October 26

9 Critical Success Habits of Music Producers & DJs


In this episode of Pick Yourself, we’re going to look at the most critical success habits of music producers and DJs. These 9 routines can make or break your artist-career. Integrating them into your life has the power to transform your ambitious dreams into real-life wins.

The compound effect of positive or negative habits

All the tiny decisions you make in your day to day life shape who you are and who you can become. As humans, we tend to underestimate the compound effect of positive and negative habits. All these small actions add up over the course of a year, a decade, a lifetime. If you widen the scope and put your success habits (or your vices) into perspective, you know why they make a difference for your artist-career.

One of my favorite books on that topic is “The Compound Effect” by Darren Hardy. He showcases how small positive actions, repeated over and over again, can yield massive results over a longer period of time. Here are two of his most famous quotes:

“Choices are at the root of every one of your results. Each choice starts a behavior that over time becomes a habit.”

“Everyone is affected by three kinds of influences: input (what you feed your mind), associations (the people with whom you spend time), and environment (your surroundings).”

– Darren Hardy

Choose who you want to become once, but prove it daily

Upcoming music producers share their wildest career dreams with me on a daily basis. If there’s one factor that allows me to determine their chances of future success, it’s their habits. You only have to choose who you want to become once, but you will have to prove it again and again.

On the negative side, we’re all guilty of this in one way or another. You might think that “one pack of cigarettes a week isn’t that big of a deal” or “my morning coffee-to-go isn’t causing too much waste”. But the compound effect of these little decisions must not be underestimated. Another typical example is “let’s just watch one more episode and then go to sleep” (while you know exactly that you’re going to wake up sleep-deprived and exhausted AGAIN). If you had chosen to say no and did some creative writing instead, before going to sleep, your productivity would have gone through the roof.

This brings us to the positive side of this. If you choose to install positive habits on your “mental operating system”, you set yourself up for future success. In the following chapter, I’m going to walk you through the nine most critical success habits of music producers and DJs.

Positive habits of successful music producers and DJs

This goal of this list of success-habits is to give you a starting point. There are tons of other healthy routines you could integrate in your life, but this collection of nine positive habits for music producers will help you get started.

1. Be creative on a fixed schedule

Yes, I know this sounds impossible. “How should I be creative when I don’t feel inspired?”, you ask. But that’s exactly the point here. If you wait for inspiration to hit you, it might take weeks before you feel “ready” to enter the studio again.

Contrary to that, if you simply “show up” every day and try your best, your chances of creating more and better songs increase a lot. Here’s my go-to formula:

  • Find out what your most creative and productive phase of the day is (more on that in my episode on time management).
  • Block that slot in your calendar and set a reminder.
  • Track how often you actually “show up” and aim for 60 days of continuous habit-forming; for some people 30 days is enough, but in my experience, it takes much longer than that to build a solid success habit like that.

2. Grab lunch or have a coffee with someone in your local music scene once a week

Building honest, meaningful relationships with like-minded people in the music industry is a key factor of success. That’s exactly why I don’t believe in the superficial way of “networking”. A great success-habit of music producers and DJs is to implement a regular “lunch/ coffee” date in their weekly schedule. 

You simply block a time slot in your calendar specifically for the purpose of meeting with someone from the local music scene. This can be one of your producer friends, a show promoter, someone who runs a label, or even a music journalist. The goal of these meetings is not to “discuss business” or anything. It’s simply a relaxed conversation about what you’re both up to at the moment, what struggles you’re facing in the music industry, and maybe even how you can be of help.

Since some people are genuinely better at this than others, let me give you a quick best practice guide for this:

  • Make sure you don’t talk more than the other person
  • Ask questions about things that you’re genuinely interested in
  • Be authentic and humble, don’t try to appear bigger than you are
  • Pay for food/ drinks if the other person is fine with it 

If you can’t meet physically for whatever reason (Coronavirus 2020….), try to set up a video call to catch up in a personal way. Since you often need a “reason” to meet someone (if they’re not a close friend), find something interesting that’s going on in their field and say you’d like to find out more about XYZ.

3. Support other artists and share their work with your audience

This success habit of music producers and DJs is super easy to implement but very powerful at the same time. One of the biggest mistakes that I see upcoming artists make is that they try to hold others down. They’re afraid of losing their audience’s attention and therefore, they don’t share the work of other artists at all.

To me, this is a mindset issue. If you adopt the so-called “abundance mindset” (meaning: there’s no shortage of resources), you stop thinking that way. Instead, you believe that “a rising tide lifts all boats”.

If you’ve found great music by other artists, share it with your audience. If there’s another local music producer who deserves more attention, share his or her work with your followers. Don’t be afraid of losing your audience’s attention. The opposite is going to happen for two reasons:

  • Your tribe trusts you even more if you become a source of great music recommendations
  • The artists recommended by you might get in touch with you or even share your work with their audience

If this becomes a regular habit on your social channels, you will soon start to see the benefits of it.

4. Shift your mindset from “this is impossible” to “how can I make this possible

Sometimes, the obstacles you have to face in your music career can feel overwhelming. Achieving your ambitious goals might feel impossible when times get tough. But there’s an important mindset-habit you can adopt.

