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Producer Kato's 5 Lessons from Creating Music in Quarantine

By Kato On The Track on

Pocket Flows Vol. 1 is a contest presented by Kato and OffTop to create the first collaborative project recorded entirely on a mobile phone. To enter, download the OffTop app and submit a recording over a beat in the "Kato Pocket Flows" category. One track per beat will be chosen for the final project, which will be promoted by Kato, OffTop and Audiomack. Artists selected will also receive a commercial beat license and private Sound Advice session with Kato. Submissions close July 1.

Being a music creator has been an interesting experience for the last few months. It started with a few postponed tour dates, then eventually the entire remainder of my Sound Advice Tour and being on lockdown inside the house 24/7. My plans to travel, host events, and make music in the studio with my fellow artists were all cut short. It doesn’t look like they’ll be starting again anytime soon, either—at least for me. But lockdown has also presented a unique opportunity for me to collaborate virtually without requiring artists have access to a studio.

Introducing Pocket Flows—a collaborative project that I’m executive producing with my team and OffTop, with help from our friends at Audiomack. It's the first of its kind: a full-length project featuring music 100% recorded straight on a mobile phone. With the playing field leveled with all of us being inside, at home, now all you need is talent and a mobile device.

If there’s one thing the recording industry has taught me over the past 14 years, it’s how to adapt and be resourceful. Having a career in music means you eat what you kill. Since everyone adapts differently, here’s a short list of all the things I’ve learned, personally and professionally, since coronavirus f*cked everything up.

Take time to reflect. Sometimes, it's important to just take a step back and analyze where you are, what you need, and how to do it. The destination doesn’t change, only the roads to get there. I needed to find a different route to accomplish everything I set out to do before the coronavirus pandemic. After that, the execution and hustle is all the same.

Connect with people (virtually). Everyone has more time right now and is constantly glued to their phone. I've doubled down on my social media content, hired graphic designers on Fiverr, found a video editor on Facebook, and increased my overall output.

During the last few months, I’ve had more virtual engagement with people than ever before. Phone calls, Zoom meetings, webinars, DMs, emails... I even signed my first two producers—Danny Couture and A. Heard—and shot an entire music video with an artist on Zoom. I have five to 10 times more music collaborations in the pipeline than I did before, and it was all done 100% long-distance. The blessings of the internet!

Maintain mental and physical health. Health, in general, is overlooked way too much in the music industry. It’s always been a major priority for me because it affects everything else. You can’t make great music and run a business if you feel sh*tty.

I exercise in my backyard for an hour during the afternoon a few times a week, mostly doing sets of calisthenics, jump roping, and some stretching on a yoga mat. I try to watch what I eat, but also indulge in a lot of Uber Eats because we’re in a pandemic and who gives a f*ck. I’m not about to sacrifice ice cream and Southern fried chicken just because I’m at home more. It’s all about balance.

Learn something new. I don’t feel pressured to do anything drastically different just because we’re in a pandemic. No one should. But I do think this is a great opportunity to learn a new skill or tackle a goal you’ve been aiming to begin. For me, that was building a team and becoming a better leader. CatCat is a great self-help resource with stuff like this.

It’s amazing how productive you can be with the right team. Before, I was juggling 20 different jobs (not very well) by myself. Now, I have a team of four people, and everyone brings something to the table. If we all do our jobs well, we all win.

Spend time with loved ones. I won’t lie, the beginning of lockdown was turbulent for me and my lady. Living under the same roof 24 hours a day is hard. We had to make some living adjustments and set boundaries. But after that, it was smooth sailing! Now, we can actually enjoy each other's company more than ever, along with our dog, Cali.

This part is the most important thing to me, more than the music or anything I have going on professionally. It’s easy to forget what’s actually important when we’re not in a pandemic and everyone is moving through life at 100 M.P.H. But the people closest to us keep us grounded. They’re our rocks. Nothing else on this list works or matters without them.

Kato On The Track is a veteran record producer who has worked with a host of multi-Platinum artists, including Wu-Tang Clan, Joyner Lucas, Tory Lanez, Trouble, K Camp, Hopsin, Dizzy Wright, Jarren Benton, Token and more. Follow him @KatoProducer on Instagram and Twitter.

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