Are You Sure You Want To Quit?

We scour our mailbox for the most deserving recipient of the Attack readership’s collective advice in the first experiment in crowdsourced answers to all kinds of production and creative problems. No query is too small, no question too personal…

quit logic pro x

Ever thought of quitting music? This month’s question comes from a reader who’s had enough. Join the discussion in the comments below.

Dear Attack.

I’ve had it with making music and am one step away from selling up my gear and trading the lot in for other things.

So here’s the deal. 2 years ago I made a pact with myself that if I hadn’t made a fulltime music career for myself by my 30th birthday I’d jack the whole lot in and do something else. And here I am, 30 last week (yes, it was a good party!!), put out a few tracks, sold a few records but nowhere near giving up the day job. I’m honest enough to admit that I’ve not done what I hoped and dreamed I would.

I love music but if i’m honest I’ve probably not been quite good or committed enough and don’t get enough rewards from 10 hours in front of Ableton. I’m finding it hard to find the motivation to keep struggling away if it’s not going to get me anywhere.

I have other interests and I have to admit I kind of like the idea that all the money I’ve put into music could now be channelled into more normal things like a holiday.

So here’s my question to other Attack mag readers: am I doing the right thing? Anyone else done the same and ended up regretting it? Will I always feel bad about failing to ‘make it’? In a nutshell, can anyone tell me if I’m making a huge mistake?

Love the mag. Promise I’ll continue to visit even if I choose the dark side!

JP. Glasgow.

 

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  • Date: 27th June 2014
  • Andy Earle Wrote:

    JP – I have pretty much the same thoughts once a month – usually after spending three hours creating automation nodes – but so far, like beer, I keep coming back for more. So far the best reason for keeping going has been the perennial excuse I can give my wife to go and spend six hours in the spare bedroom!

  • Turnip Pete Wrote:

    Sold my studio when had kids about ten years ago now. Even beloved 808. Took a break from music. Came back at it when had a bit more time and – ironically – bought an 808 again last week. Pretty much rebuilt all I’d sold (albeit at a much higher cost). So I’ve come full circle. Can’t say it was the wrong decision at the time. For those of us who can’t make a paid career from music, it has to exist in the ebbs and flows of leisure / time. At least that’s how it s been for me.

  • The Motivator Wrote:

    “Not quite good enough”? Come on JP. Pull the freakin socks up. You’re more on the money (or off it) when you say “not committed enough”. As Gladwell said (http://www.wisdomgroup.com/blog/10000-hours-of-practice/) you need 10,000 hours of practise to be a pro. If you’ve not put in the hours then you’re not gonna be top dog. No reason to quit the dream tho.

  • Sally Anne X Wrote:

    Hard to know if OP actually *enjoys* making music any more. To me this is a simple enough choice. Do you like it? Does making tunes bring you pleasure? If yes, continue. If no, find something you love doing with your time!

  • The Motivator Wrote:

    PS. Why can’t you make music AND go on holiday? Or even, make music ON holiday? Life not black and white in the way you present.

  • Pedro Wrote:

    fuck man, its hard, but is the urge to create somenthing beautiful, to put it off the sound in your head…..if you stop making, you go crazy. Bukowski talk a lot about that, and he had a great quote:
    “If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery–isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.”

    all the best

  • Josh Wrote:

    I think if you’ve come this far, you’ll probably find yourself drawn back to it over time. There was a good article on Recording Revolution about when music stops being fun. I would love to make music a full-time career, but it’s really an entirely unlikely idea. I will still continue to make music and work to get better, and if, years from now, I can make it a paying gig, I will. What I do know is that even if I gave up and quit, eventually I’d be drawn back to it. I don’t think you really get to make a choice in some of these things.

  • Rob Ticho Wrote:

    I can understand the want to turn music into a money making career but if deep down inside you feel like the process of making the music is some sort of sacrificial investment for which you expect a reward (money), you may be setting yourself up for failure.

    I know many producers and DJs that are considered quite successful but still have not been able to quit their day jobs.

    The reality is that you must enjoy the process because in the end, that’s the job.

