It was my 41st birthday on March 21, so I wrote an article, “41 tips and thoughts from a 41-year-old Fanu” on my Patreon.
I’ll include below SIX thoughts/tips from that article. Should you want to read the rest (35 tips/thoughts more), you can, for a whopping 2 EUR tier price, so follow the link above to go to my Patreon.
It’s all relating to being an artist, freelancer, running your biz etc. and I’ll give you some tips.
My expertise on all things music and audio is, luckily enough, my living, and sometimes it’s interesting to have an introspective look at things. It is OK sometimes to recognise where you’ve succeeded but also where you could’ve done better and acknowledge some possible failures or things that you have learned from.
What I do is a lifetime deal: 2022 will mark a 30-year milestone of music for me, counting from the year when I started making music, and I’ve been on that road ever since.
These days 100% of my living comes from my expertise relating to music and audio stuff.
• FOLLOW YOUR OWN COMPASS •
Find your strengths and listen to your heart, and these will steer you in the right direction.
If you’ve been making many different styles of music, and let’s say your house releases seem to go somewhere, that might be indication that that’s where some of your strength lies, so work on that a bit more.
Or let’s say you’ve been enjoying teaching what you’re good at (art, yoga, music, etc.): even if it’s a side hustle or a hobby, don’t ignore it: it could go a long way if you started giving it more time and focus.
Basically where you keep planting your seeds is where you will see growth over time. Life will give you small hints and pointing you to some roadsigns on your path, so follow them.
E.g., to me, realizing that I’m good at mixing music was a decent realization, and following that lead in good things and my living (the move wasn’t easy or quick, but worth it).
I graduated from the university in 2009 (I majored in English and got an official English teacher’s degree on the side and did some translation studies on the side) but I never had the passion to follow that road (one reason being the teacher life made my creative flower wither). I was doing a bit of teaching here and there for some time, but at one point, for whatever reason, I wasn’t getting any more teaching bookings while I would’ve wanted and needed them, but at the same time, my mastering bookings started to happen properly. Coincidence? I think not. A sign on the road to follow? You bet.
• MAKING ART/MUSIC IS NOT ALWAYS FUN •
There, I said it. And I mean it. There’s many things in life that are about “delayed gratification”, and it takes a certain personality to be able to make it.
Someone once said something along the lines of “All artists want to have that finished art, but they wouldn’t always like to work for it”. I fully agree. It’s like going out to exercise when you’re a bit tired and the weather sucks: you’d want the benefit, but not the work it takes.
There are moments when I hate it or at least dislike it.
Dabbling with stuff in a DAW is fun, while keeping up a coherent, productive career, running the big picture always isn’t.
An example from last weekend: I’ve been sending songs to a great label, trying to get my EP done. There was a song that took me a while and once I sent it, I felt, “Effing finally, and that’s a wrap”. Then, I got some suggestions for changes. I hate it, while I can totally appreciate how other people feel about a song. So, of course I wanted to make the changes as well as I could. Had planned on having the Saturday as a day of doing nothing, but I spent the first four hours glued to my chair, making those changes. Not enjoyable, but takes me closer to where the music should be so it can be released. Today, I’ll be working on a better intro for a song I’m already sick of, so it can be released and played by DJs.
I admit there are times when I’d just love to be spending hours and hours on Playstation fun, but on a deeper level, I want something more: to advance my career.
Sheesh, often times finishing a song that’s maybe 65% done is the toughest damn thing. It’s then that I’d often much rather give my Playstation some love and it takes that actual desire that makes you work on the song when you rrrreally don’t want to, and the novelty and fun aspect is fully gone. But you have to accept it that being a person that finishes stuff means that you need to be ready to deal with that non-fun part of it. How much do you want it? Ask yourself that often enough.
• DON’T PIGEONHOLE YOURSELF AS AN ARTIST •
This is one of the things I’d go tell my younger self if I had a time machine and I could.
My main thing for sure is DNB/jungle, and I’ve learned that that is what people love and possibly expect the most: it gets the best reactions. Now don’t get me wrong: I love doing it, and always will, but I’d love to go back with a time machine and do a bit more this and that (e.g., house) earlier on so the people following me would’ve learned early on that I keep it varied and they wouldn’t place me in a mould.
