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Artist Coaching

Long Term vs Short Term Success | A Talk With Green Tree

Long Term vs Short Term Success | A Talk With Green Tree 150 150 Artist Coaching

What Happens When Your Child Becomes the #1 in The World | A Talk With Hardwell’s Dad

What Happens When Your Child Becomes the #1 in The World | A Talk With Hardwell’s Dad 150 150 Artist Coaching

This interview has been paraphrased for consistency and clarity.

Joey: Could you please start with a short introduction of who you are?

Cor: My name is Cor. I’m the father of Robbert van de Corput, better known as Hardwell. As parents, we supported him professionally for 18 years.

Joey: When did you realize that Robbert now had a professional career? 

Cor: Probably the moment he signed his first record deal at 14 back in 2010. I realized that it was my responsibility as a parent to help him with the business and financial aspects, while he continued to enjoy what he was doing. It was also essential for me to understand the obligations and the rights of his contract. 

Joey: When did you realize that your son had the potential to become something big? 

Cor: As soon as Robbert started touring as a DJ. He had already become famous within the Netherlands because he was the new kid on the block. He was a swift learner, and within two years, he was well known within the Netherlands. The most important thing for us was that it had to come naturally. We wanted him to enjoy the process and have a lot of fun. 

Joey: And how did it impact your life and your wife’s life? 

Cor: In the beginning, we accompanied him to all of his shows because he needed the guidance of his parents, not from a commercial person involved like a manager. When he was 14, it was two weekends a month, and by 17, he had three or four bookings per weekend. Our private life was affected; it was a big time investment. At the same time, we never saw it as a financial investment or an obligation because we also enjoyed it. 

Joey: And how did school come into the picture? 

Cor: When he was 18, he applied for the Rockacademie. He had already gotten a lot of support from the music industry, so we walked through that whole process. Within a few months, it became clear that he was too good. Some teachers were already working with him professionally on a production. We eventually got the advice from the school to leave so he could develop on his own. We never decided for him. He decided to go and work with more people in the industry outside of school. 

Joey: Somewhere along the way, you decided that it was best to assist him in some things. How did that come about? 

Cor: It came more or less naturally. I worked in the financial industry, so I found it my responsibility to help with the business part of Hardwell. It started with one hour a week, and eventually ten hours. 

Joey: Would you advise all parents to work with their children? 

Cor: Absolutely not. You have to do what you can do. We never pushed him. He made his own decisions. 

Joey: Were there any moments where you, as parents, felt scared of any decisions? 

Cor: I remember when he had his first international booking at 16. We saw him leaving the airport to take the plane all by himself. He didn’t have a tour manager or anything, so we were just scared about how the people would be at the club and if he would be well received. 

Joey: From a younger perspective, most people would focus on the money and wouldn’t think about the long term experience. What was your view on funding and costs? 

Cor: We never discussed money. When Robbert got the opportunity to tour with Tiesto in North America for three weeks, that was very expensive, but he learned so much. To work with Tiesto was an honor, and he also had the opportunity to play in front of tens of thousands of people. We saw more value in that. 

While he was touring, Robbert never knew what he was earning at a gig. He was never interested in it. He didn’t want that to affect his performance. 

Joey: Is there any additional advice that you would give to parents who have children that potentially want an artist career?

Cor: The essential thing should be that they enjoy what they are doing and learn. When you see that’s not happening anymore, when the learning stops or when the fun comes along with stress, then you should reconsider how to help and proceed. 

Joey: Thank you so much for taking the time!

How Success Impacts Your Life | A Talk With Dannic

How Success Impacts Your Life | A Talk With Dannic 150 150 Artist Coaching

This interview has been paraphrased for consistency and clarity.

Joey: Dannic, how are you?

Dannic: Good! I’m currently in the studio preparing an EP and some new stuff for Miami. It’s been two years since I last played Ultra Music Festival, so I’m excited to showcase new music.

Joey: How do you prepare for such a big event like Ultra?

Dannic: We planned for a new Dannic sound in March. We realized that after four years, it was time to rebrand a bit and refresh the Dannic style. It’s hard for people to get to know the new updated sound with just one single, so we decided to do a three-track EP. 

Joey: What’s the process like to get a show at Ultra? Do they approach you?

Dannic: That’s an interesting question. Nowadays, it’s especially harder to get booked for bigger festivals, mainly because artists or labels now usually host the stages or “islands.” For instance, Martin Garrix has his own label STMPD. Whenever they have a stage hosted at a festival, it’s obvious that he’s going to invite all his friends from STMPD instead of me. This happened to me at Tomorrowland. They had less EDM stages, so my only option was to play at the Nervo stage since it was the most fitting. I had to reach out to Nervo myself and ask if they had any spots left. 

To be super honest, it’s getting harder and harder if you’re not locked or releasing on a particular label. For Ultra, Revealed is hosting a stage because it’s their ten year anniversary, and since I used to be on Revealed, they invited me to play. It’s not that Ultra booked me – of course, they had to approve my name – but I still needed a strong network. 

Joey: I think that’s a crucial topic to discuss because the new kids on the block might believe that things happen for you automatically since you’ve already had so much success. 

Dannic: Back in the days, when I was more popular and was playing the main stages, it didn’t affect me. Now I have to work hard and prove that I’m worth it. It’s more a political and strategic game nowadays then it’s about the music or the branding.  

Of course, I did very well, and I’m very blessed with my career thus far. But it’s not like I can lean back, relax, and stop working. I think there’s still a gigantic gap between the top 15 DJ’s in the world, and the rest. In certain areas, I’m a ticket seller, but not like Steve Aoki or Hardwell. That gap is getting bigger and bigger. 

When we started in 2011-2013, the EDM bubble was really big.  I always tell people the door has closed, and I’m right behind the door. For instance, after Hardwell played our collaboration at Ultra, my bookings and brand blew up. It was crazy and all eyes were on me. Nowadays, if I do a collaboration with, for instance, Garrix, everyone’s like, yeah, cool. It’s not that important anymore. You have to work harder and do better. 

Joey: What have you done as an artist to deal with these changes in the industry?

Dannic: We’re continually evolving and rebranding. These days marketing is more important than ever, primarily because of social media. People are used to fast and accessible content – they want it to be easily digestible. For example, on your Instagram stories, you have to make sure that there’s a good balance between promoting your stuff but also showing your personality.

Joey: People are tired of seeing stage photos with fireworks and lasers. They know you’re a DJ and want to build a deeper connection with you. At the same time, you have to consider that everything is also a matter of seconds when you’re creating content. 

Dannic: I have more than 500K followers on Instagram, but if I post something, the reach isn’t even 10%. Also, funny enough, the top comment every time I post something with a track is like, “what’s the track title?” Meanwhile, that track has been out for maybe six weeks, and I’ve posted about it almost every day. It just gives you an example of how important it is to keep informing people without being too pushy.

Joey: What’s the most important thing you focus on as an artist?

Dannic: I’m continually trying to keep my music fresh and exciting. The hardest part is finally finding your sound but trying to evolve within that sound. My goal is not to have amazing streams on Spotify, because I’m a club DJ. For me, it’s essential that I have DJ support and that my tracks go well in the charts of the DJs rather than the number of views on YouTube. 

Joey: How many days do you spend working on music every week?

Dannic: I would say two, which is not enough. However, while I’m on tour, I’m usually the most creative. At the beginning of my career, when I just started getting more bookings, I would get stressed about finishing tracks. At first, you have six or seven tracks lined up already for release, but then you start to play more shows and become less productive. I noticed that my creative flow was completely gone when I forced myself. 

Joey: In my opinion, you can’t force yourself to be creative, but you can put yourself in specific environments where you can get inspiration. For example, I liked watching Tomorrowland after movies or artist documentaries to get my creative juices flowing. The important thing is for artists to discover what triggers them into being more productive. 

Do you feel like the last couple of years was a process for you as well when it comes down to personal development?

Dannic: Yeah, it’s an ongoing process. The hardest part of doing this is balancing social and work. I’ve been doing this for seven years, so that’s seven years of having to skip weekends, birthday parties, and visiting friends. When I was younger, I wanted to do everything since my ultimate dream was coming true. Now, I see my parents getting older, and I have less time to spend with everyone, so I now have to prioritize certain events over others—for example, my mother’s birthday over a big festival. 

