At GiveGetWin we’re really committed to making everyone successful in a win/win model — you can find out more about our model here.
This page is full of resources that aren’t about us necessarily, they’re just great resources for musicians.
- Creative Resources
- Video: Defining Success — John Mayer @ Berklee College of Music
- Interview: Squarepusher Q&A w/ Spin, insights on creative process
- Article: The 5 Stages of An Electronic Music Producer, EDMProd
- Article: How to make it in the new music industry: Tycho profile
- Jesse’s best posts on Reddit’s music communities
- Production Resources
- Enjoyed these? Get in touch
Our favorite articles, videos and interviews on musician mindsets and the creative process.
Video: Defining Success — John Mayer @ Berklee College of Music
Really insightful talk from John Mayer about how important it is to define success for yourself, what your “finish line” looks like. The first time I watched this, it totally blew my mind. Highly recommended.
Favorite quote from the video:
Everyone in this room wants to make it. But I question how you would recognize “making it.” What is making it?… If you only recognize success as a record deal, and a big fat publisher’s clearing house oversized Tiger Woods check, and a dinner and then going to the top of the roof and screaming “I made it!”—most of you will be stunning failures. But if you define success by putting out your first record, and selling 5,000 copies and going to have sushi when you say, “yeah I got 5,000 copies”… [or] “when I sell 5,000 copies, I’m going to consider this a success.” That’s the difference between people who walk this Earth happy and people who walk the Earth constantly unfulfilled, because they’ve never defined the finish line. I know artists who’ve sold 2 million records, and it’s not enough [for them], because they never said what “making it” was going to be, they just had this feeling like they were just going to know—it’s not going to work like that, it’s just not going to work like that.
Interview: Squarepusher Q&A w/ Spin, insights on creative process
Interesting interview with Squarepusher for Spin magazine — especially the second half which details his creative process.
A lot of critics seem to have an idea of you being a self-indulgent producer — that you’re defying and even frustrating your listener’s expectations. How do you feel about that?
First of all, any musician that’s not self indulgent, I can’t imagine that they’d be any good, to be honest. Any musician that puts himself primarily at the service of his audience is likely to quite rapidly become a self-repeating machine. With audiences, there’s always a tension. Audiences, particularly at gigs, tend to want to hear the favorites, and if you’re not careful, as I see it, and I certainly feel that I’ve observed it in looking at other people’s careers, you can get fenced into an area that the audience wants you in. And if you don’t do that, then you risk losing them. This is something that I’ve tried to get away from as much as I can. Don’t feel for a minute that I don’t respect the audience. What I’m doing is a mark of respect, in the sense that I’m doing exactly what I always did. I never disavowed the principles which have dictated my work and dictated me becoming known in the first place. What I feel is actually the wrong thing to do is when a musician gets known, having done what they’ve done out of love and having fun and enjoying themselves, gets known for it and then switches tack and thinks, “If I’m going to continue to be loved and respected by my audience, I have to repeat, I have to keep referring to this moment of glory.” And it becomes a prison. It becomes a thing which restricts their future activity and consequently dries up their enthusiasm for their work. And kaput: End of their career.
…I’ve had so much experience with this tendency to try to predict and placate audiences. I thought actually, well, I’m just going to see what can be done when you follow your own interests. Because then, if you win an audience, you’ve won on every level. You’ve satisfied yourself, you’ve satisfied them. If I try and predict the audience, I might well satisfy them, but I’ve got no guarantee. And I certainly won’t have satisfied myself. Every time I make a record I throw everything at risk. I stake everything on it. Because I think, if I win, then I’ve got the best situation I could be in. And what rational human being would not want to be in the best possible situation?”
Article: The 5 Stages of An Electronic Music Producer, EDMProd
Great in-depth article from EDMProd about the different stages every producer goes through on their way to mastery.
Key discipline 2: Finish fast and finish often
“As Ira Glass so famously put it, the best way to refine your craft is to create a huge volume of work. Not to create the most perfect piece you can, but to create many pieces of work.” – Herbert Lui
One trap that a lot of producers fall into in stage 2 is the perfection or masterpiece trap. They think that they must create amazing work—that they must focus on creating masterpieces.
