The Artist's Journey: The Road to Success

I’m not going to tell you to work hard, be consistent and to never stop believing. Instead, I want to show you what’s important on your journey as an artist and how you can become better every single day.

Before we do that, I want to talk about the different type of (undiscovered) artists I run across every day.

I’ve categorized them into the following three groups:

Group 1:

“My music is great, I only need a producer, manager, record deal or XYZ to help me take things to the next level.”

Group 1

These artists think that they need to rely on others to get traction. They could be insecure or incapable of taking action on their own. Usually, they have no game plan other than waiting for someone to offer them help. maybe their music is good, but often this isn’t the case.

Group 2

“I don’t need any help. I got this and I’m going to make it big one day.”

Group 2

This is the opposite of insecure. They’re determined that they will make it big one day — which is actually a good thing. But they often disregard the importance of the journey. And in their mind, they’re usually way ahead of where they actually are.

Group 3

“I made some great songs, but I don’t know how to get it out there. I’ll keep making songs and I hope one of ‘em will blow up.”

Group 3

These singers or rappers are in love with the process but have yet to create an actual plan. A plan that will get them to where they want to be.

Your journey matters ❤️

Whether you recognize yourself in one of these groups or not, it doesn’t matter.

There isn’t a wrong category per se, and I don’t wanna put you in a box.

We’re all in different stages of our journey and are all gravitating towards that same goal. Which in this case is success — which in term is different for everyone.

For some, it takes longer before they reach a specific milestone. Whilst others are celebrating midway.

It’s not about questioning where you are on your journey, but whether you are in control of the vehicle that needs to get you to the point you wanna be at.

Of course, your vehicle needs fuel. The fuel is what drives your engine: your passion, determination, and energy to work hard. That: “Jump out of bed every morning to rush to the studio” type fuel.

Your vehicle will take you where you need to go, it carries your talent, skills, and music.

If you forget one or the other, it’s going to be a long ass trip.

You can be passionate and hustle every day. But your talent, skills, and music will be the determinant factors.

How to get your breakthrough in music

Every day, we’re exposed to what most think is the definition of success.

You see your favorite artists drive foreign cars and partying all day.

Some might see that as if they are lucky. “Oh, they’re so lucky that they’re living their dream life. Oh, I wish I was that lucky.”. But you know what?

Screw luck!

I hate to break it to you, but if we are going to chase our dreams based on LUCK, the odds are always stacked against us.

Catching that big break in music is an event occurred in time, followed by a process

And that process, in this case, is your journey.

There will be no event without process.

If you consider that specific event as pure luck, then that means we can create our own luck.

As long as you focus on the journey and on what’s right in front of you, the event will come.

But, unfortunately, most artists don’t see it that way. And they are driven by what they see on their Instagram feed.

The main take away from this story is to put your focus on the process, NOT on the event.

And the latter is hard when all you see is the event.

Focus on the journey image
Don't focus on the end goal image

Remember my habit? Deconstructing songs and analyzing the journey of artists?

To optimize and speed up your journey it’s crucial to develop your skills and maximize your talent.

This is not something I came up with. This is what I’ve concluded from analyzing real-life examples.

Take Ed Sheeran for example. In this TV-show he lets people hear an old recording from when he couldn’t sing. The dude actually couldn’t sing!

He invested time in developing his talent and skills to reach the level he’s at right now.

Tory Lanez dropped about 14 mixtapes and a bunch of singles before he caught a big break. Yes, we all agree he works hard, but let’s dig a little deeper.

Compare this track from his first mixtape to his 2015 multi-platinum hit “Say It.”

He evolved into a completely different type of artist.

Tory Lanez in 2009:

Tory Lanez - T Dot Girls

Tory Lanez in 2016:

Tory Lanez - Say It

This can only happen when you focus on the process, not the end goal. In other words; honing your skills and becoming a little better every day.

When you start digging you’ll notice that every successful artist was once where you are right now.

They all traveled the same road, but their journey was different.

The only common denominator is that they got a break-through with one song.

Yes, it only took one.

Yet, what’s hidden behind that one song are hundreds of songs they’ve created. Songs that didn’t do well or haven’t seen the light of day at all.

G-Eazy calls this process his Practice Years.

"I have like twelve mixtapes to my name that I hope doesn't exist on the internet. But the thing with hip-hop is, your practice years are documented in the form of mixtapes, songs online etc."

