There’s a lot of good music out there. Not only good music but amazing music. Why is it that some people become successful DJs and music producers and others never really make it? There must be more to it than just the quality of the music. I have been fortunate enough to live off my music for the last 10 years but of course my ideas and thoughts are far from final. It’s just my perspective and why I think some of my producer buddies not yet made it. And what sets successful DJs and music producers apart. Enjoy the read!
Be in it for the Right Reasons (Consistency)
This is a huge one. I had a discussion with a friend the other day on how important ambition is and why it will set you apart from many other producers & DJs out there.
You will have to enjoy the ride, not the destination so to say. In clear words, it means, you really have to love the process of producing music and/or performing music. Obviously, everyone has different interests they are passionate about. Some people really love playing music to a crowd all night long and even when the last guest is leaving, they won’t stop. Others love locking themselves up in their basement to create wonderful music. No matter what you are passionate about, this will be the main force and will easily set you apart from other people who are just in it for monetary or popularity reasons.
This will also help you being way more consistent. If you enjoy producing records, you won’t have a problem releasing a record every 1-2 months. But if it’s a struggle for you, maybe you are not loving the process (ride)?
Same goes for writing blog articles like this one. I am doing it because I am passionate about helping upcoming artists to reach their full potential. I want you to learn from my mistakes and share my experiences with you.
Focus on Your Strengths & do not be Afraid to get Help
This is something I have learnt the last couple of years and it has really helped me progress further. Everyone of us has strengths and weaknesses and does some things better than others.
In recent years the rumour was going around that a DJ and music producer has to be everything: A graphic designer, a website programmer, an internet marketer, a music producer, a DJ, a financial advisor and so on. You get the idea.
The same goes for music producers. People think you have to be a good sound designer, composer, mixing & mastering engineer, arranger, songwriter etc. No-one will ever be great at all these things. Because they require different kind of skillsets.
So why not get help in areas where you struggle? I, for example, struggle with compositions. I have improved a lot but it will always stay a bit of a weaker skill of mine compared to, let’s say, mixing & mastering. So, sometimes if I cannot progress further with a composition, I do get help on that part. It’s nothing to be ashamed about. It’s being smart and using your time and strengths efficiently.
The same applies for all the other areas I have discussed above. You are not good at social media? Well, get someone to manage your social media that takes the social media weight off your shoulder.
This is the part where I get most confused. People do not seem to want to invest into themselves and their careers. For me, that’s unbelievable. You can invest time and money or both. When you invest both, you usually accelerate things.
Now, what can you invest into?
1. Education / Skills
Investing into your skills will always give you a great benefit. Reading this article is a great first start. But you shouldn’t stop here. Read books about how to manage your life, business, mental health, etc. Becoming better at music production or DJing is very important as well. Do a course at Production Music Live or Point Blank. Or do 1-on-1 sessions with experienced music producers just like myself.
This part is of utter importance. People do not want to invest into collaborations and I just don’t get why. For example, I have often heard that a singer or remixer is too expensive for some of my producer buddies. But working with expensive people can definitely be one way to get your name out there.
If it wasn’t for the remixes I got from Martin Roth (for my track ‘A Tribute To Life’) or Ronski Speed (for my tracks ‘Black Sun’, ‘Bring You Home’ and ‘Starlight’) and more, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Those guys helped me getting onto the radar of fans.
Or if I didn’t invest into vocalists that I have worked with such as JES, Eric Lumiere, Jonathan Mendelsohn, Ana Criado, Katty Heath and more, I would have never had those big tracks that helped me create a fanbase. You can start by using one of the websites I have recommended here:
The same goes for collaborations. I have went out of my way to be able to collaborate with people like Markus Schulz, Rank 1, Orjan Nilsen, Roger Shah, Richard Durand, tyDi and more. I have not only travelled around the globe for that but also spent hundreds of Euros for those travels.
You must know, in monetary terms, I have not only invested thousands into my career but tens of thousands, especially if you take the next point into account as well:
This is extremely important. I mean, how do you want to get a reach if you do not reach anybody with your music? You can write the best music or do the best DJ performances, but if no-one hears or sees it, then it’s really for nothing.
