Here’s some simple (and often overlooked) advice that can help you make better music, and more music – without working 12 hours a day!


Hey guys welcome to session number 23 of the trailer music composers podcast.  Oh kaboom.

One man with one microphone, who is still incredibly proud of his daring feat of doing the ledge bungy is New Zealand, welcome to the trailer music composers podcast.

Hey guys, welcome to another episode of the trailer music composers podcast.  In today’s episode I want to deal with another energy related issue and energy is so closely intertwined with creativity and productivity which for any working composer out there is crucial.  And guys, just before you’re jumping in here I can tell you, you’re saying Rich, if this is going to be an episode about napping you’re going to have to get a massive high five.  As much as I would love to talk about napping, it’s not a napping podcast chaps, it’s about something slightly different. And as per usual this is kind of like a little gee up for me to remember this, it’s like Rich remembers how important this is and this is like a huge life thing too.  Now I think this is turning into a life coaching podcast.  This is all about making sure that you’re looking after yourself and specifically stop working all the time guys.

And I’m not saying that because you’re my competition and I want you to work less, so I can work more, that’s outrageous, how dare you suggest such a thing.  I am suggesting it because do you know what, if I worked a 12 hour day or a four hour day, the amount I would produce in comparison would not be the proportionate amount more.  So let’s say in four hours of work I produced four tracks, which would be huge and amazing if I did, compared to 12 hours would I produce 12 tracks, and I can guarantee you would not.  And if you did the latter sort of six tracks would be of questionable quality.

So this is about you guys and me maintaining a boundary of work and not work.  And I’m saying this to myself because I’m going to record this and I’m going to go home and I’m going to watch the Mandalorian. And it’s going to be epic.  So tomorrow I can get back into my three and a half hours of work and smash it.

So that’s what you’re going to take away from this week.  I feel like I’ve reached the conclusion already, have I done this wrong, have I done the conclusion first, then I’m going to give up, I have, never mind I’m just going to keep talking because it’s an important message that I need reaffirming to me all the time.  I’ve got this little voice in the head of me, in the back of my head that’s like Rich, you know, you’ve got to be working.  If you’re not working you’re missing out, you’re missing chances, you’re missing, I’m like ok ease off, if you return it back to like an energy thing and a happiness thing, I have been a million times happier working less.  I mean I think that’s probably a huge amount to do with the fact that I have children since I’ve been working less.  And they are obsolete legends and I love them, but it’s also about the fact I’ve been working less.  And taking time away.  

So any of you, I can guarantee all of you, if any of you are computer game players, or have been at one point you know, I would say my favourite computer game of all time would be Ocarina of Time Zelda.  Now if you imagine any of those computer games. First person shooters, whatever you’re doing, role plays, RPGs, there will be like an energy level.  And some of the cooler games will have a prana or a manager level, hello wizards, that gets depleted.  And you know especially with the later RPG games where you actually have to take your character home for a sleep.  Amazing.  I love that, I mean that’s teaching life lessons isn’t it.  You have to watch the energy levels, because actually you notice that your character, when they’re tired is more susceptible to, I was going to say illness, but that’s not right, more susceptible to attack, slower reactions, it’s the same for you.

So if you think right, you’ve got an energy bar of 100 on the top left of your visual screen, so imagine that, ping, there’s a little energy bar, Rich’s energy level today is 75%.  So my energy level drops down to 50% which it almost always does, after lunch, and that’s not always to do with the pasta coma, just in case you’re wondering.  If it drops by 50% I can guarantee that I am not like slower to react, like I’m doing some kind of karate move, that I’m less equipped to make accurate decisions and accurate critiques of my own music.  Put that into plain English, I’m a bit of a, what’s the forking ash hole to myself when I’m tired.  So putting it in plain English I’m not very nice to myself or my music when I’m tired.  If I  could do this track in the morning I would be like this is the best track I have ever written, I’m a legend I will go and have lunch. I will come back and I will be like I’m not even bothering, I’m just a fraud.  And that’s just tiredness, because I’ve pushed half my boundaries.

