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Career Building Tips for Aspiring Producers and Audio Engineers

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Career Building Tips for Aspiring Producers and Audio Engineers
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Matt: [laughs] Matthew Weiss — quack quack —,, and my good friend, amazing producer…

Samik: Symphony. Hey guys, what’s up?

Matt: Sup?

Samik: Pro Audio Files

Matt: Yeah. We’re going to talk about career development.

Samik: Yes.

Matt: Career development is, you know, people come to this channel, they come in for production tips, they come in for mixing tips, and some techniques and understanding, but I think career development is also a huge part of where we’re at with this. I want people to watch these videos, feel inspired, and succeed. Absolutely.

So picture this. You’re in a small town, you’ve got great music, but you’re having trouble getting your music heard, you’re having trouble getting paid for the music that you’re creating, what do you do?

Samik: Oh, okay, um… What do you do? First of all, I would look for — where I’m close to. If I’m geographically close to somewhere that something’s popping off or something’s happening, I’ll go there. I’m that type of person. I like to travel, and I just need to be where it’s at.

So I’ll get my stuff together, I’ll put my USB drives together, and then I’ll get some business cards printed up, and then I’ll go to an event and see if I can meet somebody. That’s what I did very early on in my career. I would take CDs. I don’t know if you know what CDs are, but…

Matt: I think we’re still in the era that people still at least know what they are. [laughs] But yeah, so you travel, you go to the place where it’s at, and you sort of, without being a jackass, you start being assertive about making people know who you are.

Samik: Pretty sure I was a jackass at certain points.

Matt: You? No. I’ve also never been a jackass, obviously. So I think that it’s a multi-pronged approach. Woo! My Caucasian is showing again!

So yeah, I think traveling is absolutely an integral part of — because you have to go, if you want to be a fisherman, and you live in the desert, you need to go where the fish are at.

On the other side of it, you know, I don’t think that being in a small town is necessarily a disadvantage.

Samik: No, it can actually be a great advantage, because there’s less people, you can meet people that are doing similar things that you’re doing.

Matt: Right, it’s like, if you’re in a small town, everybody knows everybody. You can very quickly become well known in that scene, and there’s going to be a few people who are doing something and have some connections, and if your music is good, if your attitude is good, if you’re out there and constantly running into people, then you become part of that circle, and that’s a great way to get into a bigger pond.

Samik: Yup.

Matt: So I think it’s that, and then there’s also the social media side of things, right?

Samik: Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, you can definitely, you know, follow these — like, everybody is on social media. You can follow these A&Rs, these artists themselves, you can reach out to, I think Drake, someone sold a beat to Drake on Instagram or something like that.

But like, you can definitely reach out to these people. That’s what social media is for. This is the best tool that you have, to be honest. This thing, right here, this is the best tool you have to be — this is your whole life as far as, you know, when it comes to being an entrepreneur, which is essentially what you are as a producer or engineer, freelance artist, I guess. So.

Matt: I mean, like, let’s say that you live in Chattanooga, Tennessee or something like that. I think it’s about three hours to Nashville, something like that? So you’ve got a three hour car ride, in which case, you know, not only can you be traveling to get to Nashville where a lot of the music scene is happening, but during that time, you can also be hitting people up on the social media stuff to be like, “Hey, I’m coming through town.”

Samik: Not while you’re driving.

Matt: Not while you’re driving, but maybe you’ve got some friends with you, and I always, you know, I always say like, whenever I’m working with an artist or a producer or anything like that, I say, you know, I want to have a team of close people around you, even if they’re just friends. You know, but just people that you know really support you and have your back.

You roll out with a couple of people, not like —

Samik: Oh yeah, that’s what we used to do all the time when we lived on the East Coast. We’d just run up to New York every couple of days.

Matt: Yeah, and you would be like, you know, it would be something I would have nothing to do with it. Nothing to do with it, and you’d just be like, “Yo, I’m rolling through to New York, do you want to roll?”

That’s how I met Ill Mind, that’s how I met Ryan over at — and Ariel over at Stadium Red. There’s a lot of people that I met that way, you know, or just simply now, it’s like, a lot of people in those circles, they might — we may have never even met, or maybe only met in passing, but they know who I am.

Samik: Right, exactly.

