Post EDC Wrap Up – Electronic Music Production Lead Instructor, Taylin Simmonds

Last weekend I had the pleasure of going to Las Vegas for Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC). To no surprise, this ended up being one of the most insightful experiences of my entire music career.

Check out of Facebook album of photos from Taylin’s trip!

Going to EDC, I had a couple of goals in mind. First, I wanted to gain insight into how large-scale performances are put together and executed; people often think that it’s all about the music, but very few understand that it’s so much more than that.  These artists focus on creating an experience, encompassing everything from music, to visuals, to excitement, to messaging. During my time at EDC, I had the honor of seeing over thirty amazing acts, and nearly all them were able to deliver an energetic performance that kept people dancing throughout the entire experience. While I had a lot of fun during these sets, very few stuck out as being memorable. Why is that? How can an act completely rock a dance floor and still be forgotten at the end of the weekend? The answer is simple: They didn’t create an experience!

The artists who created an emotional impact through their performance are the ones I remember; these artists had a message and a strong sense of brand. This sense of brand was conveyed through their music, accompanying visuals, their interactions with the crowd and some of the subtle things they did that other artists didn’t. One of the many stand out acts for me was Rezz. Rezz’s brand focuses on hypnosis and hypnotizing the audience throughout the performance. The music was dark and eerie throughout the entire performance which made the performance feel very cohesive. The visuals looked like they were designed by an actual hypnotist as they interacted with the music and entranced the audience. During the slower points of the performance, Rezz would play a vocal that conveyed what her brand was about. I remember a specific part of the performance where a vocal started explaining what a ‘Rezz’ is, while the visuals displayed her logo. This helped to connect elements of the performance and convey a sense of brand identity.

While attending EDC, I also attended three Studio DMI/ Alliance industry panels where artists, managers, A&R reps (artist and repertoire) and other team members provided industry insights. It quickly became apparent that every artist performing at EDC wouldn’t be there without an amazing team supporting and promoting them.

An artist’s team must be able to encompass all elements of the music process: an artist to create the music, a mixing and mastering engineer to perfect it, an A&R rep to find the right vocalist and record label, and a manager and PR rep (public relations) to figure out how to sell the music.  Clearly, there are many moving pieces to the music industry and a full team is needed to maximize an artist’s career. SAYMYNAME, Reid Stefan, and Karra had a quote that stuck with me: “Team work makes the dream work!”

The music process begins with creation. Reid Stefan (sample pack creator and co-writer for vocalist Karra) said it best:

“The first step in any artists career is creating amazing quality music that competes with the other artists in the industry. This can be difficult to do at first so use DJing as a platform to figure out what works and what doesn’t work on a dance floor. Once you know what works, do that when creating music.” 

This might be easier said than done, as every artist experiences struggles, frustrations and creative blocks when trying to create the music that they hear inside their head. As artists, we sometimes end up comparing ourselves to the acts that are already successful and wonder if we can ever reach that level of success.

The Pegboard Nerds (Dubstep producers signed to Monstercat) shared some insights on the topic:

“We’ve been producing music since the early 90’s and we had no idea if music would even become a viable career. It wasn’t easy to make the transition from day job to full time musician, but we managed to do it over the course of roughly twenty years. It will work out, you just need to be patient.”

Being patient and focusing on writing music every day is key to making your music dreams a reality. Luca Pretolesi (mixing and mastering engineer of Studio DMI) reinforced this by adding:

“Focus on writing music every single day, you never know which song is going to be a hit.” 

Once an artist writes the music it is sent to mixing and mastering engineers who either enhance or fix the song. If the song is composed and created properly, the mixing engineer will just need to enhance specific elements, making the song even better. Other times, the elements of the song aren’t working together, and a more in-depth process of adjustment is necessary. As artists, we get attached to our art and end up obsessing over minute details; to avoid this, follow the advice of Scott Banks (mixing and mastering engineer for Studio DMI):

“Train your brain and ears to focus on the parts of the song that actually matter. Otherwise, you will get lost in the little details that no one is even going to notice, which leads to artists never finishing any music.”

The artist has created an amazing song, mixing and mastering engineers have enhanced and perfected it. What’s next? The A&R rep is sent the song to find a record label for release. A&R reps are sent hundreds of demos every day, leading to submissions only getting a few seconds to draw their attention or not being listened too at all.

Carlos Alcala, who is an A&R rep at Thrive Records, shared some tips to help artists stand out from their competition:

“When submitting demos to labels and A&R’s try to get someone’s personal email and bypass the demo submission email all together. This is much more personal and allows an artist to stand out above the rest.”

A producer new to the industry might find it awkward to reach out to someone they don’t know, but in all honesty, this is common in the music industry and artists are doing it every day. Bright Lights (singer and songwriter) finds new emails and phone numbers every day and cold calls them to create opportunities. These cold calls have led to her co-writing songs for Beyonce and working with some of the biggest names in dance music, such as Zedd and Porter Robinson.

Every artist will need a manager to reach new heights in their careers. When is the right time to hire a manager? Mike Lisanti (manager for Dubstep artist Kompany and tour manager for Krewella) says it’s up to the manager and can happen as early as day one of your career. The important thing is to wait for them to reach out to you:

“Make noise, release great music and be patient. A manager will come to you.”

Before deciding to partner with a manager, you must know what a manager’s role is. Mike Lisanti had some insight into the process:

“An artist is a manufacturer. The artist must manufacturer the music and the brand. It is then a manager’s job to act as the retailer who figures out effective ways to sell that brand to consumers. The consumers in this example, are the fans.”

Without an amazing manager, it can be difficult for an artist to maximize their growth potential and reach new career milestones.

Mike had one last tip for us:

“Make sure your manager works purely off a commission basis. If your manager charges you a monthly fee (salary) they are a music consultant and are only partnering with you for short term gain. These deals never work out in the long term.” 

Every participant on the industry panel had amazing insights into the complex workings that happen behind the scene. One topic that everyone felt was important was maintaining your health in such a chaotic industry.  The music scene has artists performing late hours, catching red eye flights, and working in different time zones every day; it can be easy for an artist to feel overwhelmed and begin to struggle with maintaining creative output and a sense of self.  There may be times when an artist is burning out and their team doesn’t even know.

A quote from Jennifer Stein, a music manager for Rusko:

“Be self-aware and let your team know when you’re stressed or burning out. It is important to take care of yourself first.”

It’s easy to get caught up in the rat race and life and end up over working yourself. This can lead to us neglecting the other areas of our lives that are important for our overall health.

A quote from the members of Collective Zoo:

“All artists are humans and they need down time and family time. Always take time to do non-music related things.”

A final quote from Mike Lisanti on the topic of health:

“To stay motivated, win in every area of your life. Not just music, but also in business, relationships, health and fitness. The success you feel will spill over into other areas of your life and into your music career.” 

EDC has been an inspiring and life changing experience. I have gained new insights that will help me in my music career and my personal life. I hope these insights provide can provide value in your life.

Reid Stefan said it best:

“No matter how successful you become. Always find ways to give back to the people that made your dreams come true.”