Now some of you might be lucky, some of you might be like hey Rich I can do 12 hours and still be a legend.  Which is great, perhaps a little modesty might help, but if your energy levels are not diminished throughout the day, brilliant get to know yourself, find that point when you cannot write positively, or openly, or without judgement, without judgement, that’s something, you should walk around every day without judgement.  Ok, I’m going to the shop without judgement,  just try and keep that with your track.  

And this is what I’m trying to preach all the time about writing, letting the music out without judgement, and the moment that judgement comes you either need to find ways to deal with it, link back to previous episodes of dealing with your inner critic, or just stop working and go and have some fun with your family.  Go and have some fun with your friends.  So something more useful with your time.  Because actually the improvements you would make on your track in that like two hours, where you’re basically just being completely negative about your work would be absolutely minimal compared to going off and taking a nap or going off and playing catch with your kids or going for a run, or cooking a noodle soup, and then coming back to it fresh either later in the evening or the day after.  The improvements would be huge, I mean just huge.

And I’m pretty aware that a lot of the stuff I talk about in this podcast is mindset and I guess mental health because I know how important it is.  And how actually what happens is, if you imagine, I’m going to keep talking about this, if you imagine that the mood you’re in when you write your music gets like infused into your track, you know kind of like you splash basil leaf into your Bolognese to infuse it with lovely flavours of basil, I tell you when you’re writing music the mood you are writing it in is infused in the track.  And the energy that you put into that track is infused in the track.  And if that energy is like oh I’m rubbish this is awful and you’re constantly deleting, rearranging, it’s just going to be stuck in that track.  And that’s why I put so much emphasis on this.

And again I do have to reaffirm it to myself, you know Rich it’s ok, I’m going off in the woods and talking into my phone, admittedly I’m working but I find this incredibly cathartic, and it’s ok that I’m going to watch the Mandalorian, I say again, its a way, its ok that I’m going to watch that, and it’s ok that I’m not going to be working because you know what my energy levels and my approach to my own work in the next day will be so much better.  And this is something you can take away.  I know plenty of composers who work themselves into the ground to the point where they are just in tears about their work and their abilities and they have to take like days off.

I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, I’m not saying that with judgment, I’m just thinking like at the end of the day I go back to why you’re doing this, you want to get that fun back into your work don’t you.  I listened to this podcast called entrepreneur on fire, E on Fire, I mean it’s amazing, really American, which I love, but he always talks about this thing called like if it’s not a hell yes, it’s a hell no.  which I think is a great thing.  And I’m not always that’s always the case, because there are plenty of things that are not hell yes, that I would still have to do, and want to do, but I think it’s a good thing to bear in mind when you’re dealing with your work.  Try to keep it fun, and if you’re sitting there beating yourself up about your mix or beating yourself up about all these other things then you’re not doing yourself any favours.  

The amount of time in my composition life I spent just basically laying into myself about my ability to mix, makes me a little bit sad because I’m like ok I was kind of missing the point because what I was doing was focusing on the wrong thing.  I wasn’t focusing on, actually, maybe mixing is not my bag, I mean I can do it, and I understand it, I can’t do it to the amazing abilities of someone like Cody Still for instance who is prenominal at it. And he’s, the fact that he can write like that, then mix and master to that level, I mean I doff my hat to you sir.  And obviously actual mix engineers like Toby Mason for instance who thankfully mixes and masters all of my tracks to sound as beautiful as they do, focus on what you’re good at. And if you’re good at something else other than mixing, you know you can learn the basics of mixing, and perhaps you will get in with, maybe you can team up with a producer who is really good at mixing and mastering.  

So I do a lot of work with Ciaran Birch me and him work on tracks together, and the way we work is like he does the bit he’s good at, I do the bits I’m good at and it just works and the tracks are immense.  Mostly because of Ciaran’s stuff but I love the stuff we do and it’s so much fun.  And that’s why I like doing it.  And that’s what you need to remember and that’s why I’m suggesting to you to stop working so much and do something else.  That sounds like I’m your father going into your room, stop this dream of being a trailer composer and go be an accountant, I’m not saying that although that’s quite funny, I’m saying how many of us have had that conversation, not necessarily accountants, just replace it with something else like a generic ‘good career’.  