    Regardless of your situation it’s not like you need to make the strict decision to retire from music. Maybe spend less time in the studio and reevaluate your thoughts in a few months.

  • nme Wrote:

    You should only quit music if you were only ever in it for the money…

    Aside from that, music production is a pretty great hobby (albeit expensive). Making bags of cash shouldn’t be the only thing you like about music. Every track you put out will get you closer to that goal of “making it.”

  • Alger B Wrote:

    If you enjoy making music, make music. You can’t put a monetary value on the fulfillment of your creative needs.

    May be instead of trying to make the best tracks in the world, focus on the “fun” of making music and let your creativity lead the way. Music is love. Music is expression. So share that love and expression.

    If making music isn’t fun and you’re solely doing it in hopes of financial gain, may be try a different avenue or strategy for $$$.

  • Vincent Wrote:

    I think it’s simple really – regardless if you’ve hit your goal or not, if you still love it (which is why you started in the first place, like we all did…) then you should stick with it. If you do still love to make music, then throw your goals out the window and continue on making jams. All it takes is one good hook and the right ears to achieve your “dream”.

    I’m 25 and when I turn 30 I know I’ll be in a similar situation. My advice? Don’t give up.

  • Glenn Wrote:

    Are you getting out there and performing in front of people? And I don’t mean cueing up tracks and letting them play, I’m talking about live playing and improvisation. There’s nothing like a crowd of people in front of you letting you know, then and there, if what you are doing has value. Performance will also increase your commitment, you have to be there 100% to pull it off.

  • Naughty T Wrote:

    What @Glenn said: some times you need to rediscover why you fell in love in the first place. Getting out there and seeing people’s smiles / hands in the air / whatever it is that people do to your music can really revitalise your creative energy.

  • Steef Wrote:

    JP, can I just say that making a few tracks and selling a few records is actually pretty fking awesome and something you can be proud of!

    Steef

  • Eric Wrote:

    I’ve had that same thought. I was in a pretty big big band locally for a few years and accomplished a lot of rewarding things with the band. We split over a year ago and at first I wanted to quit music and now after a year I’m back in it. I think I just needed a long break but now I am getting into producing and possibly doing some DJ stuff. here soon.

  • Agent0047 Wrote:

    I think you absolutely shouldn’t quit completely, but perhaps you should scale back your studio to a hobby sized thing. The bug for making music will in all likelihood hit you again, and there is a lot of great music that can be made in the box with just a laptop and the DAW you have now (regardless of what it is). You are obviously good at this., or you never would’ve released any tracks, or sold a few. but…it’s not necessarily a lifestyle one wants to pursue forever. Definitely, take a break, and enjoy broadening your horizons. That said…I’m 43, and I have been going clubbing in one form or another for 25 years now….I still hear new things I love all the time. It’s a golden age for dance music, and tools for producers are more available than ever before, You know…it’s so easy, even I started making tracks for the first time about 3 years ago. But it sounds like you need a break, so take it, and take care of your whole self, not just the dj/producer persona. Your art will be better for it. …yes, I said the word art – you are an ARTIST, and that’s a lifetime condition…the bug for creating/making WILL return. You can count on that.

  • 30ohm Wrote:

    Agree in general that you might want to scale back a bit but dont give up wholly. Being able to make music is a gift, even if not enough people buy my records I’m going to keep putting shit on soundcloud because I find it really personally satisfying.

  • JLaD Wrote:

    I was pretty much in the same boat a few years back. There’s something about the age 30 threshold that makes you re-evaluate your life. It’s good to have dreams but if you expect to make a bunch of money from being an artist, you’re setting up yourself for disappointment. Being an artist doesn’t really work in the same way many other occupations do. There is a logical system of supply and demand and a career path in the business world for jobs like a computer programmer or a teacher for example. In artistic pursuits, you have to create the demand yourself. This takes A LOT of work. Not just in learning the skills for the creation of music but in all the skills you need to promote yourself and call attention to your music to create that sense of demand. A lot artists have the misguided notion that “If I build it, they will come”, meaning if they just create great music, bookings and fans will suddenly appear. The reality is, there is tons of music out there so to stand out, it takes a whole other set of skills to get noticed. It’s like a 2nd job. And it’s a job many artists don’t care to focus on because it’s very different than their passion for making music.

