Mike Posner talked with Cory Levy on OFF RCRD about his start as an artist, getting signed to a record deal, lessons learned from Big Sean, and much more. Listen to the podcast episode on iTunes or at Offrcrd.com, and check out the full transcript of their converstation below!
EPISODE 9 | MIKE POSNER
This week, Cory speaks to singer-songwriter and record producer Mike Posner, who is best known for having multiple Billboard Top 100 hits while also writing chart-topping songs for other artists such as Justin Bieber, Maroon 5, Pharrell Williams and more. In this weeks episode, Mike tells us details on how he got started and what he did early on to become a success, what new artists should focus on when creating a project, how music distribution has changed and how up and coming artists should decide to release their music.
“DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME TRYING TO BE POPULAR. SPEND YOUR TIME TRYING TO BE GOOD OR GET BETTER.”
Singer-songwriter Mike Posner (@MikePosner) knows that nothing worth doing is easy–you have to keep working at it. But when he signed his first record deal, he thought things would change. “I really thought that when I got that record deal, that my experience of life would change, that I would be happier and I’d be in the ‘promise land’, that just my experience of life would be exponentially better and I wouldn’t have, really, problems anymore,” says Mike.
“It didn’t make my life worse or make me more sad and more happy, it just was overwhelmingly the same. That was disappointing and disillusioning because I really thought, before, it was going to solve all my problems, and it just didn’t.” Mike then thought, “maybe I just need a big hit song or something, and I set about acquiring that, and I did.” In 2010, Posner’s single “Cooler Than Me” finished #19 on the Billboard Hot 100 for the year and was RIAA Certified 2x Platinum.
Mike Posner talked with Cory Levy on OFF RCRD about his start as an artist, getting signed to a record deal, lessons learned from Big Sean, and much more.
Mike Posner on OFF RCRD | TRANSCRIPT
Cory Levy: Thank you, Mike, for joining on this show today, I really appreciate you taking the time.
[00:00:58] Mike Posner: Thanks for having me on, Cory.
[00:01:00] Cory: I want to get started by asking, what was college and high school like for you? What made you distinct?
[00:01:06] Mike: They were two very different experiences for me. High school, I had a pretty tough time. I grew up in a city called Southfield, Michigan which borders Detroit. Demographically, it’s pretty similar to Detroit as far as ethnicities and racial backgrounds go. The reason I had a tough time was that I just got really bummed out every winter. The weather would get really gray and I felt really depressed, I felt like I didn’t matter or nothing really mattered; my teachers didn’t matter, the whole thing just seemed pointless to me and it just went on for four years. It wasn’t all dark, there were moments of jubilation and joy, for sure.
Then I attended college at Duke University in North Carolina and it was a little bit warmer there. Consequently, my mood seemed to be a bit warmer. It seemed like I was able to step out of that fog I was in in high school and thankfully, I don’t feel like I’ve ever really gone to that dark of a place again, since, in my life.
What made me stand out in high school, I would say I felt like an army of one. I guess maybe my whole life, I’ve never felt like I was similar to everybody else, I always felt like I was different in some ways. I would express that in my music. I started making music and writing my own music when I was eight, so I think that always made me stand out. Sometimes, I’d feel misunderstood or I wasn’t able to communicate how I felt to my peers, my teachers, and my parents, but I was able to get it right always.
So, most obviously, in high school, I rapped, I would do battles. I was a white guy rapping, so I stood out in that fashion, people knew me as a rapper.
[00:02:46] Cory: Did you do anything in high school to piss off your parents?
[00:02:49] Mike: I did a lot of things that did piss off my parents. Most notably, I just was really — and I’m not proud of it at all, I was not grateful at all, I was pretty disrespectful to my parents. I broke my fair share of laws and rules. I was pretty good at not getting caught, pretty smart and I always did really well in school. I only got one B+ and the rest were all A’s and A-minuses. Ironically enough, the B+ was in band. On paper, I was a pretty good kid but I was not so fun to be around. Pretty, as I described earlier, sad a lot of the time and mopey. I was nasty, I would say nasty things to them and I really regret it because my parents were just incredible, they’re just the best. I don’t know, something happened when I was 24. I think my phone rang and it said ‘mom’ on the screen and something just clicked in me and I realized I was so lucky to have a mother calling my phone that cared about me.
