Stagnation

Why Most Music Producers Give Up: The Unfortunate Truth

Some food for thought – most producers will never make music that they are ever proud of.

Ooof.

That kind of hurts to read, right? And how do you know that you won’t be one of them?

In this article, I want to highlight something that all producers who have succeeded have done, and how to do it effectively.

Because the reality is that many producers face the dip – a period of time where they feel trapped by their skills and can’t get better at music. And in this dip is where you either stagnate or survive.

Let’s read on.

The Success Rate is Low

Let’s start with a question.

How many producers do you think there are in the world today?

Millions? Tens of millions?

Now, contrast that to how many producers there have ever been. That includes people who have started and stopped, those who aren’t actively producing and those who have passed away.

Now we’re talking likely in the hundreds of millions.

How many uncles have people had who ‘tried their hand at making records’ when they were young? Ok, maybe not yours, but a lot of people have dabbled.

Another thought:

In our Facebook group, over 36% of producers who join have only been producing for less than a month. Whereas less than 6 per cent have been producing for 3 years, and that tapers off with every year extra.

In other words, there are a lot of new producers and not many experienced ones.

So, what’s the point here?

Well, the reality is that most people don’t stick to producing.

They give up.

As I said at the start, this means they never get around to making the music they are proud of, that they want to show their friends.

In the beginning, it’s exciting and easy to spend time on. Because there’s a lot to be learned and you’re inspired by your favourite music.

Even though you’re not good, the prospect of becoming so motivates you.

So it would be easy for a new producer to spend 10-15 hours a week producing music:

But as producers hit the dip, their skills stagnate and they feel less inspired. The light grows dim.

They might have learned the basics, and be able to throw together a basic loop. But they can’t seem to improve anymore.

As a result, the lack of motivation kicks in and the time spent on producing starts to dwindle away.

Maybe some pick up another hobby, maybe life gets too busy for some, or some people just get too frustrated.

Eventually, they stop producing altogether, whether it’s conscious or not.

The fact is, these producers won’t have the chance to succeed as a producer.

They chose failure.

Now, not everyone who stops producing quit because they give up – some people just decide it’s not for them. That’s okay, but here we are talking about the ones who give up on their dreams.

Because they stopped producing, they no longer have a chance of achieving their goals of releasing on their favourite labels or getting the fans they wanted.

But if you’re reading this, you have one thing these people don’t.

You are a producer.

So by simply staying in the game, the chances of achieving your goals are already higher.

Because up until the moment you quit, your goals are achievable. It’s the one decision that guarantees failure.

But now, the key is staying a producer, and making sure your graph doesn’t look like the above.

If you’re a new producer, you might not understand the struggle yet.

But you will.

Recommended: Derek Sivers on Creative Process, Originality and Smart Career Building

Why Ex-Producers Stop Making Music

Everyone has a different reason to stop making music. For some, they are external events which deter them. That’s a natural part of life.

But some never get back on the bandwagon, for any variety of reasons.

But ultimately, whether it’s a major factor or not, internal frustration stops them from achieving their goals, and they give up.

Maybe it’s sound design. Maybe it’s arranging. Maybe it’s finding your sound.

Whatever it is, there’s a difference between your music and the music you look up to.

We’ve all heard about ‘The Gap’ from Ira Glass:

Ira Glass Quote

Some of these people just need time, but others never open a DAW again, because music production is just too hard.

And that’s the key – music production is hard.

So when life or emotions get in the way, it’s difficult to justify to continue with something that is hard. We want to make life as easy as possible.

That’s fair enough, but it doesn’t have to rule us.

So how do I overcome the fact that music production is hard, and what do I do instead?

Honestly, the things that are worth it in life are hard. But it makes it difficult to push through if you can’t see a reason for doing so.

Then the question becomes:

What makes music production worth it?

The answer to that might be different for many people, but it all comes down to enjoying the process.

But many producers enjoy the process over time, but the frustration and issues pick up in the dip, and suddenly, what was once enjoyable becomes a nightmare.

