Creative Strategies for Music Production w/ Matt Shadetek: Self-Reliance for Success

In this creative strategies article, Logic expert and Dutty Artz label owner Matt Shadetek offers some creative strategies that will help you be more productive in the studio and more effective in promoting your music. Matt also explores the idea of self-reliance in order to get your goals accomplished.

Creative Strategies

Do It Yourself

My good friend Jahmek Power (a.k.a. grime producer and artist Jammer) has taught me a lot about making beats in Logic and inspired me in many ways over the years. One of the most important things he taught me was the idea of self-reliance, something he knew about intimately from his experience in the UK’s grime scene. Back in 2005 I was a part of his “Jahmek The World” crew; we see each other less now since I’ve moved back to the States, but we keep in touch via Twitter and he shared this tweet recently:

What he’s getting at here is the idea that you shouldn’t rely on anyone or anything else to achieve your goals in life. Jammer is someone who speaks from first-hand experience and with great authority from being a part of the grime scene, a musical genre that was initially received with frosty resistance from pretty much everyone who wasn’t directly part of it.  Because grime was a radical reconfiguration of the 2-step garage sound of the time and was predominantly made by young males from the council estates (the British equivalent of housing projects), it was perceived as low class and socially undesirable. The result was that there was really no support for the scene in terms of studios, radio opportunities, labels or commercial presence.

The Dungeon

The members of this underground movement created all of the infrastructure themselves and built the scene into an industry with their own resources. One example of this was Jammer’s studio “The Dungeon” which I was lucky enough to spend some time in. The studio was under the front steps of Jammer’s parents’ house in Leytonstone. It had probably been a root cellar or something similar at one point. It was as wide as a stairway with rough stone walls and a ceiling not tall enough to fully stand up in.  Jammer installed huge speakers, a microphone and a computer with Logic at the far end where he’d hold court with a who’s who of the grime scene rotating through. At any given time there would be six to eight people of various ages packed in there hanging out smoking herb and making music. Jammer recorded all of his own music there but also helped countless others in the scene, doing a lot of work that as far as I know he never received any direct compensation for. When I was there the music was literally going on around the clock with Jam often falling asleep in the engineer’s chair while the music blasted. Out of this basement and many like it a musical movement grew, in the face of active hostility from both the musical elders and the dominant British society.

Jammer a.k.a. Murkle Man

On Self-Reliance

The reason I share this story is to touch on the importance of the concept of self-reliance.  I believe that the desire to fit into the existing musical, cultural and societal infrastructure is directly contrary to creative growth. By its nature the musical system is conservative and only wants what was successful yesterday on the radio or in the club. The people who run these businesses have to pay salaries, rent and health benefits and have much more to lose than the musicians if a creative experiment goes wrong. They therefore have a very strong incentive to try to control the musicians and get them to produce safe and predictable output. Musicians on the other hand by our nature tend to follow the creative impulse, search for the new and take risks.

Become Free and Take Risks

By focusing on creating and owning our own infrastructure, whether a studio, label or publicity team, we gain the freedom to follow those impulses. It turns out that often this can be a very successful approach because we are creating something that the establishment does not have and is poorly configured to create: innovation. A lot of people get hung up on the idea of having “the best quality” or “professional equipment,” or expertise or services for their project. I think this is a trap that serves those who control those resources. All you need is just enough resources and knowledge to make your idea a reality and start sharing it with fans.  If there is a desire for what you’re doing, money will come and then you can spend that money on improving your capabilities.  As the demand for the music scales up you will be able to add capability to fulfill that demand. By controlling your own work and investing your resources in your own infrastructure you control your creative destiny. You control what, when, and how the work gets made.

Shadetek + Jammer @ The Dungeon

Below is video of me, Jammer and Ears on the steps of the Dungeon back in 2005, including Jam and Ears spitting over my “Scatta” riddim which was a remix of “Waifer” from Slew Dem’s “Gunman.” There’s also some footage of Jammer performing his breakout song “Murkle Man” at a rave in London, a great example of the energy in the scene.

Here are some actions you can take to bring yourself closer to self-reliance:

1) Make sure that you own at least the bare minimum equipment you need to produce your own work. If you are a producer this is a computer, a DAW and a good set of headphones or monitor speakers.  If you are an vocal artist it’s a computer, DAW, soundcard, headphones and microphone. Don’t buy more than you need.

2) Learn to operate your equipment to produce the best possible sound you can get. Learn how to do at least a basic version of each stage of the production process. If you hire someone to mix or record your projects make sure you learn from them so that you can eventually do it yourself if needed.

3) Finish the work at the level you’re currently capable of and publish it somewhere an audience can connect with it. Many people get caught in the trap of waiting for a technically perfect product, which leads some to wait forever. Things will never be perfect, especially when you’re learning, but it’s important to publish your work as you go. It’s the only way to start to build an audience, get feedback and learn what works. The momentum you build this way will only improve as your product gets more and more polished.


About Matt Shadetek

Matt Shadetek is one of New York City’s most exciting producers. His live sets encompass contemporary Dancehall, UK Funky, and Dubstep, all delivered with Shadetek’s unique production voice which bridges the underground-mainstream divide. He’s one of the rare DJs who can rock a crowd with sets composed solely of his own dancefloor bangers and remixes.

Matt’s early love for Hip Hop and Dancehall along with edgy electronic sounds led to his Warp Records debut album Burnerism as part of the duo Team Shadetek. While Matt was living in Berlin and touring Europe, the followup LP Pale Fire was released, featuring the underground hit “Brooklyn Anthem”. The hit song kick-started a dance craze in the Brooklyn reggae scene (leading to over 100 fan videos of kids dancing to it).

Returning to NYC, Matt founded the Dutty Artz label/production crew with DJ /Rupture. Shadetek produced Jahdan Blakkamoore’s debut album, Buzzrock Warrior (!K7), pioneering its signature Reggae-Dubstep-Rap sound. In 2009 he also teamed up with Rupture to release the mix album Solar Life Raft (The Agriculture). His latest release, on Dutty Artz, is Flowers, an effervescent solo instrumental effort that references dubstep, UK Funky and Garage. He has toured internationally both solo and accompanied by Jahdan as vocalist.

Connect with Matt on Twitter | SoundCloud | Website


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