Last year, when a fourteen-year-old boy named Arthur sent an email to the Team Supreme collective asking for advice about producing and the music industry, the entire crew of artists banded together with us to share their most vital lessons with Arthur and the rest of the world. The result was some great advice that was widely beloved, and in the spirit of the holidays, we’ve decided to once again link up with Team Supreme to bring together a set of year-ending advice. We decided to get personal this year, so we asked everyone the following question: “What did you learn in 2017 (about yourself, production, health, etc.) that you think aspiring musicians and producers should know?”
Without further ado, here is what the artists had to say:
Don’t be too hard on yourself because music, art, doesn’t have standards. Make music for yourself and soak up what you learn and see in sessions. Music shouldn’t feel the need to be competitive- form bonds and share amongst each other, you know? Never feel the need you have to be secretive about what you do, why and how you apply something, someone’s probably figured it out already. Feel free to write what you want. Fuck around on a laptop making shit, a moog, cajon or a tape deck idk, make noise. Make noise that you can vibe to and whatever you’re making shouldn’t be hidden from the world. Present your music, send it to people and show that noise the fuck off because you’re a creator now.
The biggest lesson I learned this year was to consistently nurture my love for the process of making music without getting so attached to the outcome (releases). Our culture is so result-oriented that it’s easy to beat ourselves up over not getting music done fast enough, so sometimes we end up pushing through parts of the creative process that are deserving of more presence and loving awareness. The release of your work is such a fleeting moment that can leave you feeling dissatisfied if you aren’t appreciative of the days/weeks/months/years that brought you there, so it’s always good to keep these two aspects of music-making in perspective. Being more present with my work on a daily basis keeps me much happier and more prolific than constantly reaching towards some sort of ending. Funnily enough, I finish more songs when I’m not obsessing over “finishing songs.”
2017 has been a crazy year for us! We took the leap and quit our jobs to do music full time, started touring for the first time, switched DAWs (from Logic to Ableton) and moved cities so we could be closer to the bitbird office and our managers. I think the biggest lesson from that is kind of two things, the first is to definitely always believe in yourself and your music and don’t be scared to grab the opportunity when it comes your way but the second is to know when the time is to ‘make the jump.’ Even though some of our songs in 2016 did well like “zZz” and “Bon Voyage” we didn’t really feel comfortable just going right into music full-time right away. We made more music, waited it out a bit for another year and now we’re doing this full time and we couldn’t be happier!
On our first tour we also learned how being on the road distorts your perception of time. One moment you’re playing the show of your life and the next you’re stuck at the airport for four hours after two transfers which drains you physically and mentally. But, in the end it all passes, the good and the bad moments. And you always should take the good with the bad! We used those moments and turned that into in the inspiration for our EP ‘a Moment in Time’. This one’s a weird kind of lesson but I guess what we’re trying to say is that you should try and have an open mind about anything because inspiration can come from anywhere!
dude I dont even know where to start, this has been a year full of growth for sure. on a personal tip, this was the year I learned about true self acceptance – how to be totally cool with myself with or without approval, with or without material success, with or without any external reassurance. serenity, you feel me? which is not to say it wasnt a banger year externally – I learned how to throw a rave (or like, a makeup rave when ur warehouse one gets rolled by the cops), I learned some cool new dj tricks (CF A/B fx anyone?), I learned a GRIP about production (u can learn abt that on my twitch stream ^___^), and most excitingly I think… I just figured out my ~*sound*~. like for reals. but youll have to wait til next year for that >:)
This year I learned a lot about staying positive & confident in the face of challenging or upsetting situations. Your career isn’t always going to go the way you want it, and often you’re going to find yourself in difficult mental states especially as you begin to tour. I found creativity itself is too volatile to be my only source of stability, so I focused on building a solid support foundation to fall back on. A few things that helped me were finding people who consistently create a positive force in my life and keeping them close and involving them in my musical life, exercising regularly, implementing cognitive behavior practices, & being more careful about what I put in my body. Without my support network I found myself succumbing to substance abuse on the road, which I think is a very easy habit to fall into when you’re involved in the nightlife scene. It’s so important that you are self aware, and unafraid to seek help from people who care about you when you truly need it. Healthy and inspired minds create beautiful art. Sometimes you need to address toxic components of your daily life and withdraw them before you can live the way you want to and ultimately create your best work.