Because things aren’t changing.

It’s important to enjoy the process, but the process itself should result in an outcome. Because outcomes drive the process forward – it’s hard to enjoy something when you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The answer to this is changing your mindset about the process – one way in particular.

Recommended: How To Stop Overproducing with Black Caviar

The Secret Of Enjoying The Process

To get through this time of frustration, and to not succumb to the temptation of quitting there are a few things you could do:

  • be patient
  • find constant inspiration
  • rest
  • simplify your goals

All of these are great and can help immensely.

But there’s one skill in particular that changes the game.

It was something I discovered way too late in my music production career.

This mindset shift helped me overcome the majority of the problems I was facing.

That thing was finishing tracks.

I kid you not, finished tracks are the result that inspires you to keep pushing forward even when you don’t feel like it.

It seems too simple, too obvious. But it’s true.

Yet nobody talks enough about the importance of it. Obviously it makes sense – you can only have successful releases with finished music, but it’s often deterred in the name of seeking quality.

Ira Glass talks about doing ‘a lot of work’, but you’re not really completing the whole picture is you’re settling on half-baked projects.

A cook doesn’t become a cook by making half a cake every time and giving up – they finish it and repeat it better every time.

Yet how many of us have half or barely-finished projects on our hard drives? How many of us let months pass without finishing a track?

By focusing on finishing music, quality starts to come through quantity.

Then, because you know the end result will be worth it, you begin to enjoy the process of working on music. There is a purpose to the tweaking, mixing and sound design.

In fact, finishing music can make you increase the number of hours you put in, over time. It’s a feedback loop that benefits itself.

And don’t worry – you don’t have to sacrifice your high standards as a result. You actually achieve your standards faster by making such a large amount of music.

If you’re unhappy with your progress as a producer, perform a simple calculation:

Number of finished tracks ÷ number of years producing

You’ll be surprised to see this number will be higher in producers who are successful, even if they don’t release all of their finished music.

Maybe you’ve been producing for 4 years and have finished 6 tracks.

6 ÷ 4
= 1.5 tracks per year

Call me insensitive, but it’s hard to call yourself a producer if you’re not even finishing 2 tracks a year for 4 years.

Think about what your potential audience would say:

Who is that? I haven’t heard much from that guy… All he does is post on Instagram but never puts out music.

Again, ooof.

Now, you might feel discouraged, but this isn’t designed to put you down – it’s the opposite.

No matter if you’ve been producing for 20 minutes or 20 years, a simple mindset shift can bring results.

All you need to do is start finishing music, and learning from your mistakes with each finished track.

Even this year, I’ve made the most music I ever have. It’s April 2020 and I’ve finished nearly 16 tracks, at an average of 1 per week.

Whether you just want to finish a song you’re proud of, or you want to rock the mainstage at EDC, finishing tracks is the one common thing all producers need to do.

So, if finishing tracks is the one thing you need to do, you need a framework for dealing with your existing ideas, figuring out which ones are worth it and finishing them.

Something practical that will set you on the path for finishing music, whether you sound like Skrillex or a 4-year-old with a xylophone.

Luckily for you, you can do that in the Project Extraction Masterclass – a course designed to help you eliminate bad ideas, clean up okay ones and finish the good ones.

We’ll cover:

  • Finishing those pesky projects that have been sitting at 90% done so you can finally release them
  • Creatively leveraging your unfinished projects (even those you know you’ll never finish) to build your own internal sample library
  • Identifying which projects are worth grinding through and finishing and which projects you should salvage and use for something else
  • Extracting the GOOD and re-fix the BAD so no unfinished project (no matter how poorly done) goes to waste

Sound good? Click below to get more info:

Start Finishing Music

Got any questions about finishing music? Unsure about something? Email me at [email protected] and I might be able to help.

Remember, it’s not too late to start finishing music.

About the Author

Aden Russell

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With 10 years of music production experience and some marketing chops, I head up the content here at EDMProd. I also make music under Artsea. My pastimes include reading, drinking coffee and taking photos.