There was once this pretty well-known label in the DNB world that wanted me to have a fresh start, but under a different name, as they felt Fanu was too much about DNB to many. That project never went too far, possibly as I always felt a bit crap about having to change the name for that project.
I’ve been “fixing” this being-in-a-mould situation later on for sure, but I wish I had kept my output more colorful earlier.
If you make music and seem to be faced with question, “Should I stick to this style or keep it varied?” let producers like Luke Vibert answer that question with their discography. Amazing, varied discography, with a large fanbase. A total “lifer” who makes what he wants, and it seems he definitely has a paying career around it.
• ASKING FOR ADVANCE PAYMENTS IS OK •
Applies to freelance stuff, DJing, audio engineering…
These days, I still ask a new client to either pay me the job in advance in full (as an audio engineer, I pretty much don’t “fail” so I feel OK doing it, seeing it’s very standard anyways) as it’s a sign of commitment. TBH every now and then I still get all kinds of people asking me for stuff, and over the years you develop a hunch about who’s trying to get a freebie.
It’s OK to ask for a deposit / advance payment. Every freelancer knows this.
This applies to Djing, too. I learned early on that trusting people every time is not always good, and certain amount of healthy cynicism saves you from some gray hair, as it filters out the ones that lack commitment.
As a DJ, it sucks hearing “Well, we didn’t get as many people as we were expecting, so can I take the price down?” and while I understand it, we’ve agreed on a price, I’ve shown up, done my job, and am entitled to get paid what we agreed on…and these’d get avoided to an extent if you got paid in advance (under the condition that if you don’t show up, you pay it back of course).
There was this one time in Moscow when I learned it the hard way. After the event (that was not successful due to zero promo, I heard), as the promoter takes me to the taxi, he says, “I don’t have money on me now but could get it if you really want it now, or I can pay you in the morning when we meet if that’s OK” and I said payment in the morning is OK. Did I get paid in the morning? No. Did the promoter show up or pick up my call? No. Went thru days of hassling and semi-threatening the guy to get paid. No-one wants that kind of energy in their life.
Get paid at least something in advance and that’s where the commitment will show.
• APPRECIATE THE LABELS YOU WORK WITH •
A thing where I could’ve done better when I was younger: keep in touch with labels that released my music and develop a relationship.
When I was young, I did a ton of shopping around with my music, releasing on so many different labels, label after a label – instead of really developing a relationship with one.
I don’t mean I was a prick or anything, but I only realised later on I didn’t express much post-release gratitude or go back to the labels to plan further stuff.
Then again, the same goes mostly for artists whose music I’ve released (can’t say many have come back to me to discuss further stuff) so I guess I get it.
Working closely with a label can be very fruitful: I love it if label can engage in a conversation with the artist and express some wishes, do a bit of planning, or even push the artist to try different things etc.
Synergy in working with labels can be a great thing, and the communication should ideally go both ways.
Sure enough I’ve made some mistakes. We’re human, and unless you live under a rock, you will end up offending some people, no matter how well you present yourself.
With two labels, it happened (different times) that they had tentatively signed some tracks of mine.
In one case, I started feeling a track wasn’t stylistically fitting for that particular project and wanted to take it elsewhere. I presented that as a suggestion, but things blew up and escalated quickly and went to shit. Tried explaining it, but no explaining was helping. I wasn’t being a dickhead, and couldn’t relate to the almost hostile vibes I got from the label, but at the same time I had to understand them: they were stoked about the song, had some passion for it, and my suggested move was a major downer. Never heard from them again in spite of me trying to get back and be all polite (I’m always polite) and discuss it.
Another time, similar scenario, I literally started feeling the songs just were not good enough for the planned vinyl release (I felt they were “OK” songs at best) and suggested just throwing them out (I kind of felt almost bad for a label spending money on them), and it went similarly…another bridge burned, while it was not intended.
• WORK FOR RESPECT, NOT FOR ATTENTION •
These days especially, the modern media and its social tools are built for popularity and attention, while there’s nothing out there to measure respect. Attention can be gained quickly, while respect takes years. After years of hard work, no-one will take respect away from you, while attention can wane overnight. Don’t mix these two, and keep asking yourself which one you’re working for.