My Solution for Dealing with Haters

I was listening to a podcast the other day and a story came on about the craft beer industry in Japan, which is still in its infancy. They did an interview with a craft brewer and what he said can, I think, be applied to many fields of life; including music production.

He claimed that, what every craft beer maker in Japan had to do was to make their beer as personal as possible. Make exactly the beer that they want to drink. Make beer you are sure no one else will like. Make it personal. But, in the process of making it personal, know that some people, a lot of people in fact, will hate it.

This is exactly the opposite of what corporate beer makers do. They try to make their beer as nondescript as possible. In order to not offend people, you have to appeal to the lowest common denominator. And the thing that corporations fear more than anything is not being popular.

So, my advice to you, if you are dealing with haters in any endeavor is: Take it personally. Because, if you have people who hate on what you do, it means that you are putting some style into your music or your product. And that is a good thing, because style is the future.

I muse a lot on the lingering effects that the mass production of music has had on us, even though the industry has changed so much. One of those effects is to depersonalize music and anonymize the people who make it. We imagine that people want ghetto-tech from DJ Cray Cray, not music from Ted Jones from down the street.

One of the best ways to depersonlize music is the genre name. As far as I can tell, genre names are useful mostly for the people who are USING music, not people who are MAKING music. Calling something such and such a genre is a way for the record industry or the advertising industry (the latter of which has become the main patron of music) to predict its utility to them. The Justin Bieber dubstep debacle is a great example of that.

What’s weird is how that mindset flips back on the producers. The Internet is full, FULL, of tutorials about how to make a (insert genre) bassline. Or a (insert genre) buildup. The question is, Why would you want some faceless Youtube guy’s interpretation of someone else’s style?

Now, I’m not at all saying that those videos are not a great way to learn. They really are. You need to become comfortable with your tools before you can begin expressing yourself. And those genre-based tutorials are a great tool to do so. But they need to approached with caution, since they run the risk of undermining your most valuable asset: Your style.

I try to make the information on this site, and in the Live Course, applicable to making whatever kinds of music you like. I can’t teach you how to produce like anyone but yourself. Would it be easier to have a “Just Add Water” approach to production? Probably. I’d also probably have a bajillion hits on Youtube if I made videos like that. But I don’t. And I probably won’t.

It’s just not my style.

Am I getting too New Age here? I did some yoga yesterday, so that might be the problem. What do you think?

12 Responses to “My Solution for Dealing with Haters”

  1. Ben December 9, 2011 at 5:24 pm #

    Great insights with which I totally agree. Your own style is the most important differentiator there is.

    The Youtube videos that show how to make this or that bassline could be seen to promote a music by numbers approach, but they are also a good basis for finding out how a sound that you relate to is constructed. From that you can add your own style and develop. Or be lazy and just copy it ;)

    Thanks for your tutorials Anthony and stick with your style, we appreciate it!

  2. Three Ninjas December 9, 2011 at 5:31 pm #

    I think that brewer and I would get along just fine.

    The problem with making music as personal as possible is that (assuming you don’t have a mass produced personality yourself, which, let’s face it, so many people who make music do) it’s really hard to find an audience, and even then, your audience will be small.

    But you know what? Oh well. At least I do stuff I can be proud of.

    • Anthony December 9, 2011 at 7:45 pm #

      Somewhat true. But we are living in a time when finding people like yourself has never been easier. Even if only 500 people in the world dig your music, you have a much better chance of getting your stuff in front of them than ever!

      • Three Ninjas December 9, 2011 at 8:59 pm #

        That’s true in theory, but it hasn’t been my experience.

  3. Three Ninjas December 9, 2011 at 5:40 pm #

    Oh, and those tutorials certainly benefit from the SEO of having “dubstep” in the title, but for me their primary usefulness is in the details. When I do sit down to go through one, I almost never finish, because I’ll accidentally discover something knob or sound that sends me off in a different direction.

