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A Talk With Jay Hardway

A Talk With Jay Hardway 150 150 Artist Coaching

I had a chance to talk with the internationally recognized DJ/producer Jay Hardway. Here’s a paraphrased version of our conversation where we discuss the impact of COVID, evolving artist careers, and how the music industry is changing. 

Joey: How are you doing?

Jay: Good! Not touring, so I’m good physically since I’m sleeping better and having a healthier schedule. Mentally is a whole other story.

Joey: It’s an interesting time, especially for the level of artist that you are. From one day to the next, you almost lost 100% of your income. The biggest artists are the ones struggling the most with no touring schedule. What have you noticed around you? 

Jay: At first, I think there was maybe a denial mechanism: people didn’t want to believe that their whole life was basically turned upside down. People were doing live streams but soon realized that they couldn’t do it every day or week. So yeah, that’s where we’re at right now. I’ve noticed some guys are not panicking, but a bit stressed about their future. I’ve saved some money so I can take some more time to think. 

Joey: And what have you noticed with other industry players like booking agencies or managers?

Jay: They still work on keeping in touch with artists and helping understand how laws are changing with regards to the virus in other countries, but they have less to do. 

Joey: How is it being home and spending more time with friends and family?

Jay: It’s good to be in the same time zone with everyone. If I was in China and it’s 2 pm, I had no idea what time it was in Holland. I now feel more connected to home. I’m also noticing how much energy I have left at the end of the day. I used to be chronically tired on tour. My whole private life has changed. On the other hand, staying at home still impacts me mentally. 

Joey: Do you have a plan for the upcoming months?

Jay: I’m still going to release music regularly. I’m kind of winging it and trying to figure things out right now. I may have gotten too comfortable with my music last year, so I now have the opportunity to explore different directions. 

Joey: Are you comfortable adapting to change? 

Jay: Throughout my career, I realized how to adapt and not stress when something unexpected happens. I remember playing in Vegas for the first time, and I had 10 minutes between my dinner and my set. I didn’t have time to stress or whatever; I just walked straight into the DJ booth. That taught me a lot. 

Joey: Were you always comfortable on stage?

Jay: I learned DJing at small bars. Technically, I was fine, but I’m not a born entertainer, so I was insecure about the way I performed. I’ve now learned to enjoy it and bring the right energy to my sets. I also know that the scene has gotten more commercial, where the performance is more important than the music.

Nowadays, there are some big DJ’s that can survive by just playing their own music and have their fanbase. You normally fight for that freedom at the beginning of your career, but you soon understand what works best. The industry is changing. I still feel that I’m still at a point where I need to prove myself in some countries.

Joey: Do you think artists are willing to change?

Jay: Well, that’s the question, should artists be adapting right now? The music industry used to be only about labels and big studios. Then, the electronic music came up, and people with a computer could make something that would get super popular. I think we’ve reached the peak with Martin Garrix, and now it feels like we’re back to square one. To stand out among all the electronic musicians, you need connections with a label, playlists, or radio station. We need to bring back that feeling of independence and having success with self-releases. 

Joey: How is the dance industry evolving? 

Jay: I don’t think there’s exclusivity in music anymore. Maybe that’s what we’ve lost in the last couple of years. Having a new track and promoting it to specific DJs has become less special. People now focus on who has the best production or biggest name on the poster. It’s not necessarily bad because the industry has become more commercial, and people can make more money, but there are definitely some downsides. The industry should be more about the music. 

A Talk With Dannic

A Talk With Dannic 150 150 Artist Coaching

This interview has been paraphrased for consistency and clarity.

Joey: Dannic, how are you?

Dannic: Good! I’m currently in the studio preparing an EP and some new stuff for Miami. It’s been two years since I last played Ultra Music Festival, so I’m excited to showcase new music.

Joey: How do you prepare for such a big event like Ultra?

Dannic: We planned for a new Dannic sound in March. We realized that after four years, it was time to rebrand a bit and refresh the Dannic style. It’s hard for people to get to know the new updated sound with just one single, so we decided to do a three-track EP. 

Joey: What’s the process like to get a show at Ultra? Do they approach you?

Dannic: That’s an interesting question. Nowadays, it’s especially harder to get booked for bigger festivals, mainly because artists or labels now usually host the stages or “islands.” For instance, Martin Garrix has his own label STMPD. Whenever they have a stage hosted at a festival, it’s obvious that he’s going to invite all his friends from STMPD instead of me. This happened to me at Tomorrowland. They had less EDM stages, so my only option was to play at the Nervo stage since it was the most fitting. I had to reach out to Nervo myself and ask if they had any spots left. 

To be super honest, it’s getting harder and harder if you’re not locked or releasing on a particular label. For Ultra, Revealed is hosting a stage because it’s their ten year anniversary, and since I used to be on Revealed, they invited me to play. It’s not that Ultra booked me – of course, they had to approve my name – but I still needed a strong network. 

Joey: I think that’s a crucial topic to discuss because the new kids on the block might believe that things happen for you automatically since you’ve already had so much success. 

Dannic: Back in the days, when I was more popular and was playing the main stages, it didn’t affect me. Now I have to work hard and prove that I’m worth it. It’s more a political and strategic game nowadays then it’s about the music or the branding.  

Of course, I did very well, and I’m very blessed with my career thus far. But it’s not like I can lean back, relax, and stop working. I think there’s still a gigantic gap between the top 15 DJ’s in the world, and the rest. In certain areas, I’m a ticket seller, but not like Steve Aoki or Hardwell. That gap is getting bigger and bigger. 

When we started in 2011-2013, the EDM bubble was really big.  I always tell people the door has closed, and I’m right behind the door. For instance, after Hardwell played our collaboration at Ultra, my bookings and brand blew up. It was crazy and all eyes were on me. Nowadays, if I do a collaboration with, for instance, Garrix, everyone’s like, yeah, cool. It’s not that important anymore. You have to work harder and do better. 

Joey: What have you done as an artist to deal with these changes in the industry?

Dannic: We’re continually evolving and rebranding. These days marketing is more important than ever, primarily because of social media. People are used to fast and accessible content – they want it to be easily digestible. For example, on your Instagram stories, you have to make sure that there’s a good balance between promoting your stuff but also showing your personality.

Joey: People are tired of seeing stage photos with fireworks and lasers. They know you’re a DJ and want to build a deeper connection with you. At the same time, you have to consider that everything is also a matter of seconds when you’re creating content. 

Dannic: I have more than 500K followers on Instagram, but if I post something, the reach isn’t even 10%. Also, funny enough, the top comment every time I post something with a track is like, “what’s the track title?” Meanwhile, that track has been out for maybe six weeks, and I’ve posted about it almost every day. It just gives you an example of how important it is to keep informing people without being too pushy.

Joey: What’s the most important thing you focus on as an artist?

Dannic: I’m continually trying to keep my music fresh and exciting. The hardest part is finally finding your sound but trying to evolve within that sound. My goal is not to have amazing streams on Spotify, because I’m a club DJ. For me, it’s essential that I have DJ support and that my tracks go well in the charts of the DJs rather than the number of views on YouTube. 

Joey: How many days do you spend working on music every week?

Dannic: I would say two, which is not enough. However, while I’m on tour, I’m usually the most creative. At the beginning of my career, when I just started getting more bookings, I would get stressed about finishing tracks. At first, you have six or seven tracks lined up already for release, but then you start to play more shows and become less productive. I noticed that my creative flow was completely gone when I forced myself. 

Joey: In my opinion, you can’t force yourself to be creative, but you can put yourself in specific environments where you can get inspiration. For example, I liked watching Tomorrowland after movies or artist documentaries to get my creative juices flowing. The important thing is for artists to discover what triggers them into being more productive. 

Do you feel like the last couple of years was a process for you as well when it comes down to personal development?

Dannic: Yeah, it’s an ongoing process. The hardest part of doing this is balancing social and work. I’ve been doing this for seven years, so that’s seven years of having to skip weekends, birthday parties, and visiting friends. When I was younger, I wanted to do everything since my ultimate dream was coming true. Now, I see my parents getting older, and I have less time to spend with everyone, so I now have to prioritize certain events over others—for example, my mother’s birthday over a big festival. 

