Over the course of my career, I have worked in many different areas of the music industry, which has allowed me to have the opportunity to learn a lot of different things from many different people. Today, I want to share with you 8 of the most important things I have learned in my career.
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1. Work with people you like.
When I was in my early twenties one of my bosses told me this at the music store I was working at, and it’s stuck with me ever since. It is possibly the best advice I’ve ever been given: “You won’t always enjoy your work, even if it is your passion.” That old adage of “do what you love and you’ll never work another day,” is baloney. Deadlines and low budgets can make even the most ‘fun’ sessions stressful. However, if you have colleagues and clients who you respect and enjoy spending time with, then the work will be much easier and you will get much better results!
2. Problems and issues will happen— how you deal with them is what really matters.
The best thing you can do is accept there will be issues, multiple recalls with conflicting mix notes, DAW’s crashing, plugins freezing, cables cutting out, gear breaking; these things happen to everyone! Firstly, don’t beat yourself up for things you can’t control, secondly, and most importantly, learn how to deal with things as they happen in a relaxed and calm manner. Creating unnecessary drama with an artist in the room will make them feel uneasy and may cost you the opportunity to work more with them in the future.
3. Clients choose nice over smart.
Experience has taught me that being a pleasant person is much more important than how much you know. Sure it helps if you know your DAW, know all the shortcuts, every mix tip ever, the information is out there and it’s easy enough to learn the things you need to succeed. However, being a nice person might not only be what gets picked in the first place, it is the number one reason why people will keep coming back to you. This, in turn, will enable you to cultivate relationships, grow your network and create new opportunities.
4. Don’t be afraid to say no.
I’ve been told by many people, that even when I was up-and-coming I said no to them. Even though I worked 12-15 hours a day, 6-7 days a week, it was always on things that helped me grow and develop ALL of my skills, both relationships and technical skills. This is significant, because so many people are ‘yes men.’ Leaders appreciate colleagues who are willing to challenge them, in a respectful way, of course. Similarly, don’t feel pressured to take on work or accept a job you don’t want, knowing that you aren’t going to gain from it. The 2 out of 3 rule applies very well here, you need two of the following three: the money, the music and the people.
(i) The Money
Is it well paid? Is the money so good you can’t turn it down?
Is the project amazing? Prestigious, with hugely successful people? Is it Incredible sounding music you are dying to be a part of and have your name associated with?
(iii) The People
Are the people involved great people who you love working with? Is the session going to be enjoyable and easy because the people are easy to work with?
Saying no can also help you keep the time clear to hone your craft and reflect and search for better and more interesting opportunities. Something better is usually around the next corner.
5. It’s ok to take risks in your career – real experience is gained making music.
Not only will you not be penalised for taking risks or experimenting in your career it is to be encouraged! The best music of all time was made by people of all ages from their teens and twenties up until the day they died. Age is irrelevant! Experience is gained by making music; by creating music! Don’t wait to do the thing you love! Don’t hesitate, just create!
6. Surround yourself with the best, find supportive mentors.
Over the years I have been blessed to find supporters whose achievements and approach to life you admire. I have worked with many of them, you’ve heard me talk many times of Jack Douglas, Shelly Yakus and Dave Jerden, these are people whose work ethic and love of life I admire and they continue to be a source of inspiration to me. These people are not only a valuable source of advice and inspiration, they have become great friends.
7. Define your own success — don’t be ruled by other people’s.
In high school, I got down when I was told I wasn’t reaching my full potential. It was meant to motivate and encourage me, however it made me realise I was being judged by someone else’s criteria for success. As creatives we cannot be defined by the constricts of a typical 9-5 career. Music is life choice. As I look back on my past, as a touring guitar player, bass player, engineer, studio musician, DJ, production sound engineer, A&R consultant, producer, mixer and audio educator I love my incredibly varied and interesting career. I am happy with the impact I’ve made and hope to continue growing and giving back.
8. There is no such thing as a traditional ‘music career’ anymore.
The world of music has changed so much over the past 10-15 years, and will only continue to do so. We all have long working lives ahead of us, and it’s completely natural that each of us will end up having multiple facets in our ‘career’ in our lives. Most traditional music career paths doesn’t exist any more and even if you do get an Assistant job at a studio, the cost of living in most major cities will mean you are supplanting your income with any extra mixing and production work you can get. So do what you find is interesting and don’t worry if that changes and evolves, because it will and that’s a great thing!
Watch the full video below to learn more about these 8 things I have learned in my career!