Producer Tony Dofat
A closer look on the inside
Producer shares insights in delving into the music industry
Music was a hobby for Tony Dofat.
“I went to college to be an engineer,” he said.
His keyboard and drum kit were things he would take out and use during his free time, encouraged by his friends and family to keep at it. Eventually he upgraded his equipment, still never dreaming where it would lead him.
Mr. Dofat happened to be in the right place at the right time. A neighbor heard his work, asked for a cassette of his music, which he passed along to some people he knew in the music industry. The cassette landed at Uptown Records in the hand of Sean Combs, better known as Puff Daddy, P. Diddy or Puffy.
Suddenly Mr. Dofat was at the Hip Factory, a studio in Manhattan, recording his music.
“I was just blown away,” he said. The shock continued when his hip-hop beats had vocals added. This song went on to become “You Remind Me,” by Mary J. Blige.
That is how his career as a music producer began.
“My mother hated hip-hop but she liked this song,” he said. “After we started everyone wanted that hip-hop sound by Puffy and Tony.
I didn’t know I was going to be a producer. I didn’t even know what a producer was,” said Mr. Dofat.
“Luckily, I loved it,” the Mount Vernon native said.
His early work was often done through trial and error as he learned more about the industry and music production.
He went on to have an award-winning career as a producer, working with some of the top hip-hop artists of the day, Heavy D, Will Smith and Queen Latifah among them. On other occasions he strayed from his hip-hop roots to work with artists in other genres including Tina Turner and Boz Scaggs.
His work inspired Tony Dofat Day, celebrated on Oct. 19 in Westchester County. He was honored, in part, for his contributions to mentoring Mount Vernon youth.
Mr. Dofat shared details of his success with students in teacher Sean Harty’s Sound Production class. Several of the students, many aspiring musicians, have expressed interest in becoming producers one day.
He told students that success comes from being passionate about the work they are doing.
“I was so passionate about learning and making music,” he said.
As his career progressed, Mr. Dofat’s passion would extend to movie making, teaching and writing books.
His teaching career began when he developed workshops relating to the music industry. He traveled extensively, sharing his thoughts. This segued into a full-time position in academia. Today he is an adjunct professor at Long Island University. He can also add DJ to his résumé, a recent development where he decided to go back to his musical roots.
“I wrote a book,” he said. “I never liked writing or reading, but it became a passion. I began writing about what I know.”
Mr. Dofat answered students’ questions on making sacrifices for his career, finding the right sound when writing music, marketing, how the music industry has changed, songwriting and more.
When it comes to songwriting Mr. Dofat advised visualizing a starting and end point. Then fill in the middle area later.
“You never know where it’s going to come from,” he said. “I was inspired to teach by an intern.”
Artists today are fortunate to benefit from the prevalence of social media. Here they can share their music on sites like YouTube and build an audience. Becoming an independent artist first is more helpful than immediately signing with a label these days, Mr. Dofat said.
“You have to create a demand,” he said. “First create a logo, a logo is your brand. It differentiates you from everyone else. You need something to identify you. Then you have to create a demand for that. You have to do a lot of research, have to find your demographic.”
Ultimately, Mr. Dofat said, an artist has to stay true to themselves.
“Every artist who has longevity was not liked when they first came out because they were not a trend. Don’t be scared to be different.”