!llmind Shares the Key to Gaining Leverage In the Music Industry

Sometimes you have plenty, sometimes you have none at all.
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My name is !llmind. I'm a music producer. I f*ck with everything and anything that has to do with music production. Over the span of 14 years, I've produced records for everyone from Kanye West, Drake and J. Cole to Lil Uzi Vert, Future & Lin-Manuel Miranda (the genius behind Broadway's Hamilton musical) and everything in between (movies, commercials, you name it). In 2011, I decided to release a "drum-kit" at a time when no one was releasing "drum-kits" and it turned into a six-figure per year business and ushered in a multi-million dollar industry. Along the way, I also managed to snag four GRAMMY nominations and more than 10 RIAA certifications.

Enough bragging. The real reason I'm here is that I'm passionate about sharing my experiences as a music producer. Things that worked, things that I f*cked up and what I learned from it all. No guidance and no mentor. I know what it's like to want to create music but not know how to start, where to go or how to turn it into a living.

I don't have ALL the answers, but what I can promise is that I will always touch on topics that I have personally experienced. At the end of the day, I hope to empower you to be your best self, regardless of what industry you're trying to pursue. For more inspiration, subscribe to my YOUTUBE channel and my PODCAST "BlapChat."

There are more than a few quotes floating around regarding longevity. One of them is something along the lines of "the industry is a marathon, not a sprint." I'm sure that isn't exactly accurate word for word, but what matters more is the actual meaning behind it. Let's take a closer look at this, shall we?

What is a marathon? Well, it's a race. A super duper long one. I'm no marathon runner, but I know that there is a hell of a lot that goes into participating and preparing for a marathon, let alone WINNING one. It's about stamina. It's about pacing yourself properly, physically and mentally. In fact, a good portion of the training for a marathon is dependent upon possessing a certain mental strength. We're talking about a 26 (roughly) mile journey. The goal is to get from point A to point B without losing your mind, puking on yourself and losing half of your body weight in water, all whilst trying to do it faster than everyone else. It's one of the most difficult physical and mental challenges any human being can face.

Why do people say that being in the music industry is similar to running a marathon? Because it really, really is similar—minus, for some, at least, the puking.

Careers come and go. Some last for a few years. Some become legendary and last an entire lifetime. Others don't even make it past the starting line.

Being in the music industry is a series of meeting people. LOTS of them. All types of people. Creative ones. Hustlers. Business-minded ones. Assholes. Snakes. Inspiring ones. People come in all shapes and sizes. Throughout our journey in the industry, we meet people in all sorts of scenarios. Sometimes we meet them at recording studios. Sometimes we run into them at industry functions or parties or shows. Other times, we meet them through mutual friends and business relationships. Maybe we meet one that just so happens to live across the street from us, or who sat next to us on an airplane. You just never really know.

So what happens after you meet someone in the music industry? Well, something bizarre: conversation.

We ask questions. We answer questions. We engage in small talk. We shake hands, smile at each other. Tell each other our life stories. We laugh. And then we exchange contacts and say, "It was a pleasure to meet you!"

It's that easy!

Right!?

WRONG!

(Actually, that does happen sometimes.)

Let's take a closer look at what's really happening.

When you meet someone in the music industry, there are a handful of factors to take into consideration. The first thing to ask yourself is this: who is this person, and can they help me take my career to the next level? If the answer is yes, then (naturally) the second thing your instinctual brain should ask is: what can I say right now to get this person to help me?

The same is true if the table is turned. What if you possess something that could help take this person's career to the next level? Is this person you've just met trying to get something out of you? And, are you at all interested in giving this person what he or she wants? Are you in a position to take his or her career to the next level?

Hmmm...

When you meet somebody, you're either in a position to help that person or ask for help from that person. Or both, mutually. You're either in a position to GIVE or in a position to RECEIVE. Or (again) do both.

So, what determines whether you're in a position to give or receive?

I'll tell you with one word: Leverage.

This is where the marathon returns.

During a marathon, your position is constantly changing. You may start the race at a slow and steady pace, and then speed up halfway through. Or, you may sprint in the beginning, only to lose steam and stamina later on. While all of this is happening, you are passing other competitors. Or they are passing you. At certain points in the race, you may be running side by side with other competitors at the same pace. This "equal pace" could last a few minutes, only to diminish because the other person lost stamina quicker than you did, so he or she falls behind you. It's your choice to slow down to extend your "conversation" with this person or stay at your pace to stay ahead. And then 15 minutes later, that same person comes sprinting from behind you and surpasses your position by a milestone.

This same concept holds true when we meet people in the music industry. We are all participating in one long marathon. The people in front of us have more leverage. They're the ones that can further our careers. They're the successful ones. The people behind us are just catching up. We are further along in our careers than they are, but one day, they could catch up, and maybe even surpass us.

So the question becomes: what position am I in currently, and am I mindful of what positions others are in when I meet them? How much leverage do I really have during a conversation?

When you typically meet someone who has more leverage than you—again, this person is further along in the race than you are—it's difficult to get what you want from them. Rightfully so, you are asking this person to "slow down their pace" for a moment to "help" or "converse" with you. Do you have a legitimate reason to give this person to justify them slowing down for you?

When you meet someone who has less leverage than you, what do you do? Do you slow down to entertain the conversation? Are you in a position to help this person? Will you be depleting some of your time and resources to give this person a helping hand? What reasons (or skills) do they have to justify your interest in lending a helping hand?

Again, the answer is leverage.

It's such a bizarre thing. It comes, it goes. Sometimes you have plenty, sometimes you have none at all. Sometimes, you meet someone where leverage is equal. They're running right next to you. At the same pace. The sweet spot is where the magic happens—when it's mutual. 

We put the work in to get here. We understand each other a little better. We relate to things. We also want to strive to go further along in our careers. There's also some interesting things we can do together to help each other reach our goals.

Whether you are just catching up to someone, or just slightly slowing down for someone, just know that the best thing you can do is understand that people are always going to be in different positions. Respect it.

If you want to get closer to someone with more leverage, do what you can to pace yourself and work smarter (not harder) to catch up to that person, and THEN have a conversation. If you meet someone who is not as far along as you are, don't shut them down so quickly. Be open-minded, because you never really know what can happen during this crazy marathon.

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