    It really comes down to enjoying the process and challenge of making music. That’s the question I asked myself. The answer was ‘yes’ for me. In fact, if I never sold another record ever again, I would still make music. I actually enjoy it more than ever because I have less expectations attached to it. Oddly enough, once I adopted that mindset, I started making more music than ever. And the more music you make, the better it tends to get.

  • DAV3 Wrote:

    I have 37 years and I do music because I love it.
    This week, I finally made my deepest dream come true: I release a music in a independent Label!
    Why did I never quit? Simple… I don’t do music thinking that I’ll gonna sell millions of records. I make music because it’s were I forget the “outside world”.
    For a guy that only have 30 years saying that gonna quit sounds more like he was expecting to be a “star”.

    Now that I released the first music, I got a contract for more 12 and also got mailed by other Labels that are not independent…. All we (Poor musicians) must never quit of our dreams. If you make music just to have the “fame &glory” then , you never like music at all…….

    Just my 2 cents.

  • Ben Wrote:

    I guess it depends on why you’re making music. Are you making music to “make it big” or so that you can make money from it? Well then, stopping might be a good idea. But if you’re making music because you love making music…well, then why stop?

  • Richie Wrote:

    I say a little break won’t do harm. A brief absence will make the heart grow fonder. A long absence will make you sad. I admire your headstrong ambition to stick with it, but don’t worry, focusing on ableton is just a minute aspect in relation to the grander, life-fulfilling nature of music. Pick up a guitar and rock without any worry about being the next ‘Big Name’ . Being able to make beats and to grow from it is a blessing. Don’t give up, just change your perception. Cheers.

  • Olly King Wrote:

    ” The Motivator Wrote:
    PS. Why can’t you make music AND go on holiday? Or even, make music ON holiday? Life not black and white in the way you present. ”

    YES – I went travelling to India. Up in the mountains, the foothills of the Himalayas, there’s a small village called Vashisht, near Manali. I found a hostel for £2.00 a night. Including food you could live there for £10 per day easily. I met a couple of people (travelling independently) that were writers, trying to write their first novel. They had laptops with them and could afford to have 3 months in India just working on their book. You could take a laptop and top of the range studio headphones and focus on your music for weeks. You could even bring a groove box like the Korg Volca if you wanted something out of the box. Just a thought

  • Danny Wrote:

    I gave myself the same pact… with the no time line though.

    I have been doing it for longer than you have (by only a few years) and have probably had the same results as you. Same numbers… more time on my behalf.

    I am also 5 years younger. I wonder all the time if I should just stop but heck man. I love it. I don’t even care if I am selling anything or making any money. Thats always the dream or the goal. But (I don’t know about you) I get so much freaking enjoyment from just sitting in front of my computer and behind my keyboard…
    Whether it’s trying to lay tracks out (which I suck at), playing the same melodies over and over (and over and over) again, tweaking synth patches, organizing sample banks etc etc. I love it. Every moment of it, love love love.

    That’s why you started no? Cause you loved it all, yea? Why quit?

    Some of the best producers I have met over the years still have days jobs to make ends meet and have been doing it even longer than me!

    Making music and making money from it is cool. I think the last thing you want though is for your music to become a ‘job’ rather than a profitable hobby :)

    Just a thought!

  • Jose Wrote:

    I would go back to the basics. Just enjoy the music, the process of making it and, of course, some of the results you get, but don’t get frustrated.

    I’m not talking about economic results but musical results, those moments when you spend the whole day/night mixing A with B (and C, D…etc), applying effects, then applying some”magic” and you’ll find yourself listening something you really like it.

    I think that way but, to be honest, music is no my profesion. I have bougth some instruments and stuff and I only have the hours I have spent in return to my investment. I’m not able to finish a real song yet, I’m just making some patterns, loops, effects, etc and spending my free time doing what I like. For me, Music is a hobby.

