The LA-based production collective Team Supreme that’s home to artists like Djemba Djemba, Great Dane, Mr. Carmack, and many, many more received an email earlier this month from a 14-year-old aspiring producer from Wisconsin named Arthur. For those of you not familiar with Team Supreme, this is a crew that originally formed out of Chapman University just south of LA to give each other feedback on tracks. Every month a different producer from the crew picks two samples and a BPM, the files get passed around, and everybody in the collective uses the guidelines to make a beat, then the best tracks get looped together and turned into a mix.
When Team Supreme received Arthur’s email, several producers in their crew jumped at the opportunity to dispense advice to such an eager young mind. Then they started asking around to other producer friends what sort of advice they’d give their 14-year-old self, and by the time they were done they’d assembled an entire article’s worth of advice from 25 world-class artists. Below is Arthur’s original email and what follows is the advice Team Supreme assembled for him. You’ve got a Team Supreme gift bag coming as well, Arthur. Special thanks to Some Hoodlum for the artwork, Boogie Made, Team Supreme and Ableton for making this happen. And here’s Arthur!
My name is Arthur, and I am 14 years old. I have been playing drums for eight years and have been making beats and music using Ableton Live 9 Lite. I love all kinds of music, and I put almost all my free time towards music.
I just wanted to let you guys know that you all are a huge inspiration to me, and I was wondering if you could provide any advice about producing and the music industry. I am super interested in what you guys do and I think it’s great to have strength in numbers. Unfortunately, there aren’t many people willing to collaborate with me that are my age, but I’m sure I’ll make it happen.
Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that you all have a big impact on my music and I love listening to you, because you all provide amazing, unique ideas that can’t even be categorized into a genre. Let me know what advice you have, or if you want to talk!
The best advice i would give my 14 year old self would be to not worry what other people think, don’t compare yourself to others and make the music that feels right to you as a person. Take this time to listen and learn as much as you can. Experiment with sounds and techniques, try new things & don’t be scared! This is a time where you don’t have to feel any pressure from anyone. There are no rules. Use your ears, trust them.
I would tell my younger self that your favourite artists are people just like you. You might only see them in music videos or magazines but they are not larger than life, they are not a supreme humans, they are just people like you who had the self belief to listen to the ideas in their heads. There is no reason you can’t do anything you want to do – so start now!
You remind me of myself a lot~ I’m actually the youngest member of TeamSupreme. I started playing drums at a young age and started producing on my computer when I was 12 or so. I didn’t know anyone who was making music at my age in person so I went online and I still keep in touch with a lot of those dudes! You’re so young that really all you have to worry about now is school and making the music you want to make. Don’t worry about marketing or if you are making the right genre or any of that stuff. These are really formative years for you. Listen to a lot of cool music and watch a lot of cool movies and look at awesome art. You’re gonna be so solid if you keep your mind open and interested. Lots of love~
If I had a chance to speak to my 14 year old self I would tell him that after over a decade of working in music, I have found the true secret to achieving the goals you want in life to be as simple as just believing that they are going to happen, with 100% certainty. It’s not a wish or a hope or a dream. It’s beyond that. It’s the belief that you are 100% capable of manifesting anything you desire. Anything you can visualize. The understanding that self doubt is our biggest obstacle. Believing that it is not a matter of “if” but simply a matter of “when”. Personally, I have seen my own career become everything I have ever wanted it to be and more simply through a personal philosophy that is known as the “law of attraction.” Everything I have ever visualized as being my future has always ended up manifesting into a reality. With so much specificity, it would be hard to imagine it being coincidence. I have also found this process to be self reinforcing. As each part of my perceived destiny becomes realized, in turn, another small part of myself comes to embrace the self power that has allowed me to manifest that destiny. And each time it starts to comes to me easier and faster. And each time you realize more and more that you are truly capable of literally anything you decide you want to achieve. You have the power. Of course, all of this needs to be coupled with endless work and intense dedication and self discipline. But when it comes to a passion such as musical craft this should come relatively easy. I was born into some difficult circumstances in my childhood facing a situation where the odds of having anything more then a bright future working at Walmart were slim to none. We have no control over these kinds of circumstances. But I made a very important life changing decision when I was 18. I decided to not allow these circumstances to define who I am or what my life was going to look like. I decided that I would define who I am. I would choose what I want. Not what I WISHED I had but rather what I KNEW I deserved to have and what I KNEW I could be. You decide what you want you life to look like and then paint it.
