Creative Strategies w/ Matt Shadetek: The Path of Most Resistance

In this creative strategies article, Logic expert and Dutty Artz label owner Matt Shadetek shares some insight on how to separate yourself from the pack of other producers by putting in the extra effort.


The Path of Most Resistance

Today it’s easier to create high quality art work than it ever has been in history.  The availability of cheap, easy to use tools in both the analog and digital worlds mean that everyone has to invest less time and energy to create things.  On one hand, this is great. It’s democratizing. More people can create more work of a higher standard. We all have more art to look at, listen to, interact with and the chance is much higher that we’ll each be able to find and connect with work that really speaks to us.  For creators it means we’ll be able to make more work than ever before, and have more freedom in how we do it.

On the other hand, this means that we all have more art to look at, listen to, interact with and the chance is much higher that we’ll be overwhelmed by what feels like an endless ocean of mediocre, half-done, not very interesting work that connects with pretty much no one.  When the price of entry goes down, the field gets more crowded.  The challenges of being an artist shift.

Fifteen years ago, if you made a vinyl record and someone at a distribution company liked it enough to offer it for sale to shops there was a good chance that you could get a few copies onto shelves. Once on the shelves there was a reasonable chance that people would listen to it since there usually weren’t more than a handful of new records that came out that week. If people liked it, even though they hadn’t heard of you, they might buy it.  As perhaps you can guess, things have changed.

Today, getting on the shelf at somewhere like iTunes is easy.  The problem is, the shelf is infinitely large. Instead of being one of a handful of new records out this week, you’re one of thousands. No one has time or energy to comb through all these records and try out something they’ve never heard of.  This is called a discoverability problem.

One way to solve discoverability problems is through the work of curators. In the past, one of the reasons people liked going to record shops is because it was a curated environment. The record buyer for the shop would buy records they thought were worth selling. If you liked that buyers taste you liked the shop and would go back each week to see what was new, often forming a relationship with the staff over time who would get to know you and your musical taste.  Today, this kind of curatorial role has largely been taken over by bloggers and other journalists.  Bloggers are sifting through the endless stream of releases coming out all the time and choosing things they think their audience will like and writing about them.

What each writer chooses to write about is of course dependent heavily on their own taste. But an important criteria for how bloggers and other journalists choose their subject matter is that they feel something is newsworthy.  What makes something newsworthy is that some aspect of the story around it is new. Either the work itself has some formal element of newness, like a new style, new technique or new level of execution or there is some external element like a community forming around an artist, or a new approach to marketing.

The challenge for creators then becomes, how do we create things that are new?  One way to do this is by doing things that are hard.  One of the reasons that we’ve seen such an explosion in work being created is that it’s become easier than ever. Easier creation means more stuff. But importantly, a large amount of that stuff is easy stuff.

In music we’ve seen a huge proliferation in people creating work that is very heavily based on other people’s work.  Things like edits, mashups, remixes and cover versions are more popular than ever. The reason that we have so many of these is because they are easy. If you know the basics of how to play an instrument or operate a digital audio workstation then making a remix or cover version of the hit pop song of the month is easy.  The result is that lots of people do it.

The more people do these things, the cheaper and less valuable they get. If I can whip up a club edit of the new Rihanna song in Ableton Live in the two hours after it comes out, then so can everyone else with a minimum level of skill. That’s not to say that there’s zero value there, I might be able to come up with an interesting stylish take that people connect with, but it’s only going to be as valuable as the amount of thought and work I put in.

If we can agree that this is the direction things are going in, we have to find a way to differentiate ourselves from the avalanche of cheap, easy things flooding into the market.  And this is where doing things that are hard come in.  By their very nature, things that are hard eliminate the majority of competition right at the start.  Creating original work is hard. Creating work of a high qualitative standard is hard. Challenging yourself to be different from other work around you is hard.

This may seem unfortunate, but in fact it’s great news. It’s not hard for us to figure out when things are hard. If something is hard for us to do, then chances are it’s hard for many other people to do as well. This gives us a direction to move in. If instead of shying away from difficulty, as we can assume many other people will, we steer into it, we can start to find some space for ourself away from the crowd.

By focusing on doing things that are hard we can develop for ourselves a valuable artistic compass which steers us toward open space. Moving consistently in this direction will move us farther and farther away from the herd of people following the latest easy thing. Differentiation becomes an integral component of our work. By it’s nature what we are doing is not something that everyone else is doing.  The result is that the work we create will be different and new. By creating things that are new, our work will become newsworthy. Things that are different are scarce and scarcity creates value.  By supplying something different than what everyone else is supplying we can create a demand which we alone can supply.  Once we can do this, the rest is easy.


 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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