If music production were easy, we’d all be touring the world, making hit tracks and living the life.
It wouldn’t take years to get good, you could start straight away and make killer tracks.
EDMProd probably wouldn’t exist.
But if you’ve ever joined our Facebook group, you’ll have seen the following questions:
Well, for years we’ve collected some of these responses, to a point where we have 1228 responses to Question 1, and 1097 responses to Question 2.
And as much as people answer yes to Question 3, we still find ourselves still having to delete a lot of Soundcloud-link-only posts.
Jokes aside, we have a diverse group of producers from complete beginners to those in the 4+ years group who have been producing for 10-20 years. We also have varying problems that producers face, from EQ to money to everything.
Let’s take a look.
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The Struggle is Real
We’ve seen many producers unpack what their pain points are when it comes to producing.
Many of the emails we get are producers who struggle with a particular issue, like EQ or reverb.
Many of the articles, tutorials and resources we provide are designed to help musicians and producers overcome creative and technical problems.
Music production isn’t easy.
It’s laden with hurdles to overcome. Resistance naturally pushes against the artist, deterring them from creating.
So instead of looking at how to solve a particular problem, let’s see what problems there are in the first place, and how to overcome them.
That was the motivation behind us asking these questions, so let’s dive into the findings.
We posted these questions quite a bit back, and have been recording them in a Google Sheet ever since.
In hindsight, we should have tracked individual respondents in a separate sheet to see who answered what, but we only recorded individual numbers. That’s why we have some differences between the two lists.
How long have you been producing for?
- These results are only from the time that producers entered into the group – many producers who answered 0-1 months might be a year or two into their production journey now
- 4+ years includes a wider variety of people. In hindsight, we should have recorded separate groups for 10+ years
- Total responses: 1228
What are you struggling with the most right now?
- Categories with 3 or fewer responses were grouped into ‘Other’
- Although people’s individual specific responses varied, we grouped them into similar categories for the sake of looking at it broadly
- The last few slices won’t show, but we don’t need to discuss them as much
- Total responses: 1097
What Does This Mean?
It’s one thing to look at a graph and try to figure out what it means, but if you remember back to the days where you had to write scientific reports in school, then you’ll remember you need to discuss the results.
That’s what we’re doing here.
Firstly, we can see that 36.3% of respondents indicated that they have been producing from 0-1 months.
This tells us that a lot of producers are starting out in music production and are looking at the next step. Many of these producers may have not even downloaded a DAW yet, or maybe have just gotten one for the first time.
We can see the second-largest category is 4+ years. We consider these producers to be experienced, who have gone through the dip or are emerging from it. This makes up for a sizable 21% of producers.
In total, the combination of the first 2 categories totals 57.3%. This means that over half of producers are either new or very experienced. But what about the in-between? There is a spread of producers who make it to a few months, to a year, to maybe a couple.
In addition to this, we can see that year-on-year there are fewer and fewer producers in the group (besides 4+ years). Combining all first-year results, 61.4% of producers are within their first year of producing.
This drops to a tiny 8% in the 2nd year. And then to 5.3% the year after. If we were to look at all the individual results after 4+ years, that would get less and less, as producers in that category can range from 5 years to 20 years.
This tells us that many new producers quit. They learn production is hard within a few weeks and decide not to pursue it anymore. This is something we harp on about here at EDMProd, but if you don’t believe us, believe the figures.
Granted, many new producers are looking at resources to find when they have no idea how to do anything.
But when you think about it, it makes sense that we have so few experienced producers. Many people fall in love with music production for a variety of reasons:
- they want to be famous
- they’re a DJ who wants to transition into production
- they’re a listener who wants to make the music they love
- they come from a traditional music background and want to make electronic music instead
But it’s the people who end up loving music production for its own sake that stick around, not those craving fame or legitimacy. Those who love the process and not just the end result.
As producers, we’re not always finishing and releasing tracks, and we’re not always starting them. The bulk of the meaningful work is in the middle, using creativity and problem solving to work our way through a track, making music in the process.
EQing a kick so it’s less boomy, rewriting a stale chord progression, layering in sounds that work but don’t stick out, adding and removing sounds throughout the structure etc.
