The buzz in the production community this week is all around Deadmau5 and his new course, which teaches how he approaches melodies, mixing and mastering.
So why has the world’s most prolific producer, Joel Zimmerman, started teaching?
It’s no secret that music sales are declining, especially amidst news of SFX (the parent company of Beatport) going bankrupt. So it’s only natural for producers to be looking at different ways they can create experiences and express themselves.
Being a successful producer presents the same challenge as any creative business:
How do you have fun, make awesome stuff and a sustainable living at the same time?
make an entire experience with your work… not just a name and a piece of work. Make an interesting and unique experience, and the people will want to come to be a part of it. and the rest will just happen naturally.
Joel is certainly no stranger to creating experiences. Apart from his mouse head and insane live show, he already streams studio production sessions and films coffee runs in his Nyan Cat Ferrari.
He’s also collaborated for years with friend Steve Duda to release a host of plugins and synths under Xfer Records which have become staples for thousands of producers.
If you haven’t been thinking about it already, by now you’re almost certainly contemplating the future of your own music career. Should I be doing some of this as well?
I’m going to break down why you may want to consider making other cool things to sit alongside your music…
Make a contribution
Whether you’re Deadmau5 or not, bringing something new to the craft and helping others is extremely rewarding and can have a huge impact. It certainly gets me out of bed in the morning.
Finance your freedom (on your own terms)
Joel’s course sells for $90. That’s the price of 10 albums. It’s also sold directly through the production company – there are no labels or other middle-men involved.
Selling music through iTunes or Beatport incurs a 30% cut and what’s left is split between the label, artist(s) and management.
What’s more, a product or service can provide an injection of cash which gives you the freedom to say “What would I like to do with my life now?”
Our business hasn’t been perfect and we’ve failed many times, but the first trial of our online course made $10k and our last event over $20k in revenue.
Live a sustainable creative life
When an album or single is released, there is a peak of sales which then falls away. It’s why labels have catalogue departments which reissue classic tracks (and certain artists make embarassing comebacks)
If an artist hits the big time then publishing royalties can pay out for years to come, but for most the spotlight quickly moves on.
Unlike a piece of music, a course like Joel’s can be improved, added to and relaunched, keeping it fresh, relevant and earning cash-money.
There are of course other big sources of income for artists, like gigging. But what happens when you stop, have a family or simply want to stay home and tinker in your studio with a nice cup of tea?
Having something like this to pay the bills and keep you in the manner to which you’ve become accustomed is a very smart move indeed.
Make ’em smile
Part of the fun of producing, DJing and performing, is entertaining other people. It’s already clear from Joel’s hilarious promo video that this course is going to be as much fun to watch as it will be educational.
Attract an audience and exciting opportunities
The release of Joel’s Masterclass has been big news – an event even, like an Apple announcement. Creating something of value which benefits lots of people will create awareness of you and your music.
From our own experience with BeatCamp, we’ve been approached to do all kinds of things like sound design for one of London’s contemporary art galleries.
We’ve also received sponsorship and support from the two biggest music gear manufacturers in the industry. We get invited to industry parties, meet a-list producers and Andrew has even been featured on national TV.
Then there’s time time I embarrassed myself when Felix from Basement Jaxx walked into one of our events.
These and many other fun/random opportunities have come about purely from how we’ve helped people with their lives and creativity.
Build a world
I’m a huge Deadmau5 fan so I signed right up for the course and immediately noticed that Joel is using Serum in the course preview. This is the synth created by his friend and collaborator Steve Duda.
Serum sales will almost certainly get a nice uplift when the course starts. I’ll eat my hat if at least one other product like LFOtool, Cthulu or the XFer Sample CD doesn’t make an appearance as well.
Variety is the spice of life
Making something alongside your music can also provide an opportunity to flex or learn other skills. Almost all producers I meet have experience in technology, design, writing or marketing. Why not make the most of these skills?
It’s not all roses
I won’t lie – it’s not been plain sailing for Andrew and I to run events, a blog and create a course. Sometimes we have more time for making music, other times it’s a struggle to fit it all in – especially for me as I have a family.
Would I change it though?
What if I hadn’t taken branched out? I’d still be at home trying to get my music heard and make an impact.
I wouldn’t be working with the best music studios, artists and gear brands in the world. Some of these are the same studios that I couldn’t get a job in after finishing my degree in sound design.
Leave a comment below right now and tell us what you think…