In terms of structure, I usually take Mondays off as my “DJ weekend.” It’s essential to take a break since 24/7 I’m dealing with time zones, different managers, emails, and phone calls. When I’m in the studio, I usually switch off my phone. I also just bought a whiteboard so that I wouldn’t get distracted by my phone. Another important thing is that I don’t work more than eight hours in the studio day. There’s only so much you can do on an individual level every day.

Joey: What’s the most important thing that you learned over the years? 

Dannic: Make choices on your intuition but also seek help when you can. One of my bad habits is that I want to do everything. The most important thing is knowing when you need to let go and trusting people in this industry. Having amazing people around you is a significant part of your success.

Joey: How many people are on your team?

Dannic: Around 12. There are people on my management team, helping with social media, booking agencies, publishing companies, etc. I do want to say that even if you have a big team, in the end, it comes down to you. No one will be more passionate about your career than yourself. 

Joey: Thank you so much for all the great advice. It’s very rare for artists in your position to be so open and honest. 

Dannic: My pleasure!

Promoting Your Music On Different Platforms | A Talk With Shanahan

Promoting Your Music On Different Platforms | A Talk With Shanahan 150 150 Artist Coaching

Joey: It’s our second conversation together. What have you been up to lately?

Shanahan: I’ve been doing a lot of co-writing with other artists, finishing tracks, mixing, mastering, and tutoring. I haven’t been releasing too much; I’m very picky with my releases. Right now, I’m more passionate about finishing records and being involved in different projects. 

Joey: Are you still designing samples?

Shanahan: Yeah! I work as a freelance designer for Cymatics, which is one of the biggest audio resource companies out there. That’s fun too, because making sounds from scratch allows for a lot of creative sides.

Joey: Do you think it’s essential to have different jobs within the music industry?

Shanahan: Yeah, the possibilities are endless. I think a lot of artists should understand that there are a lot of opportunities in the music industry to make income. You just have to find the niche of what you’re good at and what value you can bring.

Joey: Yeah, I’m just really amazed about how many options there are to make money in this industry. A friend of mine was talking about the value of making advertising music, for example. 

Shanahan: That’s another great topic that you brought up. Everybody’s putting videos, but their content is so much better with music. Makeup artists or fitness models would prefer a customized sound for their brand rather than just a Calvin Harris song. It’s a huge market. I write for a lot of small fitness models and don’t charge them. I say, let’s just do a simple exchange where you shout out my name and can utilize a 32nd clip that I produced copyright free. 

I build all of my Instagram following organically. If you do that throughout a month with several people that have hundred thousand followers, you can add a lot of value to not only your Instagram, but people would also start going to your Spotify, etc. 

Joey: What are your thoughts on using your songs to sending them out for free of use?

Shanahan: Yeah, so I also do that with makeup artists. I’ve had a good amount of success using some of my Enhanced music that I would give out. Free music in return for a shout out is more common and works out better for both sides. Start off by making a relationship with these people. Even if you don’t know them, do some research on their Instagram. Make your Excel sheets, create your contacts, send your emails out one by one. Be very formal and explain how to bring value to them.

Joey: Sometimes I get questions from people on my Instagram looking for a ghost producer. There’s a couple of platforms where you can buy tracks, but they are looking to build a relationship with one person, which they can maintain for the upcoming years. How would you go through that process? 

Shanahan: I’m a believer in privately working with a producer. I think there’s so much value in a building relationship with someone. A huge part of having someone write for you is trust. 

Find someone that you are interested in and reach out to them personally. On the flip side, I’m kind of against the whole idea of online platforms. I think doing everything privately with your producer is the best move.  

Joey: Do you do that physically or through Skype sessions? 

Shanahan: Yeah, just Skype. I need my space and don’t like the pressure of having someone else in the room. It’s a matter of taste. I’ve been doing about nine years of co-writing and ghostwriting with clients, and it works out that way for me.

A lot of people are against ghost producing. I’m a firm believer in if you want to get in the scene, and you have another skill set, by all means, get in touch with a producer that you believe in and want to try to work with. There’s nothing wrong with it, in my opinion. 

Joey: There’s a reason they call it the music business. The minute you say that you want to make money with your music, there are certain things that you will have to face. 

Shanahan: Yeah, the moment you make that logo and branding, you’re putting together a small business plan. When you create a small business, you have to understand you’re going to be investing money, regardless of whether it’s on a producer or a singer, you have to get on Spotify, promotion, whatever it may be. That’s why when you pay a ghost producer, that’s part of your business. That’s okay. 

You also need to look at time. Time is money. It takes a lot of time to produce by yourself, do all the research, and understand where your music is going. It’s a full-time job. You need to be open to getting help and working with others.

Joey: That’s 100% true. Half a year ago, I was at the same point with the business as creating content took a lot of time. I decided to hire a freelancer to help me with the content. In the beginning, it may feel a bit weird because someone else’s touching your product. But at the same time, it really helps because there’s so much more time for me to work on other things to grow. 

Shanahan: I think it’s a great angle. Even if someone’s helping out with your website management, your social media management, etc. think about how many hours that gives for you to get right back in the studio. Whether it’s free or 50 bucks a month, it opens up the possibilities of what you could do as an artist.

Joey: Do you have any production tips?

Shanahan: Yeah, I have a few small things that I think a lot of artists could benefit from. I’m a firm believer in bus sending and bus processing. It’s a more natural way to control a large set of sounds into one. One thing that I like to point out to artists and producers is controlling your reverb and your delay as its own track. You have a lot more flexibility processing and eqing your effects using bus processing. This will help with a crystal clear mix. 

Joey: What’s the other one?

Shanahan: This one is when you’re working with vocalists. Communicate with your vocalist before you get the end stems back. Try to get the least amount of stems as possible. It can be really frustrating and overwhelming to get 100 takes and stems. I like to tell my vocalist to send ten tracks. There’s nothing worse than spending hours on editing and tuning, and sending it back to the vocalist who actually doesn’t like the take that they sent you. 

Yeah, vocal production and music production are almost completely different. Outsourcing things to mixing and mastering engineers can be really valuable as well. 

I am a massive believer in it, too. If you have the budget and a good song, it really makes the difference. Especially today where the market for vocals is so popular. That could be your difference from signing to a label, getting Spotify placements, getting on a chart, whatever it may be. 

Joey: Any plugin recommendations?

Shanahan: I guess I have a plugin tip; the plugin is called Track Spacer. I think Hardwell pointed it out probably five-plus years ago. It’s a very minimal plugin that has sidechain features but also analyzes the spectrum of the input signal and creates a reverse eq curve. Say you send a kick drum in, it analyzes the spectrum of that kick and creates a reversed EQ curve. This especially helps with getting your bass and kick to sit perfectly in the mix spectrum wise.

Having something visual to see in your mix is really helpful. Sometimes you can’t pick those details up with your ears. 

That’s something people overlook. If you have a small bedroom studio, that’s awesome, but you can’t always rely on that being a functional space — test different headphones and speakers. I usually recommend headphones to producers since you have fewer problems with acoustics. 

Joey: Do you have any headphone recommendations?

Shanahan: I’ve been using Beyerdynamic DT 770 headphones for probably ten years. I trust them more than any monitor I’ve ever used. For an affordable headphone, they’re amazing. 

Joey: It was really nice talking to you again, man. Thanks again for your time!

Mixing and Mastering in Depth | A Talk With Jeffrey

Mixing and Mastering in Depth | A Talk With Jeffrey 150 150 Artist Coaching

This interview has been paraphrased for consistency and clarity.

Joey: Thanks, Jeffrey, for joining me! Let’s start by talking about producing environments. A lot of clients ask me what type of speakers and equipment they should get. I always say it starts with your room. You can buy the most expensive speakers on the planet, but if your room sucks, it’s not going to work.

Jeffrey: Very true. First, it’s always a matter of taste when it comes to the speakers itself. What’s even more important is the room. If you have terrific speakers, but your room has a lot of reflections, dips, and peaks, you’ll still get a shitty sound. 

All rooms have spots where sound is reflected. You can visualize waveforms bouncing back and overlapping, which either causes dips or peaks in your sound. You may think that your bass or high frequencies are boosted when they aren’t. This becomes problematic when you’re mixing or mastering. 

Joey: How can we fix the acoustics?

Jeffrey: By using a lot of bass traps. A lot of people tend to go online and buy those cheap foam panels. What’s funny about those bass traps is that they don’t work since they trap below 200 hertz. Get some proper acoustical treatment like Rockwool panels. GIK acoustics also has some affordable acoustic panels. They also have excellent customer service, which can help you find the right panels for your room. 

