5 Tips for Ambitious Student Musicians

Announced on November 18, 2019: Soundtrap for Education and FutureDJs Inspire Kids to Take DJ-ing and Music Production Beyond the Classroom. Austen Smart, CEO of FutureDJs, has shared some personal thoughts and inspiration on creativity. Read on… 

When recently asked, “What is one bit of advice would you give to ambitious student musicians?” I decided to talk about persistence. Others call it grit or perseverance, but the premise is the same —keep showing up, keep practicing, always believe in yourself and don’t give up on your mission. I actually think there is more to it than that and would like to suggest 5 ways for ambitious student musicians in which they can accelerate their career.

To give some background; my brother and I have had two artist monikers: Brodanse, releasing music on Nic Fancuilli’s Saved Records and collaborating with Groove Armada, and Austen/Scott who is releasing on Len Faki’s Figure imprint and regularly playing at Fabric, in London. One of our career highlights, however, was signing music to one of house music’s most respected labels, Rejected Records. It had always been a dream. But prior to fulfilling that dream and signing Joris Voorn’s imprint we really had to hustle. We would hang out by the entrance to the back-stage at every gig we could make that he was playing. We eventually got became friends with the promoters which got us behind the scenes but even so, that still didn’t get to him!

After a bit of time, we managed to give him a USB of our latest music, confident that this would be the moment he would sign us. Did he? No, not that time…and not the next. But a few years later he eventually did and we ended up releasing multiple EPs with him — some of our favourite work. Why? Because the bar he set was so high.

Today’s music-making scene is more vibrant than ever before. We, at FutureDJs are remixing music education and changing the way music is taught in schools. Soundtrap for Education is democratising music-making by bringing the most cutting-edge tools right into the classroom (or home). Promoters and festivals are interested in those sounds that come from the individual — they are the new wave of artists. And this is how 13- year old Sandro Chalmers was able to open up the mainstage at Amsterdam Open Air Festival.

Because of the accessible tools now (Soundtrap and Landr to name a few), you too, can learn to produce music and DJ online or in school now. Labels and promoters want to hear you and those tools make it easy to do so.

So how do you take that to the next level, get out in front of everyone else and finally perform live?

Here are 5 tips for ambitious student musicians to become a successful DJ and music producer:

  1. Hang out with the right people. Ask yourself where do you want to be in the industry? Who do you want to collaborate with? In today’s market, you don’t need to be based in the same city as the people you want to collaborate with thanks to the online capabilities of  Soundtrap and the connectivity of social media. Get into the right circles and out of the wrong ones.
  2. Spend time listening to the labels you want to release on and then work out what the tracks have in common. Is the vibe always similar? Do the tracks follow the same patterns? Emulate them to practice your craft. Focus on the details — it is all in the details.
  3. Be yourself. In contrast to re-making tracks to practice your music-making skills, you must release
    music that is you. In many respects, the barriers are becoming less for an artist who releases music, but that does not necessarily mean that all music should be released. The best labels still have a very high bar, as do the best stage programmers. What the world wants, and needs is something and someone that has not been seen or heard before. Work out what you like and what you want to hear and not what you think everyone else wants to hear.
  4. Practice. Keep turning up and set a regular time to practice. It is with that regularity in which we are able to get into the right state of mind to have creative breakthroughs. Is your creative time in the morning or the evening? Understand your rhythm and then set practice times accordingly.
  5. Finally, you guessed it, persevere. Every successful artist we know who has stayed in the industry for a long time has spent many years getting to where they are. We/they have all played the gigs when people don’t turn up, released the music that suddenly got lost in the sea of new tracks and was constantly questioned if it was possible to achieve our goals. Remember to stay focused on where you are going and don’t quit. Setbacks don’t define you, but how you react to them will…

In 2020 we will launch another new label with a focus on emerging talent. If you would like our A+R team to listen to your original tracks or DJ mixes, give feedback and maybe even sign it, please send to demo@futuredjs.org. The industry is waiting for you.

Good luck.

Austen Smart is an entrepreneur, DJ and CEO of FutureDJs. Austen co-founded Danse Club Records with his brother and business partner, Scott Smart in 2012. In three years they had an essential new tune with Grammy-nominated artists Groove Armada, a worldwide label deal with Armada Music (co-owned by Armin Van Buuren) and licensed music to Sony UK. As producers (Austen/Scott & Brodanse) they have had music remixed by Len Faki – 14 years resident of Berghain – and released EPs on Joris Voorn Rejected label. In 2016 Austen and Scott co-founded FutureDJs exclusively partnering with Pioneer DJ, Faber Music and London College of Music.