Musicians, Stop Trying To Do Everything

I saw a post recently that said something along the lines of:

“Producers have to do everything! From mixing and mastering to editing to creating our own album art, and then someone will ask us how that ‘little’ music thing is going. We work so hard!” My first thought when I read the post was, ‘Maybe you should hire a graphic designer!' The truth is, if a producer (or songwriter or musician) is able to delegate, then they will be able to focus on their own craft and excel much, much faster. A producer is not supposed to do everything. They are supposed to bring people together to create a final product. Whether you are a film producer, a music producer, a beat producer, or an event producer, you are always the core element of everything that is happening, but you are never obligated to do everything on your own - that would be crazy!


Let’s look at the event producer as an example. To hold an event you have to have access to a venue, entertainment, food, personnel, funds, parking, organization, and most importantly: people coming to your event. If you go a level further and just look at the ‘entertainment’ element (let's say it's a band) now you need musicians, a sound company with a PA, a stage, a stage manager, and the ability for the stage manager to communicate with the organizer to cue the band to walk on stage at the exact right moment otherwise the entire event will be thrown off and thousands of dollars will be sacrificed just because you didn't have batteries in the walkie-talkie. (I was a stage manager for a fundraiser event once so this is close to home for me.) Can you imagine if you had to do everything that the event needed all on your own? Step one is building a venue. To me this is the same as a music producer trying to create their own album art. Sure, you can do it, but wouldn’t it be easier and come out better if you had a professional do it for you? Plus wouldn't it allow you time to do the things you do best?


Let’s look at the music producer as another example: To me there is a ‘classic’ or traditional type of music producer: (Think Quincy Jones, George Martin, Phil Spector) and there is a ‘modern’ music producer (Think Pharell Williams, Mark Ronson, Max Martins, 9th Wonder etc.). A lot of times the modern producers work solely on their laptop (Kimbra, Illenium, Neon Vines) with the occasional real instrument included. Other times modern music producers will operate more like the classic music producers and bring in instrumentalists to record the song, book a studio, and help the vocalist or songwriter get a great take. The thing that’s really important to pay attention to here, is that the modern producer is not doing everything. They are recruiting and delegating, but they are not sitting down and recording drums, bass, guitar and then mixing the song and then mastering the song and then trying to promote it on their own. (Okay Jacob Collier is playing all the instruments, but he has Quincy Jones for management so let's just stick to normal human musicians for the time being. ALSO - do you want to spend the time to learn 10 instruments? I don't.) For most people who know how to focus, there is a drummer, a mix engineer and probably an entire team of people dedicated to the promotion of the song. The goal is not to fix and finish everything yourself; the goal is to create an amazing song.


To me, the only kind of producer that feels like they need to do everything are those who only use a laptop to create, and there’s good reason for that! It’s very easy to create on a laptop and you have so many incredible resources available. Amazing music can be made now with literally nothing more than Logic Pro and a microphone, or even sample packs. We have so many resources available to us in today’s technology that it’s become easy to create songs from scratch on our own. That doesn’t mean we should try to do everything. You are not responsible for every element of your song, and it’s okay to ask for assistance. The song will be BETTER. I promise.


If you need vocals on your song, you don’t need to learn how to rap or sing. If you need to mix your song, you don’t need to learn how to mix and master! Sure you should become knowledgeable about these things, but again, you won’t be as good as the mix engineer who has been doing it for 30 years. Plus, they can bang it out in an hour. The problem with trying to do everything yourself is that the art suffers. When you allow yourself to accept help from someone to make your product better, you give yourself more time to improve on the things you’re already great at.


We get a lot of demos at Fox Tracks Music and a lot of the time I hear artists trying to do everything, including the bass part, the drums, mixing it, writing the song, and recording. My response to this is always the same: you can do that. You can learn to play bass well enough that it will sound decent, but you will never be able to do what an actual bass player can do. It’s the same thing with anything. You CAN design your own album art, but it will never in a million years look like something that an actual graphic designer who has been training their whole life can do. Plus it will take you forever to figure out how to make it look ‘okay’. Don’t waste your time trying to do things that other people should be doing for you. Otherwise you forget what you’re good at and you lose focus.


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