I don’t know what it was before that, it always seemed like, “Oh, mom is calling, I’ll have to talk to her now,” that angsty teenage attitude. Something just clicked when I got a little older and I wish that had clicked much earlier because I’m pretty embarrassed of the way I treated my parents, the ones who literally loved me for my entire — every day of my entire life, they loved me.
[00:04:16] Cory: What’s your relationship, now, with your mother?
[00:04:18] Mike: It’s totally transformed and better than ever. My mom is one of my favorite people, if not my favorite person in the world. She’s just somehow so strong, disciplined, and full of fire but simultaneously, gentle, loving, and caring. I wouldn’t trade her for any other mother in the whole world.
[00:04:41] Cory: That’s awesome. If there’s one thing you could pinpoint that has contributed to your success more than anything, what do you think that would be? And why?
[00:04:48] Mike: I’m a firm believer in the law of attraction, which means, basically, you get what you think about, you get what you believe is going to happen. What that looked like, for me, was when I was 18, I met this kid, Sean the Don, who was a rapper in Detroit; well dressed, very charming, and I started doing beats for him. We became friends, I was a part of his crew. Then, he later changed his name to Big Sean and he got signed by Kanye and Def Jam.
So, suddenly, this dream of making a living being an artist was very close, my buddy was doing it. And because I was so close to him, we rapped together all the time, I always secretly felt I was better than him because I felt I was better than everyone, I started to believe that I could do the same thing. When I started to believe I could do the same thing, I started taking actions that were lined up with my impending success. I started to make a band, call people that I wouldn’t normally call, and present myself in a way that was like, “Yo, I’m next up, obviously.” So, the question for the listeners is, do you need your friend? Do you need a ‘Big Sean’ to show you? Or can you just convince yourself, right now, that whatever you want is coming? And you’re going to get there and live your life accordingly?
I think that’s the number one thing, was just convincing myself I was going to be a professional recording artist. I remember telling my mother a year before I did, I was like, “Listen, I’m going to be an artist, get a record deal and do that.” She was just really skeptical, as she should have been because I was just a kid in her basement playing around with the keyboard. I had really convinced myself that was going to happen and I was able to convince others, I was able to, then, in my own mind, justify the hours I was spending making music. My music got better as I made it more and it happened. So, literally, you have this scenario where something from your mind, like a dream, then comes true and then you’re living it. That’s what the law of attraction is. I would say, yes, that’s the number one thing.
[00:06:59] Cory: Aside from getting the band together and making more music, was there anything else that you did after you convinced yourself that you were going to make your career in music?
[00:07:07] Mike: Music is like any other skill in that the more you do it, the better you get. When you first start it, chances are you’re going to stink at it, like anything else. So, there’s that component which is you just keep doing it. No one really liked my music until I was 20, and as I mentioned earlier, I started when I was eight. That’s 12 years of making mediocre stuff until I stumbled upon my own voice. And still, after I make an album and I’m a couple of years older, like right now, I have to rediscover what that voice is now. I would think that’s a big part of it, is just sticking with it. I see a lot of young artists that will make music for a year or two, and they, maybe, make a mix-tape or an EP and they put it out, and it’s okay. Then, they’re sitting around wondering, “Where is my Ferrari and my record deal?” And they quit. But nothing works that way; doctors don’t become doctors on the first day of medical school or even after the first year of medical school and music is no different in my eyes.
There are exceptions where people somehow find success very quickly, but they’re exceptions, there’s a reason they’re exceptions. Most of the people that we look up to worked really hard, but work is, maybe, not the right word because it’s fun. When you’ve convinced yourself it’s all going to work out, then there’s a reason for you to do it.
Then another part I’d like to add, you just take every opportunity. So, the example I always like to give is, after my freshman year at Duke University, I had planned this road trip with a couple of friends. We’d been planning it for six months or so. We were going to drive from Michigan to Colorado, we had this whole thing and I got a call, about a week before the trip, from a friend of a friend at Duke, then this friend said he could get me a meeting with Scooter Braun. Scooter Braun was a manager at the time and he managed Asher Roth, who was this white rapper who later became a friend. I told my buddies, I said, “Hey, I can’t go on this road trip.” And they were very understanding because they supported me. So, instead of driving to Colorado, I drove to Atlanta and met with Scooter, and you know what happened at the meeting, Cory?
