Dubspot Student Success: Ben Phipps Interview
Dubspot alumni Ben Phipps joins Dubspot Instructor Adam Partridge for an exclusive interview to discuss his experiences and journey to becoming a successful DJ/Producer.
We are proud to see former Dubspot students making some serious waves out there in the music world. In this recent success story, rising talent Ben Phipps sits down with Dubspot Music Production Instructor Adam Partridge aka Atropolis to share his inspiring story about how he launched into the music industry pursuing a career as an established DJ/Producer and his learning experience while studying at Dubspot. Ben also breaks down his workflow and offers up some music production advice for artists who are trying to make big moves with their music.
I know you come from a musical family, can you briefly tell us about your upbringing in a musical family and how it has influenced you as an artist today?
Being surrounded by music all the time can’t have been a bad thing but I think the most important thing was that they always encouraged and believed in whatever endeavor I was taking on. For a while, it was running my own business with music on the side and later on music full time. Going full time into music wasn’t something they were concerned about, it was something that was encouraged. They also taught me the hard work and persistence that is required for a career in the arts.
I was your instructor when you came to Dubspot about three years ago, what decisions led you to come study at Dubspot?
I’d kept an eye on Dubspot for a while, watching your videos on YouTube and reading about it. I really liked how all the instructors were artists or producers doing their own thing and that the classes focused on making music from day one instead of studying for several years before actually doing anything real. So when I sold my business to pursue music full time it was the obvious first stop for me.
Do you find that your education at Dubspot helped give you some of the tools you needed in order to take the next steps towards your musical endeavors?
Dubspot has been essential to my music career. After my first three months of production classes at Dubspot, I left feeling confident with a really strong foundation in music production. The key was that I knew enough about everything to continue developing my skills on my own after leaving, without getting too stuck and frustrated. It wasn’t long before I returned to take the Mixing and Mastering Program which was also very valuable.
You’ve recently received a million plays on Spotify, can you tell about this single behind all of these plays? I understand it was a collaboration if you can share the process behind this track?
The way to get millions of plays on Spotify is to send blank checks to the head office, they always respond well to that. No, but really it was a bit of a snowball effect. My manager started reaching out to the curation team at Spotify and sent my latest single ‘Alive’ their way. We only got one response at first, but that curator added it to a big playlist, people started sharing it, and then from there other curators noticed it doing well, and it was added to more playlists, and later picked up by Spotify’s “Discover Weekly” and on and on. The curators at Spotify have access to a lot of analytics regarding playlists, so if you get on one playlist and do well (people adding it to their favorites or simply not skipping it), they will keep you on there and likely add it to more playlists.
Alive happened quite fast because contractual issues with another collaborator had left me with a hole in my release schedule. So I called Ashe (with whom I’d worked on several previous songs) and said “do you have time to drop everything and write a song with me this week? It’s urgent.” So we started with the piano for the verses and then worked out lyrics and the vocal hook before making the chorus section. It all came together rather quickly.
You’ve also charted #1 on SiriusXM Chill, can you please share some information about the track? The collaborative effort and some of the tools you used to create this track?
This time Ashe and I were working on a different song, and while taking a break, I started playing around with a Rhodes MK1 electric piano. What I played got stuck in my head, so I ended up scrapping the old track quickly and then put down the main parts for ‘Don’t Look Back.’
The chords and melody are played on a Rhodes MK1 from NI Komplete 10. The baseline is a single layer NI Monark, which is by far my favorite synth for baselines. It’s a Minimoog emulation, and really, you can’t get this thing to sound bad. I use a kick synthesizer called KICK from Sonic Academy to make my kicks. A lot of the percussion is from the stock Latin Percussion pack for Ableton, which is a gold mine. If there’s a suite of plugins, I couldn’t live without it’s the SoundToys bundle and NI Komplete.
Has your recent success led to new opportunities such as touring or getting aligned with a booking/management agency?
Yes, it has! I started getting messages from sleazy managers sometime last year and signed with the least sleazy one. Not long after that, I signed with CAA for worldwide bookings, and they are making some big moves for me. I’ll start playing shows in the US later this year which I’m really excited about.
What’s next for Ben Phipps? Any forthcoming gigs or releases?
There will be a couple more releases over the summer while I build my live show for later this year. It’s quite the task as I want the show to be as live as possible; with me playing as many instruments as I can, and when possible, having collaborators and other musicians join me.
You came to Dubspot as a student about three years ago and have accomplished quite a lot since then. Any words of wisdom for current students who are trying to make serious moves with their music?
I think the most important thing is persistence. The development curve will feel like it’s plateauing after a while once you’ve mastered the basics. That’s the hardest point; you’re working just as hard without seeing as much of a difference in the results. So keep working every day, a little every day is better than a marathon session once in a while… and finish songs! You’ve gotta be ok with not being completely happy with the end result. Trying to making your first real productions masterpieces is a waste of time. Finish and move on to the next one. You don’t have to release it, think of it as just good practice. For every song, you’ll learn new tricks, face new challenges, and solve them. I believe that’s the fastest way to develop as an artist.
Here’s a short clip to keep you motivated:Click here to view the embedded video.
Below is some great advice on developing as an artist:
On the business side of things, I’d say don’t wait for a label and don’t sign to a shit label for the sake of being signed. Start by putting out the music yourself; you don’t need a label to get your music on Spotify or iTunes. Most labels today won’t give a shit unless you have some kind of traction or audience already. I started getting my first traction by having my song on some big YouTube and SoundCloud channels. So make a list of channels that fit you, big and small, and send them all a personal e-mail offering them to post your song. Google Budi Voogt, he’s the master of this kind of promotion!
