Do this before you learn how to produce your own music

May 15, 2024

Today we’re going to talk about what you need to know before you start producing your own music as an independent artist.

We’ll cover…

  • Why every songwriter should learn how to how to produce
  • What it means to be a producer, and what you DO need to start
  • What you DON’T need in order to start producing
  • Some of the common problems artists face when it comes to producing
  • And how to start producing TODAY

So let’s jump in! 

Starting with, why every songwriter should learn how to produce.  First up…

You Can Save Money

When I first decided I wanted to learn how to produce, I was living in Nashville where I was pursuing a career as a professional songwriter, and we sometimes wrote 2-3 songs a day! 

I know, it sounds a little crazy, but that’s how Nashville rolls.  

We were all writing to pitch to other artists and the thing is, you NEED to have professional demos of your songs in order to pitch them, (or no publisher will take you seriously) and after doing the math I realized that each demo was costing me at least $500 a pop, and I realized my bank account couldn’t keep up with my songwriting! That’s when Idecided to learn how to produce myself.

Once I took the reins and began producing my own music, I was able to save money on studio costs, and invest back into my career!  And here’s the best part:

Once I got pretty good at making my own demos, other songwriters started asking me if I would produce their demos and if they could pay me, which leads to the next reason that every songwriter should learn how to produce which is that you can…



You Can Make Money

That's right you can actually make money once you learn how to produce from home.  

And the best part is you don’t have to be a “pro” before you can start making money.  This is because producing is what I like to call a "spectrum skill ". 

This means that you don't need to be a master sound designer and producer to start monetizing. You can actually monetize a different stages in the game according to your level of experience

So for example, when I first learned how to work a DAW (digital audio workstation) the first thing that I did was I learned how to record my vocals and my acoustic guitars because I had already achieved a level of mastery in those areas. Once I was able to simply capture the audio of my vocals and guitars, I was able to start collaborating and charging for my services as a session musician.

Then as my skills grew and I became more proficient in my DAW I was able to take on more complex jobs that paid even better!

This is why I always tell my students, start with what you’re already good at, because it’s the lowest hanging fruit. If you’re already a great singer, and you can learn how to engineer your own vocals, you open up a whole world of opportunities that weren’t available to you before!

I gotta tell ya, learning how to produce really changed the game for me and I didn't even start producing until I was 30 years old! Not only did I start saving money as an artist, but I was also able to make money by licensing my tracks, offering production and vocal services to others, and releasing music directly to my fans without a middleman. 

πŸ’‘Pro Tip: Your fans don’t care if you’re a “professional producer”, and you can totally make an EP full of demos or unplugged versions of your songs for them and include that in your Patreon if you want, letting your fans get the “early recordings” of your songs. Or you can do what I did and do donation-based CDs or digital downloads at your shows. 

Oftentimes I would just tell people I made the album myself and that I accepted donations. More often than not people dropped a 20 in my tip bucket, which is substantially more than if I would have charged five dollars for my EP’s! 

Pretty cool right?

Another reason every songwriter should learn how to produce is that you get to….




Retain creative control of your music

Now this was a big one for me. There were so many times when I hired another producer where I didn't get the result I wanted because the producer just wasn't hearing the song the same way that I was. 

Has that ever happened to you? Where you write a song, and you're super excited about it, and then you hire a producer and you get it back and it's nothing like what you heard in your head? By producing your own music, you hold the creative reins. You decide the final sound, which means no more compromises on your artistic vision.

Another reason I think every songwriter should learn how to produce is…


It's truly the maximum expression of your creativity. 

Think about it, how many times have you got a song idea that came to you
beyond lyric and melody, but you weren’t able to articulate what the sounds were, or find a way to play or program them?

I see that with artists in the studio all the time.  They hear something in their head, and they try to tell the producer what they want, but they can’t articulate it.

Reminds me of the quote
by philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein "The limits of my language mean the limits of my world." 


Ludwig believed a lot of unhappiness in the world comes from not being able to let people know what we mean clearly enough.

That’s why you should learn how to produce. It’s like having language to communicate your creativity.

SO even if you don’t want to be the only producer of your own music, it makes you a better collaborator in the studio.

Another thing that’s fun to think about -  my manifestors and woo adjacent friends out there wil love this one - 

I want you to think of producing as the musical version of manifestation.  



Think about it. To manifest means to take something intangible and make it tangible. 

To take something imagined, and bring it into form.

When you produce that's exactly what you're doing. You’re taking an idea that was happening in the ether or in your imagination and you're bringing it into form through the sonic pallet that you used to build your song.