[00:09:25] Cory: What happened?
[00:09:26] Mike: Nothing really. We talked, and it was cool, and I went to Duke for a sophomore year and that was really it. We kept in touch.
[00:09:34] Cory: After that, were you like, “Shit, I should have gone?”
[00:09:38] Mike: Yes, I was. I was like, “Well, maybe I should have gone, whatever.” But I kept in touch with Scooter over the years. Fast forward five years; I’ve since graduated Duke, I’m living in LA and I go to a Clippers game. The game is over, I’m leaving the Staples Center and I hear, “Posner.” I look behind me, it’s Scooter Braun. By now, Scooter had signed Justin Bieber who’s exploding, he’s the biggest star in the world. I said to him, I said, “You know, Scooter, I’d like to start writing songs for other artists.” At the time, I’d only written songs for myself really. I said, “You should let me write for Justin, I think I can knock it out the park.” He said, “Okay, come over to my house Saturday and show me some songs.” So, I went over there Saturday and I played him a song from my laptop called “Boyfriend” that I’d recently written with my homie Blackbear and MdL. He looked at me and said, “This is the next Justin Bieber single.” So, you just never know, you just take every opportunity. There’s a thousand of those stories that didn’t turn into anything, there was no second part with a hit single at the end. You just take every opportunity and if they work out, they work out, and if they don’t, they don’t.
[00:10:58] Cory: In addition to Big Sean, who are some of the people that you looked up to or are good friends with, either today or back in the day? Then, what have you learned from them? What was the biggest thing you learned from Big Sean? From Scooter? Or from your mentors, either now or back in the day?
[00:11:13] Mike: The two main lessons I learned from Sean, the first, I touched on already, which was the law of attraction. If you meet Big Sean, and I’m sure he has his ups and downs like everyone, but most of the time, he tends to be glowing, so much so that it rubs off of you, you just feel happy. I’m sure everyone listening, including you, have met people that you just feel good when you’re around them and it can, at times, be so powerful that even after you’re not with them anymore, you still just feel good because they have a good energy about them. He’s one of those guys and I asked him about it one day, I said, “What’s going on with you? What are you doing over here?” And he recommended two books to me; the first was The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I think that’s how you say his name, I’m not sure. He said, “Read that.” And he said, “Read this book, ‘Ask and It is Given’ by Esther and Jerry Hicks,” which is all about the law of attraction. Those two books changed my life. I read many other books after those tangentially, but those two just totally transformed how I looked at the world and my life.
Another thing I learned from Sean was just to be nice to people. I really had the privilege of being able to watch him for two or three years after — maybe even four years, where he had signed his record deal, he had his Jesus piece from Kanye. He wasn’t known on a national level, really, or certainly an international level like he is now, but he had the chain, he was the guy in Detroit. I just got to watch how he treated people always with so much respect and almost just so much kindness and compassion that four years later, when I got my shot, my turn, that it had been ingrained in me and I tried to copy that.
[00:13:07] Cory: What do you wish you had started doing or done more of early in your life, specifically actions or activities with compounding effects?
[00:13:16] Mike: That’s a great question. First thing that comes to mind is meditating. About five years ago, I started meditating twice per day for 20 minutes each session, and it’s just a tool I wish I had my whole life, to step back, do nothing, and be able to see my life from a different perspective. It’s one of those counter-intuitive things. We tend to spend most of our time trying to perfect the circumstances around us, whether that means transforming our house to a bigger house or our car to a more expensive car, our lover to a different lover. We do all these things because we think when the circumstances change, we’ll feel better. The ironic thing is, if you meditate, you do nothing, you realize that circumstances around you already are perfect and you feel better, and you take action based off of inspiration as opposed to motivation. Motivation comes from outside, “I should do this because of this reason.” And inspiration comes from within, “I’m going to do this because I’m called to.”
[00:14:27] Cory: So, it was five years ago when you started meditating?
[00:14:28] Mike: Correct.