There’s also a scientific theory where there are certain volume levels that boost more high or low frequencies. The best volume is roughly around 80 dB SPL. My room is calibrated to approximately 80 dB, which means I always master at that monitor level. You can also download an app on your phone and use the SPL meter. You can then have a fixed point on your master volume knob, which you can use as a reference. 

Joey: Are bigger speakers always better? 

Jeffrey: Not necessarily, with larger speakers, they actually move slower, which could be less precise. However, you can definitely hear a broader range of lower and higher frequencies. I think regular near field monitors that are six to eight inches are good enough. 

Joey: What’s your opinion on the SubPac?

Jeffrey: Yeah, I still haven’t used it. I think it’s cool because you can feel those low frequencies. My gut says that it might feel unnatural at lower levels. I think it might be even better than subwoofer though since those can be more problematic without room treatment. 

What a lot of people do when they buy a subwoofer is crank it up all the way to hear the bass. When you hear the subwoofer, you’ve done it wrong. You should not hear the subwoofer; you feel it, but don’t pay attention to it. 

Joey: Are there any trends you see in the mastering world?

Jeffrey: Yes, a couple. One of the biggest misconceptions right now is people think stem mastering is better. If your mix is bad, stem mastering will not make the result better. The only reason why stem mastering is cool is that engineers can charge more.

I’m also noticing that the industry is more conscious of the loudness war. People are finally realizing that maximizing loudness doesn’t always make sense. In specific scenarios, like an EDM track, you still want a crushed and compressed sound – you want that energy. But for other genres, it isn’t necessary, especially nowadays with streaming services. 

I see more people transitioning back to vinyl, especially with techno and some club tracks. However, they forget to ask the mastering engineer for a specific vinyl master. If you have a digital release, you will use limiting and compression methods, which won’t work for vinyl. 

Joey: Are there any mastering plugins that you would recommend?

Jeffrey: Yeah, during Amsterdam dance event, I was invited by Isotope to talk about Ozone 9. There’s a function called master rebalance. Using artificial intelligence, you can simply turn the level of some aspects like vocals and drums up and down. 

I still use the Fabfilter plugins all the time. The new Pro-q has a dynamic EQ function, which means it’s just boosting or cutting a frequency just when that frequency is speaking. It’s brilliant. 

Joey: I was talking to a client yesterday, and he had a specific question: Is it a bad thing to put a limiter on a kick?

Jeffrey: In music, there are no laws, so no. To be honest, I don’t think it will add something to the sound. The point of a limiter is to reduce peaks, but for a kick drum, you want to have that peak, so it could even make it worse. 

What I always say is that you should know the rules, to understand how to break the rules. If you want to send your work to a mastering engineer, you should not have a limiter since that limits the dynamic range an engineer can work with. 

Joey: If you do want more of a bass presence, what’s the best way to do that? 

Jeffrey: Add distortion to boost the harmonics. It’s perfect for songs on phone speakers since they can’t go that low. Because you’re adding those harmonics, you’re basically tricking the mind into listening to those low frequencies. 

Joey: Thanks for your time!

Three Things Artists Should Focus On In 2020

Three Things Artists Should Focus On In 2020 150 150 Artist Coaching

It’s crazy to see how much the music industry has evolved in just a couple of years. 

I still remember when I started making music in my bedroom on a computer that was slower than my phone is now.

I still remember having to deal with selling vinyl copies… Reality check.

Since the industry has evolved so much and the world around it hasn’t been standing still either, I thought this would be a good time to stand still and have a look into the future to see how an artist can use all these new developments to build his career.


Creating music still is the foundation of an artist’s career. With music, you’re not an artist. But the importance of music has decreased if you ask me. Back in the days (pre-social media), an artist didn’t have to worry that much about other things than making music. Being in the studio, creating new music was a top priority for an artist and I feel like those times have changed.

Right now, music still is important but it shouldn’t be your only main focus anymore. 

Remember, a lot of things have changed and you have to adapt to survive.


One of the things that should be your main focus for 2020 is creating content.

We live in a world where we spent most of our time online and when I say online, I mean social media networks. You know, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok… As an artist, you should represent yourself on those platforms. It is THE best way to connect with your audience and to build your brand. 

These platforms are driven by content. By creating content you have the opportunity to reach your audience and show them who you are and what you stand for and the craziest thing is that you can reach any person on this planet from the chair in your home.

Photos and videos are a great way to show people who you are and what you’re doing in life. By posting content, you can take your audience onto your journey. Show them your struggles, celebrate your wins. By showing the ups and downs, you will start to create a deep connection with your audience and that is key to building a brand.

Creating content seems to be scary to most artists that I speak to but I want to let you know that if you stay close to your personality, you can never go wrong. Content only becomes scary if you put out lies or things that you don’t agree with. The closer you stick to your own values, the stronger and easier it will become.

What most artists seem to forget is that with your music you will be able to reach people and build a fanbase but content has the exact same effect. The only difference is that you won’t be able to put out three songs a day but you will be able to put out three photos or videos a day. If one of those pieces of content goes viral, you have the opportunity to build a fanbase.

That’s why content is so valuable and that’s why you should start posting as much as possible ASAP.


Another thing is an important focus point for artists in 2020 is consistency. Consistency is key if you want to become successful in this industry. 

You need to be consistent with releasing your music and posting content.

Releasing one song isn’t going to do much for you. Of course, you can always be lucky and that one track could end up being a hit but focussing on those chances isn’t a smart strategy if you ask me. Releasing a song every month will bring you more opportunities and those opportunities will give you a bigger chance of success. It will also help to feed your audience with new music each month which will keep you more relevant.

Posting consistently on a daily base is the key to building a fanbase. You want to be on top of mind with the people that follow you. Posting content every day will subconsciously keep your artist name and brand at the top of your follower’s mind and it will create awareness around your artist name.

Consistency is the key to growth.

Join The DIY Artist Bootcamp And Crush Your Goals In 2020

A Talk With Ortzy

A Talk With Ortzy 150 150 Artist Coaching

This interview has been paraphrased for consistency and clarity.

Joey: What’s up, Mr. Ortzy?

Ortzy: Really happy to be here! 

Joey: Tell us a bit more about yourself and where you are now?

Ortzy: I’m originally from Columbia and have been a DJ for 15 years. I was initially part of the duo HIIO with an Argentinian partner. We played festivals like Tomorrowland, and released records on Revealed, Spinnin, and Musical Freedom.  

Joey: How did you manage to grow as an artist?

Ortzy: The first thing I did was I talked to my partner say, we’re going to build a brand, but it has to look good from the beginning. So we have to take excellent pictures and look international. We were not going to be Latin American DJ’s, we were going to be international DJ’s.

Joey: So you made the outside look better than the inside?

Ortzy: Yeah, completely. It’s all about branding. 

Joey: Tell me more about how you ended up working at Revealed?

Ortzy: I think it was November one year ago at ADE. I ran into Sebastien from Revealed, and he later sent me an email asking if I wanted to help him check demos. A few months later, I realized that living in Amsterdam was really expensive, so I sent him an email asking if there was a place at Revealed since I had 15+ years of experience. A week later, he said that I might be able to help with the Revealed Community sub-label. It was growing really fast and was getting a lot of attention. I started working a few days and fell in love with the Revealed team. I’ve now been working full time since February. 

Joey: And what is it that you do?

Ortzy: Yeah, so I’m the label manager of the community sub-label. I’m also involved in the main label and Gemstone, which is our other label. First of all, I’m in charge of all the demos for the new artists. So I’m the one who’s taking all the demos that we receive on the platform every day. But it’s super fun – it’s cool to see people from India, Peru, and Indonesia making amazing records.

So I choose the best tracks that I feel that will fit the community label. Some of those tracks are so good that we upgrade them to the main label, or sometimes to Gemstone. After I choose the tracks I like best, we all meet together and discuss which ones are good to release. 

Joey: So how do you pick the right song? What are the things that you are on the lookout for?

Ortzy: What I always check is, how original is the track? We don’t like it when we listen to a song, and it’s just a cheap copy of another record. Of course, the quality of the song itself, like mixing and mastering, is important. But sometimes we help master a track if we think the idea is dope. 

