We Fail To Learn

One of the best things about trying to “make it” as a musician or producer these days, is that more than likely we’ll fail a lot along the way.

Now, I’m sure that has a lot of you scratching your head, but I’m serious.  Failing at something only serves to make you better at it in the long run.  It’s those reality checks in life that point out our flaws, and shows us where we need to focus our energies to really succeed at whatever we are doing.  Otherwise, it’s all too easy to blindly keep doing what we’re familiar with, never realizing that it’s not working, or that we’re wasting time on something that really doesn’t matter.

For example, here’s a couple examples of failing I personally experienced.  Things that sucked and were depressing at the time, but in hindsight only made me better at what I do.

1. A long time ago (in a galaxy very close by) I completed what I thought was going to be my very first E.P.  Like anyone excited by completing a project such as this, the first thing I did was run around playing it for as many of my friends and family as possible.  And of course, sensing my enthusiasm, they all told it sounded good and that they liked it.

Until I played it for my room-mate.

He listened for a bit, started to squirm a little, then looked at me and said “I don’t know man, the drums sound pretty weak”.  Which, if you knew my room-mate, basically meant he thought my drums sucked.  Not a good thing for what were supposed to be club tracks.  Of course, having been built up by the praise from everyone else, I was crushed.

But, here’s the thing.  After a couple days of skulking about, I sat down and listened to my songs, and sure enough, the drums WERE pretty weak.  So it forced me to refocus my efforts on creating better sounding drums, and I spent a lot of time on that which ultimately made a huge difference in my productions.

It also taught me that most of your friends and family will pretty much always tell you what they think you want to hear 🙂

2. Fast forward a few years and I was working on trying to get my first record deal. This was at a time before MP3 submissions were popular, when most labels still wanted a CD demo of your work.  With reckless enthusiasm, I spent hours at home burning CDR’s of my ten favorite tracks.  I must have made 100-140 demos to send out.

And of course, back in those days, most of the labels I was interested in were also in the UK or Europe, so it cost me a fortune to ship them all.  I probably spent $400-500 total creating and shipping those demos.  Weeks went by, and I never heard anything.  Months.  Years.  Decades.  Centuries!

Well, ok maybe only a couple months before I realized that I wasn’t going to hear anything.  Again I was crushed, disheartened, I swore I was done writing music and I never wanted anything to do with the music industry.  But of course, after awhile I calmed down and looked at the situation, and tried to discover what I did wrong.

Aside from the fact that the tracks probably weren’t good enough anyway, I had failed to use an approach that really made sense.  I realized in my excitement, I had targeted all the big labels, even if my music wasn’t in a style they normally release.  I had never really contacted anyone at the labels to see who I should address it to.  I included way too many songs, and didn’t put the best ones first.  In short, messing up made me realize all the things I needed to do right next time, and sure enough with the next batch of demos I got my first record contract (the track “Ion” with Ritmic out of Switzerland if anyone is curious).

These are just a couple examples out of a long list of times where I set out to achieve something, and just fell way short of my goal.  Sure, at the time it’s upsetting, it’s demoralizing, it makes you question all the time and money you spend on something (you think) you care a lot about.  But in each case, it ultimately becomes a sort of rallying point, a moment that I used to push myself to learn more and do it the right way the next time.

The point is, we all go through this, we all make mistakes and occasionally miss the mark.  I not saying you can’t be upset about that, but you have to do your best to not beat yourself up over it.  If you don’t succeed at something, there’s ALWAYS a reason why, and it’s never just bad luck (unless lightening strikes you while getting attacked by a shark, that’s probably just bad luck).

Accept from the beginning that sometimes we just won’t achieve something we attempt, and use those failures as a chance to examine what went wrong, and how you can improve the next time.  Do this and no matter what, your music will always be better as a result.

That concludes this week’s pep talk.

Join me next week as we look at ways to plan out your capital investments in order to maximize your retirement fund investment returns. (no, not really, it’ll probably be more sappy crap like this post was)

Peace and beats,

7 Replies to “We Fail To Learn”

  1. I thought I’d ask here where everyone can see it just in case someone else has similar thoughts: have you had much occasion to play “listening” sets live (as oppose to, you know, dancey-dancey)? If so, what type of venue/situation, how did it go, what did you get out of it, etc.?

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