Up-And-Coming Music Producer Thaddeus Dixon Gives The Inside Scoop On Making It In Music
If you’ve heard Talib Kweli’s recent track, “Violations” or Teedra Moses’ “All I Ever wanted,” then you know Thaddeus Dixon. MN caught up with the budding music producer to get the inside scoop on the music business and learn what it takes to follow your bliss.
If there’s one thing Dixon’s career trajectory can teach us, it is the importance of growth. Dixon’s love of music began with a passion for drums. With a Bachelor’s of Music from Michigan State University, Dixon got a jump start in the music industry through touring with artists like Sean Kingston, NeYo, Bone Thugs N Harmony, and more. His success in touring allowed him to begin working as the musical director for artists. Dixon began putting together the musical arrangements for shows, making sure the music was in order, and establishing the overall pacing for the performance. As Dixon continued to grow it was a natural transition to begin working off-stage creating the rhythm behind the artists’ flow.
“Just because people respect me as a musician and musical director doesn’t mean they respected me as a producer. It was basically like starting all over,” Dixon said of his decision to push forward into another area of music.
“I’ve learned from showing up that even if you don’t get what you came there for, something will still come out of the experience,” he told us.
Yes, Dixon has gotten 95 percent of the shows he’s auditioned for, but he remembers auditions where staying present was just as important as anything related to talent. Specifically when Dixon auditioned for Lady Gaga in New York and there was talk that the band was already fixed, many of his friends decided against even trying out. While Dixon questioned whether it made sense to go, he ultimately made the decision to show up. He didn’t walk away with the Lady Gaga job, but he met someone who enabled him to get a gig touring with Atlantic Recording artist Cody Simpson. Dixon toured with Simpson for a year and a half, not only performing but also as his musical director. The experience landed him appearances on Ellen, The Today Show, and more.
In 2009, MTV held a nationwide casting call for Diddy’s reality show, Making His Show, about the mogul’s desire to assemble a touring unit for the release of his album Press Play. “When I got there, there were thousands and thousands of people from different cities on line in front of me,” said Dixon.
He admits that if he hadn’t seen a friend on line who encouraged him to stay, he may have decided the experience wasn’t worth the wait. Stepping out on faith, Dixon auditioned and ended up going all the way to the end. He didn’t make the band, but Dixon is grateful for the time he spent watching Diddy in action. “Everyone has their opinion of Diddy, but there’s no denying that he’s an inspiration. He’s young and he’s a hustler and I got the chance to work with him,” Dixon said.
Talent Isn’t Enough
From his experience with Diddy to touring with major artists to making music for stars, Dixon is certain that talent isn’t the only thing that matters. “Having a gift or being talented, sometimes we just rely on that. But there are certain qualities you’ll need to get you to the next level in your career,” he says.
Dixon likens this to playing for the NBA. “You may be a great player in college but there are certain disciplines you’ll need to have to make it in the NBA. The game is more than just putting the ball in the hoop.”
For Dixon this means knowing how to interact with various personality types, how to work professionally, and knowing when to party and when to stay focused. As a touring drummer, he knows that a major aspect of success stems from what you do off the stage. “In 24 hours in a day, you’re only on stage for, at most, an hour. What are you like for the rest of the 23 hours?” According to Dixon, in the music business connections are important. Who you know and who likes you are bricks paving the way to success.
“The thing about the music business is that there are no set rules. You have to remember that this is what you signed up for, stay in there and don’t be one of the people who drop off,” Dixon said.
While he acknowledges that YouTube and other platforms make the industry a lot more competitive, he contends that those who remain in the game will find the hidden windows and doors that open to the dreams beyond. Whatever else you do with your career, Dixon encourages those coming after him to do their research (i.e. who to work with, should you submit music to an established artist like Beyoncé or be the sound behind a new artist bursting onto the scene?) and take chances.