11 Career Development Tips

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It’s not only being in the right place at the right time, but also knowing the right people and enjoying a fair bit of luck. The pros and readers give their top career development tips to streamline your ascent in the music industry…

Photo credit: Jasmin Barbir

Tony Visconti

One of the most important producers in the world, Tony Visconti is perhaps best known for his work with David Bowie, including the legendary Low, “Heroes” and Blackstar.

Top Tip: “Follow your instincts and do what’s right for the culture. A record isn’t just cool sounds. Great records are made by gifted artists with something to say and a talent to say it. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression to ‘polish a turd’. Well, don’t do that! Only work with the best. You don’t have to be famous to find great artists – undiscovered ones are living all around you. If you follow your heart, the hits will come.”

Aisling Brouwer

Aisling studied music and film composition in the UK and Los Angeles and holds an impressive CV of TV and film music.

Top Tip: “It sounds dull, but networking really does make all the difference. Approach as many people as you can and listen to what they have to say or any advice they can give you. Aside from getting to know directors and producers and liaising with agencies, it can also be valuable to develop relationships with other composers – because often, work is delegated between them if they’re unable to complete projects on their own.”

John Barrett

A senior recordist at Abbey Road, John has worked on an enormous range of albums, soundtracks and live recordings in his time working at the greatest studio in the world.

Top Tip: “It’s all about practice, really. You just have to keep doing it all of the time. A piece of advice I got from a really top producer once was: “Every single gig you do, try and do it better than the last. And it doesn’t matter what that gig is, just find a way of doing it better.” Even if you don’t like the music or the situation, it’s about finding something within it to make it better, something that you didn’t achieve last time. Approach it with that attitude, and there is never a dull day.”

Thomas Dolby

Dolby is one of the most pivotal figures in new wave and synthpop. His well-known song She Blinded Me With Science was a US smash hit. He’s now a tech entrepeneur in Silicon Valley and has also been the Music Director for TED Conferences.

Top Tip: “It’s not enough to just be great at your instrument and your songwriting anymore. You also really have to be a marketeer and a business person, a publicist and so on. You are not going to be in a position where someone is going to put that team together and fund it anymore, so it’s either not done, or you do it yourself and beg, borrow or steal to do it.”

Oliver Nelson

The Swedish nu-disco producer is also a master of marketing his mixes.

Top Tip: “I believe that music should be accessible to all people, despite what their income allows them to do, but the royalties need to be fair. A lot of people all over the world might not be able to afford to subscribe to Spotify or Apple Music. There are loads of ways of making money as a musician. It might be harder making the big bucks today, as the main income will be selling out arenas, although a smaller artist like me can still make a living out of what I do, even though I’m mostly getting traction on SoundCloud, which doesn’t give me any direct income… So just keep doing it because you love it, work hard and it will come. I didn’t start producing music because I planned on making a living out of it, I just made it because it was a big passion. The rest is just a bonus. It takes time and you have to believe in your own talent and it will happen, sooner or later.”

Jem Godfrey

Songwriter, remixer and producer Jem Godfrey has been behind some of the most succesful pop tunes of the last couple of decades.

Top Tip: “Listen more than you talk. Remind yourself when projects get into a bad place that none of this will matter in six months’ time, and you will be alright. Say ‘yes’ to everything… worry about scheduling later. Make sure your bullshit detector always has fresh batteries in it.”

Andy Bradfield

Engineer, producer and mixer Andy has produced both film soundtracks and hit pop records in his wide-ranging career.

Top Tip: “Take the time to listen to records you like and try to put it into practice. Don’t believe everything everyone tells you – just because they work a certain way.”

Career Development Tips – The Readers

Mike Banks: “Plan, plan and then plan some more; learn to solder; patchbays are invaluable; network with other people.”

Claudio Cueni: “Don’t worry too much about chasing gear. I’ve heard amazing records being made (and being extremely successful) on very modest gear. Nobody is going to hate your song because you didn’t use a Neve preamp. Learn the tools you have and become better and more proficient then everybody else. Skill, determination and creativity are always going to be the deciding factors in your career, and you can’t buy them at the pro-audio store…”

Ras David Fishe: “I think it’s important to always remember the core reasons for your passions in whatever you do in your studio and to also look for it in the fellow artists and producers that you work with. Let’s support each other more – we are a creative global family, so check your and anyone else’s ego at the door…and let’s modulate!”

Robert Hauck: “Team up with others, as no one can do or know everything – everyone has their own field of expertise. So be thankful for the ones who criticise. Finally, always stay trueto your ideas.