We interview Copilco Productions founder and Creative Audio Production & Sound Engineering tutor Philip Röder about his no-nonsense music industry podcast, Pick Yourself Podcast.
Nobody said a career in music was going to be easy. There is so much noise in the music industry today that building a career within it is a daunting prospect. And while social media and the internet has democratised music, information overload can be both overwhelming and confusing. We hear the same questions from our music production students all the time: How do I grow a fan base? How do I build an artist brand? How do I get my music heard by the right people? How do I find the right label – or is it even worth being signed anyway?
Inspired by his students and his mixing and mastering clients at Copilco Productions, Creative Audio Production & Sound Engineering tutor Philip Röder decided to bring some much needed clarity to the scene. A couple of months in and already 15 episodes deep, his new Pick Yourself podcast is gaining traction for its actionable, no-nonsense approach to music industry advice. Philip’s wealth of experience – not only in music, but in marketing – adds even more credibility. They say that podcasts are music for the mind, and in Pick Yourself’s case, that couldn’t be more fitting.
Keen to learn more, we squeezed ourselves into Philip’s busy schedule for an interview.
What inspired you to start the podcast?
First of all, I love seeing people grow, personally as well as professionally. As a mixing and mastering engineer, I work not only with the big names like Ruede Hagelstein or Acid Pauli but also with lots of upcoming artists. They’re ambitious, hungry, and want to establish themselves in the electronic music scene. But the problem is that besides making great music, there are a ton of other things that they have to get right. From booking their own shows to finding the right label, to promoting their releases, etc.
So usually, when we’re done with the masters of their latest release, they start asking me questions like, “how should I send this to labels now?” or “what can I do to get featured on blogs?”. So I noticed that there was a lot of demand for this type of information. After many years of helping artists individually, I’ve decided to put this out for free as a podcast and blog so I could help more people.
Sharing knowledge seems to be the common denominator of all of your professional pursuits. Why is it important for you to give back to the music community?
I’m a big believer in the abundance mindset. This simply means: There are more than enough resources for everybody and the more we share, the more we all can grow. With the podcast, I’ve found a way to add massive value to the community and I already get messages from people all over the world, sharing their first success stories. This is fascinating to me and makes it worth the effort. At the moment, I’m spending around 10 to 16 hours a week on creating a free podcast. This might sound insane to some people, but I think it’s a good investment of my time and energy as I can see the benefits for my audience already.
You’ve mentioned that your music career grew organically thanks to your DIY attitude — from being in a band to producing, and mixing and mastering music to building your own studio. For the younger generation of “digital natives,” you could say that doing it yourself comes naturally. Do you think this gives them an advantage in the industry or is information overload a setback?
As long as you adopt a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset, you have a good chance to succeed. It doesn’t matter how old you are or whether you’re a digital native or not. Growth mindset simply means: If you’re running into an obstacle, you do everything you can to overcome it. The podcast is a resource for the ones who are willing to put in the work.
You think you’re bad at promoting your music and your artist profile? Well guess what, you can learn that critical aspect of your career. You think you’re bad at networking? Maybe your concept of networking was wrong to begin with — go figure it out. People with a fixed mindset always find excuses or blame others. The ones with a growth mindset claim responsibility for their career, own their weaknesses, and constantly improve. I’ve made the podcast for those who want to grow.
From your research with clients, students, colleagues and friends, what are the main obstacles that music producers face today?
From an artistic standpoint, I’m often missing a bit of courage. Music’s getting too safe. Up-and-coming artists tend to stay too close to their idols and become copycats, without even noticing it. Another big obstacle is that many of them are still waiting for things to happen instead of taking action and making things happen. You’re not magically getting booked because you’ve put out a new EP on SoundCloud. You’re not getting signed to a label because they stumble upon your social media profile.
But there’s also the opposite: Artists who put too much emphasis on the marketing and business aspects. They tend to neglect the creative side and come up with mediocre songs that don’t resonate emotionally with a relevant audience. Overall, I think up-and-coming artists need to accept the fact that they have to invest years into growing their career, learning new skills, and building something meaningful.
