4 Quick Tips for Producers 

As a music producer, it's exciting to work with artists that fall within our creative circle-those that share our genre or match our ability.  As we branch out, opportunities may arise that allow us to work with a wider range of creative individuals.  While we embrace these new situations, it's important to keep the artist and their sound front and center, while adding our "signature".  Here are 4 quick tips to help you successfully produce music for other artists:


This may seem obvious, but before opening Logic, Pro Tools or your other favorite production software, have a conversation with the artist.  Not just about music, but about life.  Is this project a hobby or are they striving for a professional career?  How have any recent life changes affected them?  What are their thoughts on current event issues?  Now, I realize this is not an episode of Fix My Life, but it will help you in your production approach if you get to know the person that is trusting you with their personal music concepts.


I always ask artists who they're listening to right now on iTunes, Spotify or SoundCloud and why.  It's then a good idea as a producer to go listen to those artists and find a commonality that leads back to your artist.  Do they sound like who they're listening to? Is the orchestration similar?  Do they share the same lyric/subject matter?  As you enter the production stage, you now can offer the artist educated ideas and opinions based on their likes, abilities and budget.


To get an overall feel for the artist, I like to do a short demo track (1-2 minute) that I can reference for range and style.  After a production plan is established, it's a good idea to set up templates within your software that are exclusive to the artist.  This prevents having to re-invent the wheel before each session.

Shine a Light

As producers, our job is not to shine OUR light on the artist; our job is to position the artist properly, so that they can best shine in THEIR light.  If you think a certain drum loop won't work, or that a live guitar will work better than a software guitar, explain your reasoning and work with the artist to come up with an agreeable solution, while maintaining creative integrity.  Always remember your role as a producer is to offer the tools and expertise needed to create great memorable music.

Marvin is a musician, recording artist and blogger.  Follow him on Twitter/Instagram @mthompsonjr.


5 Anti-Resolutions for Creatives 

As musicians, visual and print artists, and writers and poets, the ability to focus can sometimes be our Achilles’ heel.  There’s rarely a shortage of ideas, melodies or storylines, but the task of putting it all together can feel uncreative. While the world is making their annual resolutions, here are 5 anti-resolutions (“anti” so as not to feel so daunting) for creatives.  The good part is, you can start anytime!  

  1. Google Calendar.  Keep up with your meetings and appointments by putting everything in Google Calendar; you’ll be much more organized.  I also use the Goal and Reminder features as a daily “to-do” list. Plus, it’s always with you on your phone and laptop.  
  2. Follow Up.  Others get busy just like we do.  When you don’t hear back from a venue, a collaborator, or potential business client, don’t be afraid to send them a short email.  They’ll appreciate the reminder, and it’ll showcase your level of professionalism.  
  3. Short Strides.  Whatever your field, take short strides each day to work toward the finished product.  Write a paragraph, a verse, whatever. Each step gets you closer.  
  4. Mirror Success.  Find those that are where you’d like to be, and check out their stories.  Read their books and check out their podcasts; you’re learn a lot.  
  5. Break Time.  At the end of the day, take a break.  Being constantly “on the grind” sounds good, but is unrealistic and can be unhealthy. Watch Netflix, ride a bike, or host a game night. Your creative life should also be a balanced life! 

Marvin is a musician, recording artist and blogger.  Follow him on Twitter/Instagram @mthompsonjr.

If Guffman Never Shows 

Years ago I worked for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and my supervisor was a distinguished yet down-to-earth lady named Daisy.  Daisy was a well-dressed movie buff who often told me about out-of-the-way movies that she’d seen that I should check out (we shared a love of dry humor).  One such movie was a Christopher Guest film that had come out a few years prior called Waiting for Guffman. One evening I rented the video from Family Video (kids, this was back before Netflix) and I found it hilarious; dry, sarcastic humor, and being a musician and playwright myself, it was vividly accurate. 

The premise, in brief, is that the small fictional town of Blaine, Missouri decides to put on a musical stage play with members of the community.  The musical tells the history of Blaine, but the problem is the script and music are bad, and I laughed the entire movie. The production is led by Corky St. Clair (Guest), the town eccentric, who has led everyone to believe that he has some big connections in the industry.  One such connection (although never verified) is one Mr. Mort Guffman, a Broadway producer. Corky believes a positive review from Guffman could take their small-town play all the way to Broadway. Everything that is done from this point on concerning the production is based on the assumption that Mr. Guffman will be in attendance on opening night, including Corkys’ laughable request of the Blaine City Council to increase the plays production budget to $100,000. 

How many times do we as artists use the “Guffman Approach”?  Waiting on the perceived “big moment” before we deem ourselves worthy or legit?  I have often said, “When I meet (insert industry mogul name here) I’ll have officially made it.”  In reality, I’ve met a few higher-ups in the industry and have performed with some big-names, and you know what changed afterwards? Not much.  I’ve still had to work on my craft, pound the pavement, and keep writing. Overnight sensations are a thing of reality TV shows and art house movies; most sensations that we admire happened over MANY days and nights, and if we listen closely to the details of those stories we’ll learn it was hardly easy.  I guess ratings aren’t kind to those stories, and happy endings don’t always come at the 55-minute mark. 

I’m learning that waiting on the big moments or the Guffman Approach isn’t practical.  We all desire to accomplish what we’re supposed to, but it would be a shame to come to the end and realize that we’ve missed the small special times because we were waiting on the big thing to happen.  The reality is, if our Guffman never shows, we still have to carry on-for me it’s writing great music, for you it could be painting a mural or studying science. Whatever it is, do it because you feel it in your soul and not for man's’ accolades.   Only then can you embrace the attitude that if Guffman misses us, well it’s his loss! 

Go watch Waiting on Guffman to see if he actually shows up on opening night; I won’t spoil the ending for you.  Just remember that your big moment is not waiting on someone else, it’s waiting on you.


Marvin is a musician, recording artist and blogger.  Follow him on Twitter/Instagram @mthompsonjr.