5 Self Motivation Tips for Artists, Producer, and DJ’s

In this article, pro DJ and music blogger Phil Morse from Digital DJ Tips offers five self motivation tips for artists who struggle starting and finishing music.

Self Motivation

Creative professionals everywhere struggle with the challenges of getting things finished. Successful creative professionals beat those challenges. This is a sentiment that should resonate with the bedroom producer. With the rise of affordable music equipment, there has been a flood of people trying to get into this field and the competition fierce. But music production is just one of the more recent career fields to face these battles, as they join artists everywhere who must learn the skills of self-motivation to survive in these competitive fields.

To address this issue, we have compiled five rules you can use to ensure you’re playing the game well enough to find some success. These tips are a good list to turn to when you need a kick in the butt to get started and feel serious about succeeding in music production.

Rule 1 | Show up!

Mark Twain was once asked if he had to wait for inspiration to come before writing. “Yes, I do,” he replied, “but inspiration always comes at 9am sharp, every weekday!”

To succeed, you have to turn up. When you’re a solo producer, maybe doing it part time, it’s doubly important, because nobody else is making you do it, and you’re busy anyway. But if you don’t put the hours in, the rest of it comes to nothing. Professionals do; wannabes just think about it.

The best way is simply to plan a certain number of hours for production into your days, weeks, and months, and then stick to it. Jobs have set hours, and this is a job. If you’re physically there, ready to start, you’ve already won half the battle.

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Rule 2 | Fight Resistance

Novelist Steven Pressfield wrote a seminal book on creativity called The War of Art. In it, he identified the devil on your shoulder that stops you producing creative works, and gave it a name: Resistance.

Resistance is what makes you sort through your sample library recategorizing all of your loops and hits, instead of working on your tune. Resistance is what makes your hand move towards the Facebook bookmark to check your fan page, instead of working on your music. Resistance is what makes you suddenly decide to rearrange your studio to put the speakers in a different place, instead of working on your music.

In short, resistance is what makes you do something else that feels important, but that actually isn’t, at the expense of doing what you’re really meant to be doing – creating. It’s particularly insidious because you feel like you’re working, but in fact, you’re actively looking for anything but your important creative work to do!

A simple way to trap this creeping disease is to log exactly what you do for a few production sessions and see how much time you actually spent producing. Begin changing your habits by first identifying the apparently urgent but really unimportant stuff that gives you “instant gratification” rather than focusing on the real, painful, worthwhile job of creating. We outline more of these ideas in another article called 10 Tips to Fight Writer’s Block and Increase Studio Productivity.

recycle ideas

Rule 3 | Finish What You Start, Then Start Again

How many times have you had somebody tell you excitedly about an amazing new tune they’ve made, right up until the point that you ask to hear it, at which point they shuffle uncomfortably, muttering something like “it’s not quite finished yet…” or “I need to master it first…?” How many wannabe producers do you know who never seem to finish anything at all?

Signed bands traditionally had little choice but to finish their records on time, with obligation-ridden advances, studio time booked, and record company execs breathing down their necks. Even then, there are legendary stories of albums taking years to finish (or never getting finished at all). If “real” bands sometimes never finish their work, what chance do effectively self-employed producers have?

You have every chance, as long as you set yourself deadlines and stick to them. Tasks tend to expand to fit the available time. Deadlines are your friend. Professionals produce, release, and move on. Wannabes procrastinate and spend more time coming up with excuses than delivering and getting going on the next project.

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Rule 4 | Accept Failure as a Necessary Part of Success

Let me make a few assumptions about you: Music is your life. Your music expresses things for you that words can’t. You can say more about yourself in a musical production than you can find words to express. Bands, musicians, and producers are your heroes.

So how can you possibly live up to the expectations these feelings impose on you? How can you possibly do something of worth in the arena you so admire? How will you deal with releasing something that doesn’t meet your own impossibly high expectations?