Right anyway what I’m saying is this guys.  Do the stuff you enjoy.  And you will gear me say this on my YouTube channel, you will hear me say this on my courses, you will hear me say this when I meet you in the pub.  It’s almost like I’m a strange little record on repeat.  But it’s just doing the stuff you enjoy, because what happens is the energy, that good stuff, good energy will go into your track, people will notice it and pick up on it.

You know we’re all musicians, we all understand that what we do is vibrations, we all vibrate, our music is essentially vibrations in the air.  And we all understand, well hopefully we do, and if not look it up, you understand the sympathetic resonance that things of like material or like frequencies will vibrate and resonate together.  So you understand that it’s not too far a leap to think ok the good vibes, the good vibes man, that I’m putting into my tracks then going to resonate with somebody else.

I mean admittedly yes, the bad vibes you put into your track can resonate with somebody else, well I don’t know, and I think that’s what you pick up on.  You know sometimes you hear a track that’s really badly recorded and they haven’t even mixed it.  I mean it kind of sounds like junk, but the writing is so good you just don’t care.  And that’s what I’m always reminding myself of when I’m writing because my journey and my hearing thing is about polishing the product.  That’s where my inner critic takes over.  And that’s what I’m still working on, always working on that.  We’re all working on that.  It’s a daily thing, a daily practice, going to learn our lessons.

So the energy we’re putting in is then going to be received.  And if you put good energy in I think that will attract stuff to your music.  Yes you might be turning this off going oh yeah what a hippie, well in that case you’re probably not my type of listener, oh that was really aggressive, I didn’t mean it like that, well I suppose I did actually really, we’re not vibrating on the same frequency dude, I believe that the music you put out, the energy that’s in that music then brings that good energy back to you.

So do the stuff you enjoy and when you get tired and negative take a break.  Yeah that’s a really long winded way of saying the same thing I said at the start of the podcast isn’t it.  Either it’s such, this is the sign I love about all this, it’s the fact that you can have a single simple message that needs to be constantly reiterated, isn’t a bad thing.  And it’s often the simplest advice that we overlook and that’s why we can keep reiterating this because we all overlook the simple stuff.  We all go no it’s alright I’ll do another two hours of waking my knobs, oh, on my synthesiser knobs, filthy, tweaking my synthesisers, I’ll just do another two hours of it even though it just doesn’t produce anything.  Unless Of course you are actually learning the art of synthesis. In which case go for it man, go for it.  

But otherwise just know that time when you’re like oh gosh I’m basically just clicking endlessly listening to my track over and over again.  I don’t know if some of you do not suffer from this at all and great. I have a huge respect for you if you don’t, but I know I do and that’s how I’ve gotten over it by working less. And I’ve been more productive, I’ve had more energy, I’ve had more productivity, I’ve had more placements, I’ve had 12 trailer placements like a couple of months ago in a  single week.  12 trailer placements in a single week.  Had you told me when I started out that actually Rich if you only do a few hours a day you will get more than you think you could get in a heart in a single week.  I mean wow, isn’t that amazing and I’m not saying that to gloat, I’m saying that to be like an inspirational thing.  

I would never have thought that like when I first started i would have thought that if I can get two trailer placements a year that would be amazing, yes it would be amazing and it still is amazing getting two trailer placements a year, buyt getting 12 in a week, what the fork, that’s immense, loving it.  And it just piles on more good energy, more positivity into my work.  And that’s what it’s all about, the positivity and the good energy into your work.  And I’m not saying you’re always going to be doing upbeat stuff, most of my stuff if you know the stuff I produce is definitely not upbeat.  But I love doing it, it’s so much fun.  

So that’s the main thing I’m going to say to you guys, this week try working less on your music, give yourself the same goals, but just limit the time you have to do it.  So you’d be surprised about the effects it will have on your productivity and your energy levels and your mood.  So I would suggest going to do that.

Now I want to say thank you again for taking your time to listen to this because you know it’s very nice of you to do that.  I would also say thank you for all the good vibes you’re putting into comments and feedback about the podcast, any suggestions guys just look me up on Instagram and just say hey I’d love it if you did this on the podcast.  Thank you I will surely note it guys

And again thanks so much for slitting you are absolute legends. See you next week.