I realized this year more than ever that standing out and being original is the key to staying relevant. Just be yourself, make music you really like and try not to compare yourself to other artists very often, and you’ll always be in your own lane!
FAR EAST MOVEMENT
2017 for Far East was learning to focus on what we know best, hyper focus on an identity that holds true to who we are as people, and cutting out or minimizing everything else that doesn’t fall into the scope of our focus. We are in an industry that’s all about hustle and the scope of work and sounds change like water, so over the years in business and in music we found ourselves constantly chasing and catering to every possible thing that caught our attention. That’s drained our brains and energy while straining our relationships and personal lives. As obvious as it sounds, realizing that the amount of time and focus you put into something will always show in the the big picture results has lead to us learning to do just a few things really well like the In-n-out menu haha. We don’t regret all the work and exploration we put in though, because that hustle helped us find out what we really love and what defines us. Whether you find your focus fast or it takes years and years of trial and error, once you find it, every thought and decision becomes so much more clear.
GREAT DANE (TeamSupreme)
I learned that music is truly a community – and your place in that community is determined by your talent but also by your ability to relate with others and foster growth around you (both musically & spiritually). The more you help others the more you help yourself.
JNTHN STEIN (TeamSupreme)
Be grateful for what you got. Whatever that may be. Happiness is not a finish line at the end of an obstacle course. You always have it with you. Don’t get obsessed with needs and wants. Nothing in the world matters, which means we get to choose what matters in our own made-up universes. Focus on survival, focus on love. Live through love and practice being happy every day. You don’t need to make the best music ever. Just make music that feels good.
KENNY SEGAL (TeamSupreme)
Never miss the forest for the trees… It’s real easy to get hung up on little details too early on in the process. If you get the big picture correct, the little details often fall easily into place.
KEYS N KRATES
I think this year we learned to really dial in the core song idea and really curtail the production around accentuating that as opposed to compensating for the core idea not being as strong. We’ve always known less is more when it comes to sounds, and ideas, but this year I think we really went after that idea aggressively. We also learned to not force things. If an idea isn’t working, move on and try something new and come back to that idea you’re stuck on later. We had a bunch of song ideas that took re-approaching a few different times to get right. We found that when we got stuck listening to the same loop for more than a few hours, we’d move on and listen to what we had the next day, and more often than not we would know at that point whether the idea was strong, and what it needed to get to where we wanted it to go. We also learned to listen music more for fun. I know that sounds crazy, but I think it’s easy to not listen to as much music when your working on it all day. Popping an edible and just listening to stuff (maybe things you want to channel ideas from) can bring a lot of perspective, and it’s fun to reconnect to why you do this in the first place.
hmm… I’ll speak on writing. I’ve learned that sometimes songwriting is hard, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. sometimes it’s right to fight a song, but, more often than not, it’s best to let it unfold naturally. I’ve been trying to identify the interesting aspects of an idea and amplify them… like… approach each idea with an open mind and don’t try to make it something it’s not. idk. semi-related: if you feel a spark – CHASE IT. it’s probably real and important and if you don’t chase it right away the spark will fade and you’ll think “what if” and you’ll feel sad and regretful and stupid. you don’t want that. this is all parallel to “life” stuff, but it’s too cliche to speak on directly. also, drink more water stupid :)
If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.