As a music multihyphenate — mixing/mastering engineer, producer and tutor — do you think that having multiple hustles is necessary to succeed in the creative industries?
Haha, you got me there. Thanks for pointing this out! To be honest with you, I sometimes wish I could focus all my energy on only one thing. But it’s always been this way with my life and I guess I just need it this way. Coming back to your question, I definitely think that building different skill sets is a must in today’s creative industry. Since art and technology are evolving faster than ever, you need to be able to adapt quickly.
Even if your goal is to make a full-time living as an artist, you might face times where your type of music isn’t in demand anymore and your fans have moved on. Early in an artist’s career, it makes sense to have a part-time job that pays the rent and still offers as much flexibility as possible. Since you’re likely to have creative skills and experience in the music industry, you might as well look for a job where you can make use of that. Not having to rely on your artist income 100% can also be very beneficial for your mental health. Stress and anxiety are big obstacles in the creative process.
Your industry knowledge is bolstered by valuable marketing experience. How did you manage to reconcile the artist mentality with self-promotion to build your career?
“Self-promotion” to me is a very strange expression and I don’t subscribe to that concept at all. I believe in doing great things and sharing it with the world in a way that feels true.
Before doing music full-time, I worked as a brand strategist in one of the most cutting-edge marketing agencies in Germany and it was a lot of fun. But when big corporations wanted me to put together a creative concept that was essentially greenwashing or abusing subculture, I came to realize that this was not the best use of my creative talents.
Building my own business based on a set of strict principles felt like a big relief to me. In terms of marketing, all I have to do is to tell my story as it is. So I’ve never felt that conflict between artistic integrity and “self promotion”. I’ve shared my thoughts on this in a recent podcast episode that helps artists build their brand. My number one rule for this is: If it feels fake, don’t do it.
It’s really inspiring that you embellish your points with quotes from your favourite authors. If you could recommend one book for personal growth, what would it be?
The Go-Giver, by Bob Burg and John David Mann. It’s a little parable that might change the way you think about life and business forever. Besides that, if you’re an artist, read Just Kids by Patti Smith. It was given to me in a very difficult period of my life and it’s one of the most beautiful pieces of literature I’ve ever read. It’s comforting, emotional, and most of all, honest.
You recently interviewed fellow Catalyst Music tutor Christopher Jarman, aka Kamikaze Space Programme. Aside from being good mates, why did his story resonate with your podcast?
Christopher has built an incredible career by reinventing himself several times as an artist. I’ve never met anyone who’s managed to stay as fresh and engaged as Chris. He’s the first one to tell you about new things he’s just learned or what new techniques he’s going to try out. If you want a role model for the growth mindset, he’s it. Chris has had some rough times as well and since we have a friendship based on mutual trust and respect, I was sure he would share this. My audience isn’t interested in interviews that glorify an artist. They want to know what it’s really like and how someone has managed to overcome all the obstacles that they are facing.
Why is it important for musicians to make connections they care about?
I don’t believe in “networking” in the traditional sense. Shallow party friendships are not going to get you anywhere. My philosophy here is pretty simple: Build long-term connections with a very select group of people who you actually care about. If you’re interested in their success and you do everything to support them, you’re on the right track.
With traditional networking, we tend to focus on “what we get out of a connection”. In my opinion, that’s completely the wrong mindset.
What is one thing any music producer can do to push their career in the right direction?
Start something on your own because nobody will do it for you. The most “attractive” artists are the ones who are leading their own local DIY-party collective, who run their own label and sign great talent, who run their own weekly radio show, open a pop-up record store, start a blog, etc. If you can pull these things off while also producing great music, the world is yours.
What can we expect from the coming Pick Yourself episodes?
I’m going to do a little mini series on record labels soon. How to increase your chances of getting signed, why starting your own label might be a good idea, what label you should be looking for, etc. I’m going to interview some experienced label heads as well as some artists who have just started their own label. A little side note to our Catalyst students: I’m also going to interview some of their tutors besides Chris, so stay tuned for that!
Check out Pick Yourself podcast here, and download Philip’s free pdf guide: Seven Strategies Of Highly Successful Electronic Music Artists. For more from Philip, read his expert guide on how to build your own music studio.