Hi, Doctor Nick! - Moving to a New City for Music and How to Enter a New Scene
The 2013 edition of Red Bull Music Academy may be over, but there are still plenty of resources out there for those looking to glean some knowledge about the music industry. Here at XLR8R, we've got Nick Hook. Our resident advice columnist and all-knowing street shaman is here year-round, popping in every Thursday morning to share his wisdom about music, gear, production, travel, DJing, touring, romance, and whatever else our readers need assistance with. The good doctor is just an email away, so hit him up at firstname.lastname@example.org and let the learning commence.
Hi. It's sunny and nice in New York. I went to see Flatbush Zombies and The Underachievers on Tuesday night. Kids were high as hell, moshing, rushing the stage... it was amazing, true raw energy. That's missing sometimes right now. If I had a million, I'd sign them and it would be on.
I had an amazing jam with Gaslamp Killer, Pick a Piper from Caribou's band, and Little Shalimar at the Gaslamp show last Friday. xxxy was amazing at this party after. Now I'm being a good boy post-RBMA. I'm actually going to bed at a normal hour. xo to those guys.
I'm heading out to Sónar in Barcelona next week. I'm setting up a studio on Thursday and Friday with Ableton to mess with the Push. Hit the Doctor Nick email if you are out there and wanna come by. It's gonna be fun.
Hi Doctor Nick,
I'm a DJ/Producer planning to move out to California in a few months. The reason for the move is to advance my musical career, as it seems like a better place for musical opportunity and to be creative. The thing about where I'm at in the Midwest is that the electronic music scene is small, and you can only go so far. I'm working my buttocks off to achieve that 'international status' that I envision myself possibly immersed in one day—after I have enough money.
I'm going to head out to Cali and find a job, and try to keep up on the rent and keep working on music. As far as a musical career goes, besides working hard and believing in what I do, what else can I do to secure a career for myself?
You seem to be pretty busy, and doing what you like to do. It's a hard thing to explain, but I want this badly and I do have confidence in myself. Man, I wish I was better at explaining this shit... all I can think of is this being an article on the site... LOL... fuck.
I just don't wanna be that guy man, when I'm 33, still "chasing" something. I'm a hard worker. I just want to solidify myself, you know? Any advice really at this point is appreciated. Big ups.
Okay. Let me preface this: I am from the Midwest too. I moved from St. Louis to NYC in 2004. I rolled up in a Honda Civic with a couple of ounces of weed, some unemployment checks, and some shitty gear. I left my girlfriend back there for a few months cuz the whole thing seemed so outrageous that I didn't think it was a good idea for her to pack up and quit her whole life to facilitate me. I ended up going back two months later and got her, and here I am now living in New York. I actually still own a house in St. Louis that I'm trying to rent, if anyone needs a crib. I bought that shit for 2000 down cuz I never thought I would leave.
Also, I'm 34 and I feel like I'm chasing something. I'm glad I feel that way. It keeps me hungry and inspired. I hope to feel that way 'til I die.
Another thing—stop tripping about that status. "International status" doesn't mean anything. It really doesn't, trust me. I think that's one of the problems of all this—people just want that "status" so bad. Just work hard. Keep working hard. Push yourself. Be prepared to be ready if those opportunities come, whether it be a songwriting session or a DJ gig. Cuz what if you get into that situation and you can't succeed? Then you probably won't be getting any status.
That said, I feel like I didn't choose to move to New York. It almost chose me in a sense and I was ready to roll. I'm glad I did, and I think that you should be willing to sacrifice things when you see an opportunity arise. The more I travel and go back to my hometown, I've kinda started to realize that nothing really changes. I find that in the best way in NYC cuz I couldn't love this place any more than I already do, and in the worst way in St. Louis, cuz I feel like everytime I go back, I enter into this time vortex and it's like I never left. To me, that's why it's okay to take a chance and go somewhere; worst case, you're just gonna roll back. Living in a bigger city has been amazing because I feel like in most places I've been, the maze just ends. In smaller scenes, people are a little more competitive—in a bad way—about letting people take gigs, opportunities, etc., because there are only so many to go around. In NYC, I'd say we are always happy for everyone to do their thing and try to help people do their thing. There is sooo much opportunity here in the city and when someone makes it, they start traveling, and eventually are able to put their friends on. I wouldn't be here without certain people that took a chance on me and now I'm starting to get to do it a bit on my own and it feels pretty amazing.
Just get into the thick of things, but don't rush. You see cats move into your city with this thirst to make it and sometimes the biggest mistake is the overhustle, where you are thinking, "Yo dude. Chill. We'll trade numbers eventually, make tunes eventually." Just let it all unfold. I think in a new city it takes a minimum of one year to really get started. Let that first year be groundwork of learning your city, how you fit in, what scene you like, who throws the parties. I moved to New York in 2004 and I really feel like it took until 2007 for me to meet the people that I wanted to meet, and then 'til 2009 to actually be creating with them and be a full part. The other thing is to offer help. I have a cat working for me now that was literally after me for a whole year. I was a little scared at first, but then eventually I had him through and slowly he's been helping me in a bunch of ways, and hopefully I'm helping him back and giving him opportunities to "solidify" or whatever you wanna call it on his own.
I think the other thing to keep in mind is how people perceive you. In my case, people know they can holler at me and I'll most likely be down to work. I've never been difficult with business because I've found that it kinda works itself out if you are working with the right people. Between you growing and progressing in your skills, and being down most of the time, it snowballs.
The thing I also learned mad early was to diversify. I never realized how much one opportunity could bring me to another. I never thought 100 million people would listen to some song by this girl named Azealia the day we recorded it. That brought me to Japan just to record and then I got to DJ, and now I'm going back to Korea in July cuz they liked me from that trip. The same thing led me to relationships with all of these gear companies and now they also let me come to places and play with their equipment. Sometimes, it's even for money cuz they know we are using the gear in the studio and touring with it, so we can give real feedback. All of this came from the most unglamorous job of "engineer." That job let me chill with my friend El-P for the last month and be involved with helping to make one of the best records that will come out this year (in my opinion) and get to record Big Boi, a hero of mine. Anyways, I'm rambling now, but yeah.
Good luck my G.
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