Andrew Scanlan recently sat down with Jeff Brogger, also known as BRØHG, who graduated in 2016 from Pyramind's Ableton Producer Online Program. Since finishing the online program and earning an Ableton Live certificate, BRØHG has finished an EP that's on the brink of release, played live sets at various clubs and festivals, and plotted out a strategy for music-industry success that aspiring producers can reference to create their own path.
Andrew: To start it off, tell me about your upcoming gig. You’re opening for Flux Pavilion?
Brøhg: Yeah! I'm opening for Flux on August 18, and that's a huge show obviously. I've been doing some really big shows recently. But more so just starting to release a lot of my own content and finishing mastering my EP. Just a few minutes ago I was working on this remix that I'm super excited about, so a lot of things have been clicking lately.
I have an EP that I'm shopping labels with that's mastered and done, four songs, and then another six months worth of one-single-a-month ready to go. Hitting 2018 super hard, but yeah, Flux, August 18. It's at an Insomniac [Records] nightclub that I've been able to keep relationships with, and I have residency there so I open every month for major Insomniac artists. And it's been an incredible opportunity, I'm super grateful for it.
Andrew: That's awesome. How did you end up getting that gig?
Brøhg: I was pretty strategic when I looked at clubs that I was going to open for or play at. A little bit of background with my story -- I studied abroad in 2011. Before then, didn't like DJs at all, thought they had no talent. I always listened to reggae and hip hop and rock, and grew up in southern California with that. So I went to college, studied abroad, and just realized wow, the rest of the world listens to music through DJ decks, it's very normal.
So I came back from that experience in 2011. And that's right when Skrillex had just hit LA with dubstep, and things were really exploding within EDM, the underground becoming more popular in the United States. So I ended up having a six-month head start on my friends with all the music that was overseas, and I just started DJing in my college town. I wasn't good at first, but would bring a ton of people out to the bars, and it was a smaller market and I knew all the bar owners. So pretty soon, I was three, four nights a week DJing, DJing, DJing. And I had that experience over a two-, three-year period in that smaller market.
Then I realized okay, number one, I need to be releasing my own content if I'm actually going to attain the global level. So in that transitional time, I went to Pyramind. I moved home to San Diego, and went to Pyramind online and did a one-year Ableton program. I knew through my mentor exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to learn Ableton and make it my instrument that I was a master of. I knew it was going to take a while, but I wanted a quantum leap, and to take that one year and just really learn the ins and outs, and then continue honing it every single day, because that's what I love to do.
So this brings me back home, I'm in a bigger market, I need to start making relationships. Where should I start playing? I looked at the clubs downtown and I noticed that the Bassmnt, which is the one that I now have a residency at, do all their booking with Insomniac. I was like, “hmm, if I want to be at a club, I would rather start off by opening for major artists and getting my name on their fliers instead of being the one DJ for four hours at a smaller club.”
So that was my plan, and I just cultivated relationships out of nothing, which is a whole story in itself. I ended up getting a residency at Bassmnt last June. It didn't start as that, it started as first a gig, open the club at 9:00, but then I just kept adding value. I kept bringing people, learning how to produce, and playing my own tracks out. [My tracks] were actually working in the club, they started to get a little bit of notice from the owners, and they bumped me up to later and later slots for bigger and bigger artists. And now we're here.
Andrew: That's an awesome story, man. That’s everything you want to hear. It’s so easy to look at people who are farther along than you in their career path and wonder how they got there so I appreciate you sharing that for our readers.
Brøhg: It can be done.
Andrew: So tell me about your dream board that's behind you.
Brøhg: Okay. So there's a lot of things on there. I made that at the end of last summer. My dream board reflects some super ambitious dreams, big, hairy, audacious goals that totally scare me but keep me on track. Some financial, some physical, some relationship-based, some family-based, some music-based. And different labels I would like releases on. The Insomniac Discovery Project. It's on my business plan to be one of the headliners at EDC by 2020. And I’ve heard from multiple people in the industry that it takes about 10 years from the time that you really decide “okay, I'm gonna do this” to the time that you obtain mastery and subsequent success. I started DJing and getting serious about it in 2011, so I figured 2020, it has a nice ring to it, and it's a big goal.
So I've reverse engineered that. Next year, 2018, I’m playing some small festivals. I've had two bookings for festivals this year, one's coming up in August, it's actually in Northern California. Organic Fest -- Mt Eden’s gonna be there and a lot of artists that are significant. It's a second-year festival, and so that was my second small festival booking.