Having a perfectionist attitude in stage 2 is not only an inhibition to learning and progression, it also destroys your self-esteem. Why? Because even if you were to set the perfect standard for your work and achieve it (which isn’t likely), you’re progressing at such rapid speed that you’ll be disappointed in your “masterpiece” a few weeks later.
What you should focus on instead is finishing. Not just finishing, but finishing tracks as often as you can.
When I was in stage 2, I’d finish tracks in a day. They didn’t sound that great, but I learned something new with each project. You have to focus on quantity during this stage, because if you do, quality will inevitably go up and you’ll learn much faster than you would otherwise.
Article: How to make it in the new music industry: Tycho profile
Comprehensive profile of Tycho’s past, present, and future — essential reading for anyone hoping to replicate his success. A surprising amount of business-related discussion here.
…The one area where Hansen felt he was lacking, however, was business acumen. And that, he says, led to some of the biggest mistakes of his career.
“I didn’t act on the business side of things accordingly,” Hansen says. “I thought of it as a side project — make a few bucks, always have a day job. That came back to bite me.”
Because Hansen wasn’t making considerable profits on his music yet, he didn’t understand that with the wrong record deal he might potentially miss out on financial windfalls.
“When there’s no money involved, a deal sounds great,” Hansen says. “Who cares what 50 percent of a thousand bucks is?”
But the biggest thing he regrets, and this has become a recurring theme in talking to musicians on the other side of a record deal, is giving up the rights to the master recordings — meaning the first recording of a song and all copies made thereafter.
“I gave up the masters because I didn’t understand what I was doing,” Hansen says. “I didn’t even know what publishing was. I didn’t know what masters were. I blindly signed on the dotted line. It was the one of the stupidest things I’ve done in my career.”
Jesse’s best posts on Reddit’s music communities
There are some great music-related communities on Reddit, my favorite is /r/WeAreTheMusicMakers.
I’ve written a few posts there about the creative process that have gotten good feedback there, they may be useful to you.
Stop Trying to Write Your Masterpiece (Link)
If there is something magical about creativity, which you know there is, it will be eroded by the overwhelming pressure you put on yourself to make something amazing. All of the magic will be stripped away when you insist that you need to be the second coming of Bach and achieve artistic immortality. When you demand perfection from your art, you’re abusing both the art and the artist, and the childlike joy you felt when you first started making music will transform into a burning impatience; where you are becomes an obstacle, and you’ll desperately try to leapfrog over yourself until you’re finally at the top.
Right now you think that artists either have “it” or they don’t (and you’ll scramble to prove to yourself and the world that you do have “it” and should be treated as such), but you’ll eventually discover that any creative ability is less about inherent talent or genius—some cosmic dice roll at birth—and more about discipline, patience, and respect for the craft.
Your job as an artist is not to sit in your bedroom like a scientist, devising the formula for the most mind-blowing song that gets the most likes, favorites, and retweets. It is not to get your own Wikipedia page or become verified on Twitter. Your art does not have to be deep or complex or show that you’re smart or make you understood or give meaning to your existence. The most important thing is to lead with your curiosity and chase it until the sun goes down. This is a personal exploration that first and foremost involves creating for yourself, following your interests because they’re interesting—not because you want to appear interesting to others.
What If My Music Sucks? (Link)
If I could go back in time and say anything to my 18 year old self, it would be this: get comfortable with sucking. You don’t come out of the womb speaking English, so by the same token it’s futile to assume that you’re going to naturally be an amazing musician. It takes time and work, trial and error.
Besides, getting good isn’t the point. (Eighteen-year-old me is trembling.)
“But what if my music sucks?”
You have to get comfortable with sucking. You’re going to suck for a long time. You can’t outthink it and you can’t avoid it. There’s no amount of books you can read or forum posts you can digest or plugins you can download that will make you amazing overnight. You’re going to suck for a long time. It’s a natural part of the process. Give yourself permission to suck.
I used to think it was the worst thing in the world if my music sucked. But it’s comforting to realize that nothing will happen, even if it does. Nobody is going to chop off your arms and banish you from making music.
When you listen to your favorite artists, keep in mind that you only hear what they were comfortable enough to share. The final product. You don’t hear the time they spent trying to understand music theory, cursing at Logic, feeling hopeless and wondering if anyone would ever like their shit. Maybe some of the same things you’re going through right now.