[00:14:32] Cory: Do you strive for anything today?
[00:14:32] Mike: Sure. So, there’s definitely things I work on, still, and I have desires, of course, but the desires are coupled with the knowledge that they’re not really going to change my life. One desire of mine, for example, I’d love to win album of the year, a Grammy. That’s something that’d be cool but I know it’s not going to change the quality of my life or how life occurs for me. I wake up every morning and I do stuff, and then I go to bed. 10 years ago, I woke up and I did different stuff, and then I went to bed. The stuff may change but how I experience the stuff, that’s really what I’m interested in, like what’s my relationship to the present moment? How can I be more present, mindful, and enjoy life, right now, in a deeper way? That’s always more interesting to me than gaining a new toy or a trinket.
[00:15:30] Cory: I want to talk a little bit about when you were in college and you signed that record deal. At the time, were you living in the present? Or was this a thing you were striving for, “I need the record deal, then I’ll become successful?” What was that like? It was the summer after your junior year you got that deal?
[00:15:44] Mike: Correct. I really thought that when I got that record deal, that my experience of life would change, that I would be happier and I’d be in the ‘promise land’, that just my experience of life would be exponentially better and I wouldn’t have, really, problems anymore. What I found was that when I signed my record deal, of course, there was a jolt and a thrill for a few hours, residual jolts for a few weeks. Then I realized, like I just said, I was doing different things but my experience of life was largely the same; I was about the same happy, I was about the same sad. It didn’t make my life worse or make me more sad or more happy, it just was overwhelmingly the same. That was disappointing and disillusioning because I really thought, before, it was going to solve all my problems, and it just didn’t. I just felt like the same guy doing different stuff or I thought, “Well, maybe I just need to be more popular. Maybe I just need a big hit song or something.” And I set about acquiring that, and I did.
What I found was I still felt the same. I’m not trying to say my life was bad, I wasn’t moping around, but I was moping around some of the time and happy some of the time. I was doing different stuff but my experience of life was the same. So, then, that was when I got the privilege of asking the question, “If that’s not what life is about, then what is it about?” I have different theories about what the answer is to that question.
[00:17:29] Cory: What are some of those theories?
[00:17:32] Mike: I’ve heard the Dalai Lama say before that the purpose of life is to be happy and I’ve heard other philosophers like Alan Watts say that “there really is no purpose to life,” and not in a depressing way, like it doesn’t really matter. You can do what you want, enjoy it, and then it’s over or Friedrich Nietzsche would say, “When your life ends, you get another one of these lives,” so you should try to enjoy it so much that if someone told you, “Hey, when you die, you’re going to get the exact same thing,” that you’d be excited about that. Then, of course, there’s the Christian model of there’s a heaven or hell and a Hindu model of reincarnation. So, play around with all these things and look into them. It depends on the month, which one I’m buying into, but at the end of the day, I don’t think we really know. The beauty of it is we get to decide, and at the end of the day, it’s very mysterious, Cory. We show up in this body and we don’t remember; we don’t remember being born, we’re just here and then, one day, it’s over. No one really knows what’s going on. That’s why I started a podcast this year, it’s called “What Does This All Mean?” And it explores these questions.
[00:18:45] Cory: Listened to every episode except for the meditation one.
[00:18:48] Mike: Thanks, man.
[00:18:49] Cory: I still have to listen to the meditation one. The podcast is great. Favorite episode so far is the Kanye one, that was pretty cool.
[00:18:55] Mike: Thank you, thank you.
[00:18:57] Cory: Today, what are some of the things that make you happy? Do you have a list of things or any routines? I know meditation is in there. Is there anything that you do morning, afternoon or evening that’s the same throughout?
[00:19:08] Mike: Yes, great question. I wake up around seven every day, it can change when I’m traveling, but even if I don’t set alarm, I’m pretty much up at seven or a little bit before maybe. First thing I do is drink a ton of water, so I like to keep some water by the bed, then I go to the bathroom, brush my teeth, and then I sit down to meditate like I said, 20 minutes. I take a few minutes to cool down, to come back and I’ll just jump up, have two minutes…
[00:19:35] Cory: Have you checked your phone at this point or no?
