At the end of every year, we seem to say the same thing, either:
“This year was good to me”
“This year sucked. I can’t wait for it to be over.”
Life seems to go on regardless of which side you’re on – but this time of year always make you reflect and think of what went right and wrong, and where you could do better. At least it does for me.
I’m in the former camp – 2019 was good to me. I’m thankful for that.
It absolutely could’ve been better – and that’s mostly my fault. I had ideas that I thought I would see through and didn’t because it turns out I am more ambitious than I am disciplined. I will be taking this lesson with me into 2020.
As this decade comes to a close, I wanted to write my annual year-end article highlighting not only this year’s accomplishments, but the lessons and takeaways as well.
In fact, I want to focus on three main things (borrowed from James Clear):
- What went well?
- What didn’t go so well?
- What did I learn?
The purpose of this article is not to boast or be extremely vulnerable, but instead to track what I was able to accomplish in a year’s time, and more importantly document what I learned a long the way.
I like to review my year-end reviews (I’ve got one for 2017 & 2018) and use them to measure where I’ve been and where I’m going next. I encourage you to do the same for yourself. Bonus points if its publicy where the stakes are higher.
Without further adieu, let’s begin.
What Went Well
Let’s start with the good news.
I got a lot done this year. I actually didn’t realize until I started listing it out while planning this article. Let’s do it by section.
I wanted to release more music this year but dropped the ball a bit due to focusing more on video content creation and client work. Despite this, I released a music video at the top of the year: “5PiECE Explores Toronto’s Graffiti Alley and Makes MEDICATE In- Studio.”
The following month I dropped my only 5PiECE music release of the year being “Don’t Feel The Same” featuring Gudini, Rich Kidd & Romeyo Wilson. This record ended up getting some rotation on Toronto’s Vibe 105.5FM (shout-out DJ Andre 905 & CEO Fase).
In addition to these 2 releases, I was a part of 8 other releases for other artists including:
Tunnel Vision by LeftField Keele (Production & Engineering) (March 2019)
Making The Band by EverythingOShauN (Engineering) (June 2019)
Love Wrong by Matt Muse (Production) (August 2019)
Load MGMT by EverythingOShauN (Engineering) (September 2019)
Amazing by Caj Flow & AD1B (Engineering) (September 2019)
FBGS by Staasia Daniels (Engineering) (October 2019)
Knight by RAM3ER (Production) (November 2019)
Waste My Time by Caj Flow & AD1B (November 2019)
Now this is just what I worked on that actually came out – much of the later part of the year was spent mixing a few projects that will be out in Q1 2020. The unfortunate part about working on someone else’s music is that they ultimately control when it comes out (until you focus on making your own).
Aside from the releases themselves, each of these records have gone on to do something special. Some highlights from these releases include:
- “Don’t Feel The Same” has been getting radio airplay on Vibe 105.5FM
- My 2018 single “Somethin’ Outta Nothin’” has been getting played at Raptors 905 games (shout-out DJ Andre 905 once again!)
- “Load MGMT” has been getting played regularly at Toronto Raptors home games (shout-out DJ 4Korners)
- “Load MGMT” and “FBGS” have been getting played on Toronto radio stations Vibe 105.5FM and FLOW 93.5FM
- “Load MGMT” has surpassed over 100,000 streams on Spotify alone
- Matt Muse performed our single “Love Wrong” live on WGN Morning News in Chicago
- I won Staasia Daniels a $2,000 music grant from FACTOR for us to work together on her forthcoming project UNHEARD VOLUMES
Originally, my goal was to put out one or be a part of one record for every month of the year. I was almost able to do that, but fell short 4 months (April, May, July, December).
Not only did I play a part of these releases, but I also mentored many music creators from all over the globe in places like Iceland, Hong Kong, Russia, Switzerland, the United States and Canada.
I made a lot of content this year. How much content exactly? Well…
25 videos for YouTube (24 tutorials, 1 music video). My goal was to release 2 videos per month on YouTube and I executed this perfectly to my own surprise.
Here are my top 5 most popular videos for the year according to YouTube:
- How To Set Levels For Recording
- PitchShifting Vocals with Little Alterboy
- How To Reduce Latency While Recording in Pro Tools & Other DAWs
- Mixing 808 – How To Get 808s to Cut Through A Mix
- How To Use A Compressor on Rap Vocals
On top of that, I wrote 6 articles throughout the year that were intended to help inspire and offer practical value to creatives.
If you missed them, you can find them here:
- 8 Common Mixing Mistakes
- What Is Gain-Staging and Why Is It Important?
