47: So You Want to Produce Music for a Living?

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If you’ve been at recording for a while, you may find yourself thinking “I wonder if I can do this for money? Wouldn’t that be fun?”

This is pretty much what happened to Vadim and Ben. The road they’ve been on from DIY musician to trying to earn a living in the studio hasn’t been easy but it’s been full of learning, fun and the occasional surprise. On this episode they talk about their experiences.

You will learn:

  • How Vadim and Ben decided to make the leap into producing for other people (warning: it gets personal)
  • Why they’ve both had to redefine the word “success” – and why you should consider it as well
  • How producing for money has changed their relationship to gear
  • Why it turns out most people are screwing (and losing work) because of focusing on the wrong part of social interactions
  • How to work faster in the studio without sacrificing quality
  • Why the old adage “money follows speed” is true
  • The importance of documentation when you’re producing for other people
  • How level up faster through conscientious “debriefs” at the end of a project
  • And more!

Where to Find the Guys
The DIY Recording Guys Website – www.diyrecordingguys.com
Vadim’s Studio Site – Get your FREE test mix today! – https://calmfrogrecording.com
Benjamin’s Studio Site – https://dreamloudstudio.com
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Our Backstory

For us, our starts in DIY recording began in different ways. At times it didn’t always involve music, but ultimately our love of music – specifically recording and production – led us to start our music businesses.

By falling in love with the process we were inspired to take our music production more seriously and make money recording. But it wasn’t an overnight change; making the jump took some serious thought. If you want to make music your career there are some important things to ask yourself and consider:

Redefining Success

What if we redefined the word “success” from the things you are able to achieve to how you spend your time? How would that change our outlook?

Think about the alternative: let’s say you get 100 streams, will you be happy then? Let’s say you get 1000 streams? Let’s say you get 1MM? How much will be enough? Setting numbers to your music goals is great but it can be hard to feel satisfied since there is always something more you can work towards and this can leave you feeling unsatisfied with your current achievements. The music business can be a very tough one and when it comes to DIY recording, it becomes even harder to get a slice of the pie when you’re starting out.

Time is the fabric of your life. Really think about what you truly enjoy doing rather than thinking about and stressing over what you believe you need to be doing. In our cases we, thought we were meant to be song writers and touring artists; but after truly experiencing that lifestyle, that we realized that we enjoyed producing, recording, and mixing even more! Our success has been defined by what we are able to do with our time and how much time we can dedicate to it.

According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs; there are fundamental needs and responsibilities that we all need at a base level to survive as humans – whether they’re financial or personal. But after those needs are met, how do you want to spend your time? Getting specific with your answer will ensure that you will be actively be working towards what will truly make you happy.

Relationship to Gear

Don’t get GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome)! This is the the most common disease among audio and DIY musicians. Managing your wants and needs is very important especially when you’re starting out. We live in an era of music creation that allows pretty much anyone to get great sounding DIY recordings. The trick is not so much the gear you have but rather the time and experience you have developing your skillset with the gear that you have.

Quality over quantity. When buying gear try to get away from thinking you need unlimited options of tools to use in your music productions. Rather you should focus on getting high quality pieces of gear and really learning the ins and outs of them. When you take this approach you will not only save money, but you will ensure that each and every additional piece of gear you add to your setup will be solving a problem that you can’t solve with your current gear.

Should I buy it? When the time comes to buy something or you’re tempted by a sale some company is having, make sure to ask yourself these questions. If you can answer “yes” to at least one of these questions (preferably both) it may be gear that will be beneficial for you to acquire:

  • Will it make your music sound better?
  • Will it make your workflow faster?

Developing Relationships

When it comes to your relationships with clients and potential clients, keep in mind that a fewer amount of high quality interactions will always be more effective than a greater amount of lower quality interactions.

Spamming people isn’t advised as a general outreach method and may not be what sells a potential client to work with you. Look to make an organic and natural connection with them that will lead them to consider working with you on their next project.

If given the opportunity to work with a client, make sure to try your best to exceed expectations. This means being an active communicator and potentially delivering the product earlier than agreed on. Doing these little things will build trust with your clients and motivate them to come back to you and potentially even refer you to their friends.

It’s also very important to not sell yourself short and have a level of confidence. Even if you don’t believe you are the best in your field, your time has value and you should strive to make money from your music.

It’s also very important to have humility and understand the client’s vision. Follow through with their vision as much as you can even if it means going against what you believe is correct. It’s essential to find the balance between your process and the vision your client has for their music. Who knows? Those suggestions can open your eyes to new ways of approaching future projects.

Work Faster

When working on your client’s music you should be actively be learning and finding out ways to finish up your projects at a faster rate without compromising the quality of your finished product.

One simple way to do this is by learning the shortcuts of your DAW. This is a simple yet highly effective way of speeding up your workflow.

Additionally, knowing and reaching for specific plug-ins time and time again is effective in speeding up your process and retaining whatever creative spark you may be feeling when working on a song.

Document what you did

Documenting your settings and process will help you out in the long run. Being as detailed as you can seems annoying at first, but it will save you a lot of time later down the line. This is very important when concerning recording techniques and/or when using analog gear. Knowing exactly what mic placements or amp/outboard gear settings will save you lots of headaches when returning to projects for revisions or starting new projects with old clients.

Updating your session templates is another way you can save time. Especially for recording sessions because you will have a clear picture of your mic placements and what settings you previously used on your plugins. You could save 30 minutes to an hour by doing this regularly.

Finally, debriefing after your sessions is a great way to figure out what things you need to work on in the future. What went well? What could have gone better? What did I learn? Asking yourself these kinds of questions and sorting out the information you may have learned will only help you as you face future projects.

Final Thoughts

Finally, and quite frankly most important, it’s important to remember that music should be fun! Even though music making can be a hustle, allow yourself time to have a life outside of music. Like we said earlier, setting your goals and defining your success as what you want to spend your time doing will help you find balance and fulfillment that makes working in this industry rewarding in spite of its many challenges.