I started producing music four years ago in the summer of 2018 back when I was still living in New York.
One late night while doomscrolling through YouTube, I saw a video of a friendly looking guy making a beat in FL Studio. I had briefly tried using FL in high school, but the steep learning curve and unintuitive UI was way too much for me. But this time around, I quickly became obsessed.
It was very strange liking something so quickly, because up until that point, I had spent the majority of my life forcing myself to do achievement-oriented tasks and suppressing any semblance of free will.
By that point in 2018, I was 25 and already sort of knew that I wasn’t cut out for a traditional career path. I was thinking about what my medium-term life would look like and was circling around the idea of building a scalable online business.
But as the 4 Hour Work Week spells, the hardest part of that path isn’t necessarily building a business. Finding a sense of purpose to fill your free time with is arguably much harder.
And for me, I want producing music to be my life’s side-quest. It’s something I really enjoy doing, has an incredibly high ceiling for mastery, and is something I can theoretically do when I’m much older.
My Music (Arial Ten)
I’m going to start putting out music under the artist name “Arial Ten”. I bemoaned the process of picking a name before and I ultimately went with… my most used font from when I was working. I also wanted to pick something I could get the handles for, can be phonetically pronounced, and wouldn’t be easily confused with many other artists (yes I know of Ariel Pink and Riot Ten). Arial Ten feels like me.
If you want to follow my musical journey (please follow my musical journey), you can listen here and follow me on Instagram / TikTok. If you don’t like my music, the best way to support me is probably just follow me on Instagram and like things from afar.
I would describe my music as like… budget Kaytranada, but 30% poppier.
If that means nothing to you, then I guess I would describe it as inoffensive dance music that mostly uses female vocals.
Some people have asked over the years for me to share my music, to which I’d often sheepishly say “I’m not ready yet”. And as you might infer, I’m certainly no stranger to sharing content online.
However, something about sharing music feels particularly vulnerable and revealing. I think it’s super obvious when music is bad or unprofessional, whereas you can easily explain away mediocre blog posts or YouTube vlogs.
But one big reason I think I need to start sharing my music is to “increase my surface area of luck”. I think I’m reaching a point where collaboration with others and being part of a music community will help me get better much faster.
I do think most “art purists” generally hate self-promotion and marketing their music. Most of the music producers I know are meek nerdy dudes (myself included) that cringe profusely at the idea of blasting their music to their friends.
So as cringey as it feels to market my music, I try to view it opportunistically. I think that embracing marketing and social media can be a competitive advantage (provided my music resonates with some people). I felt the same way about teaching people about finance – most people in finance don’t mind teaching, but strongly dislike the idea of repeatedly and shamelessly showing their face.
What’s the Plan?
I guess my overarching goal is to make cool music that makes other people feel the way I do about my favorite music. Music resonates with me far stronger than any other art form and the idea that I might be able to evoke a feeling that strong in someone else is inspiring.
I would love to eventually play festivals or concerts, though I suspect that I will enjoy producing more than DJing. I also think that even optimistically, it will probably take me 5+ years to gain any real notoriety from making music. And I predict that I’ll have young kids around that time frame, preventing me from touring.
My short-term goal is to get to the skill level where I can organically work with a vocalist. I actually view the music I put out now sort of as a proof point and display of my portfolio, in hopes that I can convince a vocalist to work with me. I realistically hope to be able to put out an actual song on Spotify by the end of next year.
When I look at my favorite dance producers like Kaytranada or SG Lewis, they primarily got their start with “bootleg remixes” (unsanctioned remixes of existing songs) given the scarcity of high quality vocal material.
My plan is to largely do this and make short-form content on Instagram / TikTok to see what sticks. My experience with Peak Frameworks has taught me that I need to stick to a consistent content schedule.
Isn’t it Kinda Stupid to Spend So Much Time on Music?
Honestly from an economic perspective, yeah it definitely is. I can definitely feel the weird looks when I tell the majority of my old finance colleagues that I just wanna make music and live a relatively chill life.
In fact, producing music has to be one of the lowest expected value activities I can possibly do. But it’s really fun and I think I’m personally satisfied with my career at this point.
Peak Frameworks is growing well, but it’s reaching the point where I need to start managing others to grow it much larger. And I want to keep the business relatively small because managing people is well, kind of lame.
I think I’m ready for music to be a bigger part of my life.