The best way to get stuck is obsessing about what labels ‘want’ and the best way to liberate yourself is to produce without a label in mind. I didn’t follow this until recently, but here are 3 reasons why you shouldn’t produce with a label in mind, and one time you should pay attention to them.
4 THOUGHTS FROM ME
1. Avoid producing with a label in mind to avoid sounding generic. When you produce with a label in mind, you’re already setting yourself to ‘conform’ to that label, and that means that you will follow the sounds they are making and the progressions they are making, which, honestly, will make you sound like what they already have. For example, I’ve heard many times labels say: ‘the song is nice, but it sounds too much like XXX, so we’re going to pass on it’. Why would they sign you if you sound like what they already have? Therefore, avoid making your music thinking too much about that label or you can often end up sounding generic.
2. Avoid producing with a label in mind to avoid losing your motivation over your craft. When you produce with a label in mind and you don’t get signed by that label, which often happens, especially with big label, it can often lead you to lose your motivation over your production. With this mindset, you’re not producing to have fun or to express yourself, you’re producing to achieve a goal, which can lead you to frustration and loss of motivation if you don’t achieve it. The worse part is that we often fall into this trap, as my friends and I have done this, but it is a goal that doesn’t depend on you and you have no control over, so it’s not worth having it. Therefore, when producing, make whatever you’re making because you enjoy it and avoid putting your goals based on label acceptance.
3. Produce what you’re having fun with and not what you think the label will like. Without the need to sound like ‘that label’ or make something that will fit into their catalog, you won’t be held back by what is already there and that’s when you try new elements, new sounds, new progressions, and that’s what will make you stand out. That’s exactly the mindset that LAR told me he had in place before he signed to Anjunabeats, one of the most prestigious trance/melodic labels. The best way to do this is to make sure that you’re not just doing something for them to like. Try something that pushes the limits or that you haven’t seen before that you also find enjoyable, like having a common pattern with a crazy sound design.
4. However, when mixing, I recommend having reference tracks from the target label to ‘adapt’ your mix to how the label likes. When innovating, you often will get so excited about what you’ve just made that you can over-emphasize the innovation to the point it affects the mix. I recently made a lead for a track and I liked it so much that I left it really loud in the mix. However, when I referenced my track with a song from the target label, I noticed the lead was WAY too loud, and lowered it 6db to make it fit. It’s still there, it just was REALLY loud before. The freedom of innovation can often blind you, and having reference tracks to bring you back, especially in the mixing process, are crucial to making sure you still end up with a balanced and well-constructed song.
1 QUESTION FOR YOU
What are the problems you can run into if you don’t have a label in mind (and how to prevent them)?
1. Trying too much and end up sounding off. Ask for feedback from your friends, or us, since they can help you understand if you’re experimentation is working;
2. Not having a target goal for your song. Regardless if you have a label in mind or not, you should always have a goal for your song. At least, what sound are you going for with it;
3. Innovation blindness. When you’re so in love with the experimentation, you can easily say others don’t like it because they are ‘not seeing it’. Always make sure to get opinions from people you trust and if more than 3 say something you don’t agree with but still want to keep it, make sure you’re not blinded by innovation.