In terms of structure, I usually take Mondays off as my “DJ weekend.” It’s essential to take a break since 24/7 I’m dealing with time zones, different managers, emails, and phone calls. When I’m in the studio, I usually switch off my phone. I also just bought a whiteboard so that I wouldn’t get distracted by my phone. Another important thing is that I don’t work more than eight hours in the studio day. There’s only so much you can do on an individual level every day.

Joey: What’s the most important thing that you learned over the years? 

Dannic: Make choices on your intuition but also seek help when you can. One of my bad habits is that I want to do everything. The most important thing is knowing when you need to let go and trusting people in this industry. Having amazing people around you is a significant part of your success.

Joey: How many people are on your team?

Dannic: Around 12. There are people on my management team, helping with social media, booking agencies, publishing companies, etc. I do want to say that even if you have a big team, in the end, it comes down to you. No one will be more passionate about your career than yourself. 

Joey: Thank you so much for all the great advice. It’s very rare for artists in your position to be so open and honest. 

Dannic: My pleasure!

A Talk With Eddie Thoneick

A Talk With Eddie Thoneick 150 150 Artist Coaching

I had a chance to talk with german DJ/producer Eddie Thoneick along with his Instagram live audience. Here’s a paraphrased version of our conversation where we discuss success, mental health, and the best resources for your artist career. Watch the full video here! 

Eddie: So glad we’re able to chat given these circumstances! For everybody who doesn’t know you, can you give us a quick introduction?

Joey: I’ve been a DJ and music producer for over ten years. I started at the bottom DJing at weddings and later built a career in music by working with artists like Hardwell and releasing on labels such as Revealed, Spinnin, Toolroom, and more. Eventually, at the height of my career in 2014, I ended up burning out. I just felt unhappy with my current lifestyle as a DJ and artist. After that, I started educating myself, and now I run a business called Artist Coaching, which helps other artists maintain stability both mentally and in their careers. 

Eddie: We need to have these conversations and educate our audience on how not to make the same mistakes. 

Joey: I think what also makes it difficult is that people often don’t understand how an international DJ can face these challenges. To them, you’re living your best life on social media. Why would you be unhappy?

Joey: It’s personal; every artist has their manual, and they need to figure out how their manual works. When you can understand yourself, you’ll be more prepared to make decisions like signing a label deal or touring. I say this because, for most of my career, I was just listening to other people. I was distracted by the money and never really took the time to reflect on my decisions. You can’t expect other people to know when you’re unhappy; in the end, you’re the one responsible, in my opinion.

Eddie: If you had one tip for new artists, what would that be?

Joey: Learn to say no. This sounds really easy, but when you’re an aspiring artist, and you’ve been working for like five years to get at a certain level, and suddenly your dreams come true, it’s hard to say no to specific deals or opportunities. 

Trust your gut; your gut never lies. For example, if a record label deal is financially nice, but something feels off, you have to trust what’s best for you. Sometimes, it’s too late, and those deals backfire. 

Patience is really important, and one of the biggest challenges I see with up and coming artists. They don’t want to wait for five years without any payment or any results. But in the end, that’s the thing that’s necessary to come at that level of success. It can sometimes be even ten years until you can be professional and find success. 

Eddie: I think it depends on your niche. Sometimes an artist you’ve never heard of goes viral, and three months later, they’re touring the globe. 

Joey: There are so many elements to success that it’s difficult for you to know how long it takes. I mean, most of the people don’t have the opportunity to work as musicians full time and earn money with it. They have nine to five jobs and make music as a passion in the evenings and on the weekends. I think this is the right thing to do – the last thing you want is to have financial stress. Keep a side job to at least cover your monthly costs until you’re confident that your work is paying off. Financial stress is going to kill your creativity in the end, so you don’t want to get in a position where the money is going to put you in a bad situation. 

I can imagine that the music industry sounds like hell if you listen to stories like this. And it’s not. If you’re a talented person who loves to be an artist performing on stage, it’s the best job on the planet. But just be aware that there is so much more to the job and 60 minutes on stage. 

Eddie: If there was one book you would recommend, what would it be? 

The War of Art. It’s about creativity and all the blocks that you create for yourself.

Eddie: What about podcasts? 

Joey: When I first started this new project, I listened to a lot of Gary Vee, which is really like a marketing podcast. I also listen to Artificial intelligence by Lex Friedman and the Joe Rogan podcast. 

Eddie: How do you structure your day? Do you have any routines? 

No. And that’s the way I like it. My schedule is more weekly than daily. I work from Mondays to Thursdays, and Friday to Sunday is with my family. 

Eddie: I really need structure in my life, so I use the high-performance planner and plan everything daily. 

Someone in the comment section said: I’m 33 years now and have been working for almost ten years to reach success in the industry. Do you have any thoughts on that? 

Eddie: My initial thoughts are that they probably have to restructure. It seems like they’re very passionate, but perhaps they should try approaching their career from a different perspective. 

Joey: I wonder if they’ve reached nothing. You always reach something; it’s a matter of perspective. If you compare yourself to people who are making millions, that will only make you unhappy. Stop comparing yourself to other people. I would also say to get out of your comfort zone and start looking at things differently.

Eddie: Another question from the comments asks: How do I get a mentor when I don’t have money?

Podcasts and audiobooks are a great resource. The great thing is you can listen to people discuss topics like mental health and the music industry for long periods, and I’m sure some parts will resonate with your life. 

The Power Of Mindset | A Talk With Kid Massive

The Power Of Mindset | A Talk With Kid Massive 150 150 Artist Coaching

This interview has been paraphrased for consistency and clarity. Watch the full video here.

Joey: Let’s start with a brief introduction. For everyone who doesn’t know who you are, where did it all begin for you?

Benjamin: My name is Kid Massive. I’ve been a DJ for 25 years and a producer for 20 years. I’ve toured the world and released on many of the biggest independent labels, in addition to Sony, Warner, and Universal. Right now, I’m currently focused on helping new talent with my own two labels, Get Down Recordings and Get Down Black. I also run The Mindset Sessions, a podcast and teaching platform which helps young creatives understand their choices using my experiences and knowledge of cognitive-behavioral therapies, psychology, and spirituality. 

Joey: Why do you think it’s important for artists to have the right mindset and work on their mental health? 

Benjamin: For me, being creative is incredibly personal. It’s a journey of expression and how you feel. The more you know about yourself, the stronger your identity will become. We all start something because we love it, but then people start making decisions for us. So the more self-aware you can become, the more in line you can grow with your gigs, management, and all aspects of your career. 

Joey: What I think is interesting about the whole mindset game is that it can change your life once you’ve once you are in control. When I started my career, I started trusting other people and completely neglected my opinion, which caused me to end up in some sort of burnout. For example, mental health can be really important for your music releases. Many artists struggle with releasing their music due to insecurities or fear. If you can control your mind, your life can be much easier. I also think that having this control triggers your creativity. 

Benjamin: Absolutely, it’s about connecting to yourself and understanding what’s actually important. Do you get value in a booking or record deal? Be honest with yourself. You should be okay with the fact that you don’t release music for two months or three months or five months, because it’s a decision you’ve made. 

I’ve worked with a lot of the big labels, and in 2020, you have just an excellent opportunity of releasing a record as they do. If you have the right connections, if you have the right distribution network, you can publish a track yourself. I can control whenever I want to release it. There’s no deadline, and there’s no stress about having to put out a new record. 

Joey: It’s just crazy to see how many people in this industry don’t know these things. And it’s not like it’s that hard to know, right? Like, there’s a million books and podcasts written about it. You don’t have to go to a psychologist to understand these issues. 

Balance is key. Recently, I’ve mainly been focusing on balancing my life. For example, I like food, meat, I don’t smoke or do drugs, but I occasionally drink. But I know that working out is healthy, eating vegan is healthy, and drinking moderately is healthy. What I mean is that you can still enjoy life and take care of yourself at the same time. How do you think that translates to being an artist? 

Benjamin: It has to do with the balance of experience. You need to accept that you’re just like everyone else. Maybe you’re the king of the world during an hour-long DJ set, but when you’re done, you’re just like everyone else.  People have this massive crash because they believe that they’re someone they’re not. The numbers, the facts, and figures have proven that they’re successful, but success can be taken away quickly. And when things get taken away, artists struggle and change their identity. 

People start to think they should sound more like Hardwell or Don Diablo and change their sound just for a label. It might be a short term success. But when you take it to the long term, it can really redirect you from your own path. Your fans start to think, ‘Who is this guy?, are you a tech house, bass house, EDM producer? What are you?”

