5 Mindset Shifts that Separate Professional Producers from Struggling Amateurs

Why is it that professional music producers seem to finish songs with ease? How come they don’t struggle with promoting their music?

And what do they do differently to overcome perfectionism, fear of failure, and other mental roadblocks?

In this article, I will share five important mindset shifts that can make you a better electronic music producer and set you up for success. I’ve used these exact mental models to build a full-time career in the music industry, and I’ve seen these patterns repeated in all of the artists I’ve worked with.

So if your goal is to build a meaningful music career, be sure to read this deep dive and start implementing what you have learned right away.

Here we go! 👇

The mental playbook for success in the music industry

Hi, my name is Philip. Besides running a professional mixing and mastering studio in Berlin, I coach and mentor electronic music producers like you.

After hundreds of one-on-one sessions with upcoming artists, I’ve started to see patterns of why certain music producers find success while others still struggle.

These unique insights are the reason why Aden and the team at EDMProd have invited me to share my top five mental models with you.

By taking these mindset shifts seriously and adopting them, you can significantly increase your chances of success in the music industry.

So, let’s jump right in 🙏

1. Focus on the process, not the outcome

Obsessing over seemingly important metrics like the “number of streams” or “amount of social followers” is a surefire way to misery.

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Focus on the process

If you struggle to consistently finish music or feel that your music isn’t receiving the attention it deserves, it’s possible that you’re focusing too much on the outcome and not enough on the input.

Here’s what that means.

As a music producer, you may have vague goals and dreams of what you’d like to achieve:

This pressure seeps into every session.

When you sit down to make music, you hope for inspiration and one of those “good days”.

Your focus is on the result, not the process. However, all of this is beyond your control. Who knows what will come out of this session? Who knows if anyone will care about your release?

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Take a chill pill when producing 😊

What’s even worse is the immense subconscious pressure you’re putting on yourself.

Mental obstacles, such as fear of failure, perfectionism, and impostor syndrome (to name a few), start creeping in at this point.

The professional mindset switch that needs to happen here

Adopt a process-driven mindset.

This means focusing on the one thing that is within your control: the input.

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Focus on the input: making music

Instead of waiting for inspiration and motivation, simply show up and do the work.

Give yourself the chance to succeed as often as possible, even if you don’t feel like it. Consistently working on your craft is what will ultimately lead to inspiration and reward. I will come back to this in my last point so make sure to read this article till the end 😉

In addition to that, a process-driven mindset is crucial to growing a fan base.

Rather than simply counting every single follower, you should focus your time and energy on interacting with the small audience you already have. By doing so, you can turn them from followers into superfans.

2. Stop “networking” and start building genuine relationships instead

Many upcoming artists I talk to share a skewed mindset when it comes to networking. They assume that “more is better”:

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Don’t network like this on Instagram…

They look up to that other producer who seems to be buddies with every DJ in the local scene.

But here’s the problem.

Your superficial party friends won’t make a difference. Even worse, they might leave you hanging when you actually need serious help.

In a worst-case scenario, they might even sabotage your success as soon as you try to push out of your comfort zone.

The other major issue with traditional networking is that it’s often done for the wrong reasons. Most upcoming artists view it as a transactional process where “one hand washes the other”. However, that’s not how it works in the music industry.

The professional mindset switch that needs to happen here

Adopt a “go-giver” mentality, which means focusing on helping others succeed without expecting anything in return:

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Give without expecting something in return

This requires a mindset of abundance, where you’re not competing with other producers. The most successful music producers I know believe that “a rising tide lifts all boats.”

Soon, you will realize that the depth of your relationships in the music industry is more important than the number of people who superficially know you.

Reflecting on my own experience, I can identify three to five key relationships that have had a significant impact on my career trajectory.

3. It’s either “HELL YEAH! or no”

This quote comes from Derek Sivers, the founder of CD Baby and one of the most forward-thinking creators I’ve ever come across.

I cannot express how many times this mental model has saved me from making half-hearted decisions that would have done more harm than good.

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Steve Jobs was also pretty forward-thinking

Here’s the problem.

New opportunities, side projects, and gigs come our way all the time.

When you’re starting out, you may default to saying “yes” simply because you don’t know any better. But at a certain point in your career as an artist, you must start to value your time and energy and keep the opportunity cost in mind.

Opportunity cost is the value of the next best alternative that must be given up in order to pursue a certain action or decision.

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Choosing one option means you need to refuse another

It is the cost of the missed opportunity. For example, if you choose to spend your time and energy on a half-hearted side project with your less ambitious buddy. The opportunity cost is the time and energy you could have spent on producing your own music or promoting your existing work.

The professional mindset switch that needs to happen here

Start evaluating every opportunity with Derek Siver’s “HELL YEAH! or no” filter.

