Music Production Career: What to Know

Music Production Career

Music producers oversee all facets of a recording session and the production of a recording artist’s music. Music producers have many roles that include gathering songs, controlling the process through mixing and mastering, and coaching an artist.

Becoming a music producer sounds like music to many ears. However, not everyone is going to make it in this extremely competitive field. Earning a bachelor’s degree, gaining internship experience, and networking with industry professionals are important steps to becoming a music producer. What other steps are necessary?

This article covers what it takes to become a music producer, including educational requirements, necessary skills, and the music industry outlook. Those who wish to join the likes of Jack Johnson, Pharrel Williams, and Brian Wilson can read on.

What is a music producer? 


Music producers work in the music industry and use their extensive musical knowledge and experiences to oversee all aspects of a recording session. A producer oversees tasks, including recording, mixing, mastering, and recording.

A music producer is in charge of bringing out the absolute best in a recording artist through knowledge of vocal and instrumental arrangements. They are hired by bands or artists to oversee recording sessions or select artists themselves to perform certain songs they envision. Music producers also have opportunities to work with film and television directors to decide the placement of a song and what works well.

Music producers spend most of their time in the recording studio, working alongside positions such as a sound engineer, a recording engineer, a mixing engineer, a manager, an artist, and a record label executive. Most music producers are experts in their choice of style of music. The style of music may include pop, classical, hip-hop, or rock. Other music producers who decide not to work in a specific style often work for a recording studio and produce the music of artists under contract at that studio.

This type of career is ideal for someone who has an ear for certain technical and creative aspects, as well as the ability to keep up with the latest songs, trends, and artists.

What skills are needed? 


Critical skills needed for an aspiring music producer include musical aptitude, strong listening, interpersonal skills, and familiarity with audio equipment and software. These skills can all be learned throughout a bachelor’s program in music production.

Musical aptitude


Learning a musical instrument may be a viable skill for a record producer. Ideally, a musician shouldn’t be the only one in the room who knows how to play one. Producers who know how to play an instrument relate to their artist and understand the recording process. With the knowledge, producers demonstrate their inspiration immediately.

Interpersonal skills


Every day of the job as a music producer entails working with diverse people in various roles in confined spaces. Sometimes, this role means being a mediator during recording sessions, so having interpersonal skills is a must.

Leadership


A music producer is the leader of an entire musical process. They use their leadership skills to set the ground rules for a recording studio and coach the best out of an artist during recording.

Project management


Producers essentially create a project, so project management is a vital skill to possess. Directing technicians and artists requires the ability to manage the workflow. Organizational skills make sure the project goes smoothly.

Vision


Music producers need to have a vision for not only in the studio but also in their career. They will need to consider what types of music they want to produce. It’s also important to be flexible as there are not so many opportunities in the music industry.

The ability to accept criticism is an important skill as well. The public is likely to have some opinion on the music produced. It’s essential to take in genuine and destructive criticism.

Music producers are expected to have many skills in the production process. These include writing, composing, recording, arranging, editing, mixing, and mastering.

Steps to becoming a music producer 


1. Earn a degree


There is no specific or standard level of education needed to become a music producer. However, many universities offer music production programs. For a music producer position, educational requirements can vary. Still, a bachelor’s degree at a music school or accredited university in music production is the most common credential for music producers.

Associates degree


An Associate of Applied Science in Audio Production programs is usually built around an on-campus recording studio. The curriculum covers the basics of music and mixing technologies through analog and digital music. Students typically spend more time in the recording studio while earning this degree. Professional recording artists usually teach the courses.

Bachelor’s degree


Universities typically refer to these degrees as a Bachelor of Arts in Audio Production, Bachelor of Science Degree in Music Production, or a Bachelor of Music. These degrees are usually 120-credit hours long.

The four-year program covers a range of courses to teach their students recording arts technology and the music business. Some course topics covered in a music product bachelor’s program are sound editing techniques, electronic music, digital audio software, and recording industry law and ethics. Students also learn music theory and history, music hardware and software technology, and composition. Learning from many different individuals and professors with their specific production styles produces a well-rounded student.

The program often includes an internship to allow students to experience and oversee a production process. If there is no internship required by the program, then students may need to produce a full-length recording to graduate.

Master’s degree


Music production master’s degrees are offered at many universities, including in audio technology and audio production. Courses in these curriculums include critical listening, audio engineering for CD recordings, and electro-music composition.

2. Complete an internship


Completing an internship in any field is a great way to get a foot in the door, which is no different for the music production industry. It’s important to know many internships are unpaid, for college credit, or paid minimally. The range for paid internships in the music industry runs everywhere from $7.25 to $30.15 per hour.

Universities may partner with local studios to assist students with internships. Students can network with influential industry professionals throughout the internship. Record labels such as Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and Warner Music Group have some of the most sought-after internships for students.