Joey: Knowing that you’ve been working on the mental side of things for the last couple of years, how would you advise someone who doesn’t know anything about what we’ve talked about?

Benjamin: Asking “why?” really helps. Like if you get that number one song, how does that make you feel? Why do you think that way? Why is it essential for me to act differently to become successful? There are lots of things that happen in our lives that we don’t pay attention to. 

Once you become self-aware, then you can think about how you can do things differently. When you challenge your brain, your brain increases, it grows, it’s like a muscle. The more you use it, the bigger it gets. This also helps with your productions.

I do a lot of work with Loopmasters, and in 2018, I was the number one selling producer on the platform. I made psytrance, trap, tropical house. jazzy hip hop. I did everything else other than what I usually do. And as a producer, that means my knowledge and creativity just expanded.

Many producers have a sample base and structure to make a track super quick, but the creativity is gone because it’s just a habit. You’ve evolved as a producer where you are at the level where you just can do it with your eyes closed, but there’s no goal anymore. There’s no challenge anymore. And that’s what I was missing as well. I stopped challenging myself in the studio eventually. And that’s boring.

People need to reignite the ‘fun’ in their productions. Think about what inspires you to make music. For many, it’s not the technical aspect, but it’s the creative part. For me, now I want to make Latin house, soul house, disco remixes. It still fits my style, but it’s something different, challenging, and fun. 

Joey: Thank you so much for sharing all your knowledge and experience!

A Talk With Farah Syed [Beatport]

A Talk With Farah Syed [Beatport] 150 150 Artist Coaching

This interview has been paraphrased for consistency and clarity.

Let’s take a few steps back. Tell us a bit more about yourself and which company you currently work for. 

I’ve been working at Beatport for almost two years now at their Berlin office. I’ve had different roles at Beatport: I originally started in label management, then in marketing, and now I’m the partnerships manager. As the partnerships manager, I’m mainly dealing with outside relationships, working with brands, charity organizations, collectives focusing on diversity, and business development. Many of those partnerships encompass other departments, so I like having the freedom to work with the editorial team, the artist relations team, label management, and articles for Beatportal. 

How did you end up in the music industry, and eventually Beatport?

This is my 12th year in the industry now. Before Beatport, I lived in Los Angeles, where I worked for five years at WME, a talent agency, and focused on brand partnerships. This was also when electronic music was rising in the US around 2008-2009, and it was amazing to work in those teams and see that explode. We worked on Avicii’s Ralph Lauren deal and some other projects like Swedish House Mafia. After that, I got into artist management, but I missed being on the business side of things. I wanted to move away from LA and get creatively inspired again. I eventually moved to Berlin and got connected to Beatport. The rest is history!

Going back to your job at WME, why do big brands invest in artists?

Brands want to do something innovative and connect with their key audience in a more meaningful way. For example, 7UP knew that electronic music was booming, so they did a deal with Martin Garrix. They also knew that electronic music would be more attractive to their younger demographic, which consumes their drink. 

What could be the value for the artist – is it just money? 

For a lot of the artists, you get a massive paycheck for only a couple of days of production work. So you can make a good amount of money for two days of work, which would typically take five or six months. Sometimes brands pay for full tours, like Virgin Mobile and Lady Gaga. But also, it’s kind of cool if Nike or Red Bull wants to work with you. It means your fan base probably will grow, you’ll get a whole new audience; it’s also kind of flattering.

You mentioned living in LA, and later Berlin. One of the questions I get from artists is that they feel the need to move to places like LA or Berlin to get more involved in the industry. Is that valuable?

I think it’s smart to move somewhere where there’s a key scene from a business perspective. I’m not an artist, but I’ve worked with artists from different locations and would say it’s great to live in places like Berlin, Amsterdam, London, Los Angeles, New York, where it’s pumping in the veins of the city. In that way, you become part of a community, and  your network and ties become stronger. If you’re somewhere like Hawaii, you could definitely get your music heard, and I’m sure you can focus and stay productive, but then the networking side of things maybe get lost. If you’re producing, I think you can be anywhere in the world, but I think it’s also essential to live in a thriving place because you’re really plugged in. People end up building collectives, communities, labels – networking is a big part of your career. Human connections provide a lot more opportunities. 

What was the main thing you learned from your time at an artist agency and as a manager?

Artists are always overthinking their music, and they can be tough on themselves when the music is really good.

How did you deal with that?

I think it has to do with trust. A lot of artists overthink their music even though it’s already finished. As a manager, we can pitch the song to labels now, and the artist needs to trust us. 

It’s about having a relationship with the client and telling them that the music is good enough. 

What would you need as a manager to make an artist bigger?

I would say releases under your belt, and maybe a secret stash to show that there’s something to work with. The manager should know what you sound like and what you’re capable of. Having a pipeline of gigs or a booking agent also helps a manager because they have something to work with then.

You mentioned the importance of having releases under your belt. I often see that artists are ashamed of their previous releases, which leads them to delete their earlier tracks. I always tell them not to do that since it’s kind of like a resume. It tells something about where you came from and where you’re going. Do you agree?

Yeah, I think you should never be ashamed of where you came from. I think it’s fair to be proud of what you’ve made because it probably got you to where you are now. It helps you evolve as an artist. 

We met each other on the same panel in Munich about mental health. How do you think that mental health has affected the music industry in the last couple of years?

I think it’s amazing that people have talked more openly about the topic, and there’s less stigma. Unfortunately, people have had to pass away for this to happen, but there are some conversations you could have never had ten years ago, and now we can. Instead of a DJ being on the front of DJ Mag, the main topic is now about mental health. As a platform like Beatport, we must make this a global point to discuss. 

In addition to mental health, I think it’s also Beatport’s responsibility to educate people on other priorities like diversity and sustainability. With Beatportal, we can also highlight more of these topics; recently, we’ve been highlighting female and LGBTQ artists. It’s essential for us also to portray diversity and mental health in everything we do even on the store with things like feature charts, content, and editorials. 

Switching gears, how do you think that Beatport has been affected by the rise in streaming services? 

We recently introduced Beatport-Link, which is a subscription service and allows direct access to our entire catalog. For someone like me who’s wanting to learn how to DJ, it’s cool that I can get any track at my fingertips. We’ve also had some fantastic charity live streams recently with artists from around the world. Beatport is still thriving!

Thank you again for taking the time to tell us more about your work at Beatport and your experiences in the industry!

Talk with Fabian Mazur

Talk with Fabian Mazur 150 150 Artist Coaching

This interview has been paraphrased for consistency and clarity.

Joey: Let’s start from the beginning. How did it all begin for you?

Fabian: My mom and dad were jazz musicians, so I kind of had music in my blood. I didn’t start messing around with music until I was like 16 or 17. It just escalated from there. I started releasing music on Trap Nation and Elysian Records – basically, all the YouTube and SoundCloud labels because that was where trap music was back then. 

Joey: How did you get in contact with him? 

Fabian: I think I must have sent thousands of emails out to labels. I did the old spam thing. Eventually, it worked out. 

Joey: Do you put out much music, or are you specific with what you release?

Fabian: I used to be the quantity over quality guy. I was putting out more than one song every month for the first few years of my career. Now I’m way more nitpicky. I will probably release a song every few months now.

Joey: Yeah, it’s interesting because many producers will release a lot of music when they’re starting. Once the attention is there, they kind of start slowing down. Did you notice any difference when you started releasing your music on that bigger label?

Fabian: Of course, I did. It kickstarted my career. I didn’t earn much money doing it back then. The money was coming from DJ gigs. But basically, it helped spark my production career.

Joey: Did you notice any new gigs coming in after releasing on Trap Nation? 

Fabian: A little bit, but not that much. We don’t really have an EDM scene in Copenhagen. The only gigs that were coming in were a few shows in Germany and offers in Asia, Russia, and Eastern Europe, but it was very minimal. 

Joey: Is it better now? 

Fabian: Not really to be honest. It’s funny because my touring career never really took off. 30-40 shows a year was probably the most I’d ever played. My touring career never really went crazy. Right now, I’m good with not touring at all. I spend all the time in the studio, which I love, but eventually, I would like to start traveling. 

Joey: I think it’s good to think about it. I think most artists go into the touring mode directly without even thinking that they are probably a better music producer. It’s two different things, you know? 

Fabian: Exactly. I’m kind of okay with just being in the studio. 