- The Power of Asking Good Questions
- Ideas to Jumpstart Your Creativity
- Music Grants: Everything You Need To Know
- 5 Myths About Music Grants
I almost forgot that I wrote and published my first free eBook “Where To Find Funding For Your Music” in July. You may have seen the pop-up for it. Sign up for it if you haven’t – I let you in on the six main places recording artists can look to find funding for their music career (and some are not what you’d expect!).
In addition to my own content, I was featured on the In Your Biz podcast with Jonathan Harvey. We spoke about life, the music business and how to make a living in it, how to program your brain, my opinion on social media, and a lot more. This was a super inspiring talk. You can listen to or watch the full thing here.
I love making music – but something else I enjoy is helping others get better at what they do.
For the past few years I’ve been teaching and coaching many creators in the Toronto music community. I do this in the form of private sessions and group workshops. I also give away a lot of free content in the form of the videos and articles I’ve mentioned above.
This year was also the year I kicked off something new. I started Finding Funding – a new initiative I’m working on focused on teaching music creators how they can win free money from the Canadian music grant system.
There are literally hundreds of millions of dollars up for grabs. I’ve been letting you in on this knowledge for free on the @FindingFunding Instagram page, and also through my various videos and workshops further mentioned below.
2020 will be no exception as I’m already planning the next round of workshops. If you’re looking to get better at mixing, mastering or securing free money for your music, you should look into attending.
I went to some amazing places this year. First up was my second home Atlanta, GA. I’ve loved Atlanta since my first trip in 2016 and this was my 4th time going over to check the homies, work on music and do some cool stuff in the city.
A month later I took a baecation with my girlfriend to Nassau, The Bahamas. This was the exact opposite of my Atlanta trip. We relaxed on the beach, we drank plenty, we ate too much, we got tanned and you best believe we paid the big bucks to see the pigs in Exuma (google it). It was an amazing trip with amazing people and I’m thankful I got to do that this year.
I’d definitely like to travel some more, but I was content with 2 trips this year.
What Didn’t Go Well
BEING REACTIVE vs. PROACTIVE
I had a lot of goals this year, but unfortunately I didn’t have a super actionable plan that I was sticking to accomplish them. Despite my best effort, I felt like I was REACTING more this year than being proactive and diligent with my work.
For example, at the end of last year I decided that I wanted to release one record every month for 12 months. This could either be my own, or a record that I produced for another artist. The first 3 months of the year followed this plan, but come April – I didn’t release my own record and none of the artists I was working with released one either, so I flubbed my goal fast.
Combining that with incoming client work and shiny objects, I slowly lost track of this goal and stopped making an effort to meet it. Furthermore, I prioritized other people’s projects ahead of my own – and that was also detrimental to the goal. I started being REACTIVE to what was coming my way, but not PROACTIVE in realizing what I actually wanted to be working on and how to balance it with what’s coming in.
Having goals is one thing – most of us tend to have them. But how do you plan to actually accomplish them?
One of the most important tools we have to accomplishing goals is TIME. We can take our time (and focus, energy) and dedicate it towards completing a specific task or series of tasks that ultimately lead to completing whatever goal we set previously. As long as we are smart with our time, and focused on the right priority, we will get it done.
I set goals – like dropping one song per month for a year. But the goal itself doesn’t matter if you don’t take the time to execute on it.
I wasted time. I knew every month I had to work on a song – but instead I prioritized a client project, or a new tutorial, or working on marketing, or even wasting time scrolling aimlessly on Instagram.
This is a time management problem. I was spending my time focused on things that are not my goal. Sure – they may be necessary or helpful, but they don’t contribute to the goal and that gets in the way of my fulfillment.
TOO MANY DISHES BEING COOKED AT ONCE
When someone asks me about my workload, I like to joke and say:
“It’s like I’m cooking multiple dishes at once – something is going to get burnt.”
I may laugh about it but its true. I’ve been doing too many things for too long.
I produce, record, mix, master. I just found out this is actually what an ALL IN PRODUCER does. So I’m an ALL IN PRODUCER?
Well – I’m also a content creator, influencer and educator. Oh, and now I’m also a grant writer with the launch of Finding Funding.
There’s a lot of synergy between these skillsets, but similarly, they shift my focus into many different areas and that can be overwhelming not just for me, but also for my ideal client.
The question becomes, what do I want my priorities to be? What do I really want to do? This is a question I’ve begun to answer moving into 2020.