G-Eazy

Where a lot of artists fail 😢

Over 60% of the artists are creating music that is far below the quality-standard.

And that is alright if you’re starting out…

It becomes a problem when you’re not making any progress after 10 songs.

To name an example. I sell beats online and I always try to push artists to buy the high quality tracked out files of an instrumental.

Almost every song on the radio is produced and mixed with the separate files of the instrumental.

I sold a total of 732 licenses from January to October 2017, yet only 179 licenses were with tracked out files. That is less than 25%.

Which means that over 75% of these artists don’t focus on the quality of their music.

Most of the people buy a simple MP3 version of the beat, which is even more disturbing! MP3 files aren’t for professional music production.

When I confront them, the reaction I usually get is…

“Oh yeah, I didn’t know that…”

The same problem occurs with the quality of the recorded vocals, mix and the production of their song.

This year I’ve surveyed 1.400 artists and asked them what their biggest struggle is. The majority struggles with mixing, recording, and songwriting.

Yet, they upload their music anyway.

Not noticing their mix sucks or aware of the fact that their vocals could use work. Like, real work.

They determine the success of the song on the number of views, likes, reposts, and comments. Whilst that is a contributing factor, again it starts with your music — it’s the foundation.

Work your ass off

In the decade that I’ve been working with artists, more than half the music I’ve heard was not ready for a big crowd.

A majority of those artists are walking an endless road to success. To be frank, most of them will not make it even close to the finish line.

The Fundamentals;

Are replaced by:

They all want to have the same success as our favorite artists. But that’s exactly the point where they go wrong right from the jump.

Don’t look at their success. The answer is in the process—the journey— the mountain they had to climb to reach the top they’re at now.

Don’t look at their success. The answer is in the process—the journey— the mountain they had to climb to reach the top they’re at now.

How did Post Malone go from sleeping on his friend's couch to the number one song in the world?

What did it take for Ed Sheeran to become one of the greatest singers?

How did Tory Lanez evolve into an R&B singer, after releasing a dozen hip-hop mixtapes?

They all followed a process, which led to their big break. They respected the journey and worked their ass off.

Ready to start crushing and making better music… this week?

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The Roller Coaster Music Theory: A Framework For Hit Records

I’ve always been intrigued by the emotional aspect of what makes people want to listen to a song over and over again. As well as the opposite; Why do people dislike a song and skip it after 30 seconds?

Why do you still like listening to the same songs from 20 years ago?

Why do we all have this one song that we still listen to at least once or twice every month?

Recently, I was asked to produce a live show that will be performed 80 times a year for 2.000-12.000 people per night. (I also rap from time to time)

I approached it the same as when I’m producing music.

And that's when I started noticing that every form of entertainment is using the same framework.

Whether you are producing a song, producing a concert or directing a movie.

The goal is to:

Not entertaining the crowd will make them leave…

Not taking them on a journey means they’ll get bored and leave…

Not keeping their attention means you’re not getting them interested in what you have to show.

And not going out with a bang means you gave them no reason to tell their friends. Through all the shows that I’ve played I’ve learned that people often base their whole opinion on the last thing they see or hear.

To make sure that all my live shows and songs include all of these components, I had to create a system.

Without a framework or checklist, there’s no way to keep the same amount of consistent quality.

If you put systems in place, chances are you’re less likely to screw up.

Think about a pilot. They have certain procedures in check that will keep them from making mistakes.

Even if they already performed that same action a thousand times before. A checklist or system still needs to be followed to prevent them from making a misstep.

And that’s how I came up with The Roller Coaster Music Theory.

I use this music theory to teach producers and songwriters about music production.

For the students of my Zero To Radio Ready masterclass, it’s mandatory that they understand the concept of this theory.

The Roller Coaster Music Theory

What in the world has a roller coaster to do with making music?

Yes, it might sound crazy but I stumbled upon the similarities by accident.

I decided to write a music theory about it. Because facts are that it drastically changed the way I look at music production.

Roller coaster rides versus Music production

Roller coaster rides trigger certain emotions. You hop on these rides and get a feeling of excitement.

Listening to music also triggers emotions. For some that’s sadness, for others it’s pure happiness, it all depends on how you interpret a song.

In general, that’s what a roller coaster ride and music have in common.

It goes a bit further though.

Once you realize how roller coasters are built, you'll notice that they’re similar to how music is produced.