Practical tools to level-up your production.
Music Theory Checklist for Producers
Can you play back a note only by hearing it? What is its approximate frequency?
This is a short yet CRUCIAL step. Do not skim here. You should be able to rely on your ears.
I’m not talking about perfect pitch. That’s way more work than you need to do
Scales, Key signatures, the Circle of Fifths, (degrees of a scale in numbers eg: (1,3,5) and words eg: tonic, mediant, dominant)
What are the notes in a G major scale? How do they relate to C major? E minor?
What are the notes in an F major scale? How do they relate to Bb major? D minor?
What is the difference between the natural and harmonic minor?
Are there any other cool scales? (hint: there are! go look around)
Strictly speaking you don’t need to know the fancy names but it will reduce confusion later when extensions come into play
Chords (Roman numeral notation)
What are the notes in the tonic(1) triad? The subdominant(4)? dominant(5)? Learn ’em all bud.
What are the first and second inversions?
What is a V/V? (Edit: hint: is it a key change (modulation)? Secondary dominant? Some other temporary change in scale degrees? These are tricky. Respect them)
The GiveGetWin Tour
The GiveGetWin Tour goes to all of the top campuses in the world, including MIT, Harvard, Stanford, and more — this is great for a young person learning any skills, not just musicians, because you’ll learn how to make things and make relationships.
Our events are designed to help students, leaders, doers, thinkers, creatives, and young entrepreneurs succeed. Always 100% for free by speakers who are pro-social and highly effective in their fields. This year’s tour will visit over a dozen college campuses, coworking spaces, and startup incubators.
For more information and to see if we’re coming to a city near you this fall, click here.
How do you write so much, you ask? Well I’m glad you asked — Mindsets to help you increase your output and make more music.
If you want to make excellent stuff, you need to make a lot of stuff.
If you want to make a lot of stuff, you’ll make a lot of crap.
If you want to make excellent stuff, you need to make a lot of crap.
And my personal opinion here –
And that’s okay, because you get judged by your best work, not your bad work.
At the risk of being honest, a lot of my writing here is crap. I mean, it’s okay, it’s not totally stupid, but a lot of it is very “meh” – well, by own estimation. But occasionally I really nail something, and that’s what people are going to remember. A Lot of Victory is Just Walking Around turned out to be a huge hit and got hundreds of visitors from people Facebook-liking it, when I just typed it up on the spur of the moment. I thought it was good, but nothing crazy revolutionary – I was talking about noticing where business are in certain areas, and what businesses are missing that you could potentially build. I talked about putting a premium mechanic shop in an upscale district of Hong Kong I was walking around, or opening a coffee chain in Cambodia. People loved that, I got so many compliments and lots of new visitors, many of whom stuck around and are still readers. (Hi guys! Glad you stuck around) In retrospect, I guess yeah that was a good post. But it only happened because I wrote some very just-okay posts too.
Why Isn’t My Book Done? — Can public accountability help you make more music?
Do you have anything 90% done? What would happen if you made a firm commitment to another person? A public commitment? What if you asked, “How could I get this done?” I bet you could it. I’m doing it. It feels good, exciting. A little scary, but good. What would it take for you to complete one of your projects?
You can find more of Sebastian’s writing at sebastianmarshall.com.
You’re Never Going To Feel Like It — You know your mission in life to make music. You know that’s what’s most important to you. But how do you actually get started when you don’t feel like putting in the work right now?
You think you’re just saying you’ll do it tomorrow, but what you’re really saying is not now. And the more you tell yourself not now, the stronger a habit it becomes. Every time you avoid and procrastinate, you get better at the tendency to avoid and procrastinate.
The tricky thing about being human is that you become what you do:
“Adaptation never stops. You can’t turn it off and you can’t turn it on. The best you can hope for is to divert it into paths that reward you instead of punish you.”
Stop living in the waiting room and admit to yourself that most of the time, you’re not putting it off because you can’t—you just would rather not.
The days you were on the fence could end up making all the difference.
You can find more of Jesse’s writing at jessesussman.com.
Enjoyed these? Get in touch
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