So small festivals in 2018, and then maintain my residency at the Insomniac nightclub. Continue building relationships, in 2019 do medium-sized festivals, and then by 2020, at that point hopefully I'll be hitting the massive’s (EDC, Coachella, Ultra Miami, etc.). So that's the progression and the plan.
I'll just wrap up and say the dream board just ... It is pictures of things that I want to create in my life, and it keeps it on the top of my mind. So when I wake up and I look at that, I remember why I'm working so hard.
Andrew: You're probably more goal-oriented than a lot of people that I talk to in this industry. How important is that to keep you on track? Do you think that any of this would be possible without that sort of mindset? You clearly have a defined vision of where you're going.
Brøhg: Yes definitely, and I've put a lot of work into honing that because I was like everyone else, just didn't really know what was important to me, what I wanted to do with my life, what my purpose was. I was kind of floundering, like okay, I guess I'll go to college, I guess I'll go do this, this is what I'm told to do. I guess I'll go get a career.
Andrew: You've really taken this vision, literally a vision on your dream board, and you said, “this is where I want to be in 10 years.” That alone is impressive. How did you come up with that? How did you say that, okay I definitely want to be headlining this festival or I definitely want to be on that label?
Brøhg: Well, it was a process that started when I was 18. I really attribute it to the sales job that I got right out of high school and the focus on personal development that it had. I've been to over 40 business leadership conferences and it really instilled in me this insatiable appetite for growth, always wanting more, always expecting more out of yourself. I realized my potential when I worked hard at something. They taught me goal setting. That was one of the most valuable skills, to not only have a dream but to write it down. That separates you from 95 percent of other people. Then only one percent of those five percent who write it down actually break it down into an action plan of steps.
To answer your question very specifically, what really got down to my purpose in life was I did some brainstorming and was truly seeking my purpose. I was trying to figure out what my “why” was. Did I just want the fame? Did I just want the money or the glory? What was it? I didn't really feel good with my uncertainty on that. So I took a while last fall to really hone in on what I mean to the music industry, like what am I going to bring, why am I different, and what is my mission? I just thought, what would I do with that type of influence?
I realized my goal is to become a celebrity personality in the music industry in order to use it as a platform for change. My mission is to lead by example pursuing my dreams, so that others will have the confidence to do the same.
It's like, every day I'm getting up and I'm being called, I'm being pulled to this mission that I've realized is, I believe, why I've been put on this earth. It’s to create music that will leave a legacy of happiness and inspiration behind.
Andrew: Man, that is really refreshing to hear.
Andrew: You're a former Pyramind online student. In your whole mission and goal planning, did you know from the start that you wanted to take some classes, do some training, that that was going to be a part of your mission? Or did you hit a roadblock and say, all right, how am I going to overcome this?
Brøhg: It's more of the latter. I was in college and I was a DJ and promoter. Honestly, life was pretty awesome. I was getting paid to party and I was spinning at four places a week. I'd go from bar to bar to pool party to promoted gig in Vegas, and back to my college town to take a few classes, and then it was on again. But if you're trying to be an EDM DJ, there are certain fundamentals that, once you master them, everyone else can do them too. It lost its uniqueness.
Brøhg: So that was my roadblock. I wasn't even in line with my purpose at this point yet, but I had gone to EDC in 2013, my first massive festival. I was just like, “wow” blown away by the production, the energy, and how everyone at main stage is just jumping like they're a single organism. All at once just pulsating. It was just an incredible experience, I still get tingles when I think about it. I realized, these guys aren't just DJs, they're producing their own content.
It seemed like a daunting task to learn how to produce. I moved home to San Diego and started serving tables... here's the story behind Pyramind. I was serving tables, and it was at a pretty nice restaurant on the beach. One day I noticed that there was a customer in there showing the table, on his phone, a midi controller. So I could tell that he was a DJ and producer of some kind. I told him that I'd been a DJ, and I realized that I needed to learn how to produce in order to progress, and he suggested Pyramind. I was like, “honestly I got a personal recommendation, and this looks awesome. I'm just gonna try it.”
And I'm so glad that I did. Because of the way that it was laid out, I truly feel like I know Ableton in and out now. Now when I have a sound in my head I want to lay down, I'm able to do it and get into creation immediately, not stop and dig through YouTube tutorials.