The answer is to accept that to get that success, you have to first miss the mark. You have to produce tracks that nobody ends up liking. Hell, you have to produce tracks that even you end up not liking!

Every time you miss the mark, treat it as training – or if you like, as “nudging your guided missile closer to its target”. We always learn more from our failures than our successes. Without the little “nudges” that each almost-success gives us, we simply can’t hit our final, successful goal.

With modern music distribution, there’s a real hidden bonus here. As you release track after track, piling them up on YouTube and cross-promoting them on Facebook and so on, you’re actually building up a back catalogue. And believe me, as soon as you have one success, a lot of people will want to know about that back catalogue. So treat your early efforts as banking stuff up for future success if you like.

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Rule 5 | Accept That It’s Natural to Lack Confidence

We are each programmed to think that anyone and everyone can do stuff better than us. That’s simply because we’re involved, anything we do is bound to fail.

Writers feel it when they face a blank page, artists with a blank canvas. DJs feel it as they warm up a night, scared out of their wits. Producers feel it in Ableton Live with a new, empty project and no ideas. All feel like they’re just not up to the task.

Let me give you an example. I have had a long, fulfilling career in dance music. However, even when I was five full years into DJing as a professional, I remember realising that I’d never lost the feeling that I wasn’t really a DJ. I sometimes thought I was a fraud, and that if anyone actually came up to me while I was playing – I mean, just one person out of a packed, happy dancefloor of hundreds – and told me so, I would crumple and never play again. Such was my lack of confidence. It’s better now, but it’s still there. And I’m very normal (I think!).

Here’s another thing, it’s unlikely anyone will ever tell you you’re a fraud or give you permission to be a producer. No-one will say “you’re good enough, welcome to the club.” You have to tell yourself it’s OK, and you have to do it daily.

How many producers do you hear saying they can’t stand to listen to their own work, or read their own reviews? Do you ever wonder why that is? It’s because they have that natural low confidence in their own abilities. Success and money don’t cure it, either. You just have to accept it’s part of the creative mind.

do something

Finally…

A wonderful thing happens when you turn up, blindly believe in yourself and push on. They say “God loves a trier”, and it’s true. When you get going, the stars seem to move in your favor, synergies happen, your mind – having beaten resistance – slips into creative mode, stuff you can’t explain begins to go your way, and out of nothing – painfully, slowly and precariously – good stuff evolves. Good luck!

 


About Phil Morse

Phil Morse is a DJ and journalist originally from Manchester, England. He currently lives in Spain, from where he publishes Digital DJ Tips: How to DJ properly with portable digital DJ gear.

 


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  • christian sobiech
  • 6/17/2011

thank you for this.

  • Nestor Lafayette
  • 6/17/2011

Good stuff! Bout To hit the lab now!

  • AfroDJMac
  • 6/17/2011

Excellent advice, I love it. Like so much in life, it is so important to just get started doing something. The universe won’t just align itself and the timing may never be 100% right, but once you get going, momentum begins to occur. Very inspiring!

  • Dennis
  • 6/17/2011

this is exactly what I needed! <3 Dubspot! Greetz from Berlin

  • samms
  • 6/17/2011

man thanks a lot for this one!!! exactly what i needed! after my mom passed away, almost half year ago… it feels like only since the last few weeks i’ve been inspired to dj… (mostly at home) and i’m still not where i was… with producing it’s the same!! it’s like i was so ”inspired” i now its like i feal all empty inside… i still want to dj or produce almost everyday… but it just does not feal right… but i’ll stop beeing a wanna be!!! thanks a lot :D

  • Phil Morse
  • 6/17/2011

Having worked all day since 8.30am (with an hour left to go), listening to the sound of what seems like half of my town in the pool/on the beach outside my window in 90ºF sun… I am living my own advice today! Glad the article has helped you.

  • 5 Self Motivation Tips for DJs, Producers & Artists | Digital DJ Tips
  • 6/17/2011

[...] This is a guest post by Digital DJ Tips Editor Phil Morse for New York DJ & Production college, Dubspot. To continue reading it, go to to the Dubspot Blog. [...]

