One example about this; when I moved to Singapore, I was completely new in the industry here and I happened to meet some of the key people of the local music scene. After a while one of local music producers contacted me and asked me if I can do the mixing for a pop music for one movie star because they are going for a promotion tour for their new coming movie and it’s a big project, and each of the team members have to have their own original song to perform. So, I took the project and start doing the recording and mixing for this particular project. The song was written by the same producer who invited me for collaboration. The song was released and it was pretty successful. After a while the same producer came back to me and asked me to mix another song for him. I did. And a couple of months later he came back with a new song to mix. And this was going on. In his mind I was a mix engineer! Mixing was my “thing” for him. Even I had casually mentioned that my main portion is to write and produce but it’s now almost 8 years going on and he only come to me for mixing and he is even recommending my mixing to others!
All that was said to say that even mixing is a full skill set on its own, yet if I’m known as the mix engineer, to this group of musicians I will be forever mix engineer. Now imagine if I was known as something much more limited, like if for some reason they would I’m just a House producer and what if one day House music is out of trend? I’d be screwed!
Don’t try to be something you aren’t. I didn’t chase the “bro country” trend, because that is not authentic to me. I didn’t grow up in the sticks sitting on a tailgate, so I don’t write that kind of song very often. I wouldn't write “bubble pop” because that’s not who I am. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing again bubbly cute pop songs, but I just wouldn’t write it simply because I grown up in Tehran. One of the most rough places you can imagine. With gangs and violate events going on around the teenage me. Maybe that would be the reason a lot of people say most of the songs I write are pretty heavy and dark. Because growing up in such environment, I had to choose between dying in streets or be the good boy and read books! I chosen the first one for a few years and then switched to the second one. If I want to write the cute bubble pop songs, I still can write because I learned how to look at the events from different points of view, but I prefer not to, because that’s not who I am. Always try to write what you know and from your experience. That’s what makes your songs unique and believable.
Don’t invest too heavily in one thing. A wise – and very wealthy – songwriter I know once told me that his goal is to have one song on every album. I asked him why he felt that way and he said “Then, I never have to look at the charts, I’m always on the #1 record.” He went on to say that he didn’t care to have 2 songs on any given album. Just one. His point was a good one. If you put all of your eggs in one basket, you either win big or you lose big. The odds are that you’ll lose big. Try to diversify and get one song on every album you can. Don’t invest too heavily in any one project.
Another kind of approaching this advice is those writers who spend sometimes a couple of years of making their song “perfect” not knowing the only perfect one is God! I’m not saying to just do the song as quick as you can without paying any attention to the details, but my argument here is that if you want to invest all your time and energy on one project, you will miss a lot of other opportunities out there. Get involved and invest in each project to a proper amount that you are required to, make sure you are fully dedicated but not over dedicated, finish the project and move on to the next one.
Just keep going. Even when you go through times when it seems like nothing is working, just keep doing the right things. Doing the right things long enough will produce results. Don’t give up. Entertainment and specifically writing requires an unbelievable amount of hard work, determination and self motivated. You will find yourself feeling empty at times or you will get rejected over and over. As I always said, don’t let these to discourage you, and go on. Don’t forget, none of the great people in the history had gave up in rough times.
Be nice to everyone. The people that seem like nobodies today may be running the labels tomorrow. You never know what life has planned for someone. I heard a story once about a songwriter who went to one of his pluggers, threw a CD on his desk and said “If you can’t get these songs cut, you need to find another job. The following week, that plugger was promoted to Head Of Creative at the publishing company. He called that writer in, threw the same CD back at him and said “If you can’t write better songs than this, you need to find another job”. And he dropped that writer. It pays to be nice to everyone. Always. There was stories about myself that when I was a writer signed to a publisher, the publisher was sometimes taking advantage of my writing and he was thinking I didn’t know what he is doing. But unfortunately I had rushed into the contract without properly understanding it – which is a huge issue that we will discuss – and I had no way out of that contract. Years later, when I was running my label, Flipside, one day I found that publisher in my office, trying to sell me his whole catalogue and get out of the industry because unknowingly I had ran him out of business! Maybe if he was honest with me when I was signed to him, I could save his company and don’t let him go bankrupt. But he burned the bridges. Never burn the bridges. Ever!
Hangi Tavakoli is our in-house established and professional music producer with more than 18 years of experience in songwriting, music production, mix and mastering. He has produced more than 3,000 and written more than 4,800 published songs to-date, including some major hits in international scale.