'Defend your worth'.
Heavy-hitting producer Mike Gonsolin shares his experience.
Mike. There is no doubt you are one of the best 'heavy-hitters' in the industry and Trend Def Studios is home to some of the biggest artists in the world. Having worked with the likes of Snoop Dogg, French Montana, The Migos, Rich the Kid, Famous Dex, and Joey Bada$$, to name a few, what do you think are the necessary ingredients to become a successful producer?
First and foremost, being well rounded. You always wanna be the best man for the job, but there are a lot of different jobs to fulfill as a producer in this day and age. So I never want to be the guy who says, "Oh let me send you to that other guy if that's what you're looking to do." I pride myself on being incredibly well rounded at what I do. I play every instrument and can produce just about every genre of music from trap, to EDM, to top 40 pop, to some of the most indie rock you've ever heard. I've found that what you learn in one genre of music or on one instrument can only benefit your skillset across the board and towards the others.
Second, have a signature sound. I see so many people looking to copycat people that they idolize. That ain't it though. For sure you can always learn from those you look up to, but at the end of the day you should be grabbing pieces of inspiration that help assemble who you are, not define it.
I pride myself on having an extremely signature sound and I attribute so much of my success as a producer to it.
When creating music, where do you usually like to start? What's your typical workflow?
This really depends on the genre and if I'm working with others while I'm creating. If it's something like hip hop or EDM I tend to like creating alone. Pop and rock are more of a co-writing based genre tho so this usually results in co-writes with the artist(s). Currently, the industry is rather hip hop dominant though, and when doing hip hop I tend to like to just cook up alone.
What are artists generally expecting when they walk through your door? Do you provide artist guidance?
I do. I pride myself on being the number 1 one stop shop in the music industry as far as that goes. I started as just a production studio, but I noticed a recurring problem where after I worked with artists putting together their records with them, they would then go link with someone for a music video, or PR, or some other 3rd party service. From there, unfortunately, a lot of them would connect with less than reputable people and would end up paying for a product and/or service that was not up to par with its price tag and their current body of work. I noticed it begin capping the work I did with them because we had these great records, but then they were for example stuck with a mediocre music video to their single, or PR that yield little to no results. From that point, a lot of them would get frustrated and want to quit when this would happen and stifle the work they had already done. So it was then that I started hiring and partnering for all facets of the industry so I could truly protect my artists every step of the way and ensure that they always had industry standard products from the music to the music videos, to the PR and marketing, to major label features, and a whole lot more. I even ended up founding and building up the major label feature business in the process of this where I would start leveraging my relationships with major label artists to feature on records for the independent artists I work with to help skyrocket their exposure. I'm quite proud of the company I've built and the results I continue to obtain for the artists that come to work here are unprecedented.
I would say any artist walking through my door expects to get the best product possible for their money. No matter what the service might be, they know that they are dealing with the number 1 in the industry.
"I have the utmost respect and admiration for Acustica audio. I'm quite possibly the biggest plugin nerd on the planet [...] This is a next level company with some of the most innovative and ahead of the curve mixing plugins on the market."
How do you overcome the creative block and meet all deadlines?
Honestly, I'm just a beast lol. If there's one thing fans of my work will tell you, it's that I have an undying, or some would even say unhuman, work ethic. You only live once, and I'm a big advocate of making the most of every hour we're given each day. I stay very ahead with my workloads and only outsource when absolutely necessary as I never want to cheat my clients of even the slightest bit of quality in their work that I know I am able to deliver them. I see this happen in so many companies, not just in music. They start to popularize, then they outsource the work that made them reputable in the first place, and then the products thereafter go to shit.
As far as creative block, I fortunately do not experience it. But while I don't experience it, I could certainly hypothesize as to why that is and what I do to keep my creativity healthy and bubbling each day.
As far as creativity goes I have many avenues for creative sparks. I play every instrument. I'm skilled enough vocally as to where I can lay things down when I need to, write harmonies and stack them if a singer isn't able or available, I'm extremely proficient in at least 5 different DAWs, you get the point here. So if I'm not feeling an approach on a particular day, I've got about 20 other approaches I can take that day. Therefore, it's always fresh for me. Part of the blessing we embark on being able to do music for a living is it's not supposed to feel like a regular 9 to 5 job. So if I help preserve that vibe I notice that my approach always stays fresh.
Do you mostly mix ITB or using hardware?
I would say I mix ITB about 99% of the time these days. I sometimes print out to get a certain sound on something in particular if I'm wanting it, but I am far too addicted to the convenience and speed of offline bouncing to ween myself off of that anytime soon. At the same time I am a huge analog guy and when it comes to tracking my analog chains are pretty hardcore here. So this is why I fell in love with Acustica Audio so fast. I know the analog sound. And working ITB certainly grants us speeds that we've never had before but at the cost of sound no doubt. Acustica Audio has helped bridge that gap better than any company I have ever seen before. I will put that statement to the test anytime. I've got some impeccable ears, and what these guys are doing, I feel is the future of audio production.
Do you also master your own music?
Tell us about your experience with Acustica, I know you have been enjoying the plugins a lot!
I have the utmost respect and admiration for Acustica audio. I'm quite possibly the biggest plugin nerd on the planet. I helped find a bug in iLok recently that was only triggered cause I had the highest count of licenses that they had ever seen. It was funny, they actually sent me a solid gold iLok as a reward for helping them find and fix the bug which I thought was so cool [laughs].
Like I mean I literally own everything.
And I use and understand everything as well. That being said, plugins are a crap shoot a lot of the time. Sometimes you think you know exactly what you're getting, and then you get it and you're like, "Holy shit this is AWESOME," or "Eh I've got like 5 other plugins that do this but better."
With Acustica I had kept hearing from people to check them out, but I kept thinking, "Do I really need another EQ, or another compressor, or another channel strip?" God was that the wrong mentality! These things blew me away. Not like they won me over over the course of several months. They blew me away within a few minutes of putting them to use. There's just nothing like this on the market.
The approach that Acustica has taken is just brilliant where they have actually sampled the harmonics and the character that comes from each piece of analog gear, much like a sampler instrument plugin does with real-world instruments, but for all of those classic pieces of analog gear that we all wish we had sitting in our studios. And it just sounds... well remarkable.
For the longest time, I felt like I was taking crazy pills using other emulations where I would read reviews and users would say how they couldn't tell the difference between the original hardware and the plugin and I would just be like, "I CAN. It's clear as day!" But with Acustica I feel like even my ears are at a loss for differentiating the two apart.
This is a next level company with some of the most innovative and ahead of the curve mixing plugins on the market. I encourage you to try them and I challenge your ears to tell you otherwise once you do.
Any favorites from the bunch?
I absolutely love El Rey, Taupe and the Diamond series!
As a top pro hit-maker, what advice do you have for the young talents who are just beginning to move their first steps in the business?
To not just know your worth, but to DEFEND YOUR WORTH. We're living in an era of so much free work and "pay you in exposure" business models. This is all fine and can certainly have its benefits, but a lot of new producers come in thinking that this is the acme of their success, and in reality, it's far from it. It is, however, a great foot in any given door to then be able to formulate methods of generating income on your own terms.
So just remember, there is a fine balance between giving away your work for free and getting paid for it. You can't pay your bills with exposure, but you can always expose yourself to new methods of actual income if that exposure is strategically utilized.