There are many blogs, podcasts and YouTube channels filled with interviews with artists who have 'made it' or who have sustained a successful career in music for many years. However, there are very few platforms that enquire about the experiences and insights of musicians who are currently on the path.
Although it's very important to model previous success, I feel strongly that we can learn a great deal from engaging with our peers and sharing experiences. It's incredibly valuable to hear from those who are right alongside us on the journey up, and to benefit from their insights. Music is an ever-changing field on an ever-changing horizon, where the wisdom of more seasoned artists isn't necessarily as relevant in today's music industry.
Labi Ramaj is an up-and-coming music producer who is quickly making a name for himself in the EDM scene. I was introduced to Labi through Chris Carvalho at UnlockYourSound.com (for more on Chris, check out his interview here) and recently had the pleasure of interviewing him for the site. Labi shares some invaluable tips and his dedication and mindset are an inspiration.
Who is Labi Ramaj?
For any LearnMusicTech readers who may not have heard about you before, could you provide a bit of background on yourself and your music?
My name is Labi Ramaj and I live in Norway. I started out as a DJ first when I was 16 years old. I am now 24 years old and still DJ'ing every weekend. I just love everything about music so I guess DJ’ing and producing was the process of one thing leading to another.
How long have you been producing music?
I spent some time with Logic starting in 2014, but I really did not know what to do and how to produce at all. Over time I opened it more often and experimented longer than before.
Suddenly my workflow got better, I got familiar with the DAW and started to actually have fun with it. Now I am producing music almost every day and the whole thing started when I sat down and created a goal for myself to produce an EP back in October, 2016.
Who or what are your biggest influences (music, art, business or otherwise)?
I think that changes a lot depending on what sound I am into at a specific time. If you had asked me 2 years ago, I would have said artists like Nicky Romero, but for now it is definitely Martin Garrix.
Since I have met him a couple of times, I got the chance to talk with him and got to know him a little bit. That created a connection between us as artists. I really like his music and that he creates contemporary music which always moves him forward.
Who are you listening to right now?
A lot of G4SHI’s music, and my own of course!
Can you describe your biggest production breakthrough (no matter how simple!)?
Using one sound many times but in different ways. Like creating a stab from one note, putting a lot of reverb on it and then reversing it. Then using the same sound (without reverse) as a down sweep with gain automation.
You can use that same sound with a lot of reverb as an atmosphere...the possibilities are endless, as long as you use your creativity.
That process really opened up my eyes. That was when I noticed that there are no rules, just pure creativity. The only rule is that it has to sound good.
If you could give one piece of advice to improve a mix, what would it be?
Comparison. Compare the output with other songs and play it through other speakers (car, TV, cellphone, PC etc.).
Do you have any tips or advice that other people may find surprising, controversial or that perhaps contradict general convention?
I think producers should think more about their audience when creating music, rather than worrying about what other producers are going to think. Sometimes I get the feeling that producers try to impress each other with some super duper delay, echo, or reverb techniques, for example. Like when using a preset, or samples from sample packs: over-the-top.
It’s nice when you make a synth lead from scratch and spend several hours on it, but keep in mind that 99% of your audience do not even know what a lead is.
People do not care how it was made, the only thing they care about is if the music hits them or not, if they can feel it.
What’s the one part of your setup that you couldn’t be without?
My external hard drive where I store all of my sound libraries and my own samples.
What are your three favourite plugins (stock or third party)?
Synthmaster, Sylenth1 and Massive.
Are there any free tools that you would recommend?
Dimension Expander by Xfer Records and the s(M)exoscope by Smart Electronix which shows you the waveform of your audio.
What do you do to stay inspired and motivated?
Imagination is key. I imagine myself touring the world and playing at big festivals all the time.
So I always know what to do next and that is to produce good music and get it out there. Sometimes it is enough for me to just see a picture of, for example, Martin Garrix, and that gets me right back at my PC producing.
I always keep in mind that I only have one life to live and that time goes by very fast, so that is why I am making every second count.
