Unpopular Opinion

A couple of years ago I met Daniel Lanois’s son (the both of us were guest speakers on an industry panel designed to teach Cdn indie artists about DIY in the new music biz). During the time we spent together, his father Daniel Lanois, came up in conversation more than once. I even got a tour of Daniels Toronto based recording studio (what a trip that was!!!).

Anyway, one of the father/son pieces of advice passed down from Daniel was simple, pragmatic and kind of profound. Daniel said to his son, “Work Weekends.”

What? Really? That’s it? One of the greatest living music producers, a man of exceptional genius, and all he had to say to his son was “If you want to be successful…work weekends.”

Next story. A few years before this I was doing jury duty for a Factor roundtable. Sitting in a room with other music industry types listening to artist demos, reading their business plans, etc, than ultimately deciding weather or not to award each artist a grant. After the roundtable finished I went for coffee with a lady who was running a record label that represented both Canadian and American artists. I had lots of questions for her.

During our conversation she went off on the difference in work ethic between the American and Canadian artists she represents. Her opinion was not very favourable toward the Canadian camp. In her view the Americans are hungrier….they just want it more. Hmmmmmm.

My personal experience (this year being the 10th year I have been collaborating on and producing music at Euphonic Sound). The two stories outlined above are always on my mind. Whenever I have a success at the studio and start feeling a little comfortable or even entitled, if I don’t immediately humble myself (think about Daniel’s words and the label ladies assessment of Cdn work ethic), than I find myself in a hole. Its the sentiment of the two stories above that serve as the reality check I need to dig out of the many little wholes I’ve found myself in over the years.

There is more to it than working weekends though. I find the work I do, and when I do it, is like an extension of living. I don’t work regular hours. Instead my work surrounds me and I have this elastic relationship with it. I get up in the morning and do some administrative stuff (like writing unpopular truths posts), then at some point I head to the studio where I will have one to three sessions and/or meetings. After a day of that I will head home, chill with the fam for a couple hours, eat and rest. At some point in the evening I either go back to the studio or back to my home office for more admin. The next day the configuration of events and sessions might be different, but basically the effort is the same. This goes on day after day after evening after evening, after week, after month, after year, after decade. On occasion I take a day off (once or twice a month if I’m lucky), but usually my day off means I actually did work for three or four hours.

I would really love to believe that I have sustained in the music biz for over ten years because of my talent. But that’s not true. The real reason is because I work relentlessly, consistently with focus every day and night (with very few exceptions). This is just my experience and I don’t know how to do it any other way. I’m not that unique though, the high achieving badasses on my team have similar schedules, as does every successful artists I’ve ever encountered.

I hope this helps some of you with perspective. Please keep in mind that there are many many artists who are willing and able to put in the time and energy required. The one who works the hardest usually wins. You need to match, or even exceed this! You have to out grind the competition. You have to almost be American about it.

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