More thoughts on Rick Rubin.

I recently spotted an interesting thread on the Elektronauts forum, talking about Rick Rubin and his creative advice and how this translates to various people. Is it good? Is it narrow minded? Is it privileged? Is it life changing? Is it bs?

I’d recommend having a read through the thoughts from people at Elektronauts linked below, but curious what the opinions are here on the Lines forum.

The world works differently for everyone, I don’t feel there is no wrong or right answer so much, but for what is visually a very similar forum, I’m curious how similar or different these two forum worlds of Lines and Elektronauts are on this topic.

It seems super relevant as creative struggles and advice are often common themes/threads on both, and maybe some of you are even in both forums like myself.


I‘m currently reading the book and I like it very much. Of course advice of this type is always easier to give when you already are in a privileged position. There is not much new information in the book and it seems to branch out in to esoteric and / or religious spheres now and then. Apart from that I enjoy reading it because it is written well, even though some sections are pretty much this advice: do it some way or another, it does not matter as long as it helps you do the work. I like that he sees the process and the outcome as work. That resonates with me, because for me anything related to art is work that I sometimes need a break from and similar to my dayjob, I‘m happy to have some days off once in a while to recover from mental and physical taxation. From what I understand Rubins idea about the work is that only the subject is able to do a certain type of work because of its unique filter. We all take in some information and because of our unique view and processing we are able to make something out of it that is one of a kind.


can’t speak for the entire forum but my personal opinion is that the thread you linked looks ill-informed and written not in a good faith. I don’t think Mr Rubin is really this self-improvement guru that the author (and like minded comments) try to show us. He is a creative professional that has worked with insane amount of artists and I’ve yet to hear even about one who would say that Rick Rubin made her/him wrong. On contrary, he is almost idolised among (and not only) the hip-hop community for both for his humble attitude and for putting the artist first (before the label executives, deadlines and sales). The guy is now at an age where he is willing to share his lifetime of experiences and the only thing we pick up is the “privilege” of his upbringing and how lucky he has been doing all those great records? Reading that thread I can’t shake the feeling that with our ultra-modern social commentary we are somehow missing the point here.


I read through the entire thread this morning, and I agree with you that many seem to be missing the point altogether. There is, understandably, a dichotomy of opinion about Rubin’s recipe for happiness & success, and also whether the two outcomes are intrinsically symbiotic. Many posts highlight Rubin’s privilege and charm, his pure luck, his networking skills, and just being at the right place at the right time. Some posts are jaded and disgruntled that Rubin achieved his success from creative and technical naïveté, when so many creatives spent years and tears honing their craft to still end up at the bottom.
Rubin’s advice is not universally applicable, in that a way of thinking or process will never achieve equal results… it’s all based on managing and balancing our own goals and expectations at any given time. His philosophy can be floaty at times, it’s not the gospel, but the fact that he’s achieved great success shouldn’t discount his words of encouragement as glib.


this is a bit of a genuine surprise because I read the OP and skimmed the thread

you probably did a more comprehensive examination than me but it seemed folks took the questions raised very seriously and offered depth in their answers that is often rare online (and sometimes missing from elektronauts’ board)

everything i saw seemed pretty reasonable…maybe once i check the rest i’ll agree


I am enjoying his book and he seems like an easy going guy, open to trying new ideas. I see a lot of parallels between what he writes about and creative people that I know. He’s done some nice work (besides that terrible mastering on the Metallica album).

As for him being controversial or whatever, I’d rather listen to him directly, learn about what he has done, and make my own decisions.


I didn’t know much about Rick Rubin until a friend recommended the Broken Record podcast, which I quickly fell in love with. Episode 1 and 50, interviews/conversations with Rubin himself (Episode 50 is about the book), provide personal context to the artist interviews he does in the podcast. Rubin is soft-spoken and really goes with the energy and flow of the people he interviews, asking interesting questions but giving a lot of space. I wouldn’t argue with him being in a privileged position, though he actually appears to be quite humbled by the artists and their work. He really seems to be driven by curiosity.


I haven’t read the OP link beyond the first few posts, but have a few thoughts.

First, might he be “privileged” because he has discerning taste and has clearly benefitted many of the artists he has worked with? He’s hardly giving career advice without having accomplished anything of note. It’s clear that there are folks who will hate anyone in a position of more [power, wealth, influence, etc.] than they have. Is that reasonable? Sometimes, sure. Always, I doubt it.

Second, there is a HUGE gap between making ART which seems to some to be “great” on the one hand, and making HUGE stacks of CASH on the other.

It is fascinating to see folks complaining that his advice on art should translate into giving away for free the “secrets” of how to get rich and famous. They aren’t even remotely the same thing, as far as I can tell.