Joey: I started digging online, and I think the way you market yourself on Instagram and Youtube is excellent. How do you manage to upload all those videos, and especially the vlogs? I know from experience that it takes a shitload of time. 

Fabian: To be honest, it was kind of a priority because I didn’t have a social life. I stayed in the studio, editing videos and making music for 10 to 12 hours every day except Sundays. In the future, I do want to do content regularly, but not that much. I admire people that can put out weekly content on YouTube. That takes a lot of work and much effort. I remember the vlogs would take me anywhere from 10 to 20 hours of work to edit. 

Joey: Where did you learn how to edit your videos? 

Fabian: YouTube University, man, haha. I learned everything on Youtube. Music production, video production, vocal recording… everything!

That’s my thing about music school. If you didn’t go to music school, and you would just produce for a year, I bet you would have learned more than just playing with your daw. Music theory is important. I mean, it can teach you a lot of things. It’s just a whole different way of working.

Joey: Let’s dive into the whole sample thing. How did you end up there? 

Fabian: I did sample packs for this Australian company called Zenheiser (not the headphone company). And then, when Splice launched, they heard the sample pack, and they approached me and asked if I wanted to do like a signature Fabian Mazur sounds sample pack. Bear in mind this was like the early days of Splice, so there weren’t many trap EDM sounding packs back then. A few months later, my manager told me they want me to start my own label on Splice. Two years later, I think I’ve done 18 or 19 sample packs by now. I would say it’s almost a full-time job just making samples.

Joey: How does that work? 

Fabian: There are multiple different ways of doing it. Sometimes I layer stuff until you can’t even notice the original sample. So I would layer say, seven snares – the low end from one, mid-range from another, and make new snare out of it. Some packs are different. I had the concept of doing a jungle sample pack, so I looked at the cheapest flights from Copenhagen to a big jungle. I went to Thailand and recorded all the local people, the forest, the birds, everything. 

Joey: On average, how much time would it take you to create a pack like that? 

Fabian: Usually, my sample packs take me about one to two months – and that’s like four to six hours a day.

Joey: Don’t you go crazy?

Fabian: I just did a sample pack called wubs, which is coming out in a couple of months. It’s basically only bass sound design. No drums, no nothing. I was going crazy, just like making serum presets and tweaking wobbles for many hours every day. That was pretty sickening. 

Joey: How do you get paid for that? Like, how does that work? 

Fabian: I can talk about it a little bit. I get a percentage fee of the samples used from Splice credits. Basically, I sell many thousand samples a month that amounts up to a certain amount of dollars, which I get paid out every month. 

Joey: I can imagine that that gives you a different way of income as well, aside from your gigs and your music.

Fabian: Very much. If it weren’t for the Splice thing, I wouldn’t be able to make a living making music. I’m super grateful that I have that. 

Joey: Yeah, I think that’s funny. So many starting artists don’t see how hard it is to make a living from music. From the outside, it might look perfect and easy, but from the inside, you have to make quite some money to actually make a living from it. 

Fabian: Many people write to me like, “Hey, dude, I’ve been making music for eight months in fruity loops. How do I make money from my music?” You’re not just going to be able to make a living off your music from day one. It’s a prolonged process. And I think many people don’t realize a lot of us have been struggling for like five to 10 years until we made an income that we could make a living from.

Joey: True. I still remember the first time I had this ten day tour in America, and I made like zero money. I think it’s a great thing that right now we’re in an age where it’s straightforward to make an extra buck on music; for example, the samples, streaming, or YouTube. It’s just something extra. 

Fabian: Exactly. And that’s one of the main points that I want to stress. When people ask me how to make a living within the music industry, you need to have different revenue incomes. You need to have money coming from different places. I have shows, royalties, Splice samples, and Youtube. I would encourage everyone to look at their career objectively and try to analyze where they can make money from. To be honest, not a lot of producers or music artists make all their income from like one specific stream.

Joey: What’s in it for Fabian Mazur in the future?

Fabian: So that’s a big question for me right now because I’m so I used to be in the trap/EDM space. Right now, I’m trying to bridge slowly into a more electronic urban type of space. I think that’s the space I want to be in eventually. But it’s a slow build. You can’t just release an EDM song one day, and then the next day you publish like a guitar vocal type song. I’m trying to go into a more organic sounding space and away from all the trap EDM stuff. 

Joey: Sounds cool! Thanks for taking the time to do this, man. I appreciate you sharing your story!

Long Term vs Short Term Success | A Talk With Green Tree

Long Term vs Short Term Success | A Talk With Green Tree 150 150 Artist Coaching

Mixing and Mastering in Depth | A Talk With Jeffrey

Mixing and Mastering in Depth | A Talk With Jeffrey 150 150 Artist Coaching

This interview has been paraphrased for consistency and clarity.

Joey: Thanks, Jeffrey, for joining me! Let’s start by talking about producing environments. A lot of clients ask me what type of speakers and equipment they should get. I always say it starts with your room. You can buy the most expensive speakers on the planet, but if your room sucks, it’s not going to work.

Jeffrey: Very true. First, it’s always a matter of taste when it comes to the speakers itself. What’s even more important is the room. If you have terrific speakers, but your room has a lot of reflections, dips, and peaks, you’ll still get a shitty sound. 

All rooms have spots where sound is reflected. You can visualize waveforms bouncing back and overlapping, which either causes dips or peaks in your sound. You may think that your bass or high frequencies are boosted when they aren’t. This becomes problematic when you’re mixing or mastering. 

Joey: How can we fix the acoustics?

Jeffrey: By using a lot of bass traps. A lot of people tend to go online and buy those cheap foam panels. What’s funny about those bass traps is that they don’t work since they trap below 200 hertz. Get some proper acoustical treatment like Rockwool panels. GIK acoustics also has some affordable acoustic panels. They also have excellent customer service, which can help you find the right panels for your room. 

There’s also a scientific theory where there are certain volume levels that boost more high or low frequencies. The best volume is roughly around 80 dB SPL. My room is calibrated to approximately 80 dB, which means I always master at that monitor level. You can also download an app on your phone and use the SPL meter. You can then have a fixed point on your master volume knob, which you can use as a reference. 

Joey: Are bigger speakers always better? 

Jeffrey: Not necessarily, with larger speakers, they actually move slower, which could be less precise. However, you can definitely hear a broader range of lower and higher frequencies. I think regular near field monitors that are six to eight inches are good enough. 

Joey: What’s your opinion on the SubPac?

Jeffrey: Yeah, I still haven’t used it. I think it’s cool because you can feel those low frequencies. My gut says that it might feel unnatural at lower levels. I think it might be even better than subwoofer though since those can be more problematic without room treatment. 

What a lot of people do when they buy a subwoofer is crank it up all the way to hear the bass. When you hear the subwoofer, you’ve done it wrong. You should not hear the subwoofer; you feel it, but don’t pay attention to it. 

Joey: Are there any trends you see in the mastering world?

Jeffrey: Yes, a couple. One of the biggest misconceptions right now is people think stem mastering is better. If your mix is bad, stem mastering will not make the result better. The only reason why stem mastering is cool is that engineers can charge more.

I’m also noticing that the industry is more conscious of the loudness war. People are finally realizing that maximizing loudness doesn’t always make sense. In specific scenarios, like an EDM track, you still want a crushed and compressed sound – you want that energy. But for other genres, it isn’t necessary, especially nowadays with streaming services. 

I see more people transitioning back to vinyl, especially with techno and some club tracks. However, they forget to ask the mastering engineer for a specific vinyl master. If you have a digital release, you will use limiting and compression methods, which won’t work for vinyl. 

Joey: Are there any mastering plugins that you would recommend?

Jeffrey: Yeah, during Amsterdam dance event, I was invited by Isotope to talk about Ozone 9. There’s a function called master rebalance. Using artificial intelligence, you can simply turn the level of some aspects like vocals and drums up and down. 

I still use the Fabfilter plugins all the time. The new Pro-q has a dynamic EQ function, which means it’s just boosting or cutting a frequency just when that frequency is speaking. It’s brilliant. 

Joey: I was talking to a client yesterday, and he had a specific question: Is it a bad thing to put a limiter on a kick?

Jeffrey: In music, there are no laws, so no. To be honest, I don’t think it will add something to the sound. The point of a limiter is to reduce peaks, but for a kick drum, you want to have that peak, so it could even make it worse. 