It may be difficult at first, but I promise that saying no will become easier with each instance. You’ll notice how much more progress you make as a result.

Saying “no” to an opportunity means saying “HELL YEAH!” to your bigger vision. Doesn’t that sound like a great deal?

Note: this is also true when sketching ideas! Don’t waste time on a sketch that doesn’t excite. Instead, focus your energy on tracks that truly ignite your “HELL YEAH!”

4. Focus on gaining 1.000 true fans rather than 1.000.000 followers

Playing the social media game on Instagram, TikTok, or any other network is a natural aspect of promoting your music these days.

However, there is one big issue: we start obsessing over a vanity metric – followers.

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Vanity metrics vs Actionable metrics

A vanity metric is a metric that looks impressive on the surface but doesn’t provide meaningful insights or contribute to the success of a project or business.

In the context of the article, an example of a vanity metric is the number of social media followers a music producer has. This may not necessarily translate to actual success in the music industry.

Although having a high follower count may increase your perceived authority within the music industry, it does not necessarily reflect actual success.

You can accumulate millions of followers by sharing music producer memes and performing silly dances. But this will not help you build meaningful relationships with your audience.

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Don’t chase the Instagram clout

Furthermore, the more you focus on “growth-hacking” in your social media strategy, the more it will detract from the true essence of your music. It is important to prioritize the quality of your music and build genuine connections with your audience above simply accumulating followers.

The professional mindset switch that needs to happen here

Kevin Kelly is an influential author and speaker in the creative industry. He is best known for his essay “1,000 True Fans,” originally published in 2008. His main thesis remains relevant to this day:

To be a successful creator you don’t need millions. You don’t need millions of dollars or millions of customers, millions of clients or millions of fans. To make a living as a craftsperson, photographer, musician, designer, author, animator, app maker, entrepreneur, or inventor you need only thousands of true fans. – Kevin Kelly, in an updated version of 1.000 true fans.

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Kevin Kelly

Instead of investing time, energy, and money into building a large following, I encourage you to focus on going deep.

Strive to become the kind of artist people want to hear from.

My favorite way of achieving this is by being a source of daily inspiration. Just like the artists you intentionally follow on social media, you want to be the kind of influence that people don’t want to miss.

Your music but also your content must be “so good they can’t ignore you” (I stole that phrase from Cal Newport who stole it from Steve Martin).

5. Rely on your habits, not on your motivation

Professional music producers understand one thing very well: it’s dangerous to rely on motivation and inspiration. But why is that?

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How hard it is to stay motivated to run every time?

If you’re waiting to be inspired or motivated, you’ve already lost. You’re depending on something that is not under your control.

The muse might kiss you one day of the month and then leave you hanging for the rest of it. And there’s nothing you can do about it.

Let’s take Picasso as an example. He is known as one of the most prolific artists of all time, having created over 13,500 paintings during his career. This number does not even include all the sketches, drafts, and other works he produced.

It’s obvious that Picasso didn’t achieve this level of productivity by waiting for inspiration to strike. He relied on his habits and discipline to keep him creating day after day, even when he wasn’t feeling particularly inspired.

This is a crucial mindset shift that also applies to music production and it’s the best way to combat writer’s block (by the way, here are 7 tricks to get unstuck).

On a related topic, check out this video from Luca on how he made 68 tracks in a year:

The professional mindset switch that needs to happen here

If your goal is to make an impact with your music, you need to show up and do the work, even when you don’t feel like it. Treat each session as an opportunity to improve your skills and move closer to your goals.

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Practice makes perfect

My recommendation is to make music production a daily habit, if possible. Spending at least 30-40 minutes every day making music, regardless of how inspired you feel, will lead to massive results. The key is to stick to it consistently.

The great thing about habits is that once they’re “installed” on your mental operating system, they run on autopilot. You don’t have to make a conscious effort anymore.

This becomes even more easy once you start creating habit chains like, for example, starting with a ritual before going into your session.

Feeling writer’s block? Check out our 7 tips to overcome them here 🔥

Conclusion: By adopting these mental models, you can set yourself up for success in the music industry.

The mindset of professional music producers differs greatly from that of amateurs. There is a reason why they have “made it”.

Of course, there are exceptions, where some artists simply had a lucky break.

However, I encourage you not to take this as an excuse for not implementing these mental models.

If you take these five mindset shifts seriously, you will set yourself up for success in the music industry. More importantly, you will be prepared to overcome any obstacle that comes your way.

After all that high-level mindset talk, you may want to dig into some more tactical advice, and that’s exactly what our Producer’s Guide to Workflow & Creativity is all about. We’ve designed this in-depth resource to help you overcome creative problems, optimize your production processes, and write better music.

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