[00:19:36] Mike: No. Well, sometimes I break my own rule, I’ll just add that disclaimer, but really, what I like to do is, when I go to sleep, I put my phone on airplane mode. Then, when I wake up, it stays on airplane mode while I drink the water, while I go to the bathroom, while I brush the teeth. I use it as a timer, but it’s still on airplane mode for the meditation. Then, after that, I exercise. I don’t drink caffeine, I will every once in awhile, I get really high. I have an addictive personality, so will have a coffee maybe twice a month or something like that. So, in lieu of caffeine, I go exercise. About two days a week, I go boxing at a boxing gym, and then two other days in the week, I work with a personal trainer. Then, the other days, I’ll do my own thing and I take one or two days off. Then after that, I feel pretty excited, happy, and high, and then I will take the phone off airplane mode at that point. The theory is, then you’re on/off and I’m doing the things — and sometimes, later, if I get inspired on a song, I’ll keep it off.
The idea is I’m doing the things that I want to do, and then when I’m done doing those, I’ll start looking at what other people want me to do or at fires that I have to put out on the business front. So, I like to be on offense, not defense because if the first thing I do is check my phone, my texts, people have these requests for me, there’s things I need to take care of that are totally fair and I need to take care of, but I want to get done some creative things, some things — I take care of my body first, and then, hop into those later.
[00:21:20] Cory: Aside from meditation and working out, if there are times when you feel lethargic, do you have any tactics that you incorporate that will get you inspired again?
[00:21:28] Mike: Yeah. I think a lot about this and I’ve tested a lot of different things as far as like when I go to sleep, how much I sleep? When I meditate, what I eat, when I eat. After trying a million different combinations of these variables, I’ve found that pretty much no matter what, I would have a little dip in the afternoon. Sometimes it would come as soon as noon, sometimes more like three or four where I just really want to go to sleep.
I used to battle that, I was trying to figure out how to beat it. Now, if that comes on, I usually hit it with my second meditation of the day if I can. Another trick that seems to work, I would say even more than meditating, though I would never not meditate, the other trick is cold water. I live pretty close to the ocean now, so I’ll ride on my bike to the ocean and jump in if I can. If there’s less time, I’ll just take a cold shower, that’s a good one. Then the other one is exercise, but it’s tough if you already exercised that day or you’re doing stuff, that’s not always the easiest thing. But I would say that the most effective mood changer for me is cold water, the cold shower or jumping in the ocean just works.
[00:22:49] Cory: What’s the length that you’re in the cold shower or the ocean? Just 60 seconds or?
[00:22:54] Mike: No, not a lot. I’ve been doing it for a few years, so it’s not as shocking to me as it may be for some people upon first trial. I just try to do it until I can feel my body temperature go down, to the point where I start to get used to the water and it stops being shocking to me, that’s enough. So, it’s like five minutes tops, probably.
[00:23:18] Cory: How do you make hard decisions? Do you have any tactics when it comes to making really hard decisions?
[00:23:23] Mike: Good question. You weigh the pros, cons, and the reasons for and reasons against, that it’s obvious, you think about it. Then, really, it comes down to an intuitive thing for me. Most of my hard decisions, mind you, are decisions between two good options, that’s usually what makes it hard for me, is like work in the studio with someone I really want to work with or can I go back to Detroit and see my mom? They’re both awesome things that I’m going to get to do, so you just pick one. I have a commitment to keep my word, I have a commitment to myself and my health, I have a commitment to my music. I always just try to honor those and stick to them. Then you just make the decision and go, and if it’s something you need to adjust later, fine, you adjust it later, but making no decision, that’s a decision in and of itself and that’s probably the worst one you can make. So, I just like to go with stuff, then see how it turns out, and then I can learn from it later if I need to.
[00:24:30] Cory: What are your biggest challenges right now?
[00:24:32] Mike: Right now, I’m working on a new album and I’ve written a whole bunch of songs for it, maybe north of 50 songs. I’m figuring out how the album is going to sound, sonically, and then, which songs to actually finish. When I say finish, I mean they’re written but I need to finish the recordings, producing them. Production can take, for me, a week for one song, sometimes as much as a month for one song. So, I don’t have time to fully produce 50 songs, I have to pick maybe 15 or 20 and then, I’ll pick the best 10 of those once they’re done. I think that’s maybe a challenge right now, but it’s more of just a journey, I feel like I stumble upon it. I’ve made albums before, so I know I just have to get in the studio with people until something magical happens, and then I’ll go down that rabbit hole.
