Hi, Doctor Nick! - Proper Email Protocol, Production Schools, and the Truth About RBMA

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After a hectic week at SXSW, most people require some major down time, simply to recharge their batteries. Luckily for us, Nick Hook is not most people. Our resident street shaman and advice columnist is always moving, always hustling, and always willing to lend a hand. That's why anyone with a question about music, DJing, production, travel, romance, or just about anything should feel free to hit him up at doctornick@xlr8r.com. The good doctor is always on duty, and he's especially lively this morning.

What's good y'allllllllllllllllll?

Okay. This might be a long column. Before I get too long winded, I just copped this free plug-in from Soundtoys, one of my favorite plug-in companies, and I suggest you do the same.

I just got back from SXSW. It was really fun this year. Shout out to Ableton for putting me up. I think the thing I took back from it is that WAYYYY more people read this column than I thought. I got a hot dog and this dude was like, "I fuck with you, Doctor Nick." Ahhhh. I can't decide if I should take this more seriously or not. Hahaha. Anyways, yeah. It's dope. I'm glad everyone likes it. I'm having fun. Keep sending me questions. doctornick@xlr8r.com.

SXSW was crazy, but I'm super proud of all my crews from NYC to LA to London. I feel like the hard work we've put in over the years has finally paid off, and we are just here doing it. I got to see an amazing panel with Bootsy Collins, George Clinton, Bernie Worrell, Arthur Baker, and Sly Stone's daughter. The boat party that I mentioned last week was one of my other highlights, and so was seeing Kendrick Lamar, even if he did play 500000 times.

Anyways, before I get started, I have to say something, just because I got this one email that made me say, "Wow, I need to write about this."

Here are some basic rules if you are gonna write to someone about working together/reaching out/etc.

1. One fucking paragraph. I don't need you to write me a Bible about this, that, and the other. We all got the internet. Tell me four to five sentences about what you want, or your person, or whatever. Do an elevator pitch. Less is more.

2. Don't send me a ZIP file with 258 songs in it. That means I have to download it, unzip it, import the shit into my iTunes, listen, delete them out of my iTunes after if they aren't dope, and then empty the trash. That's way too much. Make a SoundCloud. If you want someone to hear 10 songs, make a megamix with 30 seconds of each track. Honestly, I'd prefer to get one song that's amazing so I can wonder what the rest would be like. I can usually tell if I want to work with someone after 10 seconds. Sometimes, after one. So again, keep it short. The same goes with DJ promos.

3. Don't boast about weird business shit. It doesn't matter. I don't care if you are starting a label with God, or you have 23 million dollars. If the stuff sucks, I'm not down. If it's great, I'll probably end up working on it for free cuz I really love it that much.

4. Did I mention keep it short? That opens things up to more dialog if the music sounds cool, which also helps everyone learn how potentially working together would go.

Okay. Here goes. And before we go any further, just remember—it's me that's giving you advice, so don't take it that seriously.


Hi Doctor Nick,
We met at SXSW at the Dub Academy thing. I just wanted to say I really appreciated talking to you, and that I got a lot out of the lecture you gave. I'm going to upgrade to Live 9 as soon as I have the money. The Push is next on the list too, that thing is nuts.

Anyways, I would love it if you could talk a little bit about production schools. I have a producer friend who is thinking about going to another city to do a nine-month course in production and he wants me to come with him. Money is a factor, but I think I could scrounge and bum enough to swing it. The question is whether or not going to special production courses is worth it, or if you can mostly learn what you need to know on your own. I would love to hear about your RBMA experience too.


Yo man. Thanks for coming to that, it was mega fun. Live 9 all the way. Haha. I'm dying to get my hands on the Push as well.

Production schools. To be honest, I'm all for it. I originally went to college for audio engineering, but I quit after one semester, cuz I thought it was bullshit and they were trying to steal my money. But that was awhile ago, and I think that a lot of these places are hiring dudes that pay attention to what's going on on a sonic level. I kind of look at it like a Pilates class or something. I could do it at my crib, but if I pay 10 bucks to go to a class, I'm there and I'm going to be focused for the whole time. I can't get up and check my Facebook or wander around. I know a bunch of people that have pretty amazing success stories where they've met completely random strangers in production class and have gone on to do amazing things. The thing that makes your situation the most alluring to me is that it's in a different city. Unless it's a really shitty city, it'll be also great for you to get out of your comfort zone and hopefully be inspired by new surroundings. I say go for it.

Okay. Red Bull Music Academy. Fuck. It's deep. I don't really know where to start or begin, but I can honestly say that I was completely blown away by every single aspect of what it was. It was definitely the greatest two weeks of my life.

If you don't know what RBMA is (which I guess is getting rarer and rarer by the day), it's an event that's been held in different cities for the past 15 years by a crew of people that loves music as much, if not more than us. The only reason I applied was because it was in Tokyo and at the time, I thought that was the only possible way on Earth that I could accomplish one of my life-long goals—going to Japan. Unfortunately, the tsunami happened, so they moved RBMA to Madrid in Spain, which in retrospect was one of the reasons I think our term was so amazing. I've since been to Japan and I feel like we would have all been trying to run off and experience Japan and not focusing on what we were actually there for—the music.

Basically, you fill out this INSANE application that's about 15 pages. There are drawings, Rorschach tests, etc., etc., etc. It really makes you look at yourself, and I suggest that everyone fill it out, even if you don't send it in.

Once we got there, it was a musical dream. For two weeks, the 30 of us became a giant family, maybe a family of 60 with all the workers and stuff. We ate breakfast together, and after that, were lectured by the most amazing people. Bootsy Collins, Nile Rodgers, Mannie Fresh, Trevor Horn, RZA, Tony Visconti, John Talabot, and more. We wrote music with Bootsy, we were Tony's band after the lecture. After that, we went into the studio and made things. There were no rules or pretense, and people worked with whoever they gravitated towards. I think my favorite and the most unique part of it was that it was the first time I'd ever collaborated with someone on a blind level. Usually your friend says, "Hey, yo, fuck with X person, I think you guys would work well together." At RBMA, we were all just airlifted down and they were like, "GO." I've collaborated with a lot with people and it was pretty amazing to let yourself be vulnerable and open to all that comes with that.

After that, we went to more lectures, ate more food together, and at night we all played and went to crazy shows. I opened for Modeselektor with Doc Daneeka, Chic played, Aphex Twin, all sorts of shit. We even had "teachers" that were Marco from Tiger and Woods, Roman Fluegel, and Dorian Concept.

I still get the chills when I think back on RBMA, and I still talk to everyone almost every day. I had Salva sleeping over at my crib like we were 13 years old last week when he had a few days off from tour. Doc Daneeka is on his way over. Half the squad lives in Berlin and we've hung out there. I'm talking to Jesse Boykins about mixing his record. Tonight, Andrea Balency is singing with Kilo Kish. There are a million things that would have never happened had we not gone.

Really, I can't say enough great things about it. I've been signed to every kind of label, from tiny ones to Fool's Gold-type ones to Warner Bros.-type ones, and I think what's so special is that, yeah, these people might be corporations, but they are fucking with us to be US. When you sign to Warner, they are fucking with you to sell things and sometimes for you to be something you aren't, and that's not tite. I know what I'm great at—being me. People might not understand it, but that's who I am, and RBMA is actually enabling pure creativity. I could keep going on and on, but Shawn might kill me. Just apply. Really. And if you don't make it, keep applying and keep working hard.

Hi, Doctor Nick! appears every Thursday on XLR8R. Do you have a question for Doctor Nick? Please submit your inquires to doctornick@xlr8r.com. Nick Hook can help you.