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PRODUCTION MENTORING FROM A DANCE MUSIC INDUSTRY VETERAN
You're an Artist Not a Producer
Top Ten Reasons Why Thinking of Yourself as an Artist is Easier

In this Guest Post, a Warp Records stalwart of over 25 years, challenges you to think of yourself as a musical artist and not a music producer. And argues that this way of looking at your work frees your from stresses and makes it fun. Which will give your career longevity.

1. ANDY WARHOL FREES YOU TO MAKE ART

      "Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if
      it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding,
      make even more art."


What a quote! A friend framed this for me about 20 years ago, when I was going through a creative block. It has been on the wall of my home studio ever since. Just get on with the fucking work and don't worry what anyone else thinks. Not thinking too much about the art allows you to make great art!
2. ART'S NOT COOL, IT'S OBSESSIONAL

You can always spot the poser art twat, he's dressed the part, always talks about what he's making and who he knows. He fancies himself a cool guy. He'll let you know it.

The proper artist doesn't know what's popular, doesn't care about clothes, and doesn't want to talk about the project they're working on because they are still working it out in their own head. They won't even be sure that their art is even art. And they're definitely not going to let you know that. But on the daily, they'll be thinking about it. Obsessively.

I've watched all those posers come and go. They're all married now working a dead-end job. I'm still working away at my music. Learn to love your work, not talking about your work.
3. HOW DO I KNOW IF I'M AN ARTIST?

Simply put, if it's not fun, it's not for you. A simple way to know for sure is to ask yourself which you preferred as a kid, was it: computer games, hanging out with friends and playing sports, or playing Lego, breaking things to see how they worked and only Minecraft appealed as a computer game? If it's the first three things then life as an artist isn't for you. Make a few tracks on your DAW, get bored, move onto the next thing. No shame in that. We're all different. If you're the latter of these three options then stick with the music, you'll find a way to make it work.
4. ARTIST ARE GAMBLERS, BUT IRONICALLY, WITH SHORTER ODDS

A lot of people who think of themselves as creative are not even creative at all. There are plenty of innovators out there which push music forward and then you alway get a slew of copycat artists who come in riding on their coat tails. Innovators spawn new genres. And for that one person who came up with something new, you'll have thousands of imitators. Of course labels will pick up a handful of the immitators to cash in on. But these days there will be tens or even hundreds of thousands of copycats all trying to sound like that breakout artist. One big grey goo, as Funk D'Void puts it. The irony is, if you go against what everyone else is doing you look more like the unicorn. The oddity. The thing worthy of a little more investigation. In short, you will get way more attention. And all without copying someone else's homework.
5. DON'T WORRY, YOUR EMOTION WILL RESONATE

To be balls-out creative is a dangerous game, you're putting your thoughts and emotions out there for everyone to see. But don't worry there is an audience out there for everyone. Don't believe me? Let's take two extremes. It's hard to imagine anyone being as angry as the people who make Norwegian Death Metal. Or as twee as the most flowery classical music? But both things are incredibly popular. Your thoughts and emotions, and the music you create are probably going to be in between those two extremes, no matter what you put out. This frees you up to express yourself in any way you wish. There will be someone out there that connects.
6. ART IS NOT A DIRTY WORD OR DEEP CONCEPT

If you said to your family or co-workers that you were an artist they would sneer at you: what a pretentious little twerp. But alternatively, if you showed them how you were feeling or thinking in the same situation they wouldn't bat an eyelid because it's just a conversation. And if you got better at expressing your emotions and thoughts to them, so they came to understand you better, you would even probably call that 'strengthening the friendship'. They would like you more, presumably. And this is what being an artist is. So think of yourself as an artist. Someone trying to get better at expressing emotions and thoughts in a better way to connect with other people. It's not some clever thing like brain surgery or rocket science.
7. THE ART IS PART OF THE PROCESS, NOT THE START

Any artist who says they have had an great artistic vision from the start are talking complete shit. So don't worry. You don't need one. But you need to be aware of when the art in what you're making is speaking to you. Either in a song, when a certain sound reminds you of something, or connects with you in an emotional way. Or in a bigger sense, when you've made ten or twenty tracks and they're beginning to have something that connects them to a bigger picture and you're finding your voice. Because that's where the art is. And you can let the art take over and make it something that speaks to other people.
8. NO FILTERS

If when making music you're thinking about one hundred and one different things, then you're never going to get to the crux of the art. I try not to think about any other stresses in my life. The walk to my studio I just look around and see the day. It clears my mind. I also try and not think about the technicalities of music, such as mixing, or mastering, or promotion, or playing it live, or how it will fit with what I've done before, or will it sell. I just go in clean and blank. If I look through the prism of anything else it always works out badly. Take a few deep breaths before you start to make anything.
9. YOU LEARN TOOLS BY USING THEM, NOT BY LEARNING YOUR TOOLS

With the younger musical artists I've collaborated with I see a completely different attitude towards the tools, with all the new advances in technology. They're obsessed with the technicality of the tools. And get caught in the details rather than just going for it. Back in the day we just listened with our ears, in the same way that a painter just looks with their eyes. A freeing way to think, and I've said it to them many a time: you don't learn to make great music by understanding the technicality any more than a great painter learns how to make great art by studying brushes or buying more paint. Serve the song. Not the tools.
10. ARTISTS ALWAYS CHEAT

Every artist gets stuck at times. There is no shame in it. But what a good artist will do is have a list of things they can go to when feeling down or uncreative. Here's a few of mine that I've picked up over the last 20 years.

I'll always go find a good biopic about how another artist struggled, not your Bohemian Rapsody crap but something like Love is the Devil, Vincent and Theo, Control, or Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll, anything that makes me feel better about my own strugggles.

Another great thing someone sent me was Brian Eno's Oblique Strategies for creativity.

And finally, if I'm really not feeling it, I'll just sit and sort through music making multi-genre 'mood board' mixtapes for myself, which head in the direction I'm currently trying to achieve. As Picasso once said, "Good artists copy, great artists steal."
Funk D'Void is a DJ and producer veteran with over 30 years experience. He has released records on Soma Quality Recordings, Outpost Recordings, ON IT Recordings, and Lost & Found. And has DJed around the world over the last thirty years. He now lives in Barcelona, where he plays table tennis and is here to out the next generation of talent.

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