I had the opportunity to ask Paolo questions about production and what is needed today to „make it“ in this industry.
Paolo Rocco is running his "vinyl-only" label „RawMoments.“ But yeah, I know you already know
that, so no bla bla & big introductions needed, let's go:
I'm actually not productive most of the time. I release maybe 15% of what I actually make. It's part of the process.
Is every track that you start, a club banger or, let’s say on a level that has potential to get released, or are there also other days where you aren’t productive in the studio?
I'm actually not productive most of the time. I release maybe 15% of what I actually make. It's part of the process. I make a bunch of music, shelf it for a bit, and when I get back to it if I'm still keen on it I'll start shopping it.
How would you describe a good producer?
Which qualities does a good producer to have in your own opinion?
Hmm. Every producer out there could probably write a whole book on this question. I guess to me a good producer is someone who's able to get moving parts together to reflect a specific vision / product.
In the last five years, how did you improve your productivity in the studio?
Do you have some pieces of advice for being faster in the studio (workflow etc.?)
I mean my advice would actually be not to worry about speed. Most of the time speed compromises quality. That's not to say you don't have to be disciplined. You can't just make loops every day without toughing through finishing up projects, but I don't think one should put pressure on how fast they finish those projects. Just try to make it the best product you can and eventually things click.
What advice would you give to a smart, driven aspiring producer to enter the “electronic scene”? What advice should they ignore?
The best advice I could give aspiring artists is: "Nobody gives a shit about you".
It sounds kind of harsh but it's what someone told me when I signed my first record.
I was excited about it and was expecting a congratulation versus that comment though haha.
Now I do think that person could have been jealous and told me that to take a jab at me; but it actually did help (which probably was not their intention). From that point on I realized it took a lot more than just signing one record. And realizing you haven't done enough is great motivation to do more.
The advice that an artist should ignore is advice coming from anyone who isn't in the position you want to be in. Think about it, why would you take serious advice from someone on how to accomplish something they haven't?
Advice is great, but be careful of where it comes from regardless of the person's intentions. If it comes from a source backed by experience then pay extra attention to it even if goes against what you think; if the advice comes without the experience it may still be useful but be conscious about the source.
If you could spend one day in the studio with a producer, who would it be and why?
Pharrell Williams. He's great at making both music and not music related products. I'd love to pick his brain.
Let’s talk about the “artist life”: Many people want to become a traveling DJ or make a living out of music. Do you think it’s easier nowadays than 10, 20 years ago with all the technologies and the internet?
No. I think every generation presents its own challenges. Although it might be easier / cheaper to produce or to learn how to DJ. It also makes for a saturated market where it's harder to be heard and found.
Do you have three crucial tips for young artists how to make it in the 21st century in our scene?
Don't worry about branding or marketing until you have a solid product.
Don't worry about getting management, agent, or team around you until you have a solid product.
Don't worry about anything until you have a solid product, and you'll know you have one when people start coming to you asking for it.
How important is Social media in this process?
It's very important, but it's also very easy. You can pay to have things like social media managed if need be. What you can't pay for (usually) is having a good consistent product. You can buy all the Facebook likes you want, or pay for your online content to be managed, but if you don't have good content in the first place people won't be interested. That being said when you have the goods, you have to have a proper strategy to make sure they get the exposure it needs.
What is exactly a brand for an artist? Is it just a name and maybe a logo?
I think a brand is an extension of your products vision.
So if someone makes ABC music, the branding has to be able to reflect that.
Whether it's imagery, colours, style, text...You have to be able to look / digest whatever it is and know what it sounds like.
Was there a pivotal point sometime in your career where you realized that social media is so important for artists?
I realized very early on actually.
I'm talking pre-Facebook during the MySpace age. But I also realized later on it's useless unless one has the music and product to back up the social media pumping. Platforms come and go, a person can't have total control or ownership of whatever they put on them. What they can own is their product, their music...
I remember when Facebook had no fan pages, just groups. Everyone I knew (including myself) started hustling to get people to join their public fan group. And we were posting to all our fans keeping them up to date. Then Facebook forced everyone to move to pages. Soon after Facebook made us slaves using these pages they started limiting the reach unless one paid for promoted adds.
Now we get to present day where on a 30 000 liked fan page you're lucky if 1000 people see what you post without having to dump money into it.
There's a lot of energy into building these pages, but what's the point in using all that energy if the rules of the game keep being changed.
I believe that energy is better spent on creating the actual product. Nothing brings better social media buzz like a hit record, or great video of you killing it, or other people sharing your content.
For sure a social media strategy is essential in getting your product out, but you need that kick-ass product first. I find a lot of people worry about selling their product before really refining what that product actually is.
May you have some useful book suggestions or other resources where you learned that branding stuff?
I don't. It's mostly just experience and a lot of trial and error. I also like watching interviews of people who have had success in their life. It can be anything from actors, inventors, experts, anybody who operates at the highest level. You end up picking up similarities in these people. And although it's not really an ideal source for information it helps inspire me to get thinking outside of the box. And that's what branding is all about. It's about finding out of the box ways to represent your uniqueness. I believe anyone can be good at branding when their inspiration meets their creativity.
This question is a little bit a provocative one for you as a label owner: I just chatted with a guy on Instagram a couple of weeks ago, and he told me about Bandcamp. Why is it still necessary to run a label, especially a "vinyl only" label, even if producers can just set up a Band Camp account and deliver their music straight to their fans within a few minutes and little costs?
This is a personal thing. In today's market, there's no right or wrong way to put out a product.
For me having a vinyl-only imprint keeps my music a little more exclusive and I find it helps make it less disposable. Sure it costs more but taking the human psyche into consideration people generally respect something that's harder to get, over something easy.
I also like the way the final product comes out. It's something I can touch, see, feel... It's something I personally enjoy. That's maybe the business side of me being biased by the kid in me. I still remember going to record stores, digging through vinyl, using coolers to bring them to shows because I couldn't afford record bags... Releasing records just takes me back and makes me feel good.
A lot of artists struggle with the mindset and also the people around them: For example, parents want that you get a “save” desk job or whatever, instead of being an artist. Do you struggle with the same issues or do you know some people around you that struggle with that too? Do you have any kind pieces of advice how to deal with that?
I struggle with that all the time. And everyone has different ways of coping with this. All I can tell artists who struggle with it is you're not alone. We all go through it. I don't know one artist who doesn't.
But at the end of the day, it's what we sign up for. High risk, high reward. You want to live a life where you do what you love and are able to make a living that way, work for yourself, travel the world playing your favourite music for crowds of people who love you... You're going to have to roll the dice on the security thing.
If you want to be part of the 1% who make it, you're going to need a spine 99% of people don't have. That applies to any entrepreneurial career, not just artists.
So, we’re already at the end of the interview. Thank you very much! Do you want to add something for aspiring producers out there?
Hope for the best, expect the worst, and appreciate everything that comes in between. Thanks!
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