I’d give myself permission to fail. Not just make mistakes and take missteps; those I was, and are, making. Arthur seems quite ahead of the curve. Already making use of his clear passion, and smart in this outreach. As for myself in my teenage years I oscillated between what I thought to be disparate paths; afraid to cross invisible boundaries. There is no success if you want a life in music, just moments of satisfaction and happinesses to reach for. If you don’t fail why continue? Make a life in your questions, your quests in glorious failures.
Honestly man, just focus on absorbing good music. I was lucky enough to be raised on old school hip-hop, was immersed in it for all of my formative years as a producer, and used that upbringing to develop a taste in my production. Because of that, I had a foundation for knowing what would be a cool drum sample or what would sound off time, or if an 808 smacked, but it wasn’t until I really starting to delve into the technicalities of production that I was able to consistently manifest those ideas. If you focus on finding emotional music (any emotion within any genre) throughout your learning experience, you’ll lean in that direction over the duration of your career, and get closer to that imaginary finish line.
– Be yourself, never let anyone tell you that you can’t or won’t, your vision is everything
– Keep working hard at all times and give 100%
– Enjoy every second of it as we are lucky to do this
– Don’t take anything too seriously, your life isn’t on the line
– Send your music (out) when you feel ready, there’s no rush
– Collab with other artists, whether they’re musicians, painters, dancers…creativity is everywhere!
DJEMBA DJEMBA (TeamSupreme)
My advice is to make music every single day. Practice is the only way to achieve a level of ability where you can write whatever you think of in your head. There are no shortcuts. Experiment making and listening to all kinds of music, not just what is currently popular. Making music is a great way to help express who you are, so while it is important to imitate and model your music off of producers that have come before you, don’t forget to spend time finding out your own unique sound. Also, remember that you are more than just a music producer, working on yourself to become a reliable, integrated, and compassionate person is the most important. You are more than your gift.
My biggest piece of advice would be to fully embrace your flaws, imperfections, and any unique qualities that set your work apart from what everyone else is making. Your distinction is your greatest asset as a musician, and I believe that artists find more success (and have WAY more fun) creating their own lanes instead recreating someone else’s sound or career path. Follow your inner GPS and you’ll never make a wrong turn.
1. Finish your ideas.
I think one of the biggest hurdles was sharing my first track. When I was just starting out, I use to play around with tons of ideas but never actually converted them into finished songs. I know it can be daunting to share something you’ve made for the first time, but I think it’s one of the most important stepping stones as a musician. After that, always aim to write something as good as your last song, that should be your standard.
2. Learn as much as you can.
Try set aside an hour each day to learning a new skill. YouTube has endless libraries of great tutorials which taught me so much. Everything else came from messing around with different sounds and effects. It’s not something that happens overnight, so be patient with yourself.
3. Always write from a sincere place.
I think a lot of artists can fall victim to what’s trendy or what type of sound is getting on the coolest blogs. Making music should always come from a sincere place. It’s whether you enjoy what you’re writing that matters.
4. Try not to isolate yourself.
Producing can be quite an isolating experience. It’s important to have good people around you in the music community that you can share and bounce ideas with. But it’s almost just as important to have good friends outside of it, so you can switch off.
This question actually hit me because there’s so much I’m realizing now that I should’ve taken the initiative to learn early on. To this day, I still don’t know music theory, how to play music, the music business, and all that. I wouldn’t say music theory is a huge hunch because I feel like it added my own style and doesn’t restrict me to ‘rules’. I do highly regret not ever picking up an instrument. Half the battle for me is coming up with chords. So learning an instrument early would be a great great way to go. But all in all, if i had to give my younger self advice… I’d keep it short and simple. Always keep making music for fun. Never let it become a job, never let the glamorous things distract you, never lose the love. It’s all win-win if you love it.
It’s good to see that younger kids now have the opportunity to do music they like a lot. When I was that age I was just in school, playing drums as well and making beats on my parents computer, not really able to share it with the world and collaborate people I looked up too. It was just fooling around, making weird beats with friends, playing it at home or showing it to my drum teacher.
Don’t be too hard on yourself making hits of whatever. From what I’ve heard and seen, most of the best records came out of the blue. Also don’t think about boundaries while being in your creative process. Be open minded and make whatever you want even if a lot of people don’t like it or don’t feel it the way you do. There are other people who do and that’s the best thing. So, for me, there’s no such thing as really failing if you believe in it. Just make what feels right to you and start experimenting with the things that go on in your mind.
Keep up the good work! Make as much music as you can and do be afraid showing it to the world!
