All Posts in How To’s

May 5, 2011 - Comments Off on How To Become Influential

How To Become Influential

In the past year I have been able to connect with some pretty influential people. It was as simple as leaving a thankyou on their page and getting a response, or receiving a follow from someone I had Retweeted earlier.

Years before I felt I didn't have the 'chops' to talk to these people as I was at a small level of influence in their network. Thanks to the constant power of the internet, this is no longer the case.

Note: Social Influence scores are indicated by Klout.

It's About Engagement

Engagement. We hear the word often, but only a few actually keep it in focus for long periods of time. Yet, it's the constant engagement with our friends, fans, followers and people we are following that is actually the most important path when building our social network. Talking only about yourself will lose you friends, fans and followers because you are not engaging with anyone.

WHAT TO DO: Share other people's articles, reply to everyone and be personal.

WHAT TO STOP: Buying fans, sharing your posts exclusively and ignoring people.

Gary Vaynerchuk says it perfectly in his book The Thank You Economy (a must read!) with the line "No Interaction Left Behind". Even with his busy schedule of speaking engagements, web videos and more he still takes time to connect with everyone he can. Which is why it is even easier for someone who is relatively unknown to connect with another with higher social influence. It's no wonder Gary's score on Klout is very high:

Show The Real You

Another factor of social influence is to be influential in some way by showing the real you. It sounds self-explanatory, but only a few actually do this well. Being influential is as simple as sharing an article of interest, showing something exclusive to your fans or sharing your opinions about a hot topic. The people who can get this right will have the biggest impact, even if they only have a small amount of fans.

WHAT TO DO: Share interesting articles, show exclusive content and be opinionated.

WHAT TO STOP: Faking your persona, hiding from the world and sitting on the fence.

Jason Calacanis is extremely influential to me. He constantly connects with people by sharing videos through This Week In Startups, in which he works with a small (but growing) team to interview and connect with early to established Startups and also covers topics from founding to failure. He is very opinionated and real, and although I don't agree with everything he says, he stands strong with his views and that allows him to be bold when moving forward.

Be Humble And Confident

Being humble and confident at the same time can often be a challenge. But challenges are worth every second if you can better yourself. By listening to those around you and understanding where they are coming from with their views, it makes it much easier to work out where to go to next with your personal brand, business and attitude. Honesty is the key.

WHAT TO DO: Be confident with your choices, listen to feedback, thank people for helping you.

WHAT TO STOP: Thinking you're better than anyone, ignoring people who are 'smaller' than you, being afraid to say sorry.

Deadmau5 (Joel Zimmerman) is very confident in his approach when dealing with other artists, fans and followers. He is constantly connecting with his fans with live video feeds from his house, studio and on the road through his Ustream channel and Facebook page. Even though he has a massive worldwide following through his incredible music career, he still shows he is only human when chatting to his fans live. He answers live questions from his fans and shows behind the scenes work directly from his computer. Occasionally, he will be opinionated when mentioning another artist stealing samples or not releasing a good record - which he will apologise for later after it causes a massive media frenzy of problems and mixed emotions.

How else can you be influential?

October 31, 2010 - 2 comments

How To Start Producing Music

Producing music is both an exciting adventure and daunting experience for anyone who is new to it. I have noticed a lot of people visiting my other post (10 Inspirational Tips for Music Producers) via the search terms "How to start producing music" - so I decided to write this post to offer some advice from my years of experience.

I have now been producing music for nearly 8 years. I started with the loop based program Fruityloops (now called FL Studio) which kept me busy for 6 years. A lot of my friends at that time had moved onto Reason, Cubase or Ableton and to keep up with my peers/challenge myself some more, I moved over to Ableton. It is only in the last few years that I have really come into my own with my music. With various track releases, worldwide labels asking me to remix for them and my tracks being shared on 'illegal' download sites, it really is a sign that I am starting to make small waves in the 'business'. While it is only early days for my productions, I have learnt some valuable tips on how to produce music from beginning to where I am now.

1. Just Start

Nearly every piece of music software/hardware I have worked with has been self taught. It might be because I'm not a big fan of manuals, but I'm sure it's just because I love getting my hands dirty straight away. There are so many music programs you can start with (most have demos) and a lot of them have tutorials built into the program. If your computer can't handle the software or you need to buy a sound card then you may just have to head over to another producers house and have a play on their software, or you can always just have a play with some online music making programs. I have included a few links to various music programs at the bottom of this article.

2. Google Everything

Google (and YouTube) have taught me so much useful information about producing music over the years that I really should start giving them a cut. When I needed to know "how to cut loops in Ableton" or "how to make wobbly basslines with Operator", they were there.