I was doing well for most of the year – exercising at the gym regularly with the odd few weeks off here and there. I’ve always been a gym guy since I started working out in 2008.
However, in September the fall came and so did my laziness. I stopped running 4Ks and going to the gym altogether. I noticed over the past 3 months an increase in my stress levels and a decrease in my overall feelings of wellness. There’s no question that this is because I haven’t been exercising much at all.
I made a lot of great excuses – like I’m too busy, or I’m working on deadline driven client stuff, all of which are true. But no excuse is good enough to take care of yourself and your body, and I’ve realized that now.
What Did I Learn This Year
A lot. I read 22 books this year (my goal was to read 18 – nailed it!). That’s way more than I could ever summarize here, but lets go over some of the main takeaways:
1. BE PROACTIVE WITH YOUR GOALS AND MANAGE YOUR TIME ACCORDINGLY
I wasn’t able to drop a song every month for 2019 because I didn’t make a solid effort to accomplish that. I needed to make a plan and create a system to get the song done within a certain time frame, using the time I had available to me.
If I were more aware then, I would’ve said “OK – what do I need to do to make one song per month then?” I’d then go over the actual steps of making a song:
- Produce the instrumental.
- Write the song lyrics (or work with another artist/writer to write the song)
- Record the song
- Edit the takes and assemble the final arrangement
- Additional post production for the instrumental (if necessary)
- Perform mixing & mastering to finalize song.
- Design cover artwork to go with audio for release.
- Schedule release on music distributor like DistroKid.
Now that I know the steps – I’d need to schedule time accordingly to make this happen. Chances are it will take me as little as 3 hours to as much as 10 hours for each step of this process. That means anywhere from 18 to 60 hours for the entire project of making a song.
Not only that – but I need to now repeat this month after month in order to meet my goal of one song per month for 12 months. Knowing this upfront, I can now be proactive with my scheduling and ensure that I give myself enough time to complete this.
This is bigger than this example – its applicable to anything you or I want to achieve.
2. DON’T RUSH – REST, TAKE BREAKS AND SCHEDULE TIME TO PLAN
This year I had a bad habit of just rushing into whatever project I was working on. I had this belief that by simply starting I would figure things out and get something done at a faster velocity.
This didn’t always work in my favour, for example with my tutorials. In the past, I didn’t prepare much for shoot days other than simply choosing the topics of what I would talk about. No additional research, notes or even sessions prepared.
Because I’d be unprepared, I would ultimately make a lot of mistakes while filming, encounter small hiccups or need to start/stop takes repeatedly, which just added to the length of time it took to shoot the video overall. Of course no one sees this – but I would feel it in the form of stress, and added time that could’ve been avoided by simply being prepared.
I’ve already shifted away from my old ways and have been diligently taking the time to plan out every aspect of what I’m doing. As they say, “prior preparation prevents poor performance.”
Furthermore, it’s when we REST and TAKE BREAKS that we have our best ideas. We realize things – like we’re not actually working towards the goal we set out for ourselves. Most of my biggest breakthroughs come not when I’m working on a project, but when I’m taking time away from it.
3. PRIORITIZE EXERCISE AND WELLNESS
Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg, and many other successful entrepreneurs attribute their success to regular exercise.
Richard Branson himself said “I definitely can achieve twice as much by keeping fit…it keeps the brain functioning well.” (Source: FourHourBodyPress)
It makes sense. Since I’ve re-incorporated exercise into my routine, I feel clearer, happier and more focused. It doesn’t hurt that exercise also helps combat stress by helping your body release endorphins, which trigger more positive feelings in the body.
As much as we push exercise to the side – we won’t be able to do much if we’re sick, or worse, dead. Exercise has been proven to be one of the most effective forms of combatting many diseases and conditions including heart disease, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and much more.
This new year, I will be doubling down and focusing on my health much more than previously. This will involve exercising in the gym 3x per week, and running once per week.
2020 Goals & Conclusion
This year, I have a few new goals that you’ll be able to be a part of such as:
- Host 6 workshops throughout 2020
- Publish 12 articles on the website
- Release 4 YouTube videos per month (48 by year end!)
- Begin releasing my own branded music in Q2 2020
- Launch my first online course product
- Win $100,000 in grant funding for myself and my musical collaborators
- Go on at least 4 trips a year – visiting music hubs like Atlanta, NYC & LA annually.
I’m putting these here so I can review them on December 30th, 2020 and see how I did.
I’ve accomplished a lot already and am very thankful to have connected with so many of you. I hope this site and my content continues to be helpful for you.
Happy New Year! All the best to you and yours.