I remember seeing an article earlier this year, published on Billboard, which read: “Live ticket sales will exceed $25 billion by 2023.” First of all, that number is OUTRAGEOUS. But more importantly, it served as a reminder that live experiences are here to stay. It also made me wonder: How can I take advantage of that as a music producer?
For my entire career, I’ve been around independent artists who have spent more days on the road touring than at home. One of them is my friend and fellow ATLien, Jarren Benton. We came up together, no different from any dope artist-producer duo; our names became almost synonymous.
Early on, not only did I produce 75 percent of his music, but I was also his tour DJ when his career started to take off. This was around the same time he got signed to Funk Volume and made the XXL Freshman Cover in 2014. I witnessed the effect touring had on his presence as an artist, but also on his fans.
As a producer, I saw that as a unique opportunity to meet the people listening to my music. But over time, touring became more and more challenging. I took the gig in the beginning because I knew his music better than anyone else and fans already recognized my name from the countless jabs Jarren took at me in his music. That’s the friendship we had, and it translated to our live show. The fans loved it. As years passed, however, the realities of touring took centerstage. Partying, infidelity (which had already ruined several of my relationships), being away from home for 30 to 60 days at a time—it gets old.
Don’t get me wrong; I LOVED connecting with fans. I had a different level of appreciation after meeting the people who were allowing me to be a full-time record producer, and it brought me out of my reclusive shell as a quiet, awkward kid that made beats. Performing on stage in front of tons of people will do that to you. As my career as a producer and entrepreneur started to build more momentum, though, it became increasingly harder for me to justify, financially.
So here I am in 2019, and I recently announced my first solo tour. It’s not a concert. I don’t have to jump around on stage and worry about making bad decisions, then blaming it on too many Patron shots. I’m blessed to be in a position where I can talk about my experiences in the music industry, and people care enough to listen to my advice on social media. This is a new opportunity, both for me and my fans.
My tour is called Sound Advice. It’s an in-studio experience for artists, producers, and songwriters to get feedback on their music, and transparent advice from me on how to navigate the music industry. I can use all the experiences I’ve had and create the tour I want on my terms. I also put up 98 percent of my own money for venue booking, travel, lodging, etc.. But big risk, big reward, right? So far, it’s paying off, literally and figuratively.
This is why I think all producers should tour: BRANDING. Get on the road with an artist you’re working with. Meet people. Get out of the studio once in a while. For some of you, it might mean you figure out you don’t give a fuck about personal branding, and you want to make the music. That’s cool, be great at that. It works for a lot of producers. But for others, you might unlock a whole new lane of opportunities that you never even knew existed. And with the way things are trending right now (and forever), there’re so many ways to capitalize on live experiences.
There are a million bedroom producers uploading their beats to YouTube. Young Kio just went Diamond by doing that with Lil Nas X on “Old Town Road.” I’m not knocking it. But as that lane becomes more and more crowded, it will inevitably get harder to stand out if that’s where you’re putting all your eggs. Figure out how to dominate a lane you create.
Here’s my biggest advice to anyone reading this: Try shit until you know what works for you. I don’t think I would’ve had the opportunity to create Sound Advice if I didn’t go on those tours with Jarren and get to experience meeting fans and building relationships, which somehow lead me here.
I recently met an aspiring artist on my tour stop in Atlanta who told me he’d met Jarren and me on our first tour together in 2013, which inspired him to become an artist. Realizing that impact helped me expand my role as a producer and forced me to step outside of my comfort zone, and those are two areas where I think a lot of new producers get stuck. Throw out any notion of what a traditional music artist or producer should be.
We’re in the greatest era ever for the music industry. You can do whatever you want to do as long as you’re great at it and know how to market it.