So point being, now my workflow is extremely fast. The remix that I'm working on today, that I am super excited about because it's by far my best work yet, I started it on Monday. Got into a six-hour studio session, bam, laid down from a blank project. Start to finish I laid down the outline with drum kits, bass, harmony, the sample vocals, everything. And I have rights to these tracks because I have an agreement to collaborate with a local artist who's a great singer. She sang for free on my track, and she'll share it when I release it. Then I'm going to remix one of hers that she just released, because she's a pop-rock singer, and then we'll cross promote.
Andrew: Something that everyone struggles with, is how do I know when I quit my full-time job that's outside the music industry? When am I going to transition to being a part-time musician and part-time something else?
Eventually, the goal is to do this full time, I'm sure that's your goal too, right?
Andrew: Are you there right now, or are you kind of half and half? Do you still have a full-time job? What's that look like for you?
Brøhg: I still have a full-time career in marketing, and I own my own digital marketing agency as well. One of my friends in the industry is Dr. Fresch, great guy. I just opened for him a couple weeks ago in San Diego. He said on Twitter a couple months ago, "I was producing music for seven years before I left my day job. Keep grinding."
Brøhg: And Brillz too, I did a production session with him. He said he produced for six years, and his friends were like, “you have to release this stuff dude” before he even put a Soundcloud page up.
So it takes time. To think, “oh, I like music, I've been to a couple festivals, I have good taste” that you're going to then know how to produce that level of quality content, that people will love it that much, it's not even in the same league. You're comparing yourself to the best in the world who are getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to play at a massive music festival, and you're a beginner.
Brøhg: So I had to really check my ego and my spot in the industry. Because again, I went through that phase where I'm like releasing remixes thinking it's gonna change the world.
Brøhg: And it's early content, it's just early. I'm just not there yet, and that's okay. Two books that I would highly suggest reading: One is The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. It's incredible, he just describes the creative mindset and our greatest enemy, which is Resistance. So many times we want to go create and go write, and then be like, “oh it's a great time to go clean out my closet right now.” We avoid creation because Resistance convinces us to do so. Pressfield describes it in such a succinct way. It's a short read, an awesome read, and a must have for any artist who's really trying to become a professional.
Then the second one is Turning Pro, it's the follow up book by the same author. Turning Pro talks about how to approach this profession, before you're even a professional technically. But to have that work ethic. You wake up, and you sit down and you write music no matter what. If it's trash, you don't use it, that's okay. But you wrote that day.
Andrew: That's an awesome point, you know? Because there's no pro musician who just got to a pro level and then said, "Oh, I better get a work ethic," or "I better learn how to do this." The hard work definitely comes first.
Brøhg: Exactly. And every artist that I'm sure that you appreciate, every artist that I appreciate, has a massive volume of work. Plus, that volume that's been released is a fraction of their actual library of work. Morgan Page in an interview at Pyramid talked about how when he goes to write an album, he writes 80 songs and then chooses 10.
Brøhg: With that thought process in mind, I wanted to release an EP this year, my first full-length EP, and then do singles throughout the year after that as well. What I did was that Morgan Page approach. For 21 days, from January 1 to January 21 of this year, I set out to write a song every day. I'll be totally honest, I wrote 17 out of 21 days.
I want to be clear, I'm not mixing, mastering, and releasing all of these songs. I'd write four levels of drum kits like I was taught in Pyramind. Intro, verse, chorus, outro. So I'd write those four drum kits, four matching harmonies, four matching basses, four matching melodies, and then move on.
Once I finished those, I had 17 tracks to choose from for this EP. That was a big realization for me: to realize that people don't release 100 percent of their content, some of it never sees the light of day.
Andrew: So when did you finish up with the Pyramind program?
Brøhg: In fall of 2016.
Andrew: You've been busy since then. You've got some pretty awesome goals ahead of you, and you got ... The most immediate thing it sounds like is this Flux Pavilion gig, that's what sparked our conversation.
Brøhg: Yeah, and I'm glad it sparked the conversation. But actually before that is Organic Fest, which is August 11-13. And it's 45 minutes east of Sacramento, so that's my second festival booking, I'm really excited about that. I play on Sunday night at Organic Fest, then come back to San Diego Monday, five days later I'm opening for Flux Pavilion. All year it's been like this where things are really starting to ramp up.