Self-development in the Music Business - ACM
14 Jul 2015

Self-development in the Music Business

Dan Armstrong’s first love has always been music production and over the years he has been lucky enough to produce music for a great many artists, including UB40. More recently, Dan has been signed to Forward Music Publishing pursuing his love of song-writing and programming for clients.

What should you do to ensure that you’re at the top of your game?
How much do you actually remember? Cast your mind back to your school days. I’m not talking about when you flicked your chocolate yoghurt all over the classroom ceiling in a food fight and got away with it (ahem!). I’m talking actual bona fide academic “learning events”. We’re expected to remember such vast amounts of information and learning.

Now, I’m not just a Music Industry professional. I’ve also lectured in the field of Professional Sound and Music Technology so I’m very mindful of the information I’m conveying to my students may not be as memorable as the more socially interesting and distracting pastimes. We’re expected to study the concepts and theories that form the basis of our subject. Invariably this takes place through units or modules and learning events, along with their related assessments. Learners are expected to pour their heart and soul into the demonstration of accrued knowledge, and ultimately display their findings along with citations from others who’ve travelled similar roads of enlightenment in a gargantuan written assignment.

Once this hard work has been graded and feedback provided, what is one to do with this newfound information?
Invariably, once the assignment is out of the way, it’s forgotten (sometimes literally), and we move on to the next one. However, let’s assume that this new knowledge will form a basis: a foundation for everything to come. Is that all you need?

But I’m done with learning – what else do I need to know?
I like to think of self-development in similar terms to that of looking after a houseplant. The constant is the application of water – in this case, knowledge. With careful and timely application, the plant will grow stronger and yield more aesthetically pleasing results, and sometimes-even value.

dan-armstrong  Self-development is no different. But the key is to remain motivated. I’m lucky. Since my interest began in the Music Industry, I’ve always had an insatiable appetite for Music Tech knowledge. I’ve always taken the periodicals and read books (even now with the Internet challenging their relevance). I watch YouTube for anything musically and technologically interesting. I even track the news websites for technology news. So I find it very easy to remain motivated, perhaps even obsessed.

However, let’s look at an example. The application of studio recording: once the module assessment is successfully completed, does the learning stop there?

Of course not. Ask any Engineer or Producer if they still learn new tricks…the answer will be the same.

I’ve been in production for many years; yet I still found myself with the unique opportunity to attend a RecordProduction.com masterclass at Stuart Jones’ Woodworm Studios recently. The Producers in residence were George Shilling, Clint Murphy, and my old friend, Mike Exeter. The equipment at Woodworm is nothing short of spectacular, and I found myself learning new mic techniques, session-management tools, ProTools tricks and tips, and other studio gems. The intriguing thing was that we all learned new tricks!

Later that night, the event turned into a networking session, and many others arrived, giving the opportunity to discuss the Industry, employment opportunities and general chewing of the fat.

The whole concept of motivation and self-development, is keeping current, otherwise you can be left behind. I would class this as the basic tool of self-development. As would I class, practicing your trade, whether it be technologically or musically based.

Don’t be afraid to look elsewhere for your inspiration.
I’ve just finished reading Richard Branson’s “The Virgin Way”. The simple premise being that when faced with the statement, “it can’t be done”, Richard’s reply would always be, “but wouldn’t it be fun proving them wrong?”. How is this relevant? Despite being a motivational after-dinner speaker, he also suffers greatly from nerves. The persona portrayed is somewhat different to the person underneath. And despite issues with dyslexia, he is a fastidious note-taker, always able to refer back to information. I suppose the other point to take from this is Richard’s unfaltering desire to succeed.

Other options
When not listening to music in the car, I have to admit that I enjoy an audio book or two. Everything from self-development to motivational material – a constant reminder that I’m not done learning, nor have I given up on my dreams. We all need a polite “tap” to get us back on track when our direction falters – referring back to Richard Branson, who utilised a mirror quite effectively; I’ve borrowed this method to great effect.

Networking
I’ve alluded to this aspect, but technology can only take you so far. At some point, as music is a “people” business, integration and relation will have to take place. There’s more to it than “connecting” on LinkedIn.

That’s not to say that the e-media presence isn’t important, because it is. But there is also the person BEHIND the presence. How do you develop this? What if you’re not a “people” person and you struggle with social interaction? In my own experience, it’s practice, it’s hard work, but it is possible.

Using social/e-media, involving yourself in groups, all whilst following up your new contacts with real-person meetings. There are seminars or meet-and-greet sessions where it is possible to connect with other like-minded professionals. Of course, always having business cards with you helps – many projects are born through the interaction between people at these events: personality counts!

The point of this is that there is more to self-development than the qualification and vocation you’ve got your heart set on. You have to push beyond those boundaries and be proactive. Open your eyes and mind to other elements, and apply them accordingly. Some will prove irrelevant in your current field of interest at the moment, but there will always be something to take from it and apply.

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Imagine a dating site but matching music industry roles and services. Users create a project and define their needs. We match the details to user profiles and issue notifications. Users pitch for the opportunity, get pre-qualified and then chosen by the project owner. Projects are how people get connected.

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