What Musicians Can Learn from Steve Albini

What Musicians Can Learn From Steve Albini

If you don’t know who Steve Albini is, well, let’s fix that. Albini is an award-winning musician, producer, industry commentator, and one of the most respected figures in the industry. With credits to his name including artists like Nirvana, The Pixies, PJ Harvey, and The Stooges.

Albini has an eye for talent and a unique perspective that makes his advice for musicians wholly invaluable. If you’re an aspiring musician then read on for some crucial advice from the man himself.

1: Find your tribe

“Find people who think like you and stick with them. Make only music you are passionate about. Work only with people you like and trust” – Steve Albini

One of the biggest mistakes that aspiring musicians can make is to follow the herd instead of working with their own unique talents. You can spend lots of time trying to appeal to the masses and fit in but the truth is that you won’t be able to please everybody – and that’s actually okay.

The 1,000 true fans theory states that you only need 1,000 engaged fans to build enough income to sustain a career. The key is to create lasting relationships with your fans and find ways to make them want to invest in you as an artist.

There are lots of different ways to grow your relationships with your fans and it’s easier than ever to connect with them. Mailing lists are an obvious route to provide long-form written communications with your fans, but you can also take advantage of services like Discord, Twitch, and Twitter Live Chats to connect in a more direct way.

2: Have confidence in your skills

When Steve Albini was approached to record Nirvana’s 1993 album ‘In Utero’ it would have been easy for him to feel daunted by the task ahead. Not only were Nirvana notorious for being difficult characters to work with, but they were also following up on one of the most successful albums in rock music history.

Rather than pouring over the past recordings, and feeling intimidated, Albini looked forward. Why had they chosen him? What could he bring to the table? It turned out, that they wanted a stripped-back, raw-sounding album and he duly delivered.

3: Balance is key

24/7 work schedules and a lack of sleep should never be treated as a badge of honor. To be at your very best, you must find ways to relax. For Albini, this comes in the form of poker. Albini attests that poker allows him to take a break, and activate parts of his brain that don’t normally get fired up during a recording session. Albini is a high-achiever when it comes to poker. Far from casual games at home with friends, Albini has brought his skills to some of the best poker rooms in Vegas, and to World Series of Poker events which resulted in him winning his first bracelet at the event in 2018.

4: Think differently

From building his own studio (Electric Audio) from the foundations up (to achieve the right acoustics) and eschewing digital recording techniques in favor of analog tape, it shows that Steve Albini isn’t afraid to think outside the box. And he’s not afraid to speak his mind either.

Albini is considered a disruptor in the music industry, and someone who isn’t afraid to challenge the status quo. Albini’s thesis maintains that creatives must learn to use the tools at their disposal, rather than rely on record labels and publishing companies to do the work for them. By adopting new marketing trends, and being innovative with their communications, they can essentially create a direct line to fans and control their own destiny.

Steve’s lesson here is that all the tools are on hand for you to succeed – you just need to learn how to use them. With younger audiences, in particular, beginning to abandon traditional social media platforms, now might be the time to brush up on your TikTok game.

While Steve is considered to be an outlier in the music industry, his unique take on culture, music and technology make him a valuable fountain of knowledge. Steve teaches us to create strong bonds with our fans, trust our instincts, push boundaries, and find a way to unwind so that we can unleash our creativity to the fullest when the time calls.