Each element you choose - from the drums to piano to synths - tells a part of your story… 

And can I tell ya…. there's
nothing more satisfying than hearing your inner musical vision playing through the speakers exactly as you imagined.

That's why one of my favorite things to do at Produce Like a Boss is to help artists get their ideas out of their heads and into the world! 

And of course one of the most obvious reasons that every songwriter should learn how to produce is…


Now you can finally release the music you want when you want. 

So similar to my previous point, when we rely on others to help us execute on our creative visions, we inevitably run into bottlenecks because we're now relying on an external source outside of ourselves. 

Producing your own music means you release it on
your timeline. Your music goes out into the world when you’re ready, not when someone else gets around to it.

And the last reason I think every songwriter should learn how to produce is because

It's more affordable and more accessible than it's ever been

We no longer need to spend thousands of dollars on hardware, or fancy expensive gear and equipment.

Yes you do need some basics to get started, but most of the things that you need can be done "Inside the box “- which just means on your computer. You don’t need a big studio anymore. With a decent computer and some software, you can produce radio-ready tracks from your bedroom.

There are plenty of reasons to start producing as a songwriter, but those are a few of my favorites.

Alright, so now let’s talk about



What it means to be a producer, and what you DO need to start.

The way I like to define a producer is that they are the visionary of the song. 

They have a vision for where the song is going, and can construct a plan for how to get there.

Notice how I didn't say they know how to play every single instrument or design their own sounds. They simply need to be the visionary. Think of how an architect designs a blueprint for the house. The architect is still credited as the artist of that building even without having built it.

Now that's not to say that you won't play some or all of the parts, or that you can't also be a great engineer or sound designer, it's just to say that you don't HAVE to be able to do all of those things in order to produce. And one of the reasons I’m making this video, is because I think a lot of artists stop themselves from even starting because they think they have to be a multi-instrumentalist or a virtuoso to produce which isn’t true!  

Like, I get it, my jaw drops, and my mouth drools too when I see prodigies like Prince, Charlie Puth, and Jacob Collier, who seem to ooze musical genius on every instrument, but not every producer is a one man band like that. Heck, Rick Ruben doesn’t play an instrument and doesn’t even touch a sound board, and he’s one of the most legendary producers of our time.

At the end of the day
if you can imagine it and direct it, and get the results of a finished product through your delegation and your vision - you are a producer! 

Another good example of this would be Henry Ford who invented the automobile. He was the visionary and the inventor, but he didn't actually build the Ford with his own two hands. 

He had a vision and a design, and he directed a team to bring it to life. That's a lot like being a producer. You don’t need to be the one twisting every knob or playing every instrument. What you do need is a clear vision—your intention for what you want to create.

Then, depending on your level of skill and desire, you can play a role in the instrumentation and “technical” side of your productions to the degree that works for YOU.

I like to arm my students with the tools and knowledge they need to arrange and create a solid foundation for their songs, and then I also like to give them the resources they need to outsource what’s not in their zone of genius.

At the end of the day, if you think you in order to produce, but need to learn how to play the piano, and learn music theory, and then also need to buy a drum set, learn how to mic it, and also how to play it,  it’s no wonder you’re not even starting. It’s way too overwhelming.  



So what DO you need in order to start producing your own music?


Simply put, your intention is your game plan. It’s your goal for the song. It’s what you intend to do with it.



It seems simple enough, but you’d be surprised how many people say they want to produce, but then they just jump into a piece of music software like Logic or FL studio, and start layering sounds and twisting knobs, with no intention, then they get lost or overwhelmed, and end up giving up.

Then they end up having a bunch of half finished “ideas” which end up on the hard drive graveyard.

Where your songs go to die. ☠️

This is because there was no intention, and so after the exploration or “playing around” was out of their system, they got lost because they didn’t know where they were going in the first place.

Let me clarify something here. 

As an artist, exploring, playing, being curious, letting things unfold naturally without needing to know the result, that’s all well and good.

And if you can FINISH songs with that approach, that’s amazing.  

I can only speak from experience when I say that
my creativity flourishes with boundaries. 


So I tend to finish my songs when I have an intention (AKA goal), and a roadmap, along with a deadline. That’s how I get shit done.  

So if you’re anything like me, and you want to get your songs off of the hard drive graveyard, you might appreciate this balanced approach to executing on your creativity.



So, how do we find our intention?

First, start by identifying what the vibe of the song or album is you’re trying to create.


(Is it happy? Sad? Moody? Pop? Rock? RnB?)

Knowing these things play a big role in things like: what types of instruments you choose, the tempo or BPM or your song, the key, and time signature. Major is typically happier and more uplifting, while minor is typically more melancholy or moody.