It’s funny because sometimes I’m in the A&R meeting and we are three people there. And sometimes I say like, hey, guys, I love this song. And then Ivo will say like, oh, man; I hate that one. And then its Martijn who’s going to decide.

Joey: So with your knowledge of the music industry, all the experience that you have as an artist and as someone who’s working in the music industry, how would you say is the best way to get signed to a label right now?

Ortzy: I think most producers only focus on music. And it’s not like that anymore. I mean, it has never been like that, you know? You need to offer something to the market. Why should we sign you? 

That being said, I always thought that big labels only signed records to people with a lot of fans or a lot of followers. I remember one of my first meetings with Revealed I had heard a track that was good, not amazing, but the DJ had like 100K followers. I went to the Revealed guys and said we should sign him, and to my surprise, they said it wasn’t a good track and didn’t sign music just because of followers. I felt so bad, haha. 

But it was so special because then I realized how unique Revealed was, you know. I know other labels sign based on fanbases. 

What I mean is if you’re a fantastic producer, and have a good fan base and brand, that’s amazing. That’s the best option. You can be a terrible producer with a lot of fans, but it’s tough to sell your music if it’s awful. On the other hand, it’s also difficult to sell your music if nobody knows you. 

Joey: Balance is essential. 

Ortzy: I have seen many artists, not only from Revealed but from other labels. They have released 30 excellent records, but if you go to their Instagram, they only have three pictures. So it’s not about signing an artist that has 1 million followers, but it’s also like, okay, who is your fanbase? Where are your fans? 

And that’s what I think is big nowadays. You need to focus on the brand. I also know some artists who aren’t signed to any big labels. They’re good producers, but they have a lot of fans, and people love them. That’s what matters. It’s not only about record labels; if you want to get booked, they will look at how many fans you have. I mean, how many people will pay a ticket to see you?

Our goal is to sell tickets. That’s it. It doesn’t sound romantic. And I think that’s the thing that a lot of people are struggling with. Like that’s not what we want to believe. We want to believe that music is the only thing, but it’s a business.

How do you expect to play in Ibiza if no one knows about you? It’s not about making great music anymore. The same amount of time that you spend in the studio making music should be spent on your brand – getting a nice logo, trying to save some money for good pictures, getting support from DJs.

Joey: What I keep seeing is that all the people that have achieved something in life have spent enormous amounts of time and effort. And that’s the thing that people want to forget. Because they don’t want to spend that time. They want to have that quick fix to get there tomorrow, and not within five years from now. And, you know, Martin Garrix is one in, not even a million – more. 

Ortzy: Maybe Animals came at the right time, but then you have to sustain that success. That’s not luck, that’s just hard work and knowing what you’re doing.

Once you get signed to Revealed, that doesn’t mean you’re done. It’s not going to change your life. Now you have to release two tracks on Revealed, and then three, four, you know!

Joey: I want to thank you for having this conversation with me. I really enjoyed talking to you and finding out more about you and your life. 

Interview With Jay Hardway

Interview With Jay Hardway 150 150 Artist Coaching

This interview has been paraphrased for consistency and clarity. You can listen to the full interview with Jay Hardway here!

Joey: Welcome, Jay! How are you?

Jay: I’m good!

Joey: There probably aren’t many people who don’t know you yet, but can you tell us a bit more about how you started? You already mentioned that you started DJing at house parties, weddings, and those kinds of things.

Jay: I started making music when I was 14. At the time, it was just a hobby and something I already loved. I was already into the local DJ’s and would always ask about their equipment. Then a friend of mine introduced me to his DJ set, and I would practice with him. He used to DJ at a hockey club. I then started doing parties for friends, weddings, and then bars. I was kind of stably doing that but wasn’t going that much anywhere until I got my first hit six years ago.

Joey: When did you realize that this might be a career?

Jay: I was 14 or 15 when I found out about Fruity Loops and was already learning how to make melodies. Then, around 18 or 19 was when I thought I had some talent.

Joey: What was the reaction from your family or friends when you started doing that?

Jay: They were very annoyed because I would show them the music I thought I was very good, but there’s this thing when you start making music or anything creative, you think you’re excellent, and you believe everything you make sounds good because you made it and it’s new. But then you reach this point where it’s like, ‘oh’ I’m not good at all. I think it’s called ‘Mount Stupid’ or something: you go down all the way and slowly build your quality and become better. I think the moment for me was when I bought my first studio monitors. The melodies were already there, but the sound and the other things were horrible. I then realized that I had talent, but a lot more work to do.

Joey: You mentioned that you’d spent a lot of time in the studio. How did you develop your skills? Did you go to school?

Jay: No, I watched a lot of youtube tutorials and found out by myself. I was mostly having fun and making stuff that I wanted to make. I would hear a track by Chuckie and try to recreate it, but it wouldn’t sound anything like it. Every time you do a new project, you learn a new skill, find a unique sound, or find a way to make your kicks sound better. With hundreds of projects, after awhile, you just become better and better. And there’s this point where you start to hear if your track is good enough.

Joey: That’s interesting. How do you hear that? Can you explain it?

Jay: It’s tough. I feel like I don’t always have this because sometimes I think something sounds good while everyone else hates it. So there will always be a taste thing. It’s also nice as a DJ to test your track out and see the reaction in the club. It’s purely experience when it comes to knowing a good melody or baseline, but you need to test it out as well.

Joey: It’s a bizarre thing because I talk to a lot of artists like music producers and DJ’s, and that question keeps popping up, like how do you know when your track is finished?

Jay: Oh, it’s never finished, I think.

Joey: But how do you decide the moment when it’s all done?

Jay: I think you’ve got to talk to a label or your manager and decide, ‘this is it.’

Joey: So you use other people to make decisions as well?

Jay: Kind of. As a producer, your track is never finished. You always have some stuff you might still want to do. For example, polishing high hats, adding FX, etc. There’s always going to be things that you want to change. For the sake of your release schedule, you sometimes need to say, “okay, the baby is leaving the nest now” haha.

Joey: So how did you do that before you had a label or manager? Which people did you reach out to?

Jay: Forums. I would post on the Laidback Luke forum. He was giving feedback himself, which was helpful because technically there were some tips, but he was also mostly giving us opinions. It used to be a hotspot of people, like a little community. Also, the Vato Gonzalez forum was really good. We would meet up at Dancefair with people from the Vato forum, and it was a cool and small community. I don’t know if there is a community like that now. It seems more individual.

Joey: There’s definitely a few more pages — especially Facebook groups. I have one myself where 1000 producers are talking to each other and giving feedback. I think it’s moved from having a forum on your website to social media.

Jay: You have to accept the fact that it will never be finished. I remember I sent my track, Electric Elephants, to Martin Garrix, and he was like, “I don’t like the drop.” It really impacted me, and I tried to change it and come up with new stuff but decided to keep it that way. It turned out great, and it became a big success. So, you can’t please everyone; there’s always going to be people who don’t like some stuff in your track.

Joey: That’s the thing about music. It’s art. I can have a look at the Mona Lisa and say, “I don’t like it,” but somehow it’s still worth millions of dollars. There’s a significant personal opinion involved in the whole matter. That’s always really interesting because when you ask for feedback, you get their personal opinion and not feedback.

Jay: That’s important, but I also think with feedback, you know you get good feedback when you hate what the person is saying because you knew they were right. I noticed this even with the A&R at Spinnin. I would send a track, and he would come back to me like, “yeah I like it, but….” and then everything he says you know is right, but you hate it because you don’t want to admit it sometimes to yourself. It’s essential to have really honest people.

There are definitely artists that do everything the way they want to and have success, but I don’t know if you can do that in the DJ or EDM scene; you want tracks that always please crowds.

Joey: It’s a balance in that you also have to please a crowd, but at the same time, you want to represent yourself as an artist. It’s a compromise.

Jay: It’s like a gray area since it’s artistic so you shouldn’t make it more commercial, but at the same time, it’s a business.

Sometimes you’ve got to say, “I’m going to do this track this way.” You’ve also got to remember that you’re always expressing yourself, and even if there’s one lifelong fan because of that track, it’s a win. If the rest don’t like it, you’re going to have a new record the month after.

Joey: What are your thoughts on the releasing amount? Did you mention once a month? It’s kind of changed in the last couple of years.

Jay: Yeah, it’s crazy stressful. You put yourself under pressure; your fans put you under pressure. Whenever you release a track, people are asking, “when is there new music?” I mean, you can choose not to do that. You can decide to release two tracks a year, but I think you’re going to have a difficult time getting bookings.