[00:25:25] Cory: What first order principle should any new music project follow for someone just starting out?
[00:25:32] Mike: I would say first order principle is — and it’s really applicable to any art form, and, I think, business as well. The first order principle would be your job is to create the music that you want to hear, that you want to exist in the world, and if that music already exists, you probably shouldn’t be making a project because it already exists. If your goal is to just make something that sounds like Kanye or something that sounds like Frank Ocean, then just listen to Frank Ocean or Kanye. But if there’s something that you hear, musically, that you haven’t heard before, you’ll create that for yourself, to enjoy and other people will enjoy it. The same goes if you’re a painter; if you see something, create that for yourself just the way you want to see it. Your job is very simple, you’re just making it the way you see it. The same goes for young entrepreneurs; if you see a business that doesn’t exist, make that, and if there’s crummy parts of other businesses that you don’t like and an opportunity comes for you to emulate that, don’t do it.
An example, for me, is, I don’t like advertisements in podcasts. They bug me, I always hit the fast forward during them. So, when I make a podcast, I don’t put advertisements in it. It doesn’t mean advertisements are bad, it’s just I’m making it how I want to make it. So, I would say that that’s the first order.
[00:26:54] Cory: What are some ineffective things you see artists do, where if you could go back to your younger self or to other people’s younger selves, what would be the things you would say to those people? Like, “Hey, don’t waste your time doing this because that won’t work.”
[00:27:06] Mike: I would say, yeah, don’t waste your time trying to be popular, spend your time on trying to be good or better. As you get better, you’ll inherently become popular because people like good people or people who are good at stuff, so just spend your time getting good and getting better. Another thing I see young artists do that I certainly did my first record was, really overwork themselves. You struggle for all these years trying to get people to recognize your music and when they finally do, there’s a tendency to accept every opportunity, whether it be in Adelaide, Australia or Zurich, Switzerland on back to back days, it’s hard to say no to stuff. A lot of times, young artists are being offered more money than they’ve ever seen or their parents have ever seen, so it’s tough to turn down an opportunity based on — You might be totally overworked and not have time to do it.
So, I always recommend to young artists to respect their body, communicate to their teams, with love, how much rest they need. I certainly believe it’s better to do one thing very well than it is to do 20 things with mediocrity.
[00:28:20] Cory: Totally. Do you have any stories about controversy, either first-hand or second-hand, where controversy has played a role in success or getting attention?
[00:28:31] Mike: The beginning of this year, I thought it would be funny to play a joke on the public and make them think I had gone crazy when I hadn’t. I lost a bunch of weight on purpose, I dyed my hair green, and I went to the red carpet at the Grammys looking androgynous; I wore makeup, and not that there’s anything crazy about wearing makeup, but my look was sort of peculiar. I was wearing a skirt with pantyhose and did a lot of goofy things on the red carpet, which I thought were hilarious. It worked out exactly how I wanted, which was, people thought I was going crazy. I had told my friends and family that I was going to get a little weird in 2017 and for them not to worry, but a lot of people who I hadn’t warned or people I forgot to warn, who were actually good friends, were worried about me.
After a certain point, I realized that there was really no point to it and that I have so many years in the world, I don’t know how many it’s going to be, but I should use that time communicating, authentically, what I want to communicate and what I want to create in the world. It ceased to be playing jokes and tricking people, I wanted to help people have more joy in their lives. If I stumbled upon anything that helped me in my life, whether it be meditating or exercising or whatever, then I would like to just share those things, and I couldn’t share them if I was playing a joke on everyone else, going crazy. So, it just stopped, I just stopped and all the controversy seems to be over. It wasn’t that large in the grand scheme of things.
[00:30:17] Cory: What about “I Took a Pill in Ibiza,” has that been at all controversial given the authenticity of it I guess?