What I always say is that you should know the rules, to understand how to break the rules. If you want to send your work to a mastering engineer, you should not have a limiter since that limits the dynamic range an engineer can work with. 

Joey: If you do want more of a bass presence, what’s the best way to do that? 

Jeffrey: Add distortion to boost the harmonics. It’s perfect for songs on phone speakers since they can’t go that low. Because you’re adding those harmonics, you’re basically tricking the mind into listening to those low frequencies. 

Joey: Thanks for your time!

Interview With Jay Hardway

Interview With Jay Hardway 150 150 Artist Coaching

This interview has been paraphrased for consistency and clarity. You can listen to the full interview with Jay Hardway here!

Joey: Welcome, Jay! How are you?

Jay: I’m good!

Joey: There probably aren’t many people who don’t know you yet, but can you tell us a bit more about how you started? You already mentioned that you started DJing at house parties, weddings, and those kinds of things.

Jay: I started making music when I was 14. At the time, it was just a hobby and something I already loved. I was already into the local DJ’s and would always ask about their equipment. Then a friend of mine introduced me to his DJ set, and I would practice with him. He used to DJ at a hockey club. I then started doing parties for friends, weddings, and then bars. I was kind of stably doing that but wasn’t going that much anywhere until I got my first hit six years ago.

Joey: When did you realize that this might be a career?

Jay: I was 14 or 15 when I found out about Fruity Loops and was already learning how to make melodies. Then, around 18 or 19 was when I thought I had some talent.

Joey: What was the reaction from your family or friends when you started doing that?

Jay: They were very annoyed because I would show them the music I thought I was very good, but there’s this thing when you start making music or anything creative, you think you’re excellent, and you believe everything you make sounds good because you made it and it’s new. But then you reach this point where it’s like, ‘oh’ I’m not good at all. I think it’s called ‘Mount Stupid’ or something: you go down all the way and slowly build your quality and become better. I think the moment for me was when I bought my first studio monitors. The melodies were already there, but the sound and the other things were horrible. I then realized that I had talent, but a lot more work to do.

Joey: You mentioned that you’d spent a lot of time in the studio. How did you develop your skills? Did you go to school?

Jay: No, I watched a lot of youtube tutorials and found out by myself. I was mostly having fun and making stuff that I wanted to make. I would hear a track by Chuckie and try to recreate it, but it wouldn’t sound anything like it. Every time you do a new project, you learn a new skill, find a unique sound, or find a way to make your kicks sound better. With hundreds of projects, after awhile, you just become better and better. And there’s this point where you start to hear if your track is good enough.

Joey: That’s interesting. How do you hear that? Can you explain it?

Jay: It’s tough. I feel like I don’t always have this because sometimes I think something sounds good while everyone else hates it. So there will always be a taste thing. It’s also nice as a DJ to test your track out and see the reaction in the club. It’s purely experience when it comes to knowing a good melody or baseline, but you need to test it out as well.

Joey: It’s a bizarre thing because I talk to a lot of artists like music producers and DJ’s, and that question keeps popping up, like how do you know when your track is finished?

Jay: Oh, it’s never finished, I think.

Joey: But how do you decide the moment when it’s all done?

Jay: I think you’ve got to talk to a label or your manager and decide, ‘this is it.’

Joey: So you use other people to make decisions as well?

Jay: Kind of. As a producer, your track is never finished. You always have some stuff you might still want to do. For example, polishing high hats, adding FX, etc. There’s always going to be things that you want to change. For the sake of your release schedule, you sometimes need to say, “okay, the baby is leaving the nest now” haha.

Joey: So how did you do that before you had a label or manager? Which people did you reach out to?

Jay: Forums. I would post on the Laidback Luke forum. He was giving feedback himself, which was helpful because technically there were some tips, but he was also mostly giving us opinions. It used to be a hotspot of people, like a little community. Also, the Vato Gonzalez forum was really good. We would meet up at Dancefair with people from the Vato forum, and it was a cool and small community. I don’t know if there is a community like that now. It seems more individual.

Joey: There’s definitely a few more pages — especially Facebook groups. I have one myself where 1000 producers are talking to each other and giving feedback. I think it’s moved from having a forum on your website to social media.

Jay: You have to accept the fact that it will never be finished. I remember I sent my track, Electric Elephants, to Martin Garrix, and he was like, “I don’t like the drop.” It really impacted me, and I tried to change it and come up with new stuff but decided to keep it that way. It turned out great, and it became a big success. So, you can’t please everyone; there’s always going to be people who don’t like some stuff in your track.

Joey: That’s the thing about music. It’s art. I can have a look at the Mona Lisa and say, “I don’t like it,” but somehow it’s still worth millions of dollars. There’s a significant personal opinion involved in the whole matter. That’s always really interesting because when you ask for feedback, you get their personal opinion and not feedback.

Jay: That’s important, but I also think with feedback, you know you get good feedback when you hate what the person is saying because you knew they were right. I noticed this even with the A&R at Spinnin. I would send a track, and he would come back to me like, “yeah I like it, but….” and then everything he says you know is right, but you hate it because you don’t want to admit it sometimes to yourself. It’s essential to have really honest people.

There are definitely artists that do everything the way they want to and have success, but I don’t know if you can do that in the DJ or EDM scene; you want tracks that always please crowds.

Joey: It’s a balance in that you also have to please a crowd, but at the same time, you want to represent yourself as an artist. It’s a compromise.

Jay: It’s like a gray area since it’s artistic so you shouldn’t make it more commercial, but at the same time, it’s a business.

Sometimes you’ve got to say, “I’m going to do this track this way.” You’ve also got to remember that you’re always expressing yourself, and even if there’s one lifelong fan because of that track, it’s a win. If the rest don’t like it, you’re going to have a new record the month after.

Joey: What are your thoughts on the releasing amount? Did you mention once a month? It’s kind of changed in the last couple of years.

Jay: Yeah, it’s crazy stressful. You put yourself under pressure; your fans put you under pressure. Whenever you release a track, people are asking, “when is there new music?” I mean, you can choose not to do that. You can decide to release two tracks a year, but I think you’re going to have a difficult time getting bookings.

Joey: That’s the thing. Promoters need ammunition to sell tickets. You feel pressure from fans, from promoters — maybe your manager is also starting to push you because they need to sell you as well. And you’re pushing yourself because you want to release music as a creative artist. That’s always going to be difficult and a struggle to get the next big thing.

Jay: The fun thing about making music is that you never know what’s going to be the next big thing.

Joey: In your opinion what’s your most famous track?

Jay: ‘Wizard’ with Martin Garrix is my biggest hit. I expected it because Martin was already big. Martin released Animals, and right after was Wizard. But personally, I think Electric Elephants has been the one where the industry saw, ‘oh this guy is legit; he can produce as well.’ That’s a more significant achievement for me because that put me on the map.

Joey: Did you expect the track to become that big?

Jay: No, not at all.

That’s the fun thing. You’re just sitting in the studio making something that you like. You find a label for it, it gets released, and you have no idea what’s going to happen. I think that’s the great thing about music these days, especially with the internet, you never know where it ends up. Sometimes it ends up in the Indonesian charts, and you’re like how did it end up there?

Yeah, it’s crazy how it works. I remember sending it around to some DJ’s, and they were like, “It’s awesome,” and the label sent it around, and it got so much good feedback. That’s what happens a lot. And when they start playing it in Ultra and Tomorrowland, that’s different, and you know it’s getting some different traction.

Joey: Do you have an idea about what makes that track special?

Jay: It’s accessible. The first time you hear it, it’s already easy to listen to. It’s an easy melody but also has a different sound. It’s different and easily accessible.

Joey: You mentioned the collaboration with Martin Garrix. Can you talk a bit more about how that happened?

Jay: Yeah, we go way back. We were friends before we both got big gigs. He was producing when he was 14 years old, and I met him on the Vato forum. We worked together for the next few years and became friends. Once everything blew up, he got signed to Spinnin Records and Animals came. No one expected the success of Animals. And then Wizard came. So literally the summer of Animals, right before, I was still delivering barbecues. Half a year later, I’m touring across the world.

Joey: So that track put you on the map internationally and got you the gigs and financial arbitrage.

Jay: Yeah, like in a really fast time. It felt like it was overnight from DJing in a small bar in my hometown to DJing in Vegas.