Joey: That’s the thing. Promoters need ammunition to sell tickets. You feel pressure from fans, from promoters — maybe your manager is also starting to push you because they need to sell you as well. And you’re pushing yourself because you want to release music as a creative artist. That’s always going to be difficult and a struggle to get the next big thing.

Jay: The fun thing about making music is that you never know what’s going to be the next big thing.

Joey: In your opinion what’s your most famous track?

Jay: ‘Wizard’ with Martin Garrix is my biggest hit. I expected it because Martin was already big. Martin released Animals, and right after was Wizard. But personally, I think Electric Elephants has been the one where the industry saw, ‘oh this guy is legit; he can produce as well.’ That’s a more significant achievement for me because that put me on the map.

Joey: Did you expect the track to become that big?

Jay: No, not at all.

That’s the fun thing. You’re just sitting in the studio making something that you like. You find a label for it, it gets released, and you have no idea what’s going to happen. I think that’s the great thing about music these days, especially with the internet, you never know where it ends up. Sometimes it ends up in the Indonesian charts, and you’re like how did it end up there?

Yeah, it’s crazy how it works. I remember sending it around to some DJ’s, and they were like, “It’s awesome,” and the label sent it around, and it got so much good feedback. That’s what happens a lot. And when they start playing it in Ultra and Tomorrowland, that’s different, and you know it’s getting some different traction.

Joey: Do you have an idea about what makes that track special?

Jay: It’s accessible. The first time you hear it, it’s already easy to listen to. It’s an easy melody but also has a different sound. It’s different and easily accessible.

Joey: You mentioned the collaboration with Martin Garrix. Can you talk a bit more about how that happened?

Jay: Yeah, we go way back. We were friends before we both got big gigs. He was producing when he was 14 years old, and I met him on the Vato forum. We worked together for the next few years and became friends. Once everything blew up, he got signed to Spinnin Records and Animals came. No one expected the success of Animals. And then Wizard came. So literally the summer of Animals, right before, I was still delivering barbecues. Half a year later, I’m touring across the world.

Joey: So that track put you on the map internationally and got you the gigs and financial arbitrage.

Jay: Yeah, like in a really fast time. It felt like it was overnight from DJing in a small bar in my hometown to DJing in Vegas.

Joey: In the beginning, when those international gigs came in, were you booked together with Martin Garrix, or under your own name?

Jay: Well, I’ve been signed to Ace Agency, and they were really smart with their tactics. I got signed right around the time of the track.

Joey: So Wizard also put you on the map in the industry.

Jay: Right, and Martin was speaking very highly of me. He made sure that Ace Agency signed and made sure that Spinnin signed me. He was really pushing me forward. It was really cool to see a friend do that.

But then, the way Ace Agency did it was genius because they said, “Hey, you booked Martin Garrix, do you also want to book Jay Hardway?” So I had my own fee and my own name, and of course, I was presented when Martin Garrix was booked, but as a separate artist. Not like a package deal, because the thing is, when you do a package deal, you don’t know what price you’re worth. And now we knew in that market, Jay Hardway is worth X fee. We could really build that market.

Joey: Wow, I didn’t know that was the start of it. I thought you had a whole career before that.

Jay: Well, a career in barbeques! I was making a lot of music, and not releasing it yet. I was already signed to Universal publishing, but Wizard was really my launch. Then it was the pressure for me to continue.

Joey: How did you comprehend with that pressure?

Jay: It was a lot of insecurity in the beginning because I knew I could make music, but I didn’t know how to convince anyone else that I could make music as well because they thought I only released hits with Garrix. So it took me a couple of months. I think Wizard was released on October 2013, and it took me till March to release Bootcamp. That was my first solo single, but it did really well, so it brought me some hype again.

Joey: I can imagine that’s a tough place to be in. It’s great that you have such a kickstart to your career, but at the same time, the audience might think you’re ‘Robin’ to ‘Batman,’ and now you feel the stress of proving the fact that you’re not Robin — you’re Superman.

Jay: I tried to let go of that idea. I was also a bit older than Martin — Martin was like 16, and I was like 22 ish. So I already had more life experience that I would be less impressed by that idea. I was just going to do my thing, and if people booked me because of Garrix, then amazing, and if they started to see that I make my own music, that’s awesome. But I never really tried to overthink. The pressure there was mostly coming from myself.

Joey: I think that’s your power. We’ve never spoken before and what I can tell about your stories is that you are consciously aware of the things that are happening in your life and your career. I think that’s a big power.

Jay: Yeah, I think it’s really important. We see a lot of artists that are puppets, and they don’t really care. I never did that. It’s also crucial to be conscious of your health.

Joey: Is that still something that you think about when you’re touring. Do you do a lot of long tours — so two-week tours?

Jay: No, not that much. I prefer one, maybe two weekends, and then that’s it. Two weeks is a long time for me to be away from home. The US isn’t that big of a market for me, so it’s mostly one weekend. In China, sometimes I do two weeks because there are two weekends connected, but mostly it’s been just a separate weekend with two shows. In the summer you might have some shows in the middle of the week.

Joey: What’s the biggest market for you right now? Asia?

Jay: Asia is big, but it’s tough to tell these days.

Joey: Is Europe still a thing?

Jay: Yes. On the one hand, promoters are saying EDM is dead, and yeah, it’s hard to book EDM acts. On the other hand, you can do shows, and people are going crazy on the commercial stuff. You start to question if EDM is really dead. I was at a street parade in Zurich, and this guy starts with Techno, and then another DJ starts playing commercial stuff. Right away, people began going way crazier. So people say they don’t like EDM, but they do otherwise. They still love commercial stuff.

Joey: Yeah, like saying that you’re underground is more “interesting” but a lot of people are commercial. It’s the decision that you make as an artist. What are you going to follow? Do you want to please the crowd? Promoter? What’s the balance in that whole story.

Jay: Well, pleasing the promoter is selling tickets. If you sell your tickets, the promoter is probably happy. That’s basically the way it is. I’ve had a bunch of times where they loved my set, and we had a good time and dinner, but in the end, they are way more into the money.

Joey: But let’s say that you organized an event. You book your favorite artist for probably a crazy amount of money. You schedule the artist, it’s not a private party, it’s a commercial party, and ten people end up there. You get 100 euros in revenue, and that’s it. I would go crazy — who wouldn’t?

Jay: Yeah, that’s what you’ve always got to realize as a DJ. You don’t have to be a commercial guy, but you have to accept that if you’re not adding commercial touches to your set, you might end up doing fewer shows or selling less tickets. That’s also okay — but if you want a big mainstage, you’ve got to start by selling tickets.

Everybodys always like, Timmy Trumpet came out of nowhere and now he’s big. But I remember I was headlining a show and he was the second headliner. But he had this merch and his blow-up trumpets — he’s been building ever since and working really hard. Now he’s doing the mainstage. People don’t see what’s behind the scenes.

Joey: You mentioned that you spent a lot of hours in the studio, and there’s this saying that after 10,000 hours you’re a pro. People also forget that people went through the whole thing — they went through the same period.

Jay: I get demos from people that say “hey, it’s not mastered yet” and then I always think like ‘okay, there’s one of these again.’

Joey: So what’s your thought at that moment?

Jay: Well, it’s like saying “It’s not good enough, but I’m still going to send it to you anyways.” Why don’t you finish? If it’s not mastered, that’s basically an excuse that it doesn’t sound good.

What’s also frustrating about being a creative artist is that you put in hours and hours, but then it’s like no one wants it, and you can’t do anything with it. You could send it to your mom, and she would like it, but that’s so many hours wasted. That’s something that you’ve got to live with.

Joey: Well, I think that’s changed. We come from a time where that actually happened. If you couldn’t sign on a label, you were fucked. But right now, everyone can post on Tunecore or Distrokid, and for 10 dollars they put your music on Spotify or iTunes. Right now, if a label doesn’t want it, you can still say fuck it, let me do it myself. Let’s contact some playlist owners and see if I can promote it or send to a couple of DJ’s. That’s when you come back to the art aspect of it — there’s always people who do or don’t like it. I think there’s a big advantage right now for aspiring artists. They’re not relying on third parties anymore. The label or manager isn’t in charge anymore; you are in charge. It just comes down to how much work you spend to promote yourself.

Jay: It’s a hard job, so that’s why you’re paying half of the track royalties to labels in the first place.