    What I want to say with this is that you should see music as a hobby, then you can compare with the rest of the hobbies and decide which one do you prefer. You can’t quit a day job to live on holidays, so think similar to music.

    I hope that helps you.

    P.S.: Sorry for my grammar, I’m not English speaker.

  • JP Wrote:

    Wow, thanks guys. Some great advice here.

    Just wanted to say that I don’t just make music to try and get rich. A few people have kind of suggested that. By “making it” i was talking more about being able to support myself from musci alone.

    I guess I needed a kick up the arse to change things more than anything. Either take things more seriously or maybe even less seriously. Still not 100% what i’m going to do but i’m already motivated to change things up a bit.

    Cheers everyone!

    JP

  • Wow Wrote:

    Any chance of hearing some of your music JP?

  • Bruh Wrote:

    There are months of struggle for me, but when it clicks NOTHING beats that moment. Don’t stop, and for inspiration, lookup “james murphy on failing” to keep you going.

  • Tim Wrote:

    Take money out of the equation.

    There’s millions of people making music. I did some research about 2-3 years ago. There was around 125,000 house tracks on Beatport and about 77,000 tracks on Beatport. Even if you’re tracks are really good you’re lucky if they get noticed.

    Seriously, get rid of the money reward buzz. Remind yourself of the buzz of the music. How does a child think when they start making music. They don’t think wow that could sell, they think that bass sounds great, that drum pattern is really cool. That’s the vibe. Get the buzz out of the vibe first.

    Get your reward from the music first. Every-time you think about it as potential revenue source you ruin it trust me. So from now on try thinking about the future as the fun of making music and don’t think of the future with wondering if you can make money. I bet its a whole lot more rosey and a whole lot more realistic.

    Oh and P.S.

    Like someone else said about moving away. I’m 35 a teach English in Taiwan. 25 hours a week – a tiny amount of overtime sometimes. £1k a money. I rent a huge modern studio flat for £240 and only need a another £250 a month for living on. . . so yeah. So yeah, the UK if f’ing ridiculous at the moment. Fuck having a full-time job to pay your rent, food and transport.

    TK

  • Jez J Wrote:

    Only throw things away if you are 100% sure you won’t need them ever again.
    Example: I would never throw away my records, only the ones I come across that I know I will never play again. I don’t even buy records anymore, but I still buy lots of music and use Serato to play my WAV files. I don’t buy MP3 either. Also, when it comes to equipment, after purchasing Ableton several years back, I knew for 100% that I would never use my AKAI S3200XL sampler ever again. Simple! Just discard things you know you definitely don’t need, so my answer to your question is this – throw away bits of the equipment that are unnecessary, but don’t throw away Ableton. If you don’t own Ableton, perhaps that’s why you are considering getting rid of your DAW and your music making equipment. LOL. Good Luck! keep the stuff mate!! make more music. not many better hobbies out there with such longevity.

  • Foldabledisco Wrote:

    Never sold a record or something in my whole life. I’m making music sins 1990 and I’m still lovin’ it! That’s because it gives me pleasure and fun, that is worth a lot more than money in my opinion…

  • Giuseppe Wrote:

    You are not playing soccer that you are too old…
    However if this was your job and you need money better you do something else as well… Look at me, when I was 18years old I was playing all around, I was quite known, now i am 27, At 19 I felt that the music world was going in a wrong direction and i need money to but external hardware…. Now I am working at sea from 8 years already, toff job but I bought a lot of machines, even if i can use it often but I still have a dream… Soon I am going to have a cool new studio…
    You don’t need to do 2000 tracks, just concentrate on 1 or 2… If they are cool you might well famous in non time ;)

  • Vitaly Wrote:

    If you are able to quit music, you have to quit, I suppose. There is excess of pretenders in profession and lack of innate musicians . Thumbs up for Foldabledisco’s comment.

  • anthony Wrote:

    The process of creating is an artist’s greatest reward. When you’re putting a song together, you FEEL something, and it all starts to fall in place — that’s what it’s all about. Your internal world being manifested into music should be what drives you, not this other bullshit you’re referring to.

    If record sales and a full dj schedule are your main reasons to make music, you’re missing the point.