That’s where 90% of our time is spent, so we have to enjoy that.
If we were to, ahem, ‘extrapolate’, we would see the results year on year are less and less diminishing, meaning that there is a steep drop off at the start, but it evens out over time.
Obviously the 4+ years includes many different years, but we can safely assume that total evens out fairly nicely. The first year tends to scare a lot of people off.
Besides this, the main thing we want to look at is the struggles producers are facing. Why are people quitting so early?
Maybe it is because their motivations are bad, but maybe not.
From the results, we can see the number one thing (19% of producers) is that they don’t know where to start. This is the most popular struggle among producers – it wasn’t an option in the questions, it’s just what naturally came out of producers’ mouths.
This is likely due to the fact that most producers are brand new to production and are lost among the swathe of online resources.
In 3rd place, we see that 7.5% of producers are struggling with everything. Likely because they are also new, maybe they have read something like the production pyramid and don’t know what they should focus on first.
Between this and ‘where to start’, we see that a solid 26.5% of producers struggle with something related to being a beginner. While some experienced producers might still struggle with everything, it’s less so than producers who are new.
This aligns with the findings from the first question, and we see a pattern starting to emerge – new producers are simply both lost and overwhelmed. They aren’t confused over a technical problem like EQ or sound design, although they may start to think that learning a particular area of music production is the silver bullet to quality.
I thought this of mastering, and quickly learned the truism that you can’t polish a turd, as much as I liked to think my music wasn’t a turd.
This also highlights something important – most problems that producers have to overcome are mental rather than technical.
Topics like overcoming creative block, finishing tracks and making original music are more mindsets that need to be switched, rather than techniques that need to be learned.
This is something we’ve focused on at EDMProd for a long time. Yes, we have articles on chords and videos on Ableton tips, but these don’t solve the biggest issues. Mindset switching does.
It’s why we created EDM Foundations – so that producers have a structured method of learning the important things that help to create and finish music.
It’s why we write about the 5 stages of music production and how to overcome them – because producers actually go through them, and it actually stops them from pursuing their craft.
Another industry finding is that quite a few producers struggle with mixing and mastering. This might be because it’s technically difficult, because it’s what they think separates their tracks from the people they look up to, or because it’s what makes a track sound good.
Mixing & mastering are both important, but also are over-emphasised in importance. Most producers that ask us advice on their tracks are talking about the mix.
Most of the time? It’s not the mix, it’s the arrangement.
So why do they think the mix is the problem?
Because music production blurs the lines, mixing as you go is a normal part of a producer’s workflow. So they think it’s the balance, the EQ, and the amount of compression that needs to change.
The reality is, most of the time the synth preset doesn’t suit the track, the chord voicing and notes are all over the place, the layers don’t compliment each other and sound so muddy that EQ won’t save you, the kick is a random default kick that’s been picked without thought, and the melody is out of key.
None of these things makes for an interesting, distinctive or quality track.
That being said, mixing and mastering both have steep learning curves, and if you are trying to improve these skills, you are best to start from the fundamentals.
That’s why many people outsource both skillsets.
That’s also why we have our Mixing EDM post which gets you familiar with the art of mixing in electronic music.
Beyond that, the other biggest struggles (in order) were:
- Music Theory
- Learning DAWs
- Melody Writing
A lot of these are extremely important to nail, especially finishing tracks, music theory and arrangement.
If you want some resources on those topics, here are some articles and resources to check out:
- Why You Should Finish More Music
- 3 Tips for Better Song Arrangement
- Music Promotion and Marketing: 15 Solid Tips for Success
- Music Theory: The TL;DR Version eBook (Free Downloads Page)
- Ableton Workflow Bible (Free Downloads Page)
- The Complete Guide to FL Studio for Beginners
- The Ultimate Guide to Writing Better and More Memorable Melodies
Are You Struggling Too?
Chances are that if you’re reading this, you’re a producer who is struggling with something as well. Maybe you’re new to production and don’t know what to do next.
That’s exactly why we created a FREE video training. You won’t find this on YouTube, and it’s exclusively made for people like you reading this article.