For me (and I think for a lot of people trying to do this job), one of my top reasons for being a producer/DJ is because it’s supposed to be more fun than any other job I can think of doing. If I just wanted money, or security, or routine, or comfort, or to make the world a better place… I could think of a lot more appropriate careers to pursue. If those things made me happy, well, I’d be in the wrong profession.
This producer thing, it’s supposed to be fun. And 2017 taught me a lot about limits and boundaries- because unlike most jobs, theres no clock-out-time, or boss to tell you to stop working.. On the contrary its full of people hungry for more of your time, pushing you to produce more, tour more, be less healthy, sleep less, get more money. So you have to set your own limits, or burnout, become unhappy and this whole music thing is worse than having a “real” job.
The feeling of success is always elusive: no matter how much you make or how many people play your tunes, you’ll always feel like there’s more to do. So, 2017 and beyond has been all about practicing being a little hungry, but not consumed by it where I can’t look back on my day and smile and think how much more fun I’m having now that I’m a musician for my work.
When Team Supreme asked me to lend my advice last year, I was merely a senior student finishing up my degree. Since that has happened, I’ve had the chance to pursue a career in music full time since. Despite the fact that I felt like the year went by in a blink of an eye, I’ve definitely learned a lot in the past 12 months. In terms of music production… I’ve learned not to overthink when creating or coming up with ideas. I tend to have a bad habit of opening up Ableton, with the mindset that I’m gonna make THE next hit. This led to unhealthy habits of not working on music in the fear of not being able to produce a “hit.” I took a step back when I realized I was doing this and almost “forced” myself not to overthink (which sounds kind of oxy-moron-ish) but that’s exactly what helped me. The moment I stopped analyzing and trying to make everything perfect was the moment I realized I was able to make stuff outside of my comfort zone. The idea is to not get so attached to what you’re working on – if it’s dope, it’s dope! I learned to let whatever song I was working on guide ME, instead of me trying to force an idea from my head onto the computer. I think this is a lot of what today’s musicians are struggling with, in the midst of an oversaturated field like electronic music (including myself.)
Such a big part of creating any art is going out into the world and experiencing things, having real emotions, being a human being. It’s very easy to get studio-bound, especially if your studio is at home. Sometimes you really need to take a break, maybe even go away for a while and bring some new experiences to the table when you come back to work.
The biggest thing I learnt from 2017 was having courage and not being afraid to take steps that maybe the old you (the you from the year before) wouldn’t have taken. I realised there is nothing wrong with evolving and changing, thats what life’s all about. The same attitude goes for music. As a producer I feel like people were putting me in this box or in a certain “genre”, soon as that happened I was like “na, I’m gonna switch it up now”. Be comfortable with change, embrace it and make music that surprises you and makes you happy. Oh and lastly, take care of your ears!!, buy some earplugs (especially if you’re playing at clubs and festivals) even if that shits hella expensive. Look after those ears, cause without them things you aint making no music.
This year I spent a lot of time on tour, working together with a bunch of extremely talented people who all take great pride in their work and do an excellent job day in and day out while keeping the vibes positive. Successful artists surround themselves with a solid team. Work hard, contribute, take initiative, do your homework, participate, keep it light and fun, but always handle your business. Whether on tour or at home, take care of your physical, mental and spiritual health. This was especially important this year with all the extra noise, fear and negativity swirling around. It is important to keep your work area tidy and your mind tidy. Meditate. Go outside and get some exercise. Set goals and intentions. Make to do lists. Check them off. Above all, enjoy the process, wherever you are in your career. “Be true to yourself and you will never fall” – Beastie Boys
PENTHOUSE PENTHOUSE (Mike Parvizi) (TeamSupreme)
From a music production standpoint, I saw firsthand the value of finishing projects. This year Preston and I wrapped up our penthouse record which we have been working on for almost 2 years. Me, Carmack and Kenny also wrapped up the JFB record. During the process of creation you definitely have the inevitable self-doubt of “oh my god is this project ever going to drop?” but you have to put that aside and take your time to really finish things the way you envision them.
