By Roman Shalimov

Intro: “Social sciences” seem boring, right? 

Ok, how about another zillion tutorials on “how to EQ a kickdrum”? 

I just think there are already great tutorials all over the internet and wanted to tell you a little bit of a different story. And when my label asked me for a production tip, I thought: there are so many people who can do production tips way better than me. But in actuality, what we do during long session hours in our studios is an implementation of what we have in our minds and souls, a resulting expression of our attitudes, feelings and personal emotions. 

Simply saying, your heart and your head is a main production center, not a DAW. 

So, I wrote a production tip for your main production center. 

Riser

We all know that being a music producer can be fun and also a struggle at the same time. It can be rewarding and joyful, and it can be depressing and frustrating as well. 

Wearing many hats, some of which are consumer science and music producing, I have seen so many similarities in both – and in this article, I would be happy to share some of the observations I came across throughout recent years.

Drop: Music producing is a Black Swan Area

I definitely recommend Nassim Taleb’s book “Black Swan” to anyone in music. His book made lots of noise over the past years… As in, I don’t mean he played at Coachella or made a chart banger. No, he made lots of noise in the fields of economics, sociology, and social science in general.

 

Maybe you personally haven’t even heard about Mr. Taleb, because he is not as known as Joel DeadMau5 or, say, Zedd. However, he’s discussing many different areas, which are: philosophy, economy, sociology and even stock market trading, and we are able to apply his interesting ideas to music production as well. At least no one can forbid us from doing it, right?
What is his main idea? He split all human activities and professions into two main areas. One is really, really huge, it is White swan territory, the second one is much, much smaller, it is Black Swan territory. 

The thing is, it’s rare to meet black swans in nature. (Maybe, some people from Australia, where black swans are more frequent, may not agree, but he used those swans to illustrate his idea, and now it’s became a sort of meme in social sciences, economics and journalism).

 

So, if you take a look at all human being’s jobs you can also split them into two big areas. One area we can apply to all professions, where you can more or less easily find a job after receiving education and get rewarded (receive salary, social package, retirement plan etc.). These can be almost all well known professions, such as bakers, stewardesses, accountants, office managers, you name it. This is a White Swan Area, according to Taleb.

Another area is the Black Swan. This can be applied to all artistic professions like acting, writing, painting, singing and, yes, music writing. 

By the way, all the entrepreneurs are also in this zone. The Black Swan Area can be described as a No-Guarantee-area, where all the efforts can be rewardless and pointless, where only a few of the game players are rewarded and the rest will lose. 

In short: If you have an accountant certificate, you have a 95% chance of getting your bread and butter. (Some accountants may not agree, but you get the idea.) 

After music production courses you don’t have this feeling, right?

In all creative professions you don’t have any guarantees! There is only one exception: Morgan Freeman. (Just because every movie needs a guy with old eyes talking about goodness. Or, at least God wearing a white suit.)

“So, what’s the point, captain Obvious?” (Breakdown)

I definitely don’t want to go into practical advice. Everyone can come to their own conclusions. Some people who write experimental music can go against the whole mainstream  path and neglect the rat race creative pursuits propose. 

What’s important is not to be misguided. Lots of people are blinded by all the articles about Zedd’s 15 million dollar penthouse, or posts on Instagram with Afrojack’s luxury sport cars and they’re like, “Hey! This could be me!”

Well, yes! But don’t be fooled by the media. They present only the rare, surviving Black Swans. And they never show us a “graveyard.” I’m sorry, but it exists! I don’t mean they’re literally dead. It’s a “graveyard” of people. People who gave up, who were not talented or lucky enough, who had to sell the equipment due to lack of money, got married and moved on, etc. (Try to finish something while your little daughter walks in with another “Hey Daaaaddyyy” …brilliant idea). 

In terms of numbers, we can apply the entrepreneurs rate of survival to our music production area, which is quite minor: 3 to 5%. The number of new businesses which survive the first three year period is about 5 percent. In the long term, even less: 2-3%.

Outro 

You are in the game with certain chances for success. About 1/20. It means only one of twenty music producers (singers, bass players, DJ’s, modern art performers, fashion designers, etc.) will… 

No, not even be placed on a magazine cover like Mixmag, but at least… somewhere.  Knowing this simple fact will give you some more resistance against any obstacles that may occur along the way. 

I just want to help you to replace the prism that is media hype, which is causing delusion, and  is refracting and manipulating your picture into clean glass (or a lens – which is better.)

However, there is another mind-trap. If you focus on that “graveyard”, this mindset can bring you right into it. Just take its existence into account and fight day-by-day for every chance to succeed. 

And yes, think about covering bills while you are producing, because it is a long term commitment.

Create, make music, follow your path. Have fun!

PS (“Hey! Where’s the second drop?”) In the next chapters, I will describe some tricks from social science that can help you make a 15% chance for success instead of a 5%.

 

 Author

Roman Shalimov (also known as ADAKADAK) is a house music producer, consumer research scientist, writer and educated sound engineer living in Russia and Bulgaria.

Adakadak’s latest single “I’m a Fashionista” (2Dutch/Blue Forest) is available here.