Joey: In the beginning, when those international gigs came in, were you booked together with Martin Garrix, or under your own name?

Jay: Well, I’ve been signed to Ace Agency, and they were really smart with their tactics. I got signed right around the time of the track.

Joey: So Wizard also put you on the map in the industry.

Jay: Right, and Martin was speaking very highly of me. He made sure that Ace Agency signed and made sure that Spinnin signed me. He was really pushing me forward. It was really cool to see a friend do that.

But then, the way Ace Agency did it was genius because they said, “Hey, you booked Martin Garrix, do you also want to book Jay Hardway?” So I had my own fee and my own name, and of course, I was presented when Martin Garrix was booked, but as a separate artist. Not like a package deal, because the thing is, when you do a package deal, you don’t know what price you’re worth. And now we knew in that market, Jay Hardway is worth X fee. We could really build that market.

Joey: Wow, I didn’t know that was the start of it. I thought you had a whole career before that.

Jay: Well, a career in barbeques! I was making a lot of music, and not releasing it yet. I was already signed to Universal publishing, but Wizard was really my launch. Then it was the pressure for me to continue.

Joey: How did you comprehend with that pressure?

Jay: It was a lot of insecurity in the beginning because I knew I could make music, but I didn’t know how to convince anyone else that I could make music as well because they thought I only released hits with Garrix. So it took me a couple of months. I think Wizard was released on October 2013, and it took me till March to release Bootcamp. That was my first solo single, but it did really well, so it brought me some hype again.

Joey: I can imagine that’s a tough place to be in. It’s great that you have such a kickstart to your career, but at the same time, the audience might think you’re ‘Robin’ to ‘Batman,’ and now you feel the stress of proving the fact that you’re not Robin — you’re Superman.

Jay: I tried to let go of that idea. I was also a bit older than Martin — Martin was like 16, and I was like 22 ish. So I already had more life experience that I would be less impressed by that idea. I was just going to do my thing, and if people booked me because of Garrix, then amazing, and if they started to see that I make my own music, that’s awesome. But I never really tried to overthink. The pressure there was mostly coming from myself.

Joey: I think that’s your power. We’ve never spoken before and what I can tell about your stories is that you are consciously aware of the things that are happening in your life and your career. I think that’s a big power.

Jay: Yeah, I think it’s really important. We see a lot of artists that are puppets, and they don’t really care. I never did that. It’s also crucial to be conscious of your health.

Joey: Is that still something that you think about when you’re touring. Do you do a lot of long tours — so two-week tours?

Jay: No, not that much. I prefer one, maybe two weekends, and then that’s it. Two weeks is a long time for me to be away from home. The US isn’t that big of a market for me, so it’s mostly one weekend. In China, sometimes I do two weeks because there are two weekends connected, but mostly it’s been just a separate weekend with two shows. In the summer you might have some shows in the middle of the week.

Joey: What’s the biggest market for you right now? Asia?

Jay: Asia is big, but it’s tough to tell these days.

Joey: Is Europe still a thing?

Jay: Yes. On the one hand, promoters are saying EDM is dead, and yeah, it’s hard to book EDM acts. On the other hand, you can do shows, and people are going crazy on the commercial stuff. You start to question if EDM is really dead. I was at a street parade in Zurich, and this guy starts with Techno, and then another DJ starts playing commercial stuff. Right away, people began going way crazier. So people say they don’t like EDM, but they do otherwise. They still love commercial stuff.

Joey: Yeah, like saying that you’re underground is more “interesting” but a lot of people are commercial. It’s the decision that you make as an artist. What are you going to follow? Do you want to please the crowd? Promoter? What’s the balance in that whole story.

Jay: Well, pleasing the promoter is selling tickets. If you sell your tickets, the promoter is probably happy. That’s basically the way it is. I’ve had a bunch of times where they loved my set, and we had a good time and dinner, but in the end, they are way more into the money.

Joey: But let’s say that you organized an event. You book your favorite artist for probably a crazy amount of money. You schedule the artist, it’s not a private party, it’s a commercial party, and ten people end up there. You get 100 euros in revenue, and that’s it. I would go crazy — who wouldn’t?

Jay: Yeah, that’s what you’ve always got to realize as a DJ. You don’t have to be a commercial guy, but you have to accept that if you’re not adding commercial touches to your set, you might end up doing fewer shows or selling less tickets. That’s also okay — but if you want a big mainstage, you’ve got to start by selling tickets.

Everybodys always like, Timmy Trumpet came out of nowhere and now he’s big. But I remember I was headlining a show and he was the second headliner. But he had this merch and his blow-up trumpets — he’s been building ever since and working really hard. Now he’s doing the mainstage. People don’t see what’s behind the scenes.

Joey: You mentioned that you spent a lot of hours in the studio, and there’s this saying that after 10,000 hours you’re a pro. People also forget that people went through the whole thing — they went through the same period.

Jay: I get demos from people that say “hey, it’s not mastered yet” and then I always think like ‘okay, there’s one of these again.’

Joey: So what’s your thought at that moment?

Jay: Well, it’s like saying “It’s not good enough, but I’m still going to send it to you anyways.” Why don’t you finish? If it’s not mastered, that’s basically an excuse that it doesn’t sound good.

What’s also frustrating about being a creative artist is that you put in hours and hours, but then it’s like no one wants it, and you can’t do anything with it. You could send it to your mom, and she would like it, but that’s so many hours wasted. That’s something that you’ve got to live with.

Joey: Well, I think that’s changed. We come from a time where that actually happened. If you couldn’t sign on a label, you were fucked. But right now, everyone can post on Tunecore or Distrokid, and for 10 dollars they put your music on Spotify or iTunes. Right now, if a label doesn’t want it, you can still say fuck it, let me do it myself. Let’s contact some playlist owners and see if I can promote it or send to a couple of DJ’s. That’s when you come back to the art aspect of it — there’s always people who do or don’t like it. I think there’s a big advantage right now for aspiring artists. They’re not relying on third parties anymore. The label or manager isn’t in charge anymore; you are in charge. It just comes down to how much work you spend to promote yourself.

Jay: It’s a hard job, so that’s why you’re paying half of the track royalties to labels in the first place.

Joey: Labels can still be super handy, but only when you sign with a label with that reach like Spinnin or Revealed — those are all labels who have the attention of their fanbase. You also need a label that’s consistent with the quality.

Jay: I think it’s always dangerous for yourself and your own brand if you’re posting anything online. I always had the feeling that if my track wasn’t good enough for my label, maybe it’s not good enough for my market. So I would come back with a record where more people from labels said, yes, ‘it’s good enough.’ It’s kind of like quality control. But then again it’s a balance.

Joey: It’s a critical question. Similar to a promoter, the label is in the money business. So if they listen to a track that’s AKA “underground,” that’s hardly sellable. But at the same time, it might also mean that it’s different and that it could be the next ‘Animals.’ It might break the normal. Releasing safe means that you can expect the outcomes, but releasing tracks that break the normal might get you more success. As an artist, you always have to ask if a label declines it, is it a bad track or do they not see any money right now?

Jay: That’s very difficult; it will always be hard like that. But it’s also cool since you never know how a track is going to do in the end.

Joey: Would you agree with the statement that you’re as good as your last release?

Jay: I would say maybe you’re as good as your worst release. Then again, what’s a good release? Is it a million plays or a track that people really rethink how the track hits them emotionally, but it only has 50,000 streams. Which one is better? I think it’s a tough time as well when it comes to hits.

Joey: I heard a thing a few weeks ago, which was kind of mindblowing. Someone said, “Don’t you think that with artists, people only remember the hits.” Like, let’s say you’re releasing 10–15 tracks a year. What if you release the next Animals, which brought you through a global #1 status. Do you think people would care about those other releases?

Jay: Yeah, no. That’s an excellent point.

Right now, even the shittiest tracks on earth get released. So it’s more accessible to old lookup tracks. For example, my first remix was horrible. But you can still find it online. Is it a bad thing? Or does that thing still put things in perspective? Like people can see how you’ve improved.

Yeah, there are still some tracks which are on SoundCloud and don’t sound that good. But now people can see how far I’ve come.

Joey: I think the fact that you have a track record of releases gives people an insight into how much work you’ve put into this project. It’s not like you’ve released one track and your career is made. It’s your resume.

Jay: But still, if I were to score a #1 hit, people could say I came out of nowhere. And that’s not true.