  4. Navarre December 9, 2011 at 8:45 pm #

    I’ve noticed that a lot of producers who are making very personal music also have day jobs (or trust funds…) because very personal music doesn’t really pay the bills. I’m thinking of Floating Points (doing his PhD in pharmacology), Omar S (Ford Plant), eLan (Computer IT), and of course, Mr. Arroyo. I played a spaced out funky disco edit of an 80′s funk track to some friends and half of them didn’t know what to think, half of them thought it was dope, and half of them were making suggestions that made no sense. I have to hold down a day job, and while it sucks tearing myself away from a really productive inspiring morning session to go torture rats in a laboratory, and it sucks having to dig for energy when I come home, I don’t have to worry about my studio or my music paying for itself, I can work on my own sound and not what deep house DJ “x” thinks is good, or what random club-goer with no taste “x” wants to hear. In the end, people trying to cater to what others want end up sounding like nothing, like pop. Half of the people I talk to at clubs have absolutely no idea what they like to hear. Real quote from some random club-goer wanting to school me on what good house music sounds like:

    “It has to hit hard, you know? Like boom boom boom boom. And it’s gotta have like some soulful sexy vocals, with some like black lyrics, you know? Like some exotic sexy black lyrics, like Sade. But not disco, but funky, but kind of techy, but I don’t like those little na-na-na-whatever they are, you know? I’m old school, from Boston for chrissakes. You kind of have an idea of what I like now right? Hey, do know where I can get some coke or E?” And that occurs fairly often in the general population. Yeah, let me go home and try to make a track based on that.

    It’s cool to see that you’re tuned into the absurdities of trying to please everyone.

    • Ark Arsenal December 9, 2011 at 8:55 pm #

      This is insane. I want to meet this random club goer just to hear him speak.

      • Navarre December 10, 2011 at 1:31 am #

        Just make sure you bring a face-shield ’cause this dude sprays it, he don’t says it. I have to endure him misting me with hopelessly misinformed condescension almost weekly when I go hang out where my friend has a residency. And he never fails to ask me where tha “disco biscuits” at.

  5. Ark Arsenal December 9, 2011 at 8:51 pm #

    Can’t agree more with you on what you’re saying about the genre definitions being there to help out those who use music over those who make music.

    I can’t tell you how hard it is for me to describe my music to people – not because I don’t know what instruments are in it or who it might sound like, but what it actually is. Yeah, it might have influences of blah blah or whuppidy-bucket, but in the end, I just say it sounds epic.

    I think Jon Marguiles has it right – let’s just call ourselves hobo-tech and be done with it.

  6. AfroDJMac December 10, 2011 at 12:55 am #

    Great post Anthony and great comments from all. This day and age, with access to pretty much anything we want, we can really find things that appeal to our specific niche. I truly believe that finding your niche is the way to go these days. There are people out there that are like you, no matter how weird you are, and connecting to them has never been easier. And these connections can be much more real and meaningful than the type of connections that you might come across on a larger more watered down scale. I’ve learned this through making my Ableton racks for the public. I try to come up with something unusual, interesting, and most importantly, useful to the music making that I am in to. The response has been great on the whole, but there is the occasional person that wishes I would just make a straight-up this-or-that kind of synth.
    I like Navarre’s comments about having a day job. For me having a day job takes away the pressure of having to come up with something that will earn money and allows me to be as creative as I’d like. I can take risks without worrying if it will work on a commercial level. It keeps the art pure and honest.
    Great, thought provoking discussion :)

    • Navarre December 10, 2011 at 1:50 am #

      I kind of feel like qualifying the celebration of financial relief with the caveat that I also wish I had more time to invest in honing my grasp of music theory, musicianship, and production skills. I definitely embrace loop-based music and tools that allow anyone with an imagination and motivation to create interesting music, but at the same time, I wish I had the command of music of people like Stevie Wonder, or Earth Wind and Fire, or Prince, or Dayton, or John Coltrane. I still haven’t come across music post-1989 that could bring me to tears and make me shake my ass like they have. My music always seems to strive towards a level of composition and musicianship that would only be possible if I had literally all day to study and practice physical instruments, as well as hone my production workflow and performance/DJ setup. The age-old catch-22 of having time, but no money, or money, but not enough time. Gotta hustle to make it happen in 2011.

  7. MIke December 11, 2011 at 5:29 pm #

    I’ve been influenced by EBM, Industrial, Synthpop and Rock. I write EDM. ask me which genre and I honestly have no idea. I’ve never been “into” the EDM scene. What I write just comes out. I’ve had people call it House, Electro, Goa Trance, Techno and a few hundred other things. I have no use for the 10,000 splintered genres of EDM. It’s dance music. I understand that consumers that have particular tastes may want to quantify it but that only shows them the narrowest of views on a genre that is absurdly vast.

    I HATE going into a record store and flipping through the separated genre sections trying to find a great record to spin. The place I usually buy vinyl from literally sits me dow in front of a 1200 and hands me over random records. I’ll mention things I like about this and that and they bring over more. Eventually I sometimes have 400$ worth of records I really truly love.

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