t gotten your work done on time? If so,how did you deal with it?
If your work far exceeds expectations, people will forgive deadlines (under most circumstances). So you can miss a deadline if you’re sure your work is excellent. If you are on time in delivery but your goods are mediocre, people will remember that forever. Once I had a client pressure me to get an album out and I really needed two more weeks. I cranked it out but it wasn’t my best work – I won’t let that happen again.
18. What goals did you have set before you started your career?
To be rich and famous by 25. I’ve changed my outlook since then.
19. What did you have to sacrifice to make your business happen?(hobbies,etc)
Relationships and steady income.
20. Is there any additional advice you can give me to help along the way to a successful career?
Do what you have a passion for. It’s your road, nobody else’s.
21. How do you find your customers?
Word of mouth.
22. Last but not least, what trade publications did you use to keep you on top of your craft?
Mix Magazine and Keyboard Magazine.