Read as Brandon “Blue” Hamilton talks about his career as a Producer/Writer/Musician. Find him at www.bassieblue.com and on the Twitter feed in the sidebar of this interview.
I live by air, water, food, and love. Ha. As for working, I’d say I make people smile, professionally.
How would you describe what you do?
I create musical compositions for artists. I engineer recording sessions. I mix songs. I teach bass, piano, and composition (by way of music programming). I offer performances, both live and in studio, on bass, guitar, keys, & voice. Mostly, I talk & and encourage people.
What does your work entail?
My work takes a great deal of ‘people skills’. I’m always interacting with different personality types & seeing people on good days as well as bad. I use music to lift people’s energy. If it’s a more intimate setting like the studio or my office, it will entail talking, asking serious questions, and making jokes in order to enhance the results of learning or recording. If it’s on stage, it will entail me physically demonstrating through my movements; ‘feeling a song in my bones’ and of course playing as many proper notes as possible to encourage the listener/viewer to be a part of my/our experience on stage. My work also involves tons of homework, lots practice time, lots of bettering myself to produce better results, & lots of learning about people to evaluate how they intake and hold information. To be optimal, for me, involves sweating and working hard when no one is around so that when it’s game time, there are as few glitches on my part as possible. People expect me to always be on my game; to always deliver excellent results.
What’s a typical work week like?
My week will usually consist of a handful of scheduled lessons and performances booked months out. It’s typical for my weeks to get full during the week or 2 prior. This means I have to be creative and very flexible with my scheduling. Every week is different. I guess a typical work week for me is atypical. Ha
How did you get started?
Heard and watched a guy RIPPING a white Prince guitar and I thought it looked fun. I got started by having fun on guitar, then using guitar and bass to heal my wounds/find my happy place. Initially, I had NO idea that I could make money playing instruments. To be more specific about the things I do now, I’d say I got started by making friends, networking.
What do you like about what you do?
I like it when people smile because they can easily do something after spending time learning from me that they thought they couldn’t do before. I like watching folks’ faces light up when they hear how great they (or their friend/family member) sounds when we’ve finished recording a song. I like it when people come up to me and tell me how much they enjoyed watching me perform. That in particular is funny because I spent so much of my time working to do things on instruments that I felt others couldn’t do just to find out people connect more with my love for playing than they do with any of the cool tricks I can do. I like sharing my successes with friends and family. Love seeing them fill up with encouragement, faith in themselves, and a sense of pride for being a part of my success story, my life story. I really like my flexibility. I travel, spend time on friends and family, as I see fit. There are no ‘vacation days’. I don’t have to answer to anyone when I take time for myself or anyone else. Out of respect and appreciation, of course, I notify my clients and others I work with as to my change in availability.
What do you dislike?
The part of what I do that involves the more glamorized music business can be very tedious. It’s difficult to navigate relationships and to watch my back, and my friends’ backs while making moves in the business. Most folks that I’ve dealt with, however ‘nice’ they may be, tend to lookout for themselves at the expense of anyone they can use.
How do you make money/or how are you compensated?
I get compensated by the hour for my teaching/engineering, by the set for performances, and by song for production and songwriting. Production and songwriting for professional artists (artists signed to record labels/distribution deals) usually entails multiple checks over years from publishing and royalties.
How much do people in your career/field make?
This can vary in the extreme. Successful songwriters or producers can make millions. The average producer/songwriter make very little. About 1% of people that do music make enough money to provide for themselves and their families. I like to have diversity with finances. I teach, perform, engineer, produce, write. Monthly or ‘steady’ income can range from 2k-5k and earnings from productions/writings can go from 2k to 10k for a song (I’m limiting this number to each song, but also to typical quarterly royalty/publishing also).
How much money did/do you make starting out?
With performing, I started out making $45 plus tips (usually 3-7 dollars) for 4hrs with 2 half hour breaks playing jazz and blues. Teaching was $25/hr and I had one student I saw for a half hour a week so I got $50/month. Beyond that, everything started at free. Haha.
What education, schooling, or skills are needed to do this?
Much of my education was independent as far as music goes. I was formally trained in music theory. I do a lot of different work so it requires all sorts of knowledge. For teaching, it’s understanding how individuals are different; the ability to tailor speech and teaching methods, it’s knowing music theory, being versed in what rhythms, chords and feeling constitutes a specific genre and being able to communicate/instruct these ideas. For performing, it’s being knowledgeable on my instrument in order to effectively learn songs on it, this also involves the same genre understanding/capability, knowing the notes and chords in songs and on my instrument, and basic music theory. For engineering and production, it’s much of those same skills, but amplified, also including basic knowledge of electronics, patching and routing cables for outboard gear, basic math and computing skills, and understanding to deliver a healthy mix of what you consider ‘quality’ while delivering what the clients want.
What is most challenging about what you do?
Scheduling. It takes a whole lot of effort to keep with a schedule that changes and updates daily.
What is most rewarding?
Satisfied clients. Love it! Love seeing the life change and the smiles.
What advice would you offer someone considering this career?
Proceed with caution. Haha. It takes a lot of concentration and effort to sit down and work on something until its finished. It’s good to be able to understand people and to be sensitive to the needs of others. Practice a lot. Network and establish relationships. Even if you get formal training, college training etc., always do your own independent study to better yourself. This is how many of the truly successful people I know have managed to really set themselves apart from others and carve out their niche.
How much time off do you get/take?
I don’t really say I have ‘off days’. Usually I have days where I’m working from home or have less to do. As for actual downtime, altogether, 3-4 weeks a year.
What is a common misconception people have about what you do?
That it’s easy. That I hangout with famous people; which I guess is kinda true, but work with them is more accurate most of the time.
What are your goals/dreams for the future?
For one, for my students to fulfill their goals/dreams using some of the tools I shared with them. Outside of that, all the work I do is done in order to make a more free me and more free family. Free to love, free to share my time and creativity, just free.
What else would you like people to know about your job/career?
It’s not for everybody. There are hard times as well as the good times. If you’re only doing it for money, you should probably find a better reason. There are times when great things aren’t paying and there are times when small things pay a bunch. I find it healthy to approach every project with my love and passion for what I do and the fact that I get to share that with others. Approaching projects solely for money usually makes for a boring, half-hearted waste of time.