Deconstructing the Roller Coaster

I sketched out a roller coaster ride in the image below and implemented the song structure of a random song.

Full song drawing

Intro: This is where you get in the cart. The straight line shows that there’s isn’t much happening yet.

Verse 1: This is where your song starts progressing. The roller coaster brings you to the pre-chorus but it has yet to reach a climax. This is the part where your heart is pounding in your chest...

Pre-chorus: A short moment of being on the edge, holding your breath and getting ready to go down to the first chorus.

Chorus 1: That free-fall will be the first time you’ll reach a certain level of excitement. It’s your first impression of a song and you decide to keep listening as it sparked your interest.

Verse 2: The roller coaster slows down and it slowly builds up towards the second pre-chorus. Just before you get there the ride suddenly decides to take a different road and the cart shakes up and down. In other words, something has to happen in the song to keep listeners engaged. Not too much though, we’re still in the second verse...

Pre-chorus: Again, a short moment of being on the edge and getting ready to hit Chorus 2.

Chorus 2: Again, that same feeling of excitement. But this time, to enhance that feeling, we have to make sure that it’s not the same as the first chorus. In this case, we’ve added an extra loop after the free-fall, see the image for context.

Bridge: The roller coaster cart starts pulling itself up from its lowest point again. It’s time to build up towards the final chorus of the song

Chorus 3: The final chorus, the craziest of them all. After the previous choruses, something new needs to happen to go out with a bang. Something that the ear hasn’t heard yet.

Outro: After a wild ride, the cart finally comes to a stop. All passengers hop out and automatically your mind says: “I wanna go again!”. in other words; ”I wanna put that song on repeat!”.

3 Essential Parts of The Roller Coaster Music Theory

There are many ways to use The Roller Coaster Music Theory in your songs. In the example above, you notice how much a roller coaster ride is similar to a song.

When you start using this theory in your own songs, there are three essential parts that you need to include.

Even if you decide to structure your “roller coaster” in a different way. This will ensure that listeners are getting hooked on your song and want to play it again.

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1. No chorus sounds the same

Different chorus drawing

Every song needs to build up excitement and every chorus has to be bigger than the previous one.

No matter what type of song you’re creating. Something needs to be added to keep things interesting.

And of course, the final chorus needs to be the biggest of them all. You want to go out with a bang.

2. The importance of buildups and breakdowns

Buildups and breakdowns drawing

If you think about it in roller coaster terms, the technology to let roller coaster carts go up the hill faster probably exists.

The reason that theme parks are not implementing this is that it will remove a critical piece of the ride.

Which is, the adrenaline boost you get when the cart is slowly going up the hill.

In other words, the impact of the chorus is much greater when your song slowly builds up.

There are always moments where the ride goes a bit slower. Usually, after you’ve experienced a certain level of excitement. For example after the first chorus.

You can only reach that same level again if you start slow and build up.

The bumps in Build-up 2 in the picture represent the fact that new elements need to be added in verses too. Not only in the different choruses.

3. The Power of the Pre-Chorus

Pre-chorus drawing

The pre-chorus; That moment of being on the edge, holding your breath and waiting to fall down.

In music, this is a commonly used writing technique to bring in repeat factors. This is what makes a song easier to listen to.

When a pre-chorus is implemented in a song, it’s a fundamental part of the chorus itself.

The concept is easy to understand.

A pre-chorus (besides the chorus) is another repeating factor in the song.

It gives people an extra part to sing along with and listeners are used to hearing the chorus afterwards.

The more logical the song structure, the easier it is to listen to the song. Chances are, it will get stuck in people’s head

Not every song has a pre-chorus. For example, hip-hop songs usually have 16 bar verses without a pre-chorus.

To show you that The Roller Coaster Music Theory also applies to rap songs is to consider that pre-chorus a beat stop.

Beat stop: When the music stops and the vocals continue

It has the same effect, moment of silence that will give the chorus more impact.

It is also a commonly used technique in songwriting.

Applying The Roller Coaster Music Theory

As soon as you start recognizing the accuracy of this theory, you will start using it more often.

And just like me, you’ll find out that the same principle is used in movies and concerts.

It’s an easy way to reference your music and make sure you include these fundamental elements in your songs.

This theory will ensure that you:

Want to know if your music holds the fundamental elements to potentially hit the charts?

Or do you think your music isn’t reaching its fullest potential, while you think it should?