[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Award-Winning Producer Gary Gray.]
One year ago I came up with the idea to write this article. It was before the pandemic hit. It was before the lockdowns began. At that time I made a note to self.
“Self,” I said out loud as our three home studio dogs looked up in boredom, “You need to write an article titled How & Why I Never Gave Up With My Home Studio Despite Feeling Totally Overwhelmed.”
Jake, Emma & Kobe were not impressed.
But somehow deep down inside I knew that this article would probably become the most important article I would ever write.
And then the pandemic hit.
And then the lockdowns began.
And I was right.
Over the last year I have been sharing with my students (Indie Musicians from all over the world) what I am about to share with you in this article — and in return I have received life-changing testimonials. Testimonials from students regarding not only their music careers, but regarding their lives.
The Invisible Common Denominator
I’m known in the music industry for doing thorough research. Some of my research projects have spanned more than a thousand hours each.
A lot of my research began while I myself was being mentored and apprenticed by some of the most admired names in the music industry; Phil Collins, Quincy Jones, Phil Ramone, Steve Lillywhite and more.
There is a definite common denominator that has been practiced by all of my mentors. That common denominator when I tell you may sound too trite and simple at first glance to even mention.
So often it seems that the actual power of truth is made invisible by the effective mask called simplicity.
I’ve grown enough wisdom over the years to learn something fascinating. The more simple a truth, the harder it is to see. And yet when discovered and applied it becomes life changing.
The Simple Truth
The common denominator of all my mentors was not just that they NEVER GAVE UP, it was HOW THEY NEVER GAVE UP.
“Don’t give up.” I know, you’ve heard it a million times before. No need to write another article about it. Right?
Maybe. But maybe not. Maybe this article shines a new light on a trite subject that could help save your career.
I took that simple truth, “Don’t give up,” and researched the hell out of it until I could deliver to my students a WAY of never giving up that worked every single time it was applied.
Like most discoveries, I found it when I needed it most (necessity IS the mother of invention after all).
There was a time in my career (actually TIMES) I felt totally overwhelmed. I felt I could NOT keep going with my home studio, that I could not keep going with my music career. Too many challenges and problems all happening at one time. I call these times in my life my “Trial & Terror” days. (Months is more like it).
Challenges and Problems
See if you can relate to any of these challenges and problems which can, when added up, create the feeling of overwhelm. Especially when you sit down to work on that one thing that should be giving you complete joy in your home studio: music!
Lack of Exercise
Relationship Drama and Family Stress
Certain People in Your Life Pulling You Down
Contrary & Confusing Tutorials, Lessons and Courses on Music Production
Not Enough Time to Learn Enough About Your DAW
Not Enough Time to Make Your Recordings Sound Polished
Lack of Confidence In Your Ear
Lack of Confidence In Yourself as an Artist, Musician, Producer, Engineer
Lack of Confidence in Yourself as a Person
Stress from Your Day Job
Not Having Enough Good Contacts
Not Getting Any Breaks in Your Career
Too Much Time Needed for Social Media Promotion and Distribution
Too Many Distractions on the Internet and Social Media
Health Problems Arising from All of the Above
How & Why I Never Gave Up With My Home Studio
I’m going to save you time by getting straight to the bottom line. One thing I know for sure: If you are still reading this article you don’t have time to waste.
Over the years, I developed a way of mentoring and apprenticing as a Life Coach that always works for my students when followed.
From my direct observation, this approach parallels HOW my mentors kept going. HOW they never gave up.
It has to do with character and responsibility.
A Step-By-Step Approach to “Self-Serve” Life Coaching
You can do this on your own. If you have trouble mustering up enough discipline to maintain this approach — collaborate with someone and help each other through.
This approach to Life Coaching is called “Vice Watch,” so named by one of my students, Robin Kaye of Australia, after he found success by following it.
Make a list of all the conceivable vices in which humans could engage on this planet.
Definition of Vice:
A Vice is a practice, behaviour, or habit generally considered immoral, sinful, criminal, rude, taboo, depraved, or degrading in the associated society. In more minor usage, a vice can refer to a fault, a negative character trait, a defect, or a bad or unhealthy habit.
This is a very personal step. Everyone’s list will be different.
Divide the list into two categories: ACTION and INACTION.
Important Note: Pay close heed to the definition of Inaction: Lack of action where action is expected or appropriate.
Here are a few of many possible examples:
A List of All Possible Human ACTION VICES
Gambling in Life (Taking Stupid Risks and Knowing It)
Putting Oneself Down
Being Rude to Others
Eating Junk Foods
Eating Too Much
Releasing Music Knowing It’s Not Done Yet
Excessive Time On Social Media
Excessive Time Playing Video Games
Using Cracked Software and Plug-Ins
Etc., etc., etc.
All Possible Human INACTION VICES
Ignoring One’s Children, Spouse, Boyfriend, Girlfriend, Family, etc.
Neglecting Needed Paperwork (Taxes, Licensing Contracts, etc.)
Not Educating Oneself Daily Regarding One’s DAW
Not Educating Oneself Daily Regarding Music Theory
Not Educating Oneself Daily Regarding (Fill In The Blank)
Not Sleeping Enough
Procrastinating (List Specific Areas of Life)
Giving Up on One’s Dreams
Etc., etc., etc.
Look over your list of ACTION VICES and INACTION VICES in Step One above.