Next, identify if there is an underlying message or theme of your song.

(Is it serious? Is it sad? Is it happy? Funny? Heartfelt?)

Knowing these things before you start creating is crucial as
the outward expression of your creativity is simply a reflection of what's going on inside of you

So, just like in spoken language where prosody— the rhythm, intonation, and stress— enhances communication, in music, words and melody work in harmony to convey emotion. If you jump into a DAW and start throwing sounds together without considering the emotion you're trying to express and evoke, you might haphazardly create rather than effectively communicate through your art.

Another way to be intentional is to
identify what type of audience you're trying to attract. 

What artist would you love to be on a Spotify playlist with? Share a stage with? Open for?

This gives you music you can research to identify what you like about it, and practice active listening so you can see what you’d like to use in your own music.

Many of the greats study the greats, so don’t feel bad about this.

Once I set a goal to become a professional songwriter, which was about 10 years ago, my work didn’t really start to get noticed until I started studying the craft. The truth is, we all stand on the shoulders of giants, and as Tony Robbins says, “Success leaves footprints”. 



The truth is, we are all an accumulation of our influences and creativity is just combining ideas in different ways, expressed through your own unique filter, and that’s what makes it art.  

You are what you eat, so your influences naturally come out of you when you write.  Basically, we’re all using “reference” tracks to create all the time, the question is are you going to do it with intention? If you do, you can catapult yourself.ou don't have to reinvent the wheel. 

So, what you DO need to produce?

It’s all about intention in my opinion.  Know what you intend for the song, imagine and visualize it in your head FIRST, then watch how much easier the creation process is.  

Next, let's talk about ..



What you DON’T need in order to start producing.

First up, you do NOT need to have a fancy studio with expensive equipment to start producing. 

And, you do not need to “soundproof” your space. Those are myths. 

Heck, not only was I able to start producing my own music, I was able to start making money with a busted laptop, a used interface, a $200 mic,NO gear, and NO acoustic treatment.  

Sure, I have nicer gear now, and panels, but to be honest, I still don’t even own outboard gear, because I just haven’t needed it.  

The truth is, if you have a computer, you can get everything else you need for less than a thousand bucks, and less than $500 if you buy used. I actually have a resource called the Home Studio Starter Kit that I made for budding producers which I’ll drop in the description. It’s a FREE PDF with clickable links to help you build your first home studio, even if you’re on a budget. 

The next thing you do NOT need to start producing is to be a sound designer.  

(Which just means you make all your own sounds). Now, like with everything I’m saying, if this brings you JOY and you love to do it, then do it, but it’s not a prerequisite to producing your own music.  And don’t let ego-driven producers tell you otherwise.

I can't tell you how many times I've had some ego-driven producer tell me that I wasn't a “real producer” because I didn’t make my own sounds, or because I used loops or samples, or because I didn't have a fancy studio like his.  What's even funnier about that is the same producers that were telling me this, that did have those fancy studios (and all that overhead), eventually started asking me how I was making money as a producer once my business started to explode.  

So no, you don’t need to make your own sounds to be worthy of calling yourself a producer. In fact, why would you,unless, once again, it brought you joy? Think about it. There are world class engineers, instrumentalists, and producers that have created things like sample packs, loops, templates, and virtual instruments so that we can have access to them at a nominal fee? Why not use them?  We have enough demons to battle as artists, the last thing we need to do is putting more blocks in the way of our creativity.

It’s funny, I saw this post on reddit that describes this perfectly, and I’m going to share. I believe the original author's reddit name is r/EDM. 

Here it goes.



At the end of the day, do what brings you joy. It’s your art! If you like making sounds, make them! If it feels like something you have to do for your song to be valuable, or for other producers to think you’re cool, then STOP. 

We don’t make music for other producers. 

We make music for ourselves, our fans, and in some cases, our client, and the only rule in music is
does it sound good. 

Don’t let Chad, who makes beats in his grandma's basement tell you you’re not a real producer because you’re not
also a goat farmer.


What I imagine Chad looks like


And another thing you don’t need to be a producer is to be an expert level mixing or mastering engineer.

I know I mentioned this earlier, but it’s worth repeating. 

As the producer, your only job is to be the visionary.
  Part of this entails thinking like a BOSS. Thinking not “how can I do this all” but “who can I get to help me do this”. That’s how a boss thinks.

There are guys that live and breathe mixing and mastering, and LOVE doing it! 

By hiring them, or inviting them to collaborate, not only are you giving another creator an opportunity to play in their zone of genius, you're also honoring your zone of genius.

