Creative Strategies w/ Matt Shadetek: Music Producers, Stop Making Secret Songs!

In this creative strategies article, Logic expert and Dutty Artz label owner Matt Shadetek addresses the fear that comes with letting your art go freely into the world and offers some suggestions that will help you be more productive in the studio and more effective in promoting your music.

Creative Strategies

A lot of artists struggle with procrastination and getting work finished. This is a common issue and can be pretty damaging in itself, but in today’s post I want to talk about something that comes after the work is finally done: the endless postponement of sharing finished work with the public. This is something which affects many artists including even the most well-known and prolific.

For me personally this is a bigger problem than actually getting the work done. I love making music and being in the studio is easily my favorite part of the process, but for me the problem starts when it’s time to actually take that finished product and share it with the world. There’s a lot of vague anxiety involved but it mainly comes down to fear of being criticized.

For many of us this fear slips us into a self-destructive pattern of pain avoidance: if I never release anything, no one can criticize me. Whether we clearly articulate this thought as an excuse to ourselves or we just drag our feet endlessly without reflecting on why, the results are the same. What has happened to me in the past is that I’ll sit on songs so long that they start to sound old and stale to me. Once that happens, even if no one else has ever heard them, I can’t bring myself to release them, and so they die a silent death on my hard drive. I call this making secret songs.

It’s important to distinguish between quality control and artistic cowardice.

I believe in not releasing every single piece of music you make. I try to make more tracks than I need for every release, and then whittle down the list until I am left with only those that I really feel strongly about and that hang together as a cohesive whole. Once that part of the process is done, though, it’s important to get that work out as quickly as possible.

It’s important to understand that taking the time and effort to actually get your work released on a regular basis is a critical part of being an artist. Creating art is about communication, sharing the feeling we put into the music with an audience. It’s pretty obvious that if you are making secret songs, this kind of artistic communication is completely impossible.

This not only prevents you from communicating with an audience but also keeps you from developing as an artist. By protecting yourself from criticism you are also protecting yourself from the opportunity to grow. You might as well be making music for the palm trees on a desert island.

It’s also important to realize that while criticism can be painful sometimes, it also contains something incredibly valuable: feedback.

Feedback can come in many forms.  Some of these hurt, like when people call you names and say you’re a bad person for making this record. Or worse ignore your record completely. Some of these can be incredibly fulfilling, like when someone lets you know that your record was meaningful to them and played some positive role in their life.

The most important thing about feedback, though, is that it allows you to evolve as an artist. If you release a record that is absolutely ignored or that nobody seems to like at all, you have a choice: you can stick to your guns and keep pursuing your own direction, or you can adjust course and see if by making tweaks to your formula you can make something that connects with more people. Feedback is an opportunity for learning and can help you figure out where you want to go.

Once you engage in this process, the next challenge is to use the feedback you receive in a constructive way. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by both positive and negative feedback and to allow it to control you. The balance we have to strike is to use the feedback we receive as a guide to make decisions which fulfill our own artistic needs.  This largely stems from whether your artistic goal is to be a radical and uncompromising artistic revolutionary, a crowd-pleasing entertainer, or somewhere in between.

Think of it this way: releasing finished work is like a muscle. It’s something you practice and build up your ability to do.  The longer you do it the easier it gets, although it will never be completely anxiety-free if you care at all about the outcome.  Start now and practice finishing and releasing your work regularly.  You will find that although there may be painful moments, it feels wonderful to know that you have reached an audience and connected with them.


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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