How I Made My First Million in Music: A Guest Editorial by !llmind

Belief changed my life.
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!llmind, 2019

I'm in a cafe in Vancouver, BC. I'm not here with a midi keyboard making beats. I'm sitting here drinking an oat milk latte like the true Brooklyn hipster I am, wondering why Uber or Lyft don’t operate in Vancouver. I'm spoiled, I know. I'm feeling grateful, feeling thankful, feeling proud of myself for coming such a long way. This music thing consistently brings me to places around the world that I would have never dreamed of being in. And music PAYS FOR IT ALL.

Coincidence? Luck? I don't believe in those things. But there are a few things I do believe helped me get here—starting with the word “belief.” Belief got me here—nothing more, nothing less.

When I fell in love with music as a child, several things immediately happened in my mind. I remember so clearly: Why do these sounds make me feel this way!? This feels amazing! Who's creating these sounds? How are they doing it? I want to do it, too.

My dad played guitar. He had a pretty remarkable record collection. While growing up, music was ALWAYS playing in the background. Sometimes it was from my father's record player. Sometimes it was him playing guitar and recording songs. From road trips to NYC or a trip to the mall, music would be playing in my dad's car. Regardless of where I was, music always seemed to be playing. Every genre, too. These sounds were programmed into my subconscious mind, and I didn't even know it.

Back then, I was a video game kid. My life was nothing but video games. I liked role-playing games and fighting games the most. The challenge. The colors. The sound effects. The storylines. The music. Oh, man, the music! One day, something clicked. A fascination. A curiosity. A calling. I decided I wanted to make music. I wanted to learn how to play instruments and chop records and program drums and create beats. How do I create beats? I had no clue, but I knew I had to do everything in my power to find out how.

So I did.

I dedicated every free minute I had throughout the day to just making beats. Naturally, over time, I got better. And better. And better still. I eventually decided to share my beats online. I uploaded my beats to SoundClick and shared them on community forums like ughh.com and okayplayer.com.

I remember the first time someone replied and said: "These beats are great!" That felt amazing and scary at the same time. It was scary because I didn't BELIEVE they were great (yet), I just knew they were tons of fun to make. The compliment did feel good, though. Little did I know that one comment changed the trajectory of my entire life.

I used to make two-to-six beats per day, every day, and I would post ONE on these forums every single day. I needed more clarity. Were my beats good? At first, the comments were slow. After a few months, more and more people would leave comments. "Hey, that beat is cool" or "I like the melody in this beat" or "Those drums sound sick" or "That beat is trash!" The ratio of negative to positive comments was about 50/50. Over time, that number started to shift to 60 percent positive and 40 percent negative. Then it went to 70/30. Then 75/25. Eventually, the number of positive comments far outweighed the negative comments.

As this was happening, I was gaining self-confidence. I was receiving the validation I never knew I needed. I started to BELIEVE I was a good producer and that my beats were fire.

That belief changed my life.

My brain started to rewire itself. "!llmind, your beats are really good," I told myself every single day. I began to believe in myself. I mean, REALLY believe it as a FACT, like how I believe the sun exists, or that the sky is blue, or that our lungs breathe in oxygen, or that gravity is holding this planet together. Actual FACT.

!llmind, you are a fantastic music producer. That is a FACT.

When you believe something to be so true, something weird happens. Your perspective changes. Your attitude changes. Your actions based around it? They change, too. Your emotions? Yup, them too. This absolute belief in myself started to manifest a chain reaction of blessings; I still feel every single day.

I kept repeating this process. Make music every day. Learn how to become better. Experiment with new sounds. Surround myself with people who I relate to and who make me feel good. You know, do things that a "music producer" would do.

I eventually got my first major record label placement. I started to build a name for myself. I began to make more money (lots of it). Sure, there were failures and lessons along the way—like signing a few bad deals and not being paid what I earned—but for every failure, there was a lesson and forward movement. None of that sh*t mattered to me anyway because I was so caught up having fun making music and being a "music producer" and continuing to (really) believe I was a fantastic music producer.

Remember the whole "belief" thing I was talking about? Well, I took it literally. By "literal," I mean, I began applying it to other things. Again, not the “Good job, kiddo” type of belief; actual "the sky is blue" belief. Let me give you a few examples.

I "believed" I would make a song with Kanye West one day. I did.

I "believed" I would work with J. Cole one day. I did.

I "believed" I would work with Drake one day. I did.

I "believed" I would work with JAY-Z one day and win a GRAMMY. I did—for a song with JAY-Z and Beyoncé.

I "believed" I would produce a song on a major motion picture film. I did, twice, once on Disney's Moana, and once on Black Panther.

I "believed" I would become a voice in the "music producer" community, to help inspire creatives who were/are just like me. I did. My Blap-Kit producer drum business is a multi-million dollar empire; my podcast Blap-Chat is a staple in my community; my brand is synonymous with being a positive influential role model to my community.

I "believed" I would have Gold and Platinum plaques one day. I do—more than 20 of them.

I "believed" I would create a life of abundance and fulfillment and joy with the freedom to do whatever I please, whenever I want, in my favorite neighborhood in the world, Brooklyn. I have. I'm living it right now.

And I still have SOOOO much more to accomplish.

The point I'm trying to make is: belief is REAL.

Most of us wait for the outside world to change our lives. That way is backward. We have to look WITHIN to change the external world around us. It starts with a curiosity that manifests a strong emotion inside of us. We can channel that emotional connection into something far more powerful than we think. When interest turns to action, we begin to make decisions based on nurturing our curiosity. Eventually, other people take a liking to it. It becomes our TRUTH. It becomes the very thing we BELIEVE. Once we locked that belief into place, no force in nature can stop you. Only you can.

All you have to do is keep going and keep believing.

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