3. Grow Organically

Many people who jump into the producing chair want to have the most amazing song in 3 minutes. While I admire their tenacity, it simply doesn't happen this way. It takes years (yes...there are no shortcuts) to perfect the art of making solid tracks. And even after years of practice things can still go a bit haywire (Mix Messenger - David Guetta anyone?). Allow yourself to grow organically by letting your ideas and skills formulate over time. If you don't know how to do something, research it - but don't over-research. You are much better off learning small sections each day than trying to learn everything on day 1 and burning yourself out. I mean, you do want to be in this business for a long time don't you?

4. Learn From Success

There are countless artists who create some amazing productions each and every day. I would recommend focusing on the tracks that inspire you and using them to help you craft your sound. I am not suggesting you recreate their sounds and pass them off as your own, but more about using their structure, build ups, sound design and length as a guide. Occasionally, to get past the mental block of structure,  I have laid an artists track out in the timeline and roughly followed their 16-32 bar sections. A lot of the time, I have found out that the tracks themselves are quite basic in sections, however their build has been what has inspired me. This method is very topical and could be considered by some as 'riffing', however when you are starting out it's important to focus on basic structures (just like in pop music) with lead in-chorus-mid section-chorus and then lead outs. If you do use this method, please only use it for learning purposes and not re-creation.

5. No-One Is Superior

With every industry comes a level hierarchy often represented by 'the most fans' or 'the most money'. However, no-one is superior and we all should be open to the fact that acquiring knowledge from anyone is the true king. Even after all these years I still allow my mind to be positively influenced by my listeners, no matter how much experience they have in the field. In actual fact, many of them offer advice and then utter the phrase, "but I don't really make music so I wouldn't really know" - which couldn't be further from the truth. Producing music is as much a part of listening to feedback as it is creating it, and if done correctly, you will be producing music for years to come. Aim to keep your mind open to feedback from anyone no matter how big your music (or ego) gets.

6. Experiment With Different Styles

When you start producing music you will often lean towards one main genre of choice. This is usually based on your club experiences and friend circles. Yet even at the start of your journey, you need to be flexible with your skills and allow your best genre to find you. Over time, you may find yourself in the 'repition-field' which can quickly wear you out with lack of inspiration. Even if your music is being received well, you may want to change up your style/genre (like Tiesto did with Trance to Electro) to get that spontaneous inspiration back into your life. You could do it publicly (like Deadmau5 with his dubstep) or keep it secret to avoid alienating your current fans.

7. It's Not About Stuff

What I find most baffling with new producers starting out is their instant addiction to getting as many gadgets, add-ons and hardware as they can possibly afford. In many cases, this can have a detrimental effect on a fresh mind. Instead, I would recommend that a new producer only start with the basics - the program itself. Sure there are thousands of plugins and add-on hardware options that can make your productions explode - But first you need to build the dynamite. If you can learn to build a track by only using the core ingredients you will be a stronger producer in adaptability, which is essential in today's fast paced and rapidly changing world. These days, most programs have enough built-in plugins to allow you to create a complete track with the basics, so start there and work up once you are ready.

8. Stop Reading

In my college years, I avoided homework and study as much as possible. Yet, with the integration of the Internet into our daily routines I probably read/watch and learn at least 3 times the amount I did in school. Which is why I need to keep reminding myself to stop reading every now and then and just do it (thanks Nike).

9. Make Crap

In reality, every producer wants to make incredible music. But to get the basics down sometimes you may need to experiment with different synths, loops and samples. Or in other words; Make crap. For the first year I produced music, very little of it actually saw the light of day. Many of the tracks ended up as 30 second loops that I just wasn't able to transform into full songs with my level of skill at the time. But years later I revisited those silly loops and random tracks and found I was able to pull elements from them and use them in new tracks. Don't ever underestimate something you made years ago.

10. Collaborate and Connect

The beauty that is the Internet has opened up communication lines like nothing before. Connecting with like minded (and like-skilled) artists is simple and can teach you so much more than reading a website or watching a tutorial. Even by following your favourite producers on Twitter and Facebook will give you insight into how they think, what they use and on occasion, a view of their studios (Deadmau5 via Ustream).

Overall, producing music isn't an exact science and can sometimes drive you completely mad. But hopefully, by following some of these tips you can get the same level of excitement as listening to music by creating it yourself.

Do you have any tips from your experience as a producer?

Demos mentioned: Ableton, FL Studio, Cubase, Reason.
Online music production: JamStudio, LoopLabs, Tony B Machine, ButtonBeats

Listen to my music here: