Hi, Doctor Nick! - What to Do When You Feel Like Quitting and the Real Payoff of the Music Game

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Every Thursday morning, we sing the praises of Nick Hook, and though we may be in danger of sounding like a broken record, our resident advice columnist is simply an incredible resource. Regardless of the topic, be it music, DJing, production, gear, romance, travel, fashion, or just about anything else, the good doctor almost certainly has something valuable to say. That's why readers in search of a little wisdom should send questions to doctornick@xlr8r.com—after all, Doctor Nick is here to help.

Hi. It's been a busy week. I've been back in the studio with Killer Mike and El-P. I also had an awesome night at the new Red Bull Music Academy space in New York. It looks fantastic, and I spent some time with fellow alumni Salva, Jesse Boykins III, and Brenmar. It's gonna be an amazing month of May in New York. Kudos to everyone for working so hard so that we can enjoy such things.

I usually write an intro, but I wrote half of this before/during the studio session with El-P and Mike yesterday and then the question kinda answered itself. So, we will do an outro this week. But send questions. doctornick@xlr8r.com. We need 'em. Always.

Hi Doctor Nick,
Before you ever started getting paid for your music and being a professional, were there any moments where you felt like you just wanted to quit music? Well, maybe not quit music entirely, but did you ever feel like producing music professionally just wasn't going to work out?

I've been producing electronic dance music for years and love it to death, but at times I feel like I don't ever get any payoff for all the work I put in. My music isn't reaching many people and I don't ever DJ, although I'm beginning to learn, so I'm not sure how to get it out there. Anyways, I've just been having some hefty writer's block lately and have been feeling uninspired as of late.

Yes. Absolutely. 100%. I've felt this way many times for many reasons.

I always had like six other options, just in case music didn't work. I went to college and I always had like four jobs. I was working for a record label, handing out flyers, helping promoters, DJing. Growing up in St.Louis, barely anyone "made it' in music, and I really never planned on that happening either. It was just a hobby on the side. Honestly, I'm back in St. Louis today to try and sell a house that I bought a year before I moved to New York. At the time, I thought I was going to live my entire life in that place.

I really always thought this whole music thing was temporary. I worked at a sake bar and I still kinda do now. Music just seemed too fantasy-based to actually be real, but I've worked hard enough and put myself into the position of being in the right place that now I think it's going to last.

It hasn't always been like this, and there have been some hard moments. My parents never thought I would amount to anything. After graduating college, I had no idea what I was supposed to do. I got dropped from a major label and was still broke. I'm still broke after every other tour. I've ruined relationships. The list goes on and on. To this day, sometimes quitting and just getting a regular job kinda seems alluring in many ways. It's hard living life with no health insurance, no stability, the simultaneous connect and disconnect of friendship, and all the other bad things that go along with this game.

Maybe you should take a break from writing music. See what else makes you feel things. It's not like that part of your identity is going to go away just because you aren't doing it for a while. Careers can change, your role in music could change—maybe you'd be a great teacher and could inspire someone in a different way. Make a bunch of mixtapes and develop the DJ side. Can you help engineer other people's stuff and help it pay off for them? In exchange, maybe you get publishing money or studio fees. What is your goal for a payoff? Do you even need a payoff? Isn't just making dope stuff its own payoff?

Anyways, back to my intro. Right now, I'm back at my parents house in St. Louis, but yesterday, after I finished most of this column and had an awesome day in the studio, none other than Big Boi from Outkast rolled into the studio to do a guest verse for Mike and El, at my studio, with me engineering. Needless to say, when I was 14, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik was my favorite record on Earth besides The Chronic. Meeting and working with Big Boi was surreal, to say the least. More importantly, it reaffirmed all belief I have in doing this. The great moments are worth far more than the ones that make you question it all.

Okay. That's it. xxxxxx

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.