There is no substitute in life for experience, and there is no better way to gain that experience than finding those that have come before you an sponging as much information from them as possible. It’s my favorite thing to do when attending smaller trade shows that provide the opportunity for more intimate conversation. The most recent of these events I attended was the Bay Area Producers Conference. This annual San Francisco Bay Area event brings together the local music community performers and producers to highlight what’s going on in the music industry and offer attendees coaching and training to improve their skills and guide their direction.
This year’s show was highlighted by a keynote interview with the producer Focus, a member of Aftermath records founded by Dr. Dre. Focus has been an extremely successful producer in his career, winning two Grammy awards. This ninety minute Q&A session covered a lot of ground about how he got his start, meeting Dr. Dre for the first time, and figuring out where he wanted to be in the music industry. But there were two specific topics covered that really resonated with me personally.
Focus repeatedly talked about overcoming obstacles in his career. Throughout every career there will be struggles and successes and it will be how we all deal with the struggles that truly define the career that we will have in the long run. Focus spoke openly and honestly to this crowd of young musicians and producers and told them that the only person that could stop them was themselves. “No one gets in your way. If they do, step around or step over them.” That’s a message that sometimes gets lost on those looking to take the next step in their lives, move to the next job, or just always feel as though it’s others that are keeping us from our dreams and aspirations.
In the modern age so many more opportunities are afforded us that we can often take for granted. There are certain things that we all want to do. Some wish to own companies, some want to attain massive amounts of wealth, and others want to have a home life with a family. If there are things out there that you are longing for then the only person stopping you from having them is yourself. Yes, it’s a bit of an oversimplification in regards to things that might be against the law or in conflict because of political issues, but the sentiment is the important part. If you want to do something, if you believe in something, and you wish to reach those goals, then you have to put in the work, time and energy to get there. No one is stopping you from doing that. It may not turn out to be the thing that you envisioned it to be if you do achieve it, but if it’s what you want then you’ll need to apply yourself and take the risk.
The second point that rang a gong in my head was when Focus told the story about officially joining the roster of producers at Aftermath in Los Angeles. At the time he had been in Atlanta, GA with his wife and kids with another one on the way. After one of his tracks had become a hit, Dr. Dre called him up and invited him to return to the coast to come work. Once back on the west coast and working, Dr. Dre convinced him to make the move to L.A. for good and bring the family with him. While Focus would state that he wasn’t telling people to move, he did emphasize that because the music industry is political and bureaucratic anyone looking to make it in the industry has to actually be a part of the industry, not just making beats and cutting tracks in their home studio.
Effectively, if you want to be a part of an industry, you have to go where the action is. If you want to be working for a manufacturer in the AV or audio world, you will likely have a better chance of working there if you are living somewhere nearby. If you want to be in movies or music, then L.A. is a pretty typical destination in order to be able to put yourself in front of others in the industry. If you want to be a part of the tech industry, the being around other tech industry folks in Silicon Valley might be a good move for you. If you want to get be a part of the government, at any level, then you need to be around those making legislation. It’s never easy to pick up and make that kind of change, but if there’s a particular type of industry you want to be a part of then you need to be around the movers, shakers, and decision makers of that industry.
Sometimes we get a little too caught up in the day to day business of things and lose sight of the longer term vision for our own plans. Being cognizant of where you want to end up, doing any particular work, and investing the time in yourself to realize what it is you want to achieve will certainly allow for you to know what you’re working towards and where you have to be to get it.