THE GLITCH MOB (BORETA)
One of the most useful and often overlooked skills in music production is follow through. Having good ideas and intention will only get you part of the way. Show up in the studio every day and finish your projects. Done is better than perfect.
Don’t waste energy comparing your work to others, it takes a while to match your skills to your taste. More on that here.
I can’t overstate how important community is. In Glitch Mob, we have a built in quality control mechanism because there are three of us doing everything. Having a trusted committee to get feedback and support from is powerful. You can make it as a lone wolf, but there’s a reason why communities thrive.
Have fun. Being playful allows you to get out of your own way. Perfectionism kills creativity.
One of my favorite quotes about this from Chuck Close:
“Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work. And the belief that things will grow out of the activity itself and that you will — through work — bump into other possibilities and kick open other doors that you would never have dreamt of if you were just sitting around looking for a great ‘art idea.’ And the belief that process, in a sense, is liberating and that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every day. Today, you know what you’ll do, you could be doing what you were doing yesterday, and tomorrow you are gonna do what you did today, and at least for a certain period of time you can just work. If you hang in there, you will get somewhere.”
Arthur, I started making music on GarageBand around your age. I’m writing this to you as if I’ve made it big time already, and I haven’t. Persistence and hard work will get you closer to your goals, and if you really want to succeed set them really high.
GREAT DANE (TeamSupreme)
So (my advice) is more general life advice cuz I think when you can get this right, your music will reflect it. Basically, just keep following the people & things that make you genuinely happy. It might change over time, but if you follow & invest in them vigilantly while trying to stay true to who you are (which might also change) you will end up with a fulfilling life & career in music or whatever you end up wanting to do.
What’s up Arthur! That’s so incredible that you’re so into music at your age! All of us musicians in the industry were in your same exact place at your age. Here’s some advice for ya…
First things first Don’t Give Up. Good things take time and the best things take even longer. There are guys that have been doing this for over a decade and are still struggling trying to make it up there. Just hold on to your passion and that will always drive you. Good music will always prevail. Don’t compare yourself to what other people are doing. You are your own artist. Copying other people won’t do anything for you except make you be exactly like that person. Just do you man! And to kinda go back on that. It’s still okay to analyze why it is that certain things are working for other people and apply those ideas to yourself (If people are super into trap and you’re trying to make gregorian polka step it’s probably not going to work very well lol). If you find good people to work with stick with them. In this super cut throat industry people turn on each other all the time and it sucks and is very discouraging. But don’t let it get you down and remember the reason you’re in all of this. Be honest, work with integrity and stay humble (and that applies to any team you build as well… They are a representation of you). As far as producing think “Less is more”.. Do you really need 10 snares in your songs? do these not so great sections in your songs really need to be in there? Do you need 4 drops in the song? You can ask probably any one of us what are biggest songs are and how they came to be and it was usually because we didn’t think too much about it. They were the simplest ideas. Just keep working on music man. Focus on you and your sound and making it the best you possibly can make it and good things will come… with time. And please for the love of the flying spaghetti monster Push. Music. Forward. Because we need it badly…
Honestly most of these things can be said about almost any aspect of life and even though all of us will say these positive things we are all human and have our moments of doubt at any level of this. Each and every one of us.
I hope any and all of this helps ya brada!
1. No one told me when I was 14 that I could make a career out of a hobby or passion. It took my 29 years of my life to discover that. I didn’t even quit my day job till I was 30… A lot of people around you with various motives may tell you otherwise – but more than ever in history there are more ways to sustain yourself as a musician/producer. So the fact of the matter is: you can do it. You won’t regret making coffee for a year or postponing college, or living in a basement or whatever sacrifices it takes to really TRY and be a producer. You WILL regret, and I repeat YOU WILL REGRET if you get to my age (which is slightly older than the majority of producers I know) and you didn’t take the risk and try.
2. This one probably everyone will have said – but cultivate a community. Producers, bloggers, photographers, designers, anyone who can lend their skills to your efforts and you to theirs. This is the community that will lift you up. And it won’t be handed to you. You have to make it. So start chatting people up online. I am where I am today largely because of having made so many friends – genuine friends – in the industry and we all support each other because we all believe in each other. And not only will those friends help your career grow BUT they are nice buffers and foils to some of the less savory characters this industry attracts as well.
1. Always be finishing: I know a lot of producers that get stuck in the 8-bar-loop phase of tracks. Force yourself to finish. This will take you through the entire production process and the only way to master all of it. This may involve making a hundred horrible tracks before the one.