[00:30:24] Mike: Yes. I got a message once that the Travel Bureau of Ibiza was upset with the title and it was making their island seem like a party island, appeasing over the more deeper cultural aspects to Ibiza, which I admittedly don’t know much about. It was just a story or a line about something that went on in my life when I was there. But I thought that that song really could have been titled Sad Songs. The chorus is ‘all I know are sad songs’ but I just thought that if I named it the first line of the song, which was I took a pill in Ibiza is interesting. I felt like if I saw that on iTunes or Spotify, I’d want to click that, listen to it, and see what it was all about, so that’s why I named it that. That was intentional, I wanted it to catch people’s attention and I think I got what I asked for.
[00:31:23] Cory: Is there anything that you do — do you have a formula of when you release a certain project, of grabbing attention? How to do that effectively?
[00:31:30] Mike: The honest answer, the most effective way is to make something really great and then, it happens for you, you put it out and people talk about it for you. They tell everyone else about it because it’s cool and they want to be the one to tell others about it. So, that’s honestly the best way, that’s what you do in the studio is just to make something really good. Then, there could be moments where like a certain collaboration can be interesting where they’re like, “Whoa’’, that, ‘’Mike Posner with so and so, I want to hear that.’’ But again, it still has to be good. So, even if they listen to it and they hear it and it’s an interesting collaboration and it’s not good, then it just stops there, but if it’s interesting and it’s really good, then it builds its own momentum.
[00:32:19] Cory: Got it. What are your thoughts on — you’ve been making music since you were eight, it’s been over two decades, so you’ve seen Napster, LimeWire, Spotify, iTunes. How does that affect your career or people in music’s career? If someone was just starting out right now, is there something they should be worrying about? Should they be trying to build a social media brand? Be an internet celebrity? Or follow the music?
[00:32:41] Mike: I think if you want to be an internet celebrity, you should be an internet celebrity, if you want to be a musician, you should be a musician. It’s one of those peculiar things being an artist, where once you proclaim yourself one, you are one. Like I recently was hiring an assistant and I interviewed some people and several people I wanted to interview, they wanted to be artists, and their reasons to work for me, they wanted to come learn from me and see how it’s done da, da, da. Being an assistant for me, is not going to help you be an artist at all and I told them that. It’s like, “You’re going to be an artist, you just start doing it.” I started doing it when I was young, when I was eight. I was like, “Yo, I’m a rapper,” and I made an album in high school. Granted, they weren’t good, but you just start doing.
As far as the difference in the way music is listened to, I think younger artists probably have a better idea of how to answer that question than I do, a young artist. In a lot of ways, they have a lot of advantages because they know how they listen to music, they know how their friends listen to music and they should put it on those platforms. If all your friends are listening to music on YouTube or on SoundCloud, make sure your music is there, if they’re listening to Spotify also, make sure your music is there as well. If I had achieved the same level of success in the 90s, I probably would have made a lot more money because people bought physical albums then and there was no streaming. So, that’s a difference but I still do all right and I’m certainly not complaining, I have more than I need.
So, I don’t know, I think that’s how I’d answer that question.
[00:34:26] Cory: Got it. My last question is, what has been your favorite part about being an artist?
[00:34:31] Mike: I take it for granted a lot but I just get to create things, that’s my job. Sometimes, I do things that aren’t music even. Like this year, I released my first book of poetry called Tear Drops and Balloons. It’s just incredibly liberating in the world of art, whether that be sonically or creating a book, where you get to make this project exactly how you want. So, like in the example of the poetry book, we just sat there for hours and hours playing with the illustrations and where the text for each poem would lie on the page, how big the page numbers would be, the corners of the pages, the fonts, and the cover. To me, that is the reward. A lot of people might be going through the process of creation hoping that it’s going to gain them some reward later, like the gang notoriety or fame. For me, it’s the opposite, where I feel like I endure notoriety or fame, so I’m able to continue doing the creation process.
There’s not a lot of things in life where I get to be the boss of how things go and my art is one of those things. My songs are one of those things where I can sit in the studio and EQ synthesizer sound just the way I want it, turn it up three decibels or fade it out at a certain point, and I’m the boss of that, I’m the king of that little, tiny universe. It’s just fun, it’s like a little sandbox and I love it more than I ever have.
[00:37:08] [END OF AUDIO]