  • Glenn Wrote:

    The music industry has changed that going full-time musician is quite rough. The digital age along with piracy has given sort of inflation of music, so even though you get a breakthrough, you might not be remembered the following day, in other words, in order to work as a musician you have to force yourself making music, which imo is the exact opposite of what music is all about. Since I believe we can all agree that music is an artform, art should come naturally, and not by force. If you’re not having fun making music, take a break.

  • Mads Wrote:

    I would focus more on the process of making music than the endgoal. Enjoy yourself while you are creating and it doesn’t really matter what goal you reach (even though most people that do enjoy the process go very far)

  • Aline Nunez Wrote:

    I been Producing Music for 7 years , it took me at least 5 years of constantly battling to create and have fun doing what i tought i love. i worked many hours trying to create music , but i never went no where . now that i have a full schedule , work and working out , it takes me only 3 hours to create ideas . then a week to finish a track . but what is the most important part is , that i started to ENJOY !! doing Music . if u are not enjoying right now . don’t give up if what ur goal is being good doing music . if u are on it for the fame money . u probably will put yourself more pressure and end up nowhere. do because u love to do , and not because an convenient situation i would say :D

  • Osau Wrote:

    I quit for a few years, didn’t think I’d come back but I did. Now I’m into it more than ever.

    So I say, don’t get rid of your gear, but do just leave it switched off for a week or two, or a month.

    When I realise I’m starting to get fed up with working on tunes, that’s what I do, and then I come back enthused and creative

    If it’s still not happening for you then maybe it is time to quit?

  • Osau Wrote:

    For me, it’s problematic to be goal centred all the time (I want x to happen, I want to make this sound, I want this quality of production, this many records sold etc.)

    I think you need to be like that sometimes to grow, but it starts to feel like work all the time.

    Sometimes I let myself just go nuts and have fun, without any preconceived notion of what I’m going to achieve.

  • Andrea Wrote:

    i passed 30s from a bit.
    I make music basically for myself. actually i have a fb’s thousand like shoegaze duo.
    in past i’ve quit and start again many times with many bands, styles etc.
    in my opinion make music is like alcoholism: hard to quit. try to drink responsibly.

  • UfO19 Wrote:

    You have to make music because you love it no matter what. Even without making this for a living… I don´t imagine my life without my studio. Cheers and good luck.

  • Morrissey Wrote:

    Music doesn’t always have to be pretentious. Keep practicing building tracks, learn from the articles, learn from others or nature and natural sounds (Paul Kalkbrenner ;), have fun, try different genres, different sounds. 30 is young compared to the timeless age of music. Good Luck.

    P.S. Listen to your first track and then listen to your latest track you’ll only get better, that self accomplishment should be fulfilling enough.

  • Kai W Wrote:

    You only gave yourself two years…Dude it can take WAY longer than that to even come close to ‘making it’. I made a similar pact to myself last year, however my timeline is more like 5-10 years. If I’m not where I want to be by around 35 years of age, I will pursue another career path (I’ll continue to make music but probably have to invest less time and money into it). I’m 27 now, so time isn’t on my side but passion and persistence is…

    I heard a well known producer say that he was sending demos to record labels for 7 years before he has his first track signed. I think we get disillusioned with all the younger people on the scene that seem to make it instantly at the age of like 19, but forget about guys who worked behind the scene for years before making it.

  • Chris Taylor Wrote:

    Hell. Too old? I am 60 and love sitting in front of my PC in the studio making music. I was formerly a visual artist and that is more problematic. Try making, storing and transporting large scale artwork. Pain in the arse. Now everything I need to have fun is in my Reason DAW. You either need to be creative or you don’t. Money and age are irrelevant.