Matt: So it’s not like I’m cold introducing myself to somebody. Now, when I walk in the door, I’m like, “Oh, I’m Matt Weiss,” and people are like, “Oh yeah, yeah, you’re Samik’s homie. Yeah, gotcha.”

Samik: Yeah, he’s internet famous, this guy.

Matt: And I’m internet famous, obviously. Clearly. I actually have been recognized, which blows my mind.

Samik: I know, that’s — I’ve seen it. [laughs]

Matt: So, it’s those things, and it — and then there’s the other side of it too, which is like, you always want to be developing something. No matter where you’re at and what you’re doing, like, if you’re not putting work in, then you’re taking a day off.

Samik: Absolutely.

Matt: So you know, when Samik and I met, we met because we were both working for no pay for —

Samik: For free ninety-nine.

Matt: For free ninety-nine for an artist, but it was an artist that we both believed in.

Samik: Absolutely.

Matt: And because we worked with this artist, first of all, that artist is now successful.

Samik: Super successful. They got…

Matt: Big up, MegaRan, and we know each other now, so you know, through working with people who are really moving and hustling, and doing their side of it, you start to get introduced to a lot of people.

Samik: Like my people, they’ve got the same grind as you, they might have a better grind than you that you can learn from.

Matt: Absolutely.

Samik: No, I feel like you do a lot for the educational aspect, and it’s super dope, because as a producer, there are few producers out there who do the same type of thing, and I — that’s inspiring to me to be able to do that for other producers or engineers or whatever. So no, that’s cool.


Matt: Well, I appreciate that, thank you. So in my mind, when I’m working, when I was first starting, and I was in Philadelphia, which is not a small town, but it’s not a big town.

Samik: It’s small-ish.

Matt: In the music world, it’s a smaller town. When I started, I — you know, I tell people, “Don’t work for free,” and then in the same breath, tell people that you have to work for free, and it becomes counter-intuitive, but here’s what I mean when I say these two things.

You shouldn’t work for no reward, but that reward doesn’t necessarily have to be monetary compensation. Ultimately, we’re working for —

Samik: Yeah, lunch or dinner, or something. You know what I’m saying?

Matt: Well, not just the lunch or dinner stuff, but I mean, there needs to be something. So maybe it’s experience, maybe it’s for making connections.

Samik: Lunch and dinner too.

Matt: Lunch and dinner is good — well, the lunch and dinner thing, so when I was working with people for free, now I’m actually — there’s a serious point to this, when I was working with people for free just to get my name around time, I would still tell them they’d have to buy me lunch or they’d have to buy me dinner, and the reason I did that was because it needed to be a reminder that just because I’m not getting paid doesn’t mean I’m not providing value. You have to remember worth. They have to remember that I am worth something.

Samik: Yeah, absolutely.

Matt: At all times. Because people mistake — they interpret free as having a value of zero, and it’s — it could not — it’s really the exact opposite. If someone is willing to work with you for free, that’s an honor. That means they care.

But anyways, so when I was working for free, I sort of had this checklist, and it’s a checklist that I talk to with a lot of people, because we all end up working with people for free from time to time, and this is my checklist. Number one, if you’re going to work with somebody for free, you’re going to have to trust that person, because ideally, this is something where you’re forming a long term relationship.

You’re going to get back end, you’re going to get — you know, it’s going to — they’re going to tell all of the people that they meet along the road that they should work with you.

Samik: Leads to other opportunities.

Matt: Right. And you want to make sure that you’re working with somebody where when you do a great job for whatever it is, whether it’s you’re making their music, or you’re engineering their music, or whatever it might be, that when they’re out and they’re talking to the other artists that they’re working with, they’re going to remember to say, “Hey, you need to check out Samik, because he produced this record, and he is absolutely awesome to work with. You really need to be getting — you need to get them dollars together and hire this man for them hits and stacks.”

So trust is one thing. That’s — the people you’re working with for free have your best interest at heart, and we’ll even go so far as to say they’ll put your interests in front of theirs from time to time.

Samik: Oh yeah, absolutely. I mean, there’s, you know, there’s plenty of people that we both do that for.

Matt: Absolutely. And that’s important. That’s how working as a team really works. The second thing is that, when you work with somebody for free, even if this is somebody that’s like, a good friend, or whatever it may be, or family or something like that, you also have to assess their drive, because I know you have worked insane proportions to — like, there’s no describing it, and I think it goes fairly well without saying, I’ve dedicated my entire life to building this career, so it’s like, if I’m working with somebody, their drive better match mine.