Joey: Labels can still be super handy, but only when you sign with a label with that reach like Spinnin or Revealed — those are all labels who have the attention of their fanbase. You also need a label that’s consistent with the quality.

Jay: I think it’s always dangerous for yourself and your own brand if you’re posting anything online. I always had the feeling that if my track wasn’t good enough for my label, maybe it’s not good enough for my market. So I would come back with a record where more people from labels said, yes, ‘it’s good enough.’ It’s kind of like quality control. But then again it’s a balance.

Joey: It’s a critical question. Similar to a promoter, the label is in the money business. So if they listen to a track that’s AKA “underground,” that’s hardly sellable. But at the same time, it might also mean that it’s different and that it could be the next ‘Animals.’ It might break the normal. Releasing safe means that you can expect the outcomes, but releasing tracks that break the normal might get you more success. As an artist, you always have to ask if a label declines it, is it a bad track or do they not see any money right now?

Jay: That’s very difficult; it will always be hard like that. But it’s also cool since you never know how a track is going to do in the end.

Joey: Would you agree with the statement that you’re as good as your last release?

Jay: I would say maybe you’re as good as your worst release. Then again, what’s a good release? Is it a million plays or a track that people really rethink how the track hits them emotionally, but it only has 50,000 streams. Which one is better? I think it’s a tough time as well when it comes to hits.

Joey: I heard a thing a few weeks ago, which was kind of mindblowing. Someone said, “Don’t you think that with artists, people only remember the hits.” Like, let’s say you’re releasing 10–15 tracks a year. What if you release the next Animals, which brought you through a global #1 status. Do you think people would care about those other releases?

Jay: Yeah, no. That’s an excellent point.

Right now, even the shittiest tracks on earth get released. So it’s more accessible to old lookup tracks. For example, my first remix was horrible. But you can still find it online. Is it a bad thing? Or does that thing still put things in perspective? Like people can see how you’ve improved.

Yeah, there are still some tracks which are on SoundCloud and don’t sound that good. But now people can see how far I’ve come.

Joey: I think the fact that you have a track record of releases gives people an insight into how much work you’ve put into this project. It’s not like you’ve released one track and your career is made. It’s your resume.

Jay: But still, if I were to score a #1 hit, people could say I came out of nowhere. And that’s not true.

Joey: Yeah, I think that insight should push aside some stress because it doesn’t really matter. The only thing that matters is if you like the track. If it isn’t successful, too bad, and move onto the next one. But each release will bring you some form of success; it could be one person who is impacted by that track, or a million streams.

Jay: Yeah, I think that creating music is always stressful. Especially when you’re in the studio and not having inspiration can be frustrating. I think every creative person has this moment that you go through after every project that you finish.

Joey: That whole thing is a mind game. In a creative block, you’re your worst enemy. It’s not that people are saying that those eight measures you produce are not good. What if 2 million people on the planet think otherwise? It’s a constant fight with yourself.

Jay: It’s something that you also have to deal with. Part of being an artist is putting yourself out there and being vulnerable. If people comment on your track, it sometimes feels like a personal attack. You always need to get your mind straight.

Joey: Is that something you’ve learned to deal with?

Jay: I’ve definitely learned to control that. As you get older, you encounter more bad things about the industry or bad experiences on tour. It’s important to realize what’s going on. I do believe you definitely need some guidance from people around you. But you need to have some people who are grounded and are telling you, “hey, it’s normal for you to go through this.” After a couple of stressful periods, you learn that it’s going to be a part of life.

Joey: Looking back at your career, what would you have done differently?

Jay: I don’t think I would have done anything differently because I feel like everything happened in such a way that took me to where I am. Of course, I had some conflict with managers and labels, and I would do things differently, but I still feel like that would have had to happen for me to understand. Sometimes you have to make mistakes to really know why you do it. Like you said before, you can’t learn anything from a book because you have to experience it yourself.

Joey: Well, I want to thank you for taking the time to come over here and share your knowledge!

Jay: Thanks for having me!

Interview With Alvaro

Interview With Alvaro 150 150 Artist Coaching

This interview has been paraphrased for consistency and clarity. You can listen to the full interview with Alvaro!

Joey: Hey Jasper, how are you doing?

Alvaro: Hey Joey, I’m good!

Joey: Where is your studio located? In your home?

Alvaro: No, this is in a wooden factory. Outside they’re cutting wood and stuff. Now and then, I hate them. But my volume goes louder. So you beat them.

Joey: To give the audience some context about who you are, who is Alvaro?

Alvaro: Well, I used to be a DJ, and I’m still a producer. I think most people know me by my big room sound. The first big room song I did was ‘Make the Crowd Go.’ I think the second biggest one was ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ which was released on Revealed with Hardwell. Basically, all my songs were big room.

Joey: You already mentioned that you were a DJ, and something changed. When did you quit? Are you entirely done?

Alvaro: Well, I haven’t played in like two years maybe.

Joey: And that was a conscious decision to stop playing?

Alvaro: Well, not right away. You have to go back to the beginning when I started DJing and was traveling the world. At some point, the whole big room scene was so repetitive, and there were a lot of people joining in, which kind of saturated the entire thing.

Joey: Are we talking about 2012,13?

Alvaro: Yeah, I think it was later when EDM went down. 2015 maybe. A lot of people stopped. But at that moment, it was a whole combination of things. I was playing for five years already and didn’t really enjoy it. I also wanted to do something else.

So at the point of Spotify coming up, I started producing pop music and stopped to DJ. Because for me, it didn’t really make sense to DJ anymore. I had some friends telling me like, yeah, you should do some shows, so people know you’re still here. And I was like, “Yeah, but what’s the point?” If I’m going to play there, while not releasing any music, my career is going to end anyway. Let me just start producing right away and not waste any time on doing shows that don’t matter. I also had money from all the years I was playing — a buffer where I could spend some time off. So actually, I told my manager not to accept any more bookings.

Joey: So it just always stayed like that.

Alvaro: Yeah, I kind of went through this whole new direction. It felt like starting all over again, which was pretty cool.

Joey: What made you feel that way?

Alvaro: First of all, it’s a whole new genre. You have to do pop music or commercial music, which is totally different than EDM. EDM is a bit more straightforward. I remember starting with a friend of mine and producing ten commercial songs. Even then, I felt like we were not good enough yet. If you make the switch to pop songs, you’re going to compete with Katy Perry and Rihanna’s music. The production quality needs to be over the top. It needs to be perfect.

Joey: Did you think at that moment, that your production quality was at a high level?

Alvaro: No, because it’s also a producer problem, right. You never think it’s good enough.

Joey: So even with having multiple successful releases, a collaboration with Hardwell, already touring the world?

Alvaro: Yeah, but that was different. I felt like I was on different grounds, a whole different field. So that was the reason why I didn’t figure it was good straight away. It’s the same as starting producing again. You have to take a couple of years to be at least good at it.

Joey: At the end of your EDM career, were you happy with the result of your tracks? Or still insecure about how it sounded?

Alvaro: That’s a good question. Actually, I thought EDM tracks were terrible. Even my own songs, really. I still like them and understand why they work. I think they’re cool, but I didn’t like the pressure of people expected me to do the same thing. So I started making other stuff. And at that point, it seemed like every different artist was coming out with a big room song. I was getting depressed by everything I heard. I realized it wasn’t going to work.

Joey: So you went over to pop music?

Alvaro: Yeah, and that was a whole new challenge since it involved different techniques and arrangements.

Yeah, everything from songwriting to the arrangement and the use of chords and topline melodies. It’s a whole new life. For example, you can have a really huge big room song with the right drop, but if the break is kind of weird, it doesn’t really matter. The drop is what people are waiting for. With a pop song, every little thing needs to be perfect. From the hi-hats to the snares, kick drum, and overall feel of the song. Everything needs to be perfect.

Joey: So that’s a huge difference. What did you struggle with the most in the beginning?

Alvaro: I guess the production quality. I made some good pop songs, but I could hear the difference between other pop songs, and that’s just in production quality. That’s what I said before, like, if you do trap right now, and you never made it, I can hear that you’re another trap producer. You have the same kick and snare, but it doesn’t have the feel of it. That’s how you hear the difference between guys that have made trap for ten years already. So I knew that everyone could play a four-chord melody, the most basic pop chords ever, but that’s not going to make it a good song. At that point, I knew that production quality was the reason why some songs didn’t sound right to me. So the first step was to bring up the quality. I wanted to make pop music, but I didn’t want to sound like a generic pop song. My ultimate goal was to make it a little bit special, make it weird, make it different. And that’s kind of how we started and working towards where we are right now.