What is the biggest challenge that you have faced so far in your career (music, business or otherwise)?
Not being able to produce what you want because of the lack of knowledge about your software (DAW). Especially before, when I didn’t know anything about Logic but was so loaded with ideas. That was really frustrating, to not be able to get my ideas out there.
It is like a painter not having a brush to paint with. But the good thing about it is that you learn a lot from that. You don’t just give up. No matter how long it will take to be in control of your DAW and to be able to produce a whole song, it will pay off in the end.
What’s been your biggest achievement to date (if different from above)?
Producing my EP Pure, which features 5 songs, that I completed in 8 weeks. That was really big for me because I was used to spend months or even a year on one song trying to make it perfect.
Suddenly a guy called Chris came along, who is now my manager and good friend. He helps me a lot when it comes to mindset and productivity. He supports me whenever he can. He simply gives me my ‘to-dos’ and helps me to turn them into ‘to-dones’!
Producing a song with vocals on was also a big achievement, with lyrics written by my friend Vargenta and myself. That meant so much to me because the lyrics were from my heart, and hearing someone singing them with such an amazing voice was really special for me.
Music is a great way of expressing feelings. The funny part is that we did not plan to produce a song but it just happened while I was visiting Vargenta, and suddenly after 4 hours the song was done. It’s also the first time that every blog and YouTube channel I’ve reached out to has said yes to promotion.
Business, Marketing & Career
Do you have any advice for artists and producers for getting their music out there, and building a fanbase?
I think those two things go hand in hand. You need music to get your fanbase and your fanbase needs your music. The rest is really marketing, as it is in any other company, to stay in contact with fans and to grow. You need to make use of social media.
You have to think of yourself as a brand. Sell it!
Do you have any specific tips or recommended resources for promotion and marketing?
Any big company or artist doing well is a potential resource. Just watch what they are doing and why they are doing it and you will learn a few things about promotion and marketing.
What are your thoughts on making a living from music?
That would be a dream come true. I think, in general, if you can make a living from your hobby or passion, it’s one of the best things that can happen to you.
Was there a time when you had to balance making music with a full time job?
Yes, and so I decided to go from a full time job to a part time job. Luckily my workplace was okay with it and I could fully concentrate on music production.
What resource, method or philosophy has had the biggest impact on your workflow?
Working within time limits. Like only having 10 days for producing 1 song and doing that for 8 weeks. I did that for my EP and it worked so well for me. As I only had limited time I could not spend 4 hours on making that perfect snare or spending 5 hours on browsing through samples just to see if there is anything more I could add.
It is very difficult to grow when you don’t have goals. You need goals for orientation for growth and for strength, like with everything in life.
If you set a goal of producing 1 song every 10 days all your questions will be answered! Just one thing, that is all you need, one thing at a time and it will answer all your questions.
You might think of promotion or the music video before even finishing the track itself, and maybe a thousand other things, like doing a remix of a song you just heard on the radio. But it’s all about that one thing, that one goal.
Don’t let yourself get distracted by other things. Having a single goal of finishing that track keeps you on course to achieve it. That’s the point. Not the goal itself but the progress towards it. I learned that from my manager, Christopher.
Are there any resources (books/websites/courses etc.) that you recommend?
YouTube is my best friend. Every time i am stuck with something I head there to search for the answer and apply it straight away.
Can you tell us more about your latest release?
My latest release is the first single from my new album and the single is called Your Love. It is very different from what I am used to producing and it was very challenging. I learned a lot from the process of creating that song because it forced me to move out of my comfort zone. The song is out on Spotify, Apple Music and all other major stores.
What are your main goals for the future / What is currently in the pipeline?
My main goals are continuing to produce music and making other people happy with it. Currently I am working on my album. The first single is out now and there are 2 more singles to come. At the start of July I will then release the full album.
I am also working on a side project with my friend Vargenta. We have already produced some songs and I cannot wait to share them with the world!
Anything else you’d like to share with readers?
I just want to say thank you for your time and keep producing. Patience is key 😉
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