Make a list of prospective companies and artists you wish to work for and begin research. Next, create a concise, detailed, and interesting resume to attract the attention of hiring managers. Recommendations are vital to land the best internships. Make sure you have several recommendation letters from past employers, colleagues, or professors. Remember to follow up after applying or an interview. Internships can often lead to full-time employment, so the importance of internships should not go unnoticed.

3. Network, network, network


The most powerful tool for those looking to enter the music industry is networking. Relationships formed correlates with the amount of work that a music producer can have. Students use industry resources to find events and networking opportunities. 

4. Scout new artists


Networking is essential, but finding new artists is even more so. Music producer careers rely heavily on finding and creating music for up-and-coming artists. Producers focus on social media and even hire promoters to stay on the pulse of the music industry. In this competitive industry, scouting and signing new artists is paramount to a music producer’s success and longevity.

Salary and job outlook 


A music producer’s salary can vary depending on geographic location, years of experience, and background. According to Glassdoor, the average salary for a music producer is $67,667. However, there is an opportunity for making much more depending on how successful a producer is.

What does it take to become a music producer as a career?


So you love producing music and you’re pretty damn good at it. Then what does it take to do this full-time? Here are our tips for making a career out of music production.

The ultimate dream of many musicians and creators around the world is to make a living doing it, earning a wage from their passion. It’s an achievable goal but that doesn’t mean that it is easy at all.

In fact, one of the main pieces of advice we give to creators – particularly those just getting started – is not to rely on music production or creation as a full-time career. It may become reality at some point, but it is often best served as a secondary income.

With that in mind, here are some of the steps you can take to start monetizing your music and spreading your reach enough to make a career from it.

Release Your Music


It may seem obvious but many musicians don’t achieve this point to their maximum potential. When we say to release your music we mean to send it out into the world everywhere.

Listeners can be found in so many different places and use so many different services and formats to consume music that for each place you release your music you have an entirely new audience available.

TL;DR: Get your music out in as many possible forms as possible digital and physical to make sure your potential reach fits all music fans.

Promote Yourself


You’re not going to get anywhere in music if you’re not willing to put yourself out there. Promotion is key to reaching new audiences and building a fanbase. You only have to hit the right ears once to gain a fan for life.

Promoting yourself can feel like selling out for many artists but the truth is, it’s 100% necessary in nearly all cases. People are very rarely going to stumble on your music by chance, and to find new listeners you’re going to have to put yourself out there.

TL;DR: Make your voice heard and put your music anywhere you can so that eyes and ears find it.

Work With Others


Connections are a huge part of the music industry. It’s how you’ll get features with bigger artists, signed to bigger record labels, and meet inspiring musicians and industry people who will help you along the way.

This can be as small an effort as reaching out to your local music community and your peers. Linking up gives you the option to collaborate and consolidate your fanbases on any joint releases and opens up the opportunities to play sets (more on this later).

The more connections you make the more you’ll be in touch with managers, agents, and industry heads who can help to link you up with better deals. Of course, you can work your way up independently but a push from a well-connected label head can make the difference between a release’s success or flop.

TL;DR: The music industry is a community and playing a role in that is key to finding bigger opportunities.

Play live


Playing live is a crucial source of income for most artists. Once your name is big enough to move beyond playing bars with 10 people in the audience you can really start racking up the cash from gigs.

A few hours of playing and arranging getting there and back for the chance to earn hundreds, even thousands depending on the scope of the gig, is the reason many artists can make a career out of their music. Much more so than just sales and listens.

Of course, you have to build yourself up in this realm to start making the big bucks. That’s where connecting with your community really helps. You can get guest spots on much bigger acts which also give you the potential to expand your audience with someone else’s fanbase.

And that is another swell thing about gigging. Wherever you play you have the potential to expand your audience. You often won’t be playing to exclusively people who are already fans of your music and new ears enjoying your live offers the potential to gain a new listener for life who streams and buys your music, buys merchandise, and gets tickets to your shows.

TL;DR: Playing concerts is one of the main sources of income for full-time artists, so get playing.

Sell Your Music


If you’re a music producer, you might not necessarily be bothered about releasing the music yourself or under your own name. Many successful producers have made a career from creating the music for other artists whether it’s selling their beats for rappers to spit over, melodies for pop singers to croon over, and so on.

There are plenty of websites where you can put up your beats and productions for other artists to browse and purchase the rights to at your price. This can be a great way to easily find buyers though the best way to make a career out of it is to sell them on your own terms so you can set the price and establish a relationship with each artist personally.

Having a SoundCloud profile and a website where people can explore your productions and request a partnership is the best way to make a career off of beat producing. Establishing one on one relationships with the artists you produce for is hugely valuable.

However, beware; many producers are sadly ripped off. Ensure that you have legal contracts sorted out between yourself and any other parties to ensure that your music isn’t illegally used without your permission and that you receive payment for your work.

TL;DR: If you’re happy not to be the face and name of music then sell your beats for money, but beware of dodgy characters.

We hope that you found this advice useful. If you have any tips that have helped you long away then leave a comment below and start the conversation with other musicians.

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