2. Limit choice: there are a million and one ways to do any one thing or achieve anyone sound. But what can get in the way of finishing tracks is choice overload. Don’t sweat the endless plugins. Don’t believe any plugin will take you to a professional level. An amazing song that sounds completely professional can be achieved with 100% native synths and effects in your DAW. Add complexity slowly as you go. I listen to a ton of tracks in my promo email inbox and for my SESSIONS project where I elicit Work In Progresses from fans to collaborate on. And perhaps the most common folly I find is over-crowded tracks. See what you can do with the minimal amount of sounds. Avoid over complicating. If you have ten ideas for a song, make 5 songs instead of one confused one.
The fact of the matter is: the older you get the less you care what others think… then one day you really just stop caring what others think because you truly like yourself (hopefully). So, invite critique and feedback but don’t be consumed by it. This is maybe the most difficult thing for a young producer or person for that matter… but trust: one day all the things you care about now in terms of image, insults, coolness etc. you will realize don’t matter. If you can adopt that and just trust your gut with making music you open yourself up to making something new.
Hey Arthur! I’m so glad that you’re interested in producing music at such a young age… That was around the time that I started making music myself, actually. My piece of advice when getting into music and producing is to be aware that there are going to be a lot of distractions that’ll easily make you forget why you started making music in the first place. Make sure you work hard to keep that passion and fire alive in your heart, surround yourself with a group of people that encourage each other to work hard, and always make sure to have fun (this was why I started making music). Treat making music like a video game – continually strive to make your next song your best song and keep in mind that the only “boss” you’re defeating is the person that you were yesterday.
PRACTICE – Makes perfect. We all have work, or school and “in real life” stuff we need to take care of but I’d recommend firing up your DAW as much as possible (at least once a day). Make something even if it doesn’t lead to a finished track. You might stumble upon cool sounds, arrangements and sound design ideas. Also, the act of repetition is going to help you increase efficiency in your workflow. When inspiration comes, it would be a smoother transition from idea to finished track.
LEARN FROM OTHERS – Figure out who your idols are. Study them. Look up interviews of them. Try to emulate their rituals, process and strategies. Each person is an individual and you might not be able to use or agree with everything, but you may find something that could work for you. Be friends with somebody who has more experience and knowledge than you. Don’t be afraid to pick their brain.
COMMUNITY – Strength in numbers. Find like-minded people. Or better yet, start your own collective. With current technology, Collectives don’t need to be limited to geography. Leading or being part of a collective offers so many benefits, some of them: resource and knowledge sharing.
VOICE – Figure out what you’re about, what your experiences are and what makes you different. The sooner you know that, the better chances of making fresh and authentic work.
HAVE FUN – Music to me is all about enjoying the process and having fun! If you feel a sense of joy whenever you produce, you’re on the right track!
MR CARMACK (TeamSupreme)
3 things! You remind me of me when I started at 14.
1. Listen! Soak in as much music as you can. Take band, orchestra, music theory, drum class, piano class, ethnic music class… Get in rooms with other kids your age interested in music. Ask your parents, they can help. See what sticks and pursue it before you get too old to give a damn.
2. Patience. If you’re serious about making music, know this: You will not learn to love your sound for years. It’s been 11 years in music for me and I’m still learning this too man. If you get discouraged or frustrated, step back. Hang with friends. Do something else. Help moms with something. Then come back later with a fresh mind.
3. Have fun! Don’t forget to have the most fun. You’re 14 bro. Forget the industry for now. Judging from the way you write, I’m sure that with time and discipline, anything you set your mind to, you can accomplish.
While you should be trying to do something authentic and artistic, never make the mistake of taking yourself too seriously. The best records come when you’re relaxed and having fun experimenting in the moment, and overthinking is the death of inspiration.
Also never undervalue yourself. You’re always in charge of the moves you make and you determine your own worth. Don’t take every opportunity that presents itself, and be smart in surrounding yourself with smart people. You don’t get better at something by hanging out with people who are worse at it than you.
Find your passion and pursue it with all your heart. Life is a never ending learning experience, strive for more but also appreciate where you are and enjoy the ride.
Set goals: long term, mid term, short term. Envision where you want to be big picture and work backwards from there, breaking down your goals into detailed to do lists for each step of the way. Then make a plan and set about doing your work every day, checking off your to do lists and making new ones. Enjoy the process and be a good person, giving back and sharing the love.