Joey: Yeah, I think that insight should push aside some stress because it doesn’t really matter. The only thing that matters is if you like the track. If it isn’t successful, too bad, and move onto the next one. But each release will bring you some form of success; it could be one person who is impacted by that track, or a million streams.

Jay: Yeah, I think that creating music is always stressful. Especially when you’re in the studio and not having inspiration can be frustrating. I think every creative person has this moment that you go through after every project that you finish.

Joey: That whole thing is a mind game. In a creative block, you’re your worst enemy. It’s not that people are saying that those eight measures you produce are not good. What if 2 million people on the planet think otherwise? It’s a constant fight with yourself.

Jay: It’s something that you also have to deal with. Part of being an artist is putting yourself out there and being vulnerable. If people comment on your track, it sometimes feels like a personal attack. You always need to get your mind straight.

Joey: Is that something you’ve learned to deal with?

Jay: I’ve definitely learned to control that. As you get older, you encounter more bad things about the industry or bad experiences on tour. It’s important to realize what’s going on. I do believe you definitely need some guidance from people around you. But you need to have some people who are grounded and are telling you, “hey, it’s normal for you to go through this.” After a couple of stressful periods, you learn that it’s going to be a part of life.

Joey: Looking back at your career, what would you have done differently?

Jay: I don’t think I would have done anything differently because I feel like everything happened in such a way that took me to where I am. Of course, I had some conflict with managers and labels, and I would do things differently, but I still feel like that would have had to happen for me to understand. Sometimes you have to make mistakes to really know why you do it. Like you said before, you can’t learn anything from a book because you have to experience it yourself.

Joey: Well, I want to thank you for taking the time to come over here and share your knowledge!

Jay: Thanks for having me!

Interview With Alvaro

Interview With Alvaro 150 150 Artist Coaching

This interview has been paraphrased for consistency and clarity. You can listen to the full interview with Alvaro!

Joey: Hey Jasper, how are you doing?

Alvaro: Hey Joey, I’m good!

Joey: Where is your studio located? In your home?

Alvaro: No, this is in a wooden factory. Outside they’re cutting wood and stuff. Now and then, I hate them. But my volume goes louder. So you beat them.

Joey: To give the audience some context about who you are, who is Alvaro?

Alvaro: Well, I used to be a DJ, and I’m still a producer. I think most people know me by my big room sound. The first big room song I did was ‘Make the Crowd Go.’ I think the second biggest one was ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ which was released on Revealed with Hardwell. Basically, all my songs were big room.

Joey: You already mentioned that you were a DJ, and something changed. When did you quit? Are you entirely done?

Alvaro: Well, I haven’t played in like two years maybe.

Joey: And that was a conscious decision to stop playing?

Alvaro: Well, not right away. You have to go back to the beginning when I started DJing and was traveling the world. At some point, the whole big room scene was so repetitive, and there were a lot of people joining in, which kind of saturated the entire thing.

Joey: Are we talking about 2012,13?

Alvaro: Yeah, I think it was later when EDM went down. 2015 maybe. A lot of people stopped. But at that moment, it was a whole combination of things. I was playing for five years already and didn’t really enjoy it. I also wanted to do something else.

So at the point of Spotify coming up, I started producing pop music and stopped to DJ. Because for me, it didn’t really make sense to DJ anymore. I had some friends telling me like, yeah, you should do some shows, so people know you’re still here. And I was like, “Yeah, but what’s the point?” If I’m going to play there, while not releasing any music, my career is going to end anyway. Let me just start producing right away and not waste any time on doing shows that don’t matter. I also had money from all the years I was playing — a buffer where I could spend some time off. So actually, I told my manager not to accept any more bookings.

Joey: So it just always stayed like that.

Alvaro: Yeah, I kind of went through this whole new direction. It felt like starting all over again, which was pretty cool.

Joey: What made you feel that way?

Alvaro: First of all, it’s a whole new genre. You have to do pop music or commercial music, which is totally different than EDM. EDM is a bit more straightforward. I remember starting with a friend of mine and producing ten commercial songs. Even then, I felt like we were not good enough yet. If you make the switch to pop songs, you’re going to compete with Katy Perry and Rihanna’s music. The production quality needs to be over the top. It needs to be perfect.

Joey: Did you think at that moment, that your production quality was at a high level?

Alvaro: No, because it’s also a producer problem, right. You never think it’s good enough.

Joey: So even with having multiple successful releases, a collaboration with Hardwell, already touring the world?

Alvaro: Yeah, but that was different. I felt like I was on different grounds, a whole different field. So that was the reason why I didn’t figure it was good straight away. It’s the same as starting producing again. You have to take a couple of years to be at least good at it.

Joey: At the end of your EDM career, were you happy with the result of your tracks? Or still insecure about how it sounded?

Alvaro: That’s a good question. Actually, I thought EDM tracks were terrible. Even my own songs, really. I still like them and understand why they work. I think they’re cool, but I didn’t like the pressure of people expected me to do the same thing. So I started making other stuff. And at that point, it seemed like every different artist was coming out with a big room song. I was getting depressed by everything I heard. I realized it wasn’t going to work.

Joey: So you went over to pop music?

Alvaro: Yeah, and that was a whole new challenge since it involved different techniques and arrangements.

Yeah, everything from songwriting to the arrangement and the use of chords and topline melodies. It’s a whole new life. For example, you can have a really huge big room song with the right drop, but if the break is kind of weird, it doesn’t really matter. The drop is what people are waiting for. With a pop song, every little thing needs to be perfect. From the hi-hats to the snares, kick drum, and overall feel of the song. Everything needs to be perfect.

Joey: So that’s a huge difference. What did you struggle with the most in the beginning?

Alvaro: I guess the production quality. I made some good pop songs, but I could hear the difference between other pop songs, and that’s just in production quality. That’s what I said before, like, if you do trap right now, and you never made it, I can hear that you’re another trap producer. You have the same kick and snare, but it doesn’t have the feel of it. That’s how you hear the difference between guys that have made trap for ten years already. So I knew that everyone could play a four-chord melody, the most basic pop chords ever, but that’s not going to make it a good song. At that point, I knew that production quality was the reason why some songs didn’t sound right to me. So the first step was to bring up the quality. I wanted to make pop music, but I didn’t want to sound like a generic pop song. My ultimate goal was to make it a little bit special, make it weird, make it different. And that’s kind of how we started and working towards where we are right now.

Joey: What were you doing specifically to improve the quality of your music?

Alvaro: I feel like pop music is all about small details. It’s the same when you listen back to old songs, you can hear a lot of stuff missing. Like oh, it sounds so empty, it’s only a kick drum and a snare. And that’s actually the same thing that happened to me; we started making those songs, but they were super empty; they had no body. So eventually, I figured out that we have to add a lot of detail to it, like ambient stuff and extra melodies.

Joey: Was that more a process of trial and error, or was that learning from YouTube tutorials?

Alvaro: Well, mostly listening to other songs, I guess. I think there’s basically no tutorial that tells you how to make pop songs.

Joey: But you already knew how to make music.

Alvaro: Yeah, I remember when we started three years ago, we found this vocal chop. Everybody at that time was doing vocal chops, for example, Kygo. And then I remember hearing the song from Lauv. And it sounded to me like a violin in or something, but it was actually his vocal. That really triggered me. Like, this is something new, right? We have to start doing this instead of doing the basic vocal chops that everybody does. So in some way, I was really getting inspired by all the songs that were coming up. So we started basically doing the vocal chops but more organic. Organic sounds became really important. I didn’t want to sound like the standard Nexus sounds. We also started to make new sounds sound like they’re old. Like lowering the quality and adding some flutter like a wobble in between them to make them sound like an 80’s synth.

Joey: What kind of plugins did you use to do that?

Alvaro: Well, it’s funny how you discover plugins. And then a year later, you see everyone using it. At that time, it was manipulator.

Joey: I’ve heard of it. But which one is it?

Alvaro: It’s from those Infected Mushroom guys. Basically, it’s just a pitcher with formant knobs. We started using it on vocal chops. I would sing a melody in a microphone and then format it up and Melodyne it. Basically, I began to do more sound design. I think nowadays if you listen to pop songs, it’s a lot of sound design.

Joey: I agree that the combination of organic and digitally created music is really big right now.