Joey: What were you doing specifically to improve the quality of your music?

Alvaro: I feel like pop music is all about small details. It’s the same when you listen back to old songs, you can hear a lot of stuff missing. Like oh, it sounds so empty, it’s only a kick drum and a snare. And that’s actually the same thing that happened to me; we started making those songs, but they were super empty; they had no body. So eventually, I figured out that we have to add a lot of detail to it, like ambient stuff and extra melodies.

Joey: Was that more a process of trial and error, or was that learning from YouTube tutorials?

Alvaro: Well, mostly listening to other songs, I guess. I think there’s basically no tutorial that tells you how to make pop songs.

Joey: But you already knew how to make music.

Alvaro: Yeah, I remember when we started three years ago, we found this vocal chop. Everybody at that time was doing vocal chops, for example, Kygo. And then I remember hearing the song from Lauv. And it sounded to me like a violin in or something, but it was actually his vocal. That really triggered me. Like, this is something new, right? We have to start doing this instead of doing the basic vocal chops that everybody does. So in some way, I was really getting inspired by all the songs that were coming up. So we started basically doing the vocal chops but more organic. Organic sounds became really important. I didn’t want to sound like the standard Nexus sounds. We also started to make new sounds sound like they’re old. Like lowering the quality and adding some flutter like a wobble in between them to make them sound like an 80’s synth.

Joey: What kind of plugins did you use to do that?

Alvaro: Well, it’s funny how you discover plugins. And then a year later, you see everyone using it. At that time, it was manipulator.

Joey: I’ve heard of it. But which one is it?

Alvaro: It’s from those Infected Mushroom guys. Basically, it’s just a pitcher with formant knobs. We started using it on vocal chops. I would sing a melody in a microphone and then format it up and Melodyne it. Basically, I began to do more sound design. I think nowadays if you listen to pop songs, it’s a lot of sound design.

Joey: I agree that the combination of organic and digitally created music is really big right now.

Alvaro: That’s the funny thing about music in general, but also pop music. It’s always evolving. I remember the first song I heard from Afrojack, which was Pon De Floor, it was the same vocal chop but stretched. And then Skrillex started doing that. The difference was someone was singing the melody. Instead of programming the melody, someone started singing the melody. That makes it so much more organic because I feel like a voice is the best instrument because it’s never perfect. It makes it sound so natural for people to listen.

Joey: The most important thing is staying ahead of everyone.

Alvaro: We had this super poppy song with Kalimbas in it. Nowadays you would be tired if you heard another track with a Kalimba. We were the first doing that, even before Ed Sheeren did it with ‘Shape of You.’ And I think the beat was like Afro beats. It never released. That’s the funny thing. There was a vocalist on it that was from another song. I pitched the speed up because the new commercial project had a higher BPM, and somehow, he sounded like Post Malone. So I thought, let’s send it to Diplo. See what he thinks, right? So we sent him the song, and he was like, “this is dope!” I might get Post Malone on this one. And we were like, okay, well, I guess the music is good enough right now.

Joey: That’s interesting to me as well. How did you decide, okay, now my music is good enough? Did you need confirmation from someone else?

Alvaro: No, I think it was eventually my manager making that decision or me. I knew Diplo before, I knew what he liked, and I think I’m good at knowing how somebody else thinks or what they want. So at that point, we were just like, fuck it. Let’s just send it, you know? So yeah, we just made that decision randomly. Eventually, it was a good decision. It’s always hard. There’s not really a perfect time to say now it’s good.

Joey: And how do you decide that for yourself?

Alvaro: I mean, when there’s nothing else more to add to it. Or if sometimes it doesn’t even matter if the whole concept is good. In pop songs, I feel like it’s about the concept in general.

Joey: I see that happening with a lot of artists as well, like, defining the moment when you say, okay, it’s done. It’s finished.

Alvaro: Back in the days, I sent all my songs to Hardwell, Tiesto, even DJ Snake. They were not even finished, but he played them live. For example, DJ Snake did a lot. And I believe Tiesto also did it. But it also happened a couple of times where Hardwell or Snake just never reply to me. I feel like that’s the point where you get insecure. Where you’re like this guy played all my other songs, but now I’m sending him new stuff, and he’s not answering. It’s probably trash. And I think that’s also really hard. Like, even Snake last week sent me a direct message, “yo send me some new shit.” And I was like, yeah, but I don’t really make club music anymore. But then I did a song, sent it to him, and he didn’t reply. So, what does that explain? Is he too busy? Does he like it?

Joey: I think the problem is that it could be 1000 reasons. And because it’s tough to live without an explanation, your mind starts to make assumptions. Assumptions are the mother of all fuck-ups; if you begin to feel the thoughts of someone else, you’re done.

Alvaro: Yeah, exactly. And I feel like nowadays the more knowledge you have, and the more experience you have, also, the more doubt you have. You’re already thinking in your mind about Spotify, YouTube, or whether Spinnin wants a song.

Joey: So you started to focus fully on the production side, and you’re still making money right now right?

Alvaro: Yeah, I signed a publishing deal.

Joey: So it’s still possible to make a living from just making music? Let’s establish that right now.

Alvaro: I feel like you need a perfect combination of branding along with releasing songs. Like, look at Marshmallow, for example.He basically has everything; he’s like a gimmick with the helmet, he has pop songs, and he’s doing live shows. That’s the whole circle of money. That’s the only problem when you’re a producer: you don’t do any shows. So I feel like if you’re producing music, you have to make a lot of music to make money eventually.

Joey: And now you sell those beats or how does that work?

Alvaro: Yeah, we put them on Ebay haha. No, actually, it started like when I told you about that song with Post Malone that didn’t make it at all. That kind of got me in with Diplo. And from thereon, I got an invite to the Cayman Islands to go on a writing camp. I was like, oh shit, these are the biggest songwriters in the game. That’s kind of like how we got into it. So we did one writing game, then we did another.

Joey: How did you get your foot between the door? You already knew Diplo from, like, months or years before. How did you get in contact with him? What was it through your music?

Alvaro: Just emails. Yeah. Social media. And then I did this song for the PartySquad which eventually ended up being a Major Lazer song called Original Don. I guess that’s the first moment when I met Diplo. I guess he always knew me. It’s always been weird. Like, even DJ Snake direct messages me. I feel like, in the whole scene, everybody knows each other. It’s a small world. People are always checking in on each other. A lot of people don’t even know I’m doing this.

Joey: To me, it’s a complete surprise as well. I’m not even sure how I ended up on your Instagram page. And I was like, what’s this guy doing? So I was really curious to hear your story. It’s still fascinating to see how things can turn up.

Alvaro: Yeah, it’s kind of weird. For example, I worked on the Ellie Goulding song with Diplo and Swae Lee, which has almost 400 million streams right now. And I was wondering, should I post something? What are people going to think?

Joey: Is that legally possible for you to do?

Alvaro: Yeah, of course. I’m official. I’m in the credits. But yeah, the other question is, is it right to do it? Is it morally correct? Because you’re working on a track for somebody else. It’s like a combination of a bunch of people.

Joey: Even the most prominent artists have writers and stuff. Even Beyonce has like 13 writers.

Alvaro: And nobody cares about it. No one asks. In this time, it’s really hard to make the best song on your own. You need to work together with others.

That’s where you get the perfect song because the bar is set really high right now with pop songs.

Joey: And I think you keep challenging each other as well.

Alvaro: Yeah, that’s why I love working with my friend Bas [Will Grands] on those songs. Because with the two of us, it’s just so much easier to make a good song than just all alone.

Joey: And it’s just so different. Like being in the studio on your own is, to me it is less fun. I think I think the results are even better when you’re with more people. But isn’t that an agreement nightmare if so many people work on the track?

Alvaro: Yeah, it is. That’s also a difference. I mean, it will never change. Like, even for Spinnin Records, if a track gets 20 million Youtube views, you get zero money from the video.

Joey: Zero. How?

Alvaro: I don’t know if they do the same, but I remember back in the days it was in the contract where you earn nothing on the YouTube views. Maybe that’s changed. You cannot run away with money like that. There’s a lot of labels that put a lot of pressure on you.