Instead of giving in and saying “this is impossible”, start to ask yourself the question “how can I make this possible?”. I don’t mean you should negate the reality and live in a dream world and live in your weird little bubble. What I’m trying to get across here is that you need to always switch into problem-solving mode instead of sinking into self-pity

Let me give you an example. You send out hundreds of demo-emails to labels and you get zero positive responses. This can be a super frustrating experience and you might think it’s impossible to get signed to the label of your dreams. But what if your whole demo-submission strategy was wrong in the first place? 

Maybe you should have worked your way up from releasing on the small, local label of your friend to founding your own imprint, building a tribe of true fans, and slowly attracting the interest of bigger labels.

5. Pause for a second before saying “yes” or “no”

The ability to choose wisely between “yes” and “no” is what separates successful artists from not-successful ones. There’s a crucial success-habit connected to that: Pause for a second before you give an answer. This is one of the most powerful tricks you will ever encounter in life.

We’re designed to immediately jump on every opportunity that comes our way. The same goes for saying “no” to something that we simply try to avoid because it’s hard to do or unpleasant (but necessary). But if you take a pause and activate the important parts of your brain, you might come to a better decision. By the way, I can highly recommend reading Daniel Kahneman’s famous book “Thinking, Fast and Slow”.

If you train the habit of pausing for a second before jumping to a conclusion, you’re allowing your brain to make a conscious decision based on at least a couple of facts and some second-guessing.

6. Outsource critical aspects that you can’t do yourself

Yes, outsourcing to specialists becomes a habit once you’ve started doing it. If you continuously struggle to get good artist photos, you should start outsourcing it. If your do-it-yourself mixing and mastering just don’t live up to what you’ve imagined for your song, send it to a professional studio. If your artist bio sucks, get help from a writer who specializes in it.

Believe me, I’ve tried to come up with a logo on my own, find the right fonts, and choose the perfect colors. But as soon as I had hired a talented graphic designer to help me, I immediately understood the difference it can make.

This success habit of music producers and DJs can save you a lot of time and headache. Yes, it means you have to consider some investment in your artist career, but believe me, it’s one of the better decisions.

7. Measure your progress monthly

If you want to reach your goals as an artist, you have to know how close you are and how fast you’re moving. Tracking your progress on a monthly basis needs to become an automatic habit. This gives you an idea of what you need to adjust to make your vision come true. 

I suggest doing this in the following way:

  • Start with your measurable goals as an artist
  • Break them down into smaller milestones
  • Find out what exact actions you need to put in regularly to achieve these milestones and later on your overarching goals
  • Measure your progress using some kind of spreadsheet

In my experience, you should review your progress monthly. That’s enough because in the end, it doesn’t matter a lot if you’ve had a bad day or even a bad week. Try to be consistent month to month and you’re on a good way.

8. Write a daily journal

Some of you might have been doing this for years already, other can’t even imagine doing this on a daily basis. Believe me, writing a journal (or at least doing some creative writing) is one of the most powerful success habits of music producers and DJs. 

First of all, your cluttered mind needs to process a lot of things. Handwritten notes provide clarity and structure and free you up. In consequence, you will have more mental bandwidth for creativity. Moreover, writing helps us connect with our emotions, reveal subconscious wishes and fears, and therefore facilitates becoming the best version of ourselves. 

If you want to get started with this habit, you first need to find out what type of writing feels most natural to you. Do you enjoy putting down some grateful thoughts at the end of the day? Would you love to start your day with writing a short creative poem? 

There is no right and wrong, simply start experimenting with it and you are going to notice the benefits quite fast.

9. Be fully present

To me, this success habit of music producers and artists in general is the most impressive one. Being fully present is becoming a lost art in our over-distracting, noisy world. But what do I mean with this?

Being fully present means being with yourself and others in that very moment, focusing all your senses on what’s essential right now. Listen carefully to the person talking to you, observe the body language, try to follow the thoughts and ask the right questions. 

No, your vibrating phone is not important at that moment, neither is that thought in the back of your head that reminds you of ten other things on your to-do list. The art of being fully present is a part of a mindful lifestyle in general. It’s hard to master but easy to practice. 

Simply remind yourself, again and again, to focus on small details and sensations. Then, try to bring this attention to conversations and important actions. If you try to write a masterpiece of a song, you won’t succeed with five distracting tabs open in your browser and three messenger-conversations going on at the same time.

Putting it into action: Success habits of music producers and DJs

Now that you know which success habits most likely will give you the desired results for your artist career, it’s time to take action and implement some of the things you’ve learned in this episode. Here are three action steps to help you get started.

1. Analyze what positive habits you already have in place

  • I’m sure you already have some great routines in place. Write down what these are and how they help you move your artist career in the right direction.
  • Then, see if you can integrate some of the habits mentioned before into your existing ones. This is the easiest way to move forward.

2. Start installing new habits one after another

  • Don’t try to implement all of these habits at once. See which ones naturally resonate with you and start integrating one after another.
  • If you want to find out more about how to build habits effectively, check out the book “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhig.

3. Consistency wins, so don’t forget to track your habits, especially in the beginning

  • At some point, success habits become automatic routines. Before that, you need to track them to ensure consistency.
  • Remember what you’ve learned about the compound effect. Many small actions can create massive results over a long period of time.

Alright, that’s it for this episode. Now I’d love to hear from you what positive habits are helping you grow your artist career? What negative ones are holding you back? 

Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!


Personal Development, Podcast

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