  • johannes Wrote:

    I am in a similar situation. Actually thats how I got here. Google took me here.
    your comments are all right but what if I’m great at mixing and arranging but really bad at fonishing songs?? I have dozens of loops and verses and intros, all of them not bad. I just don’t get the puzzles done. It may be the chorus, the lyrics, the missing bridge, a lame main theme…there is always something that spoils the project. That really frustrates me that much that it makes me wanting to quit. So I really understand what the initial guy is talking about…

  • Mark Wrote:

    Cool that people are still posting here right up till now. I just stumbled on this and reading these has been very inspiring. I’m in the same boat constantly, and truly everyone and anyone who creates art of some type has these thoughts surprisingly often. I find reading Maria Popova’s ‘Brain Pickings’ site (Google it) inspiring as it has lots of well known artists (historical and current) pontificating on this very thing – writer’s block, frustration, inspiration, finding your path, work ethic, etcetera – they all get it at times.

    A couple of things that weren’t mentioned above is also that if you quit and then end up coming back – as is so often the case – you could face an even steeper learning curve which requires much more dedication to overcome. I quit ~10 years ago at least and getting back into it over the past couple years has been a struggle. Re-buying everything and more was just the start. Things I used to do with ease now have to be re-learned. There is all new software and styles to be learned… it’s not pure inspiration like it was when I was younger and really on top of things. So don’t get too far away from it if you feel like this *is* your creative outlet.

    Also, for getting you out of your shell/rut/comfort zone: besides performing live (many electronic producers would just not be capable or prepared to do that) the best thing to do is just find other people to work with. Electronic music isn’t a solo gig no matter how much it seems so. Every artist/musician has help and/or collaboration along the way in some form. No one is truly self made, so don’t let that image of the incredibly talented solo performer making it on his own get you down – it really doesn’t work like that. They all have a team. Start by just making a new like-minded friend. The poster above me – Johannes – that especially goes for you. If there’s parts of the process you’re not good at, find someone to collaborate with who is! Even over the net. Distance is not a limitation anymore.

    Just keep chipping away till the statue emerges.

  • Pete Wrote:

    Im 54 years old. I started when i was 19 when i bought my first Moog Prodigy & then started collecting Analogue Synths. I still feel like quitting. I used to DJ in top clubs in London, Chigago House, New York Garage etc. The problem is JP, that when you get older, you stop clubbing . I was clubbing 7 nights a week, no kidding. I even ran my own club on a Sunday because there was nowhere to go on that night.. I was burgled & lost all of my Analogue gear, I’m talking 12 classic synths including a Minimoog., 808, 909 & TB303 plus loads more gear. I rebuilt my studio, released quite a few tunes but now I’m older. I decided that i wasn’t a good enough musician, so i studied Jazz. Im now a competent musician & have decided to change direction & write songs, rather than Dance Music. As we all know, the music business is suffering because of file sharing. There is money to be made, particularly in Asia. Im talking Korea, Japan etc. Im assuming that you were writing Dance music. If so, why noir consider a change of direction.

  • Laina Wrote:

    One of the best ways to get through the actual decision of anything is to in your mind, really just let it go. Letting go of all the constraints can bring a drastic upheaval to all the blocks that were causing the negative emotions and lack of results. I did put down music in the early 90’s when i was with a ska/HC group playing bass, and I went off to New York from Boston to “do normal things like clubbing” I had spent my life in rehearsals, studios, and I could not stand doing shows every week anymore , or so i thought. In NYC I just wanted to dance, go out and party (or so i thought) and the very first place my new friends took me was to the limelight and other clubs. In one night my soul found heaven in house music, which had been there all along as disco and soul and funk for me as a bass player. Nothing has ever clouded me since, and they’ll get my akai samplers when they pry them from my cold dead hands.. lol so maybe a holiday IS a perfect idea to get back to the roots of who you really are, and what music really means to you. The decision to be undergound vs the money-market may yield more material in less time if your more “free” more inspired, and as a producer could in fact bring your stagnant creativity to light in that you are not feeling pressure to make people like what you are doing. WHen you branch off at first people shy away, but then something original is ALWAYS better.. and we all, know, the music scene can always use a burst of something from someone who doesnt give a crap about the money. It shows heart, and soul, and thats what you need to succeed in this today, because yeah, it CAN be a ruthless business that will suck the love and heart and soul out of you, but truly in life any job is capable of doing that, its whether or not your own true self is getting what IT needs out it, same as with good relationships, when you lose site of what and who you are when you get involved, it usually breaks down anyway..