It’s a process. That’s the same with everything; you need to invest in the beginning. For example, Max Martin is like one of the pop gods, and he has so much control, but he never started like that. He made his way up. I feel like that’s the same in pop music. To get your name out there, you have to make number one hit songs, and then people will start to recognize you. You can then do different negotiations in contracts, or whatever.

Joey: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in the last two years?

Alvaro: Well, I think for me, the most important thing is just to do whatever you like and what makes you happy. That’s eventually the most important thing. I remember the stuff I did before, and it didn’t make me happy. I feel like what I’m doing right now makes me a different person. And it’s not easy. Like, even when I was in that whole EDM thing, I knew I wanted to do something different. But you don’t know how right? That’s the problem. Everybody wants to do something different, but have no idea where to start. What’s important is finding your way.

Joey: How did you get to find your way? You mentioned how you also didn’t know how to do it. So how did you do it afterward?

Alvaro: I think I just somehow ended up doing something I liked to do. My main problems were traveling; I didn’t like traveling. So not doing that makes me a little bit happier now. I also work in different genres now. I was always getting angry about doing the same thing. I would load up this 128 BPM project, and it’s the worst thing because I was getting limited by everything. Now I start a song totally different. I just play whatever, I think is cool like doing some weird drums at maybe 100 BPM. That’s the perfect thing about it: I can do whatever I want. I also get bored pretty easily. So it’s also a little bit personal. I don’t like to stick with something for the same period.

Joey: I have the exact same thing!

Alvaro: Like, I’m bored pretty quick and need to challenge myself every time. And even I still think of DJing again when I’m at home. Every fucking weekend I’m at home I want to travel again and start thinking about how much fun it was to travel. But I think that’s a big pitfall because you start to think about the fun things, but you also have to think about the worst things.

You learn from all the mistakes, right? For example, now, I would tell my manager not to accept every booking, only the bookings I want to do, and I feel like I could enjoy them. I think there’s a big difference, and you can still do it. It’s just so hard to do something 50%; I feel like you have to put 100% in something to really get the best out of it.

Joey: I want to thank you for taking the time to share your story because I think it will help a lot of artists clear their thoughts and maybe hear other options in the industry. I really admire the choices that you’ve made for yourself and to follow your dreams.

Alvaro: Thank you for having me!

Interview With Rida Naser (Sirius XM)

Interview With Rida Naser (Sirius XM) 150 150 Artist Coaching

This interview has been paraphrased for consistency and clarity. You can watch/listen to the full interview with Rida.

Joey: What’s up guys? Today I’m having a chat with Rida Naser from Sirius XM!

Rida: Thank you for having me!

Joey: It’s actually funny how this happened. To give the listeners some context around the whole story, we’ve actually never met before. I had never heard of your name until one of my clients reached out to me and said, hey, I’m getting these messages from Rida, and she says she’s playing my remix and people are requesting it on Sirius XM.

Rida: Yeah, it’s crazy.

Joey: Yeah. And then I started looking you up and checking if everything was legit. We started connecting and I noticed that you were the Program Director at Sirius XM. What does your day to day look like?

Rida: So my day to day is a lot of listening, choosing music, and a lot of figuring out which songs are doing well, which songs aren’t, and connecting with artists we’re passionate about. So a lot of my day is dedicated to music. I’m also a host, so I get to talk on the radio every day Monday to Friday, 10am to 2pm Eastern, and I get to talk about dance music. It’s great!

Joey: How did your passion for dance music start?

Rida: It’s actually a little crazy. I was 19 years old in college and kind of lost. I had no idea what I wanted to do. I ended up getting introduced to radio through a local radio contest in my area which I won to see Selena Gomez. So I went to this radio station with my sister and walked in and I was like, wow. This is so cool. I saw people around my age of 19, 20 walking around working. And they got to have first hand experiences with, like Selena Gomez, and I’m sure other artists as well. And then after a lot of persistence I ended up getting a few part time jobs at radio shows. A friend later recommended I should try interning at Sirius XM. At the time, I had no idea what it was.

Joey: Yeah, for our audience, could you tell us what’s the difference between Sirius and conventional stations?

Rida: So first of all, there’s a big difference between terrestrial radio and satellite (XM) radio. One of the biggest things is that there are no commercials. It’s a subscription, you have to pay.

Joey: So this is on the internet?

Rida: No, it’s in a lot of cars. So when you first buy a car, they give you like three months free and then people start listening to it and fall in love with it. Another plus is that you have a lot more freedom and creativity within the station. It’s also uncensored; you can curse, say whatever you want.

Yeah. And then on top of that, the number one thing out of all of this is that it’s national. It’s a national broadcast and service, meaning you can hear it all throughout the states. We have a massive audience. We just acquired Pandora as well. So now we kind of work hand in hand with Pandora. So now all together, we have 100 million subscribers, which is really cool.

It’s been three years since I’ve been on the air. Now I live and breathe dance music. I just got promoted to program director a few months ago, so now I have more of a hand in the music.

Joey: As Program Director, you can you can pick the music. I was wondering how you were able to play Josh’s bootleg on the radio?

Rida: To be honest, I don’t think we can. If they wanted to, the label could take it down. We also have a relationship with that record label. And again, at the end of the day, its exposure for their artists. I don’t see why they would want to take it down.

Joey: And you found this remix through SoundCloud? Is that like one of the main places where radio people discover new talent?

Rida: I mean, I always keep an eye on all the other playlists. There’s not many dance stations here. It’s not like the Netherlands where you go into the car and dance music is playing. So I kind of have to keep an eye out on playlists, whether it’s Apple or Spotify. I get music sent to me a lot as well. I have a folder that I fill up every week. And then once a week, I go through that folder.

Joey: So you do actually check them? That’s one of the biggest questions that I get from artists: can I send my music to radio programmers or other DJ’s? It seems like nobody’s listening.

Rida: I listen. Yeah, it is overwhelming because I can get up to up to like 100 emails a day with music. It has to make an impact on you right away. I know it’s really frustrating for artists but like, if I don’t like a song, I’m just gonna move on. I’ve worked on the channel for three years now. I know what the audience likes, and I know what kind of sound they’re looking for. And then I also know what kind of sound is good to experiment with. So within that time, I’ve kind of just figured out like, what works and what doesn’t, and when people send me music, of course I’ll listen, but I can’t respond to every single one. A lot of people then come back saying they’ve fixed something, and I’m like, please stop. So I’m really careful with what advice I give. Sometimes it’s hard because I don’t want to put their hopes up. Every week, I only get to choose like three or four songs to add to the playlist and it needs to outdo every single other song that I’m looking at. And that’s tough.

I get a lot of backlash and people say I’m picking favorites. And then I’m like, I promise you I’m listening. I just I can’t get back to every single person. I really can’t unless I hear the song and I’m like, it has just blown me away. It’s like a lottery ticket as in it doesn’t happen a lot. But sometimes you have one of those tracks where you just instantly feel like WOW.

I don’t want artists to feel discouraged when they send music to a program director. But they also need to be careful about rubbing a program director the wrong way. There’s actually some guy who sent me like four emails in one day. Then just kept replying to those emails being like, okay, here’s a radio edit. Okay, here’s an extended mix. Okay, here’s a remix. I’m like, calm down. I haven’t even listened to the original yet. And then he somehow found my desk phone number and called me and then texted me and I was like, stop, stop. Now I don’t want to listen to your like. There comes a certain point where you have to be professional. I understand consistency but like you have to do it in a professional way.

Joey: What is the right amount of persistence in your opinion? Like how many times should people email you?

Rida: Email me a song, and email me a follow up. Most likely, if they follow up, I will reply. And maybe, if you have a remix that comes out two weeks later that’s fine. Definitely don’t call my personal phone or text me. It’s really easy to know where the line is. The connection that you have with your relationships is really important in the music industry. And in the end, it’s a human business.

I want to organically enjoy the song. In my head, if you’ve rubbed me the wrong way, like a million times, then I probably won’t play your track. At the end of the day, I see people like Josh who have passion and potential to be professional in the industry. If you can’t talk to a radio program, how are you going to play festivals? How are you going to play massive shows? How are you going to deal with fans? The power of the favor is a big thing in the music industry. And that’s where the personal aspect comes in.

Joey: Well, thank you for giving some insights about the world of radio in the world of SiriusXM. I think a lot of artists will get some value out of this episode as in having a deeper look into the radio world since a lot of us don’t know what’s happening behind the scenes.

Thank you!