You can hope that some of your music gets picked up by bigger DJ’s who then play it out in their radio shows or live. But even with that the effects are minimal. Unless it’s a really big DJ like Armin van Buuren, Tiesto, Martin Garrix, Adam Beyer etc.
Therefore, you will have to invest into marketing. You will need to try different things such as Spotify playlist campaigns, interviews, PR companies, etc.
Your online presence is equally important, invest into good press photos, a great logo, a well working website, etc. Fiverr is a great platform to find people to help you with that. This is what will immediately make you look like you are serious about this. People such as other producers and fans will notice that and immediately will take you more serious.
You have to realise that the music industry is a people’s business. You need to know people so that more opportunities arise for you. Those who can put a face to your name will favour you for sure, it’s just in the nature of humans. It is unfortunate as I wish music was the only importance here but the truth is that music only plays a smaller role in your success. Good music is needed, sure, but that’s the basement on which everything else will be built. If the basement/foundation is bad, everything else will break apart but if the basement/foundation is stable and good, you can build a skyscraper on it.
I have personally travelled to far away conventions and music festivals just to talk to people and network. This is how I got signed to Euphonic Records in in 2008: I started talking to Kyau & Albert at gigs that they played and soon my name and face rang a bell to them.
ADE in October in Amsterdam is a must for me every year. First of all, it’s a fun convention and event. Who doesn’t love to geek out with like minded people about business, music, DJ’ing? Secondly, showing your face is important. It shows that you are (still) present in the scene and are serious. Thirdly, you will make great connections through other friends that you already have. Be open minded and nice. You never know who may be able to help you or who you may be able to help!
Value Time More Than Money
This is also something that I have learnt in recent years. This has made a huge difference to me. A lot of people think in monetary terms and money. “I can earn $1,000 more with this job, of course I will do it.” But what’s more important is: How much time will it take you? How much energy will it suck? How long do you have to recover from that job respectively have to rest afterwards?
Let’s do a quick example and keep it simple: You can make $50 per hour with your job (whether it’s music or not doesn’t matter at this point) and you really enjoy what you do. But you hate housework and cleaning. Now you have the choice: Do I give up 2 hours of my work to clean the house? Or do I get a cleaner at $25 per hour and continue with the work that I enjoy so much? Well, for me it’s quite obvious. I would go with the latter option without thinking twice. Because first of all you make more money by getting the cleaner (as you can continue working and make more money per hour that you spend on the cleaner) and secondly, you will also enjoy yourself more.
You can also think like it this way (if music production is your hobby next to your main job): After finishing your 8 hours working day, would you rather spend time in the studio doing what you love and spend $50 for a cleaning person that will give you the free time to do so? Or would you rather be miserable and clean your house after your 8 hours working day and save the 50 bucks? I hope that made it clear…
Oh, and just to make one thing clear: There are actually persons who enjoy cleaning more than sitting at a desk. And maybe the cleaner thinks: “Why should I spend $100 for a gym membership per month when I can have a workout every day and get paid for it?” It’s really how you look at things and what’s important to you.
Perfectionism is bad
This is a very individual and subjective tip but it has helped me loads. I used to be a crazy perfectionist. And I combined that with the thought process of ‘no-one can do things as good as me’. So in the end, I ended up trying to do everything myself. Release my records, build my website, do the DJ promotion, contracts with other collaborators, running a label and so much more…
It drove me nuts, I didn’t have time to do anything properly. And I was doing things that I really didn’t enjoy doing, so it sucked a lot of energy from me.
Over the years I have learnt to be way more relaxed with things, giving them out of my hands and not care so much if minor things aren’t perfect. This way, you can focus on what’s important to you. You can focus on the one thing that will drive you forward and make you successful with your music.
In that regard, I can really recommend a book that I have read called ‘The One Thing’.
You can get it here:
Conclusion – the Mindset of a Successful DJ and Music Producer
Like I said in the beginning, this article is not final and it’s a very subjective matter. You can look at this article as an inspiration. Take from it whatever applies to your situation and what will help you. I really hope it will help you become a more successful DJ and music producer.
Did I miss anything? Do you have anything to add? Leave me a comment.
- The-One-Thing: © The One Thing