  • CosmicRift
  • 6/17/2011

Wow, truly an amazing article because it points out every new producer and DJ. I’m still in my baby stages reaching three years this September and I admit to procrastination all the time but, I have gotten much better control. However, in reading this I technically am procrastinating but, for a good cause haha.. Seriously though this is an awesome read and I intend on checking out more articles on this site. Kudos and thanks a million!

  • DJ Possess
  • 6/17/2011

As a new DJ doing any gig I can get. Last weekend I played a friends house party with a vague idea of what I’d play and zero nervousness because 3 other DJs were supposed to come. No one showed and I did the whole night doing Ambient/Chill, Reggae, HipHop and House. At some point it was just Zen and I was completely in the zone. 5 hours later I felt great am so did everyone else.
Great article!

  • Matt C
  • 6/17/2011

Good article. Producing is really hard and especially so when you have to work full time on the side.

Your first tunes are likely to be completely different from stuff you make later and as a result, you’ll quite enjoy listening to them later.

How long does it take to get any interest in your tunes? That’s a question no one can answer.

  • Kyle
  • 6/17/2011

This really hit home for me, especially the part about accepting the fact that my standards will always be impossibly high for everything that I do, and that it’s normal. Thank you.

  • Urban Groove
  • 6/17/2011

Great article as always Phil. Seriously, exactly what I needed to hear. I’ve been struggling with this for a bit now, being a “part time” producer with a day job.

Funny enough a friend of mine called me last week and asked that he and I work together to produce something each week. Every friday we submit our work to each other for review. It creates a sense of a deadline without there really being one, but I don’t want to disappoint a friend. Anything to keep me producing and working on music.

  • mark
  • 6/17/2011

“With modern music distribution, there’s a real hidden bonus here. As you release track after track, piling them up on YouTube and cross-promoting them on Facebook and so on, you’re actually building up a back catalogue. And believe me, as soon as you have one success, a lot of people will want to know about that back catalogue. So treat your early efforts as banking stuff up for future success if you like.”

What does that mean? I’ve always been somewhat against putting stuff I’m not totally proud of on YouTube or Facebook if it’s unreleased. Is this saying that’s okay to do or not okay to do?

  • Vaughn Marcus
  • 6/17/2011

I can relate sooo much.. thanks .. i have a couple hundred unfinished songs in pro tools.. and not 1 finished album released.. the time is now

  • DeRajj
  • 6/17/2011

I started DJing late 1985 and into music production around 1990 I t was all hardware for me back then.
It is 2011 I moved to Logic Pro and not one completed song.
All I have is many unfinished tracks and uncompleted goals.
Thank You for this. I really needed to read this.
All the best to everyone who got inspired from this article :D

  • ToS
  • 6/17/2011

Thanks Phil. <3

  • Justine Lackey
  • 6/17/2011

This was beautifully written and creates some real gems of advice; thank you. The knowledge here doesn’t only lend itself to producers, I really believe all of these lessons can be used by a huge cadre of self-employed people (many of whom are creative professionals). Off to repost on my blog.

  • Good Cents Bookkeeping | Blog
  • 6/17/2011

[...] of my DJ friends on facebook posted this today and I am so happy it came across my feed. Even though the post is geared towards artists it [...]

  • Jose C.
  • 6/17/2011

Wow. Thank god for google and this article. Great post

  • Power Strategies
  • 6/17/2011

In music indrustry is like a jungle, biggest companies try now to make a lot of money from music, and the artists have a low procent from their work. And if you want to be promoted like a dj or mc, you need to pay a lot first and then if you are lucky you will be recognised like an artist. Nice tips by the way. Thanks and best regards !

  • Bis
  • 6/17/2011

Damn, that almost made me cry at the end. I am saving this. Might even print it, or take some quotes out of it and put them real big on the wall.