21 Questions With Midi Mafia

by Moe Arora on March 20, 2009

producersweek

midimafia

Last week, I asked you guys to submit your questions for Midi Mafia.

I collected all the questions from the blog comments, Twitter & Facebook, and compiled a list of 21 questions for them.

Midi Mafia’s Dirty Swift, responds to your questions below:

I would like to know if a manager is a good route to go. I know you have to put in your own work and network to build relationships, but I feel like the manager may have better relationships with industry people, and can seal the deal. Any suggestions?

At some point you will need somebody to handle your business. Everybody needs a bad guy.

If you have no contacts or limited contacts in the industry, a well connected manager can be a great asset. Once you have a lot of your own relationships, managers have to be a little more creative and forward thinking to justify their existence.

I’ve been in positions where my manager was a glorified assistant; following up on opportunities that we created for ourselves, and that doesn’t justify the commission I paid out. I might as well have paid an assistant to follow up on things and not had a manager at all.

That being said, there are many capable people out there; it’s just a matter of finding the right fit for you, at whichever stage of your career you might be at. And you will need to determine whether that person has the knowledge and contacts to make things happen, and the time to devote to you.

If I did decide to go with a manager, where do I start looking?

In my opinion, you will need someone who is based in one of the music centers (NY, LA, ATL or Nashville for country).

There are many A&R execs, publishers, and other industry people who also act as managers for producers, songwriters and artists. These people can be advantageous because they are already moving around in the industry and can plug you directly into situations.

How you get in contact with them, is through networking, sending music out and sometimes being a pain in the ass in order to get yourself heard. If your stuff is good and you’re moving around meeting enough people, they will start coming to you.

You may also find a music attorney, that’s willing to take you as a client, may be able to connect you to the right people as well.

Is it better to go to production school or invest in my own equipment and learn by myself?

I can only speak from my own experience; I never went to production school. I just learned by doing.

I think you learn the theory in school but either you “have it” or you dont; can’t learn that in school.

Are plug-ins really a good replacement for rackmount modules?

I have 2 answers for this:

I have mixed songs strictly with plugins and had great results (Fantasia) and continue to do so. So yes, plugins can do the same job that outboard gear does.

That being said, a plugin Neve 1073 doesnt sound like a real one.

I have invested in different sound banks but still don’t think my sound library is there yet. Where do you find your sounds?

Every new CD I used to get, I would listen to and sample any open drum sounds. Then I started getting sounds from other producers that would swap with me.

I now have a massive sound library of drum samples; thousands of kicks, snares, hi-hats and everything else. I probably use maybe 10 of those sounds on a regular basis lol.

We also have racks of synths, and lately most of my sounds come from a couple of different plugins. One of my favorite being the free synth plugin Xpand that’s included with Pro Tools.

Is it important for a producer to also know how to engineer?

Absolutely. You should have, at least, a basic working knowledge of engineering – meaning, you can work your production software of choice. If that isnt Pro Tools, then you should also know how to work that – and you should be able to cut vocals.

Since Midi Mafia is 2 producers, how do you decide the percentage split between them?

We are a partnership, so whatever I put in my pocket, is the same as what Bruce puts in his.

At some point you have to do this. It becomes very complicated otherwise.

Given the current state of the music industry, would you still advise one to fully pursue a musical career with no real back up plan?

That depends. If your single, have no kids, and are still young enough to screw up and not be too old to start over then go for it.

If you have a family depending on you, then you need to handle that first.

Since Swift is from Canada, how important was it for you to move to USA for your career?

I would not have a career if I stayed in Canada.

Can you make money with a web site where you sell or “lease” your beats?

Yes, I’m sure you could. I don’t think your going to buy a Bentley from it though.

What are you guys working on now?

All kinds of stuff. Things I can mention, would be Toni Braxton, Fantasia, Elliott Yamin, Justin Bieber, a bunch of film and TV projects; have a couple artists in development about to do some deals with, starting a publishing venture, and a bunch of other stuff I cant name at the moment.

Do you ever get a request from artists or record labels to make a ringtone song?

Come to think of it, I don’t hear a lot of talk about ringtones anymore. I’m sure they still sell, but these days people are just asking us for hit records.

Who influenced you to become producers?

All the greats that came before us. For me especially, it was Dr.Dre and Quincy Jones.

Do you guys play any instruments?

I play keys. Bruce plays keys in his own special way lol.

What’s your favorite drum machine?

MPC 3000 was always good to me. We make all our beats in Pro Tools now though.

How’s Shire’s album coming along?

Shire is great. We are working hard to set her up. The album part is the easy thing for us; the hard part is setting up the marketing, and creating a buzz and demand because there’s so much out there.

I’m thinking about going to a trade school for music production but want to know what I’m getting into first. Do you know any books, magazines or websites I can read to learn on my own?

There’s a ton of books out there about the music business. You should become familiar with some of the trade magazines, such as Billboard, Mix, and R&R.

Websites like hitsdailydouble.com, billboard.com, theres so many. There’s more information than ever out there. However, be aware that no matter what you read, you still won’t really “get it” until you actually start doing things in the business.

There’s a lot of trial and error.

Are music conferences really worth it? I go to a few, when I can afford it, but I think my money might be more useful being spent on new equipment.

I love new equipment, so I’d say spend it there. If there are conferences locally, that is worthwhile. I’m not sure I’d travel across the country to go to one.

How do I get my beats to major artists and their managers?

Go to a music conference lol.

Seriously, there’s many ways; attorneys, cold emails, referrals; finding where these people are and putting CDs in their hands.

And another, often underrated way to get things done in the business, is to get to know the assistants of all these people. You would be surprised.

If you could produce a collaboration with any artists in the world, dead or alive, who would be on it?

2Pac, Bob Marley and Mozart with a Miles Davis solo at the end, and Marvin Gaye doing adlibs

Has the current state of the music industry affected how you make songs, and if so, how?

We make a lot more variety, focused on fusing hip hop drums, with pop, rock, dance all kinds of genres.

The game is very song driven right now; less about beats than a few years ago, so you really have to come with complete songs and ideas.

Very important to build a strong team of production, songwriting, engineering. It all has to be there.

For more on Midi Mafia you can visit their blog at http://www.themidimafia.com.

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