Alvaro: That’s the funny thing about music in general, but also pop music. It’s always evolving. I remember the first song I heard from Afrojack, which was Pon De Floor, it was the same vocal chop but stretched. And then Skrillex started doing that. The difference was someone was singing the melody. Instead of programming the melody, someone started singing the melody. That makes it so much more organic because I feel like a voice is the best instrument because it’s never perfect. It makes it sound so natural for people to listen.

Joey: The most important thing is staying ahead of everyone.

Alvaro: We had this super poppy song with Kalimbas in it. Nowadays you would be tired if you heard another track with a Kalimba. We were the first doing that, even before Ed Sheeren did it with ‘Shape of You.’ And I think the beat was like Afro beats. It never released. That’s the funny thing. There was a vocalist on it that was from another song. I pitched the speed up because the new commercial project had a higher BPM, and somehow, he sounded like Post Malone. So I thought, let’s send it to Diplo. See what he thinks, right? So we sent him the song, and he was like, “this is dope!” I might get Post Malone on this one. And we were like, okay, well, I guess the music is good enough right now.

Joey: That’s interesting to me as well. How did you decide, okay, now my music is good enough? Did you need confirmation from someone else?

Alvaro: No, I think it was eventually my manager making that decision or me. I knew Diplo before, I knew what he liked, and I think I’m good at knowing how somebody else thinks or what they want. So at that point, we were just like, fuck it. Let’s just send it, you know? So yeah, we just made that decision randomly. Eventually, it was a good decision. It’s always hard. There’s not really a perfect time to say now it’s good.

Joey: And how do you decide that for yourself?

Alvaro: I mean, when there’s nothing else more to add to it. Or if sometimes it doesn’t even matter if the whole concept is good. In pop songs, I feel like it’s about the concept in general.

Joey: I see that happening with a lot of artists as well, like, defining the moment when you say, okay, it’s done. It’s finished.

Alvaro: Back in the days, I sent all my songs to Hardwell, Tiesto, even DJ Snake. They were not even finished, but he played them live. For example, DJ Snake did a lot. And I believe Tiesto also did it. But it also happened a couple of times where Hardwell or Snake just never reply to me. I feel like that’s the point where you get insecure. Where you’re like this guy played all my other songs, but now I’m sending him new stuff, and he’s not answering. It’s probably trash. And I think that’s also really hard. Like, even Snake last week sent me a direct message, “yo send me some new shit.” And I was like, yeah, but I don’t really make club music anymore. But then I did a song, sent it to him, and he didn’t reply. So, what does that explain? Is he too busy? Does he like it?

Joey: I think the problem is that it could be 1000 reasons. And because it’s tough to live without an explanation, your mind starts to make assumptions. Assumptions are the mother of all fuck-ups; if you begin to feel the thoughts of someone else, you’re done.

Alvaro: Yeah, exactly. And I feel like nowadays the more knowledge you have, and the more experience you have, also, the more doubt you have. You’re already thinking in your mind about Spotify, YouTube, or whether Spinnin wants a song.

Joey: So you started to focus fully on the production side, and you’re still making money right now right?

Alvaro: Yeah, I signed a publishing deal.

Joey: So it’s still possible to make a living from just making music? Let’s establish that right now.

Alvaro: I feel like you need a perfect combination of branding along with releasing songs. Like, look at Marshmallow, for example.He basically has everything; he’s like a gimmick with the helmet, he has pop songs, and he’s doing live shows. That’s the whole circle of money. That’s the only problem when you’re a producer: you don’t do any shows. So I feel like if you’re producing music, you have to make a lot of music to make money eventually.

Joey: And now you sell those beats or how does that work?

Alvaro: Yeah, we put them on Ebay haha. No, actually, it started like when I told you about that song with Post Malone that didn’t make it at all. That kind of got me in with Diplo. And from thereon, I got an invite to the Cayman Islands to go on a writing camp. I was like, oh shit, these are the biggest songwriters in the game. That’s kind of like how we got into it. So we did one writing game, then we did another.

Joey: How did you get your foot between the door? You already knew Diplo from, like, months or years before. How did you get in contact with him? What was it through your music?

Alvaro: Just emails. Yeah. Social media. And then I did this song for the PartySquad which eventually ended up being a Major Lazer song called Original Don. I guess that’s the first moment when I met Diplo. I guess he always knew me. It’s always been weird. Like, even DJ Snake direct messages me. I feel like, in the whole scene, everybody knows each other. It’s a small world. People are always checking in on each other. A lot of people don’t even know I’m doing this.

Joey: To me, it’s a complete surprise as well. I’m not even sure how I ended up on your Instagram page. And I was like, what’s this guy doing? So I was really curious to hear your story. It’s still fascinating to see how things can turn up.

Alvaro: Yeah, it’s kind of weird. For example, I worked on the Ellie Goulding song with Diplo and Swae Lee, which has almost 400 million streams right now. And I was wondering, should I post something? What are people going to think?

Joey: Is that legally possible for you to do?

Alvaro: Yeah, of course. I’m official. I’m in the credits. But yeah, the other question is, is it right to do it? Is it morally correct? Because you’re working on a track for somebody else. It’s like a combination of a bunch of people.

Joey: Even the most prominent artists have writers and stuff. Even Beyonce has like 13 writers.

Alvaro: And nobody cares about it. No one asks. In this time, it’s really hard to make the best song on your own. You need to work together with others.

That’s where you get the perfect song because the bar is set really high right now with pop songs.

Joey: And I think you keep challenging each other as well.

Alvaro: Yeah, that’s why I love working with my friend Bas [Will Grands] on those songs. Because with the two of us, it’s just so much easier to make a good song than just all alone.

Joey: And it’s just so different. Like being in the studio on your own is, to me it is less fun. I think I think the results are even better when you’re with more people. But isn’t that an agreement nightmare if so many people work on the track?

Alvaro: Yeah, it is. That’s also a difference. I mean, it will never change. Like, even for Spinnin Records, if a track gets 20 million Youtube views, you get zero money from the video.

Joey: Zero. How?

Alvaro: I don’t know if they do the same, but I remember back in the days it was in the contract where you earn nothing on the YouTube views. Maybe that’s changed. You cannot run away with money like that. There’s a lot of labels that put a lot of pressure on you.

It’s a process. That’s the same with everything; you need to invest in the beginning. For example, Max Martin is like one of the pop gods, and he has so much control, but he never started like that. He made his way up. I feel like that’s the same in pop music. To get your name out there, you have to make number one hit songs, and then people will start to recognize you. You can then do different negotiations in contracts, or whatever.

Joey: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in the last two years?

Alvaro: Well, I think for me, the most important thing is just to do whatever you like and what makes you happy. That’s eventually the most important thing. I remember the stuff I did before, and it didn’t make me happy. I feel like what I’m doing right now makes me a different person. And it’s not easy. Like, even when I was in that whole EDM thing, I knew I wanted to do something different. But you don’t know how right? That’s the problem. Everybody wants to do something different, but have no idea where to start. What’s important is finding your way.

Joey: How did you get to find your way? You mentioned how you also didn’t know how to do it. So how did you do it afterward?

Alvaro: I think I just somehow ended up doing something I liked to do. My main problems were traveling; I didn’t like traveling. So not doing that makes me a little bit happier now. I also work in different genres now. I was always getting angry about doing the same thing. I would load up this 128 BPM project, and it’s the worst thing because I was getting limited by everything. Now I start a song totally different. I just play whatever, I think is cool like doing some weird drums at maybe 100 BPM. That’s the perfect thing about it: I can do whatever I want. I also get bored pretty easily. So it’s also a little bit personal. I don’t like to stick with something for the same period.

Joey: I have the exact same thing!

Alvaro: Like, I’m bored pretty quick and need to challenge myself every time. And even I still think of DJing again when I’m at home. Every fucking weekend I’m at home I want to travel again and start thinking about how much fun it was to travel. But I think that’s a big pitfall because you start to think about the fun things, but you also have to think about the worst things.

You learn from all the mistakes, right? For example, now, I would tell my manager not to accept every booking, only the bookings I want to do, and I feel like I could enjoy them. I think there’s a big difference, and you can still do it. It’s just so hard to do something 50%; I feel like you have to put 100% in something to really get the best out of it.

Joey: I want to thank you for taking the time to share your story because I think it will help a lot of artists clear their thoughts and maybe hear other options in the industry. I really admire the choices that you’ve made for yourself and to follow your dreams.

Alvaro: Thank you for having me!

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