DJ/Producer Secrets, Part 3: Struggling To Finish What You Start?

Phil Morse | Read time: 5 mins
dance music formula dj/producer music production Pro
Last updated 24 March, 2018


So let’s recap what this is all about: It’s about the dream of playing the music you love to people who want to hear it, and getting paid to do so, all over the world. It’s about being one of the thousands of successful DJ/producers, or “touring DJs” to use another term, who have escaped both the 9 to 5 and their own towns or cities, and who instead carve out an awesome living making music and DJing.

In Part 1 we learned how important it is to develop both the “DJ” side and the “producer” side of your career concurrently – no point working on one without the other.

In Part 2 we looked at the biggest single reason why most people, even once they realise this, still struggle with the “producer” part.

(If you haven’t visited one or both of those pieces yet, please do so now – this series is designed to be followed in order.)

And at the end of Part 2 I shared with you that even once you’ve committed to making music and got started, there’s one thing that is likely to trip you up before you get very far. That’s what we’re going to cover today.

So – in our DJ training, we implore people to get gigs. We explain how you don’t learn to play football by messing around with a ball in your backyard, and you don’t learn to DJ by spinning tunes in your bedroom.

Just as football is played in (and against) a team, so DJing is done in public, in front of a crowd. In short, fail to get on the field of play, and you’re simply not playing!

When it comes to production, the key is that you have to finish.

“Lots of ideas on my hard drive”, “I’ll play it to you but I’m not happy with it yet”, “It’s got to be perfect”…

Ha! That word: Perfect.

That single word is the sworn enemy of the producer. It’s the holy grail, the end of the rainbow, the nirvana over the next horizon. It is utterly unattainable.

It is the thief of productivity.

I am sure you know the track “Blue Monday” by New Order. It’s one of the biggest dance records of all time, the biggest selling 12″ vinyl ever. New Order spent weeks perfecting that track, back in the days when there were no computers in dance music production, and all the programming was painstakingly done on hardware sequencers and drum machines.

Then, they accidentally unplugged the machine…

Weeks and weeks of work was wiped out in one go. They were literally just about to commit it to master tape and it was all lost.

But it’s what happened next that is instructive: They simply reprogrammed everything from memory, fast, as best they could. They had no choice but to do it that way (studio time had been booked…) and they rushed every part of the programming.

They say to this day that the version they lost was far superior. Yet the track is – even in it’s “imperfect” version – a stone-cold classic. DJ/producers have to DJ, but they also have to produce. And at the end of a production is a product – not a pile of excuses.

Is every DJ set you play “perfect? Of course not. So if you’re holding back on finishing music because of this idea of perfection (YOUR idea of perfection) – it’s time to get over yourself. Your job is to produce music, not to produce perfection.

How can you be the judge as to whether something’s perfect or not anyway? Your job is to get it out there, good enough, then go right back to the beginning and start again.

There are so many reasons why this is so. If you produce 50 tracks in three years, you’ve got a body of work. Sure, not all of it will be great. A lot of it might be rubbish. But you’re clearly a producer, right? You’re doing what it says on the tin.

If you spend three years trying to perfect one track – well, you see where I’m coming from, don’t you? Who do you think is likely to achieve the bigger degree of DJ/producer success out of these two extremes?

Now you may be saying that there’s no way you’d compromise just to get stuff finished. Sorry, you lose!

Here’s why: The truth is, you’re not actually learning very much when you’re making a track. You’re using what you know to do something.

No, the curious thing is that the learning happens in-between creative sessions (ie making tunes). It happens when you finish something, and release it into the world.

That’s when you see how your finished track works in your DJ sets.

That’s when you see what others make of it.

That’s when you see your views, likes, follows, downloads, hype.

And armed with all that feedback and the benefit of a bit of distance between you and your creative process, that’s when you start to formulate what you want to do differently next time. The improvement in your producing, the growth as an artist, the steady steps closer to perfection… they all happen when you’re NOT actually producing – in the gaps between making tracks.

So back to our theoretical producers above. Who has the most “gaps” between tracks? The guy or girl who made 50 tracks in three years, or the person still struggling with track number one?

Of course it’s the producer who finishes stuff! He or she will be a far superior producer after the same length of time than the perfectionist, hands down.

Still not convinced? Remember our discussion of “imposter syndrome” last time? Remember how we showed you that the issue with never feeling you’ve “made it” as a DJ/producer is a lot due to not marking your “wins” along the way?
There is no bigger win, no bigger flag you can put proudly into the sand, than declaring a production of your own to be “finished”.

So alongside rule #1 (you have to produce from the off as well as DJ from the off if you want to be a successful DJ/producer) and rule #2 (you have to be grown up about the fact that the journey will be uncomfortable at times), we can add rule #3: You have to finish your tracks.

If you can get yourself into the mindset I’ve described in this short series, you’re going to be unstoppable when it comes to the actual mechanics of making music.

Of course, you still need to know that stuff and in just a few days you can hit the ground running with our FREE week-long video training workshop, which guarantees to take you from a standing start to finishing a full track in just 7 days!

You don’t need any musical knowledge, production gear or software. This free course gives you everything you need to get started making music – fast. (The first video will go live on Wednesday 24 January – get ready!)

For now though, that’s all I’ve got for you. I sincerely hope you’ve found it enlightening and hopefully exciting!

However, before we finish, there is something I’m hoping you can do for me.

What I’d really love is for you to give me your thoughts in the comments whatever they may be: Ask questions, give feedback on this series, tell me how useful it’s been or what we did/didn’t cover that particularly resonated with you. My team and I will read and reply to each and every one of your comments, and we value your generosity in giving us that feedback.

So once again thanks for coming along, and I hope you’ll join me and Joey Santos for the free training workshop next week, so you can proudly put that flag into the sand and say – “I’ve FINISHED my own track!”


Here are the other parts in this series:

Do you have trouble finishing what you started? Any “unfinished production” stories you’d like to share? Do so below.

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