Samik: Oh, absolutely, 100%.

Matt: Like, this record better go somewhere, you know what I mean?

Samik: Yeah, there’s got to be a point to it. We all want to win, but you’ve got to want to win bad. You know what I’m saying? You’ve got to want to put in the extra effort for it.

Matt: Right, I should never at any point think, “I’m putting more commitment into this person’s record than they are putting into this record.”

Samik: No, absolutely. Even with artists in sessions for example, my — one of my mentors was like, this was early in my career, but it was at six in the morning, we were going for eighteen hours on this record, and the artist kept going, and two of my producers I was with, one of them was passed out, and the other one was sitting there with my guitar, and he pulled me aside, and he was like, “You good?” and I was like, “Yeah.”

He goes, “You never tire out before the artist. You always work harder. Just to make sure that the job gets done.”

I think that’s an important kind of work ethic. Don’t make yourself sick, but really keep that in mind that this is what’s required to operate at this level.

Matt: It’s true. It is true. Usually, when you’re starting out, the fact is you’re going to be the guy who does the seventeen hour days or whatever it is. My first paid session was three back-to-back sessions, each one was seventeen hours each day. I was in before the producer, I was — I was breaking down after the session, and yeah. So.

Samik: But that stuff goes noticed. You know what I’m saying? You get the phone call first next time.

Matt: Yeah. For real. And then the very last thing on that list is I have to believe in the music in a way where I don’t just like the music, I really love the music, and it’s like, I work with a lot of clients where I like their music. Like, I think that their music is great. It’s not necessarily the music that speaks to me on a more profound level, and it’s like, well you know, at the risk of alienating my clients, I feel like I do a very good job of still respecting and bringing their intentions to life, and getting personally involved with music, that I’m just simply only doing for the up front fee.

Samik: You do a good job on that stuff too.

Matt: I believe I do. You know, I don’t expect back end, it’s not the music that I necessarily put my own heart into, but I still invest into it, and I make it great, but this is a level that’s above that, where it’s like, this is music where I truly — like, I’m going to play it, you know, I worked on one song that I did on spec for a group where I was actually considering taking the song that I was working with them on and doing that song, playing that song as the first dance. I was going to have it at my wedding.

Samik: Wow. That’s crazy.

Matt: You know?

Samik: Shout out to my boy Juan who used Sexy Man God for his wedding song.

Matt: [laughs] Yeah, so — but that’s the point I’m talking about, is it has to be a level where you have to love the music, so like, with Ran, everything he does, the worst thing I’ve ever heard from him, in my mind, was good.

Samik: He’s dope.

Matt: The best things that he’s done, I’ve been like, “You might actually be the best rapper of all time.”

Samik: It makes a difference. All that stuff makes a difference. As hard as they’re willing to work with you, and you guys are working together towards something, it’s super, super dope to have that kind of a relationship. That’s what you want to do, you want to build these relationships with people. Not with everybody, you’re going to find not everybody works this way, but it’s important that you find maybe one or two that you can do this with.

Matt: Yeah, you can’t spread yourself thin over these kind of things, but if you can find these people to form these connections with and move forward as a team, that becomes so valuable at the end, because you know, I’ve been working with Samik for 13 years, I’ve been working with Ran for even further. I think Ran and I met in 2002, and we started working together before that first project, so that’s like 15 years. Both of them are coming to my wedding, these are not things that should be taken lightly, so to reiterate the list, it’s you trust the person, you respect and can see their drive, and you love their music.

If you’re checking off those three boxes, that’s somebody that you’re going to want in your life.

Samik: Yup. Absolutely.

Matt: I know I talked probably the majority of this one, but…

Samik: No, I agree with you, it makes sense. I mean, we’ve kind of had the same experience with our respective careers, so yeah.

Matt: On that note, let’s sign on off here.

Samik: Cool.

Matt: Alright, Matthew Weiss,, hope you learned something, until next time. [laughs] Our sign offs suck.


Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss is the recordist and mixer for multi-platinum artist Akon, and boasts a Grammy nomination for Jazz & Spellemann Award for Best Rock album. Matthew has mixed for a host of star musicians including Akon, SisQo, Ozuna, Sonny Digital, Uri Caine, Dizzee Rascal, Arrested Development and 9th Wonder. Get in touch:

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