Health wise I realized its healthy to spend time away from your computer if you’re not feeling it. It’s also important to foster healthy relationships. I learned the value of speaking up for myself in business situations where I felt like I was being taken advantage of. Also its healthy to have other stuff going on in your life! If you put pressure on yourself to make money through your artist career, that’s a quick way to feel uninspired and unable to finish work. As cliche as it sounds, I believe taking time to find your voice and find what you’re about as an artist will help eventually create a self-magnetism that will bring you your own opportunities. Do you !!! Don’t copy someone else’s connection to the source. In the words of JNTHN Stein, it’s hard to get the boulder rolling, but once you do gravity does the rest.
I also learned the value of keeping a track of things – I feel like finally this year I understand the workings of what publishing is, what royalties are – I learned a lot about the streaming industry and actually took the time to try and understand about things that I used to leave to the “management” or to someone else. If you keep a track of all the small ways that your art can make you money, all those small sources can add up to something.
The most important thing I was thinking about in 2017 was to collect the things you find most precious in life – music, people, books, quotes, ideas, whatever – and draw on those for clarity. Creativity and life are like a vast and endless forest. It’s easy to get turned around and lose your way for weeks, months, or years. Your passion for the things you find most special are a light you can use to find your way to wherever you actually want to be going.
I learnt (like most years) that loving your / and being loved by your family is most important things to my creative health. I married my best friend last year & it was the best thing I have ever done. Its opened my heart & eyes & ears to creating freely & bravely.
TK KAYEMBE (TeamSupreme)
2017 for me was about finding my balance. Balance is crucial for all things in life; we have two eyes, two ears, two legs, etc. So this year I really honed in on refining my sound and finding the balance between what “I want” vs what the song “needs.”
I also started working more with other musicians and incorporated their ideas into my music. Just because you can play an instrument doesn’t mean you need to. The song may require someone else’s ear/skill/ideas, and you have to be aware of that.
I worked on having a healthier routine with vitamins, supplements and regular exercise before I stepped into my studio. Taking studio breaks to go outside, setting alarms randomly to stop what I’m doing and drink water and do pushups, etc. — its all helping me be more focused in the lab.
Prayer + meditation are pretty essential as well, being spiritually covered when you’re being creative is crucial.
2017 was the year I really learned that there was some value to my “sound” as a producer, which is something I’ve always been very insecure about. This was the first year I started noticing some demand for whatever I was doing, rather than having to seek out opportunities and adjust to their requirements. So what I think aspiring musicians and producers should know is that it’s worth taking some time to think about what’s different about your music, and embrace it, work on it. You don’t have to force it or fully know what it is, I definitely don’t, but appreciate the value in whatever makes your music yours, whether you make the most intentionally jarring and unique music or are going for maximum pop appeal. Now is a time when these two aren’t so far apart anyway.