Place a checkmark next to the vices that you consider apply to you. Be as honest as possible.
Rate each vice that you have checked off using the following system:
The lowest Minus 10 up to the highest Plus 11.
Keep your list and your ratings written down and updated on a weekly basis.
How the Rating System Breaks Down
Minus 10 means the particular vice in question is literally ruining your life. Regardless of how things look on the outside to others, you know honestly that that Vice is literally ruining your life. Left unchecked, other areas of your life will get worse.
As you improve each vice that you checked off, the numbers will move closer towards zero. Minus 10, minus 9, minus 8, etc.
Zero = Vice conquered.
A Zero means the vice in question is no longer a problem in your life – at all. Period. Gone. Vanquished. This is a big deal and can take some time to accomplish. The point is to work at it daily, and to note down your ratings weekly. Some people go so far as to note down their ratings daily.
When collaborating (which is a great way to hold yourself and another accountable) there is no need or pressure to share what your vices are. Simply assign each vice a letter, such as A, B, C, D – and a number. All you have to do is let your collaborator know the letter of your vice and the number rating for the week. Some people are OK with sharing what their vices are, some are not. I found that even if one keeps their vices to themselves and shares only letters, this approach still works just as well.
What the Positive Numbers Mean
During my initial research, I set up this approach to life coaching where conquering one’s vice was the final goal and the end of the game.
And then I discovered something that changed my life.
Once you reach zero (vice conquered), it’s now time to help OTHERS conquer THEIR vices. Therefore, a Plus One means you have conquered your vice and are now actively helping one other person conquer that same vice.
Plus Two means you are actively helping two other people conquer that same vice, and so on (Plus Three, Plus Four, Plus Five, etc.) Once you get to Plus Ten (meaning you are actively helping ten other people conquer that same vice), there is one more level up you can achieve: Plus Eleven.
Plus Eleven means you are actively helping more than ten other people conquer that same vice.
What is the goal of this approach to Life Coaching?
The Goal is to improve your “numbers” until you achieve an eleven on each of your vices.
Why does this work so well?
I learned from my Mentors that life is a group activity. One cannot be an island and truly achieve one’s potential. You need a team.
Just improving yourself IS NOT ENOUGH.
However, you can’t just “build a team” either, you’ve got to work on yourself as well. You see the balance here?
In my online Masterclass The Lucrative Home Studio, I lay out exactly how to build your team by hiring interns, and how to help them achieve their goals and dreams – by being PART OF A TEAM.
Besides the legendary mentors I listed earlier, I was also very lucky to apprentice under the team that supports 25 Time Grammy Award Winning Legendary Musician Chick Corea (Nominated 51 Times!). For two years I learned an incredible amount of wisdom about how to run a business in the music industry and how to organize your personal life and professional life. One reference shared with me, which has helped me successfully apprentice many musicians around the world, is a common sense guide to morals called The Way To Happiness.
The results are nothing short of life changing and mind-blowing. What this does to someone’s music career can only be described as miraculous. That is all I can say. Here is one of many testimonials I recently received:
“Gary, as important as everything you have taught me about music and music production truly is, I NEVER thought this seemingly unrelated and counterintuitive approach to shattering the “glass ceiling” of my career would result in achieving not only my goals in the music industry (including making more money!), but going way above and beyond what even I believed my potential for success was! I was ready to GIVE UP FOR GOOD. In fact, I had already started packing up my studio. Thank you is not enough! I’m giving back by working hard on a daily basis to get my Vice Watch “numbers” up to eleven!”
I found that when people give up on their home studios and/or their music careers, it’s usually the result of not working hard enough at strengthening themselves, followed by not building up a team for real. The secret is to work on both at the same time.
When people work on both at the same time, their lives achieve a much better balance, and they become what I call “magnets for miracles.” And many of those miracles show up in the form of unexpected music career successes.
You can see the results of not addressing your vices show up in the following ways; distractions pulling your focus away from what you are doing, feeling exhausted, repeating the same mistakes over and over, not able to persist on an action until it’s truly done, allowing others to pull you down, and ultimately — giving up.
The “Vice Watch” approach to “Self-Serve” Life Coaching is an amazingly simple and effective insurance plan against giving up.
The bottom line is this — give it a try. Do it. And let me know how it goes. You might be pleasantly surprised. And don’t be afraid to reach out for help along the way.
I’m always here to listen and to help.
I do believe this article is the most important article I will probably ever write. I am, in essence, working right now on getting my Vice Watch “numbers” up to eleven by helping you!
My personal mission statement is simple. “To create a Renaissance in the entertainment industry which will then create a Renaissance in the world culture.”
Here’s to a balanced life which leads to a productive and successful music career for you!
For more information regarding revolutionary approaches to life and music production for the home studio developed by Gary, visit The Lucrative Home Studio.
Gary Gray is the author of The Home Studio Bible and creator of The Lucrative Home Studio Online Masterclass. Out of his (small one bedroom) home studio, he’s completed (including recording, mixing and mastering) 15 major projects for The Disney Music Group and 20th Century Fox (and continues to do so in 2021), as well as other clients, such as CBS Daytime Television, A&E, Megatrax, EMI Production Music London, etc. Gary works in all genres across various DAWS and operating systems. He has also become an industry leading go-to mentor for serious students of Music Production for Licensing and the Business of Music.