Anyway, I have privilege by several measures, so I have nothing to contribute, end of rant…


It seems plainly true that when pressed for advice, successful people mostly resort to platitudes wholly compatible with the prevailing ideology (aka “common sense”). But I’d say it’s also undeniable that these platitudes, however sideways they may be, stem from and speak to real desires (virtually everyone I know hates their job and can’t summon any passion for it).

I’ve often thought that people who critique the privileged for their privilege secretly desire a true meritocracy (which is far, far from an egalitarian principle) rather than the false one we have, because they simply believe themselves to be more worthy and therefore likely to benefit from it. The Elektronauts thread doesn’t really do much to convince me otherwise.

It’s like the people in the thread got halfway with their critique and then simply stopped.


I am not sure we are reading the same thread, I participated in the one linked and indeed there are talks of privilege, and it’s regarding his “If you are not doing something you love, qui your job and do something else” advice. Now I don’t know for you but in my view, this kind of recomendations only apply to a tiny portion of the population whose survival does not depend on “what they do”.

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a lot of critique of privilege stem from jealously and if the tables were turned wouldn’t have the same view. but that doesn’t deny of course that some people are successful mainly due to being at the right time and right place and know the right people. Sadly this is just the way things are and life just simply does not dish out the sam exact portions to everyone.

people also disregard the sacrifices that successful artists have had to make to get where they are, financial, social or moral. it’s the whole “tip of the iceberg” metaphor, we only get to see the success but rarely get to see the amount of effort and work that it took to get there. it’s really hard to convey after the fact how hard things would’ve been day to day sometimes, we all look back to harder times with fondness especially when we came out of it for the better.

my 2 cents.

in the end it’s all a matter of perspective. we could look at what other people have and say why do i not have that, but we can also look at what we have and be grateful that we have what we have and others don’t.


Not sure if that was directed at me–and to be clear, obviously his advice is BS and is basically useless for most people–but, being honest, what advice could he give that wouldn’t fall into this category?

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I am not sure it was you who said it, I didn’t direct this to anyone in particular. I simply mean that saying that some of his advices come from a priviledged position is not ill informed, as many are saying here.

“If you don’t like your job, quit it and do something else” is a very provocative statement, which is simultaneously beyond the reach of many folks, and yet could also be a trigger to try to find something that is a better fit.

Note that he doesn’t appear (not having seen everything he said) to be saying that the other job will be more lucrative, or it will be easy to get there. I am not an apologist for this man who I don’t know. But I have had friends who got to the point where they couldn’t stand something anymore, and basically had to take a leap, of faith? of hope? of desperation? And sometimes those chances taken have paid off, not necessarily in money, but at least in a sense of doing something that they could tolerate, or even grow in.

There is an element of the critique that everything boils down to material success, which is not necessarily the case, beyond certain basic necessities, which from a perspective I am sympathetic to, ought to be basic human rights. I’m afraid that [capitalism/materialism] have so poisoned our hearts and minds that many of us can no longer see what matters…


I got that, my problem is that when said leap is materially impossible, it doesn’t matter what the result aimed at is, material or not, it is still impossible.
And those kinds of leaps are not equally impossible.

I don’t know if I’ve lost sight of what matters, I feel I’m aware of what holds some of us back.

I feel like many of us would love to be in a position to focus more on what matters.


No argument from me on that. :pray:

And I’ll add that our systems should make it possible for folks to not be so trapped in their circumstances that they can’t make efforts to progress, which would after all benefit everyone.

But the ideology of everyone being only responsible for their own limitless acquisition really dumps on the idea that we all are interdependent. It is a tragic misunderstanding of “Who is my brother?”


Once again, I’m not sure I or the general sentiment of the Elektron thread thread is focused on material success. I would say the resentment is aimed instead at the material barriers many of us meet when looking for any other form of “success” and the people who give advices as if those did not exist (because they likely did not exist for them).

Now I can totally sympathize with the opinion that this forum has generally a “rougher” way to communicate than llllllll, but I am quite sure the opinions expressed in this thread are not that ill informed


Right. But the statement is also impossible to deny. We of course can and should complicate it (“it’s not that simple”), but it can’t at its core be denied (people in bad situations ought to leave them, happiness and fulfilment are inherently better than their opposites).

My question remains: having acknowledged the inherent privilege involved in RR’s whole pitch, what advice could he give that isn’t an exemplar of the privilege?


Based on listening to him in various interviews, he’s a big proponent of meditation, and encourages clarity of thought. And with clarity comes better decision making. Rinse, repeat, and apply accordingly


I don’t think he, or anyone, really can give advice that will be useful to other people of different backgrounds starting at a different time than they did.

Success is a mix of privilege, luck and work.

One of those things you can change and the others you usually can’t.

Being at the right place at the right time and being financially sound enough to go for it is probably more important than any other factor.

Not to say Rick Rubin (or any other music legend) didn’t show and prove but I’d be willing to bet there are a ton of other people with similar drive and talent who would still be unknown even if they had him coaching them along the way.