What I learned about myself:
The most important thing I learned about myself is that I am powerful beyond belief, and you are too. We all are if we are living in sync with what is truly most important to us. I learned that when I’m sad what can make me feel better is helping another person. I learned that any shitty thing that has happened or is going to happen will eventually shape me stronger, tougher, thicker to help myself climb higher as well as help other people too I learned that the company I keep around me 100% can show me which way my life will go I learned that I can rely on myself, I learned that I am accountable for everything I’ve attracted in my life good or bad. I learned that nothing in life is permanent, bad times pass as well as good times, and that having patience, hope, belief and love for myself through my hard times allows me to get through them much easier and much more fluently, as well allowing me to attract even better things in life. I learned that not everything I’ve wished for – is what I wanted (I learned that lesson a few times this year). If I could explain that a little more, we wish and hope and dream of certain things, placements, people, statuses etc., but sometimes when we get them they are completely not what you thought they would be and you feel confused because you’ve put much energy into achieving those things. I learned that I must keep going and to try to stay as mentally positive for whats to come – how I view things and see things is 100% projecting from whats within me. This is what I learned about myself in 2017
What I learned about production:
I learned that I am capable. What I mean by that, in 2015 I was unsure I would truly be able to write full original songs that I dreamed of in my mind on my own I also feared the music I truly wanted to write may not be received by others how I hoped for in 2016 – it was persistence in learning and in writing/finishing songs. In 2017 I was able to write exactly what I wanted to. I learned how much some external plug ins can help my production, as prior to this year I was 100% mainly Ableton and used everything inside of it with my only plug in I’d use – Isotope I learned that doing the things I once thought I hated (I was stubborn ) sound design, etc. is actually art in itself and it’s what’s truly helped me make my music my own sound. I learned that the most important thing I could do is finish my projects. I learned that I write my best music in early morning. I learned that whatever else is doing production wise doesn’t matter. I learned (for me) that feeling can over power technique. As I once feared I wasn’t skilled enough technically to write beautiful music. I learned the more I’m open to learning the better my music gets. I learned taking critique but also knowing how you want it to sound is important.
What I learned about health:
Without health you have nothing. WITHOUT HEALTH YOU HAVE NOTHING. Every day I need to be physically active for at least 45 minutes in order to keep a healthy mind to keep creating I’ve learned. As well as keeping a healthy body! How we fuel ourselves is so very important, my diet is very important to me. I drink a lot of water, and try as hard as I can while producing and touring (as hard as it can be) to maintain a health balanced diet, for my mind body, skin and spirit to flourish… now a huge one for me in 2017 is. MENTAL HEALTH. To my fellow producers and people: if you ever feel alone, I have too. I gotta let you know you are not alone and this hard day, week, month, year shall to pass, it does get better. Things happen that aren’t fair, and unfortunately for life you could be the purest greatest human being and still get treated unfairly. I remember first starting to learn to produce when this was all just an idea, no technical background, not many producers around me in my town for 80,000 people, I remember feeling alone as fuck. But I kept going. and now today things are much different I am faced with a whole bunch of new things being a woman, in a male dominated industry, it’s hard, you have people assuming your sleeping with someone, or getting someone to make your shit, or your looks have gotten you to where you are. Stuff like that, random hate (a male or woman would receive). And it’s interesting even big dogs who are respected in the industry can treat you this way too- that shit can really fuck up your mental – the industry – there are a lot of beautiful things about it – but there are also a lot of things that have helped me grow the toughest skin. All I can say is what I have really truly have learn about my health is that when I’m feeling down or “why me ” the quicker I can snap out of that and not play victim and instead know that the actions of other people is solely from what’s inside them and not me and I have a duty and thats to just keep going. How I stay positive, is to really appreciate the little things. I mean even going outside and feeling the sun on your skin really taking thought in how lucky we truly are to be here, breathing, have family, have feet, have ears, whatever man. It’s really the little things that matter. So when you are feeling fucked mentally really try to hone it back and be like what truly matters – “Am I gunna pause my whole week because x,y,z said this or did that and it’s not fair” or am I going to be like “damn I’m still out here breathing another day to keep going and drinking coffee.”
It might sound silly, but I definitely had to reevaluate my relationship with social media. I’m uncomfortable to admit the amount of energy I wasted this year being upset with where I felt I was compared to where I felt everyone else was. I recently took two months off from basically the whole internet — that was probably one of the best things I’ve done for myself in a long time. Sometimes, to me, it seems like music in our scene has the lifespan of a housefly — born and dead in 24 hours. I burned myself out trying to create inside of that cycle. When I went offline I had to re-learn how to make art for myself again — without numbers, or metrics, or any other external validation. It was pretty incredible, honestly. So with that, my best advice to aspiring musicians and producers is to know that you have complete power to step outside of that cycle. Be content with making music for yourself before anyone or anything else.