The importance of secrets?

Picture by Al Lynch

The music world seems to be full of secrets. From business to creativity there is no greater buzz word that I can think of. For music makers and entrepreneurs who seek success it is easy to be drawn in to the world of online top 50 secrets lists and exclusive interviews with well known producers claiming to be revealing their most protected techniques. It’s safe to say a lot of magazines, websites and writers use this hunger to get traffic. What dose it mean for an artist to reveal their most precious concepts, what does an artist have left if all is revealed, is there really such a thing as a secret formula when it comes to music production and if so why is it (supposedly) so easily attainable? 

Just a quick google of secrets of the  record producer brings up a stream of sites with promises of revealing all the masters years of hard work and dedication. Imagine if one day you woke up and your years of hard work were suddenly as easily attainable as a one click purchase on Amazon with free postage! 

Sure there are formulas that make logical sense. Perhaps it is not so much about gaining technical know how (which is vital of course) but more about how to approach a profession in a way that leads to success. From involving the subject of self-employment and taxation in secondary schools and university and preparing creative minds for the realities of building creative skills and talent and how to monetise upon this. 

Yes! Learn your trade and YES learn from your heroes. Find out who mixed/produced/recorded your favourite album, listen to EVERYTHING he/she has worked on, read interviews and become fully immersed in their story. Don’t stop at what compressor settings they used or what gear was behind each record. Find out what they were doing before working on the music that made them. Every professional has a story to tell…

In a recent article the Forbes writer Lara Maack stated that “there is no technological substitute for practice”. This is surly where the ‘secrets’ lie. To consider ones creative endeavours as part of a practice. How to become balanced in ones approach to work. How to live a healthy lifestyle, to treat a profession as an element of a greater purpose, as a practice. And how to treat oneself as a business. After working in a traditional job hierarchy structure the allure of being your “own boss” is strong but without a mentor or guidance from someone who has “been there” it can be a daunting prospect. Practicing not only the technical and creative aspects of your art but also the daily structure of being your own business. Even if you are just writing songs in your bedroom with no clear path, treat your work as a business. Embrace business as much of a practice as you do your art. Merge your art with your business.  

Perhaps it is important to start considering this when teaching the next generation of music makers, mix engineers and artists the secrets of the trade. That it is more important to develop a practice, a philosophy and to build self confidence in oneself as a business. 

Bruce Lees writings help to bring up a vital point that “independent inquiry is needed in your search for truth, not dependence on anyone else’s view or a mere book”, aligning this to the search for self this can also be considered alongside the development of an artist, mix engineer. To build up ones own view of the world and not take any opinion as gospel allows the artist to develop his her self in an original way.

Just as martial artist develops a practice so should any other artist. Remember that no 50 secrets to success article will provide a shortcut to this.

And so how important are these supposedly well protected secrets to a dedicated practitioner? Does their career really rest on a handful of techniques kept closely to ones chest or a small list of equipment that if revealed would render ones life's work less valuable?   

I can’t imagine that by revealing method and process will render the work of a mix engineer any less desirable, quite the contrary, by sharing such valuable knowledge there is an exchange of recognition. For someone to consider and use that advice is a sign of great respect towards the advice giver. As for an artist still seeking recognition, to make a name and become successful is it important to build up and keep close a personal and secret method or does it benefit all levels to share ones findings? 

I’d love to hear your opinions on this. Especially artists and people involved in music industry. Comment below or get in touch - 

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