Now, that being said, if you love mixing, do it. 

But the idea here is to remove the obstacles that might be hindering you from starting to produce your own music, and I know firsthand that a lot of artists get overwhelmed at the complexity and technicality, especially when it comes to mixing.  



It’s a lot of new language. I get it.

The truth is, as you produce, and start arranging tracks, you’ll be much better off if you learn how to apply the exact mixing technique you need in that moment, while creating, than you would be to stuff your brain with a bunch of jargon about compression, EQ, etc.

So next let’s talk about…


Some of the common problems artists face when it comes to producing. 

The first problem I’m going to address is what I call
“expert thinking”.

We’re often told by mentors and teachers to “stick to one thing, and master that ONE thing!” And while I think the idea of sticking to one thing is great for FOCUS, and certainly applicable in many circumstances, I don’t believe it should be literalized.  Especially when it comes to art.

The truth is, a lot of modern artists are synthesizers, meaning we’re combining an array of our talents to create something new. And we’re entering into a New Renaissance, especially with the rise of the creator economy, where artists are utilizing ways to express their creativity that go beyond “one thing”.  

We have musicians that are also poets, and film directors. We have songwriters that are also authors, and painters.  We have actresses that are also writers and directors. I’m a producer, but I’m also a content creator, and an aspiring author.

So why limit yourself?  

Now, I’m not downplaying “mastery” by any means.  

And there’s a difference between being a skill stacker and a “dabbler”, but I’ll save that for another video.

But in my personal experience, it’s the combination of all the skills that I have stacked that have allowed me to build a successful career as an independent musician with no team. In fact, I was a struggling singer songwriter for YEARS and couldn’t seem to get any traction, and it’s only when I started producing that doors started to open for me. That’s when I was able to get my music into film/tv, able to get songs cut by other artists, and able to get remote collabs with bigger names, and do custom work for bigger brands. Seriously, it was a game changer.  

Not only that, saying to “stick to one thing” in the music industry is kinda dated in my opinion. Sure, back in the day before technology was as accessible as it was now, you could get away with being good at one thing, and industry people like publishers would put the great lyricist together with the great melody person, and then get a track guy in the room, but now, it’s almost like you’re expected to be able to produce as well, because, well, it’s more accessible than ever!  In fact, I have a student who got a publishing deal and when she got signed, her publisher told her “part of the reason I signed you is because you can produce your own music!”

The next common problem artists face is procrastination.



I call it having a case of the “I’ll do that when I’s….”

You know what I’m talking about.

I’ll learn how to produce when I can afford to buy the gear.

I’ll start tracking vocals when I get a pre-amp.

I’ll start producing when I can afford better sounds.

I’ll do that when I….

It’s a road block we put up to prevent ourselves from having to start, as a defense mechanism against failure, which is called Resistance, and we all face it as artists.

Steven Pressfield refers to resistance as a force that prevents us from doing our best work, almost as if it were a supernatural power. 

And when you have a case of the “When I’s”, the worst part is you think you’re actually just being a perfectionist, and that you wanna “do it right”

But perfectionism is just procrastination disguised as productivity.

In order to beat this, you gotta just start. 

Start with the gear you have. Start with the sounds you have. Start without buying a preamp.

Just start.

And one of the last common problems I’ll list today is


The issue with trying to learn music production is that most people who teach it speak using technical terms that are honestly a bit over artists heads.

If you don’t think like an engineer, you’re not going to respond to that language because it’s just going to be overwhelming.

Once again, I am only speaking from my personal experience as a singer songwriter turned producer. It was actually very hard for me to learn that skill because it felt like every mentor that I worked with was speaking in hieroglyphics.  No shade to the techy producer guys and gals out there - that’s their jam, and that’s great. But not everyone thinks like an engineer.  

This is one of the reasons I think my students love learning from me - because my teaching is geared towards the artist and towards the singer songwriter and not towards the engineer. I like to simplify things, and let the artist stay in their zone of genius, rather than bombard them with terms that take them out of the creative process that they’re accustomed to. Then, as they get more comfortable, I introduce terms simply and applicably to their music.

Now, if you’re an artist, and you resonate with this video, you might enjoy a FREE training I’ve put together where I teach you how to produce in a very simplified way, and I also teach you how to get paid from your home studio, assuming you have a musical skill like being a singer or instrumentalist.

All you have to do is head over to and you can watch it for free. 

Alright my friends, I think that’s all for today. 

If you’re on the fence about learning how to produce, I hope you’ll just start. It changed my life in so many positive ways, and I know it can do the same for you. 

Till next time, see ya!