12 Most Important Pro Tips for Becoming a Successful Music Producer

GRAMMY-nominated producer !llmind hands out a dozen must-follow recommendations.
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GRAMMY-nominated producer !llmind hands out a dozen must-follow recommendations.

My name is !llmind. I'm a music producer and I'm passionate about sharing my experiences. 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."

1. Ask Yourself Why You’re Doing It

Everyone has a reason. Everyone makes choices, and those choices are entirely at the discretion of that individual. 

If you’re doing the “beat-making” thing because it’s actually fun, don’t stop. “Fun” usually starts off as a hobby, and it’s always healthy for us as human beings to do things that make us happy. That hobby could very well manifest into a serious career if you play your cards right. If you want to continue to create music out of pure joy and you’re content with it being a hobby for the rest of your life, that’s fine too! 

If you’re doing the “beat-making” thing to make money, find another career. 

And finally, if you’re doing the “beat-making” thing because you think it’s cool, and everyone else is doing it—and you discover that you’re not even really passionate about it—you might as well quit now because it’s going to end up being a complete waste of time (or a funny story you can tell your future kids about how you spent your 20s making beats because it was the ‘thing to do’).

2. Strive to Be Original

Being influenced by a song, or another producer, is completely normal. Completely copying a beat or the style of another producer is also very commonplace. This happens during the early stages of “beat-making” to help us sharpen our skills and get our hands dirty. Originality is everything, though. It’s all you’ve got. You may be able to experience a short run of success by copying another producer—or song, which happens often—but your run will be short-lived. Being honest with yourself, your music, your influences, and your capabilities will help you to be YOU. The trick is to flip what’s familiar in your own unique way. 

The day you stop looking for a sound is the day you may actually find it.

3. Understand Music Theory

It’s completely normal to have zero knowledge of music theory. Most hip-hop producers don’t. As your career progresses, you will find yourself in more situations that require you to know “some” music theory. Preparation is key, so knowing music theory is only going to help. What will you do during that first intimidating session at the big studio, when the GRAMMY Award-winning engineer asks you what “key” the beat is in? 

Take the time. Learn music theory. Be above the rest.

4. Be Open-Minded

Music is such a free-flowing energy. The worst attribute to possess as a producer is closed-mindedness. Are you a vinyl, throwback, hardware purist who refuses to embrace technology, and the current sound of music? Are you an EDM/trap junkie who knows nothing about the history of hip-hop, and doesn’t care to know? Neither is better or worse, but both are examples of being “closed-minded.” 

Free yourself from bias and be open to new things. Listen to different genres of music before judging them. Stop being a music snob. Your little shoebox world of music isn’t the only one that exists. You never know what’s out there that can move you or touch you in the same way.

5. Don’t Look for a Manager

Time and time again, the question is asked: “How do I get a manager?” It’s the equivalent of asking, “How do you become a super producer?” You just can’t answer that question in one sitting. 

Most successful hip-hop producers have either been “sought out” or “approached” by a manager—most likely due to the already climbing establishment of the producer him/herself—or have built a sensible, working, free-flowing relationship with an individual—who sometimes could be a longtime friend, mutual friend, business partner, etc.—organically. 

There’s no book, no list, and no website that lists “managers” to sign up with. It just doesn’t work that way. Unfortunately, a lot of people think it does.

6. Be Self-Sufficient

Being a full-time music producer requires a strong DIY (Do It Yourself) mentality. Even with the strongest managers, lawyers or team by your side, you still have to rely on yourself for many things. At certain points in your career, you may feel “alone” and/or “isolated.” Have the ability to bounce back from those moments when projects and/or money may be “dry.” This is inevitable. Only the strong survive and prosper in abundance!

7. Remain Humble

Don’t let your surroundings get the best of you. People love genuinely grounded people. Stay grounded, regardless of the heights of success you might attain!

8. Networking Is Everything

Your network determines your “net worth.” Networking with people is an art form. You can’t get good at doing it unless you try. And you will fail—albeit miserably, sometimes—but that’s OK. The simple rule is to know how to properly interact with other human beings. This is a people industry. You make music with people. People represent you. People cut checks. People run the labels. The imperfections of human beings are all added baggage to this entire hierarchy and lifeblood of the music industry. 

It’s a people industry. Never forget that.

9. Understand Studio Etiquette

It’s important to know how to carry yourself in a standard recording studio environment. Time and time again—and this is completely normal—“new” hip-hop producers get into a recording studio environment and have no idea what to do, who to talk to, where to go or what role to actually play. Believe it or not, PASSION alone can naturally give you the wings and confidence/knowledge you need to succeed in this environment. In all cases, you must remember that YOU are the producer of the music. 

Be in tune with the audio engineer that is running your session. Be in tune with the artist(s), writer(s) and collaborator(s) in the room. Don’t be pushy. Be confident and open-minded. And most importantly, have fun. Relax and enjoy yourself. It’s like being on a first date with someone. There’s a certain “smoothness” and “effortlessness” that you must carry with you at all times.

10. Know What You’re Worth

You possess something inside that’s worth something to the world. It’s the ability and talent to create music. Sometimes you’ll collaborate with someone to improve your skills. Other times you’ll collaborate with someone because they inspire you to continue to create music. Eventually, you will collaborate with someone strictly to get paid. Regardless of the situation, you’ve got to remember that you are worth something. That “something” grows depending on how good you are, how popular you become and how official your resume of work becomes. All of those things take time.

11. Agree on Splits, Immediately

Business is crucial. Handle with care. Every song gets divided amongst the people involved in creating the song. Always make sure you are getting your proper %’s. A split sheet is nothing more than an agreement made amongst all participants of a single song (producers, musicians, writers, performers, etc.). It’s smart to formulate a split sheet AFTER a song is made and recorded. Sometimes, songs go through multiple transformations over long periods of time. You want to make sure your contributions aren’t lost in translation along the way. 

Get into the habit of agreeing on proper publishing and writing split %’s with people IMMEDIATELY after a song is finished.

12. Stop Comparing Yourself to Other People

This one is a killer. You glance at Metro Boomin’s social media and immediately say to yourself, “Damn, I wish I was as good as him,” or, “Damn, I should be producing on that album and not him!” or, “I make better beats that he does! Why didn’t I blow up yet!?” 

This is absolutely one of the main reasons you’re holding yourself back from getting to the next level. Listen, it’s OK to be inspired by someone. It’s OK to want to compete with the best, but comparing yourself to them is a big no-no. You’ll get caught up in a never-ending loophole of frustration, jealousy, insecurity and fear. 

Instead, embrace the qualities that make YOU special and unique. Remind yourself that there is only one you. Get out there and strive to be your best self.