Also, doing something different to get attention can be worth a try! When I released my first single Fireproof, instead of sending emails I spent days baking letters and envelopes in coffee and burning them with a candle. I made about 100 and sent them to every radio station I could find an address for. It only took a few days before Sweden’s biggest radio station premiered it, and I was freaking out.
What’s your DAW of choice?
I produce in Ableton Live 9, and when I’m done, I’ll bounce the stems and mix in Logic X. But really I don’t think DAW’s matter at all; it’s just a personal preference. So if I may give some advice, it would be to try different ones, find your favorite and stick with it. The DAW is a tool; it won’t make the music for you.
How do you begin a track (drums, groove, bass line, melody, sample?)
I almost always begin with chords and melody on the piano. I feel once I have the musical foundation down the rest comes along pretty quickly. So after that, I’ll decide on a tempo, drop in a kick and write the baseline, drums, and so on.
What’s the trick to finishing tracks?
Post-its and Pomodoros! Let me explain… Once I get a production to 90% finished I play through the track from start to end and write down a note for everything I want to change while it’s playing. So it might be bar 39 fix bass cutoff, bar 57 add hats, and so on. Everything I hear that’s missing or has to be fixed gets a note. I then pick out a few of them and set a timer for 25 minutes and burn through them at a rapid pace (Google Pomodoro technique). I’ll take a five-minute break and then move on to the next ones until there are none left. Then I play the track again, repeat the process. This way I stay focused and don’t fiddle around for ages not getting anywhere.
What do you do when you are creatively stuck and how do you break out of being stuck?
There’s no easy cure for that, but it won’t solve itself. I usually snap out of it by just improvising piano for fun in my misery. I’ll stumble on something cool and then the 12h later there’s a new track. Listening to a lot of music also helps and sometimes. I’ll also browse through samples to find something that inspires me, or that just gets me started. The sample might never make it to the final song, but it’s a starting block that gets the creative juices flowing.
You also run your own label, which you’ve released your music under. Can you please share with us how that is going and why you chose this path?
In the beginning, no decent label would have me, and I wasn’t gonna wait around for their approval. So I set up 14 & 9 Records to release my own music (see where I got the name from?) I’ve got a small but amazing team working the label end of things. Right now we’re not taking on any other artists, but that will change in the future. Also, I’m a bit of a control freak, so being captain of the ship suits me well.
About Ben Phipps
Coming off the back of the highly successful release ‘Sleep Alone feat. Ashe’ reaching 200,000 plays in the first week as well charting on HypeMachine, SoundCloud, iTunes, and Spotify; Swedish-born Ben Phipps returns with another viral release featuring Ashe. Boosting a million plays in the first month, ‘Sleep Alone feat. Ashe’ has been in heavy rotation on US/CA SiriusXM radio and reached the #2 spot on the HypeMachine charts.
Surrounded by positivity and his ever-faithful pooch Fiona – Ben’s relentless work ethic and positive attitude have a tremendous impact on others around him. For Ben, the goal has always been about making great music. Now that he’s found his own successful path from finding his inspiration, talent, and confidence along the way – he is now able to pass on the inspiration to thousands upon thousands of others through sharing his innovative production tutorials and sample packages available online.
Born into a family of musicians, Ben Phipps grew up quickly as a young man with an immense love of life and an incredible passion for music. In 2012, he chose to pursue further education overseas in the United States and attended Dubspot, a reputable school for music production in New York City. Opening doors and opportunities of all kinds through new skills, connections, and exciting combinations of sound; Ben Phipps continued strongly through his next two years splitting his time between NYC, Toronto, and Montreal refining his craft, songs, and style.
Now possessing all the skills necessary and fresh from harnessing the energy of his well-earned education – Ben returned to Sweden in early 2015 more ready to pursue a lifelong career, and truly more capable than ever before. Inspired by the growing support and confirmations of his talent from peers; this electrifying sound-artist blends exciting combinations of electronic sounds and classical instruments in vibrantly dynamic, emotional, and exotic new ways.
At Dubspot our world-class instructors provide the most complete and cutting-edge Ableton Live learning experience. The Ableton Live Producer Certificate Program is the flagship of our music training. After completing this program, you will leave with a portfolio of original tracks, a remix entered in an active contest, a scored commercial to widen your scope, and the Dubspot Producer’s Certificate in Ableton Live.
About This Program
This program is about learning Ableton Live by going through the entire process of being an artist, by developing your own sound through a series of sketches and experimentation. You will also learn the ins and outs of this powerful software through a series of exercises designed to help you master the steps involved in producing your own music. After a level of getting familiar with the tools that Ableton has to offer, you will then develop your sonic ideas into full-length tracks. You will be exposed to a variety of approaches to arrangement and composition, storytelling techniques, ways of creating tension and drama in your music. At the end of the day, it is the sum total of your choices as an artist that define your sound, and levels 2 – 6 will give you the experience of actually completing tracks to add to your portfolio.
- Ableton Live Level 1: Beats, Sketches, and Ideas
- Ableton Live Level 2: Analyze, Deconstruct, Recompose, and Assemble
- Ableton Live Level 3: Synthesis and Original Sound Creation
- Ableton Live Level 4: Advanced Sound Creation
- Ableton Live Level 5: Advanced Effect Processing
- Ableton Live Level 6: Going Global with your Music
Visit the Ableton Live course page for detailed information on this program here.
If you have questions, please call 877.DUBSPOT or send us a message.