When it comes to actually creating, the professional side is — at best — a distraction. I’m glad that when I was starting to write music as a kid, there was no Soundcloud or social media. It meant that I didn’t have to grow up and make mistakes in public — I could try out everything, and figure out what worked for me and what I really wanted to create. That’s not to say the current world is worse – you can do all the stuff I just said at exponential speed with all the information and tutorials out there – but it’s important not to forget how much of a blessing it is to be at a point in your life where there are zero expectations and tons of unstructured free time. Don’t spend too much of that time worrying about how to “make it,” or worrying about what other artists and producers are doing with their careers (I know this is hard in a world of teenage millionaires and bedroom producers on the mainstage). Focus on actually creating, and enjoying the process as much as the results. IMO, this is useful advice for amateurs and pros alike…
One thing I do wish someone told me though, is to finish as much of your work as possible. What does that actually mean? I understand how someone could live by the quote “art is never finished, only abandoned.” But in my experience: complete your stuff! I have piles of notebooks and cassette tapes with high school ideas and riffs collecting dust. Even now, my “beats to edit” folder is way thicker than the folder of stuff that’s ready to go. As important as it is to capture moments of inspiration, those moments are useless unless you turn ‘em into something real. Finish your thoughts! Listen deeply to the songs you love, specifically to how they’re built up and structured—what are you missing? What should you get rid of? Even if it seems like you’re falling short, at least you have a finished track to A/B with, and you won’t ever have to say “what if.” The more you try, the more you learn. Make the technical aspects of music second nature, like a muscle memory—it will leave more brain space for actual ideas and magic!
PENTHOUSE PENTHOUSE (TeamSupreme)
Yo Arthur! thanks for reaching out dude and thanks for all your support. More kids your age should get into making music. My best advice… make a beat every day. Doesn’t have to be good, or even finished, but start a new idea every single day. Also, make the type of music YOU want to listen to. don’t try and make stuff to be cool or follow trends.. be yourself dude. Don’t worry about management or “the industry”… spend the next few years focusing on yourself and your vision. When you make interesting and thoughtful music everything else tends to fall into place. Good luck!
Straight away, at 14, I was not even close to making a start in music so you already have a headstart on me not just musically but also, the technology available to a 14 year old now is so far ahead of where we were at when I was that age! If I could give myself advice I would just encourage myself to continue having fun exploring new tech and new ways to create until you find what works for you. Don’t let anyone tell you that there is a wrong or right way to make music. All of the artists who excite historically are the ones who manage to create new sounds that work among things people are already enjoying, so take inspiration from all the things you enjoy musically and try to create a sound that takes all that you love from different genres. I think that’s the most honest way to truly enjoy what you’re doing and also has the potential to resonate with people seeking out new sounds. Have fun!
STOOKI SOUND (Jamal)
The music industry is a very overwhelming and daunting place, and does require a strong mind to withstand it. However, that should never come between an artist and their creativity, and artists should always strive to express themselves truthfully and most importantly enjoy themselves whilst doing so.
My biggest advice to young artists is that you must expect setbacks, and expect to be let down and fall over during your journey, but these things make you stronger and it is the persistence, drive and focus alongside your talents that will allow you to achieve whatever goals you set yourself
I feel you my little bro! What you are doing right now is already so admirable and similar to what I did when I was fresh in the music game – you are REACHING out. Showing initiative and an active interest in learning and progressing is the best thing you can ever do. Being a creative is not as easy as some make think and takes A LOT of hard work – but as cliche as it all sounds, this all pays off in some way or another. Not necessarily in the form of monetary gain or social recognition but in constant artistic progression. Keep pushing yourself to meet other musicians/creatives and collaborating with people you gel with. Build genuine & authentic relationships. Ask a lot of questions & never be afraid to make mistakes along the way. Experiment constantly and always push yourself out of your comfort zone. Challenge yourself and keep a humble attitude towards it all. We are all human at the end of the day & forget that what we are passionate about stems from us wanting to be happy with what we choose to do in life. DO YOU & never let anyone else compromise you from creating something that you feel represents YOU 100%. I could go on for hours my bro – but for me the most important thing is to stay grounded and keep your loved ones & family close to you at all times.
All that matters with anything creative is that it comes from deep within your guts. If it’s not pouring out of your soul & not exactly what you’re feeling at that moment, there’s no reason to create it. Don’t listen to me. Don’t listen to anyone other than yourself. Your creativity is your own personal universe. Find peace there & when you feel like it’s time to share that with the world, unleash it upon us.