Music ProducerAlternate Career Titles:
Beat Maker, Writer
Career Overview: Writes and records music, often in smaller home studios. Their music may be used by major artists, licensed for television or commercials, or for their own projects.
Average Annual Earnings: $24,000
General Earnings Range: $24,000 to Millions
Become a Music Producer
To be a Music Producer can mean many things in the modern culture of home studios that can produce music recording quality as good as many of the better traditional studios of the past. To be a Music Producer could mean, for example, that you are a very popular electronic dance music (EDM) writer or producer and you make most or all your music on a computer. This kind of artist may not need the services of a traditional Record Producer. It might also mean you have a quality home studio and produce music for your own projects, either solo or with a band. You might also make the leap into Production Music or other music for television, commercials or other soundtrack music.
Being a Music Producer is generally to write, arrange, produce, record, and complete songs, beats, or soundscapes.
This career does not have a traditional path of advancement as their are so many directions the career path can take. If you produce music for television for example, your next step up the ladder may be to work with films, or to write and produce music specifically for an entire film, TV Show, ad campaign, and so on.
If you’ve produced great music on your own and its received lots of accolades, you might find yourself being asked to produce a record for another artist. In that case, you take on more of the role of a Record Producer, as their job is to help craft the sound of another artist. It may be the another artist likes your production style and hires you to produce, or even write and produce, their new material.
An example of this would be Pharrell Williams. His early band N.E.R.D was one in which he wrote and produced much of the music. His sound was so distinct that he was hired by many, many A List artists to producer their music, to help add his distinctive sound.
Education & Training
There are many ways to learn music production. Some people prefer to just buy home studio gear such as a computer, music production software – often referred to as a DAW (digital audio workstation), and any instruments they prefer, such as a keyboard, guitar, bass, and drums. They then jump into it and see what they can create. For some, this works fine. For others, attending a music production school is a way to learn the craft properly and generally much more quickly and efficiently than those who go it alone. The reason is that many recording and production methods are just not intuitive. A person can go a long time do things the wrong way simply because they learned their own methods as the result of not having anyone to show them proper methods. After all, when you get some recording gear, usually you just want to get to recording. So, what can happen is that many important methods are never learned. This is not an ideal way to learn. You may wish to consider attending a specialized music production school or taking online, structured courses.
Another option is to work with or around a recording engineer that knows the ropes. They may be able to teach you their methods. You’d be advised to be sure they know their craft well and can teach proper methods.
If you’re open to the idea of attending a music production school, click here for more info.
Experience & Skills
There are no set experience requirements for this career. If you wanted to be a Record Producer for example, you might need to have been a Recording Engineer first to learn how to run the gear. A Music Producer is expected to know their craft. What might they need to know?
- How to write songs or soundscapes.
- How to properly engineer and record music.
- How to mix music with broadcast quality results. This is often a shortcoming of up-and-coming Music Producers. Mixing is a science unto itself.
- How to work with artists to help get their best performances recorded, although this also falls squarely into Record Producer territory.
While anyone can become a Music Producer, in the early phases of this career, one can find themselves spending MANY hours in front of a computer screen developing their recording, mixing, and writing skills. For many Producers, this is done alone. It can be a far cry from what one might expect being in a rock band to be like, for example.
Because being a Music Producer can go so many different directions, its hard to say what the ideal personality is. If you hope to eventually produce other artists, you’ll need to be good with people. You’ll also need to command your way around a studio and know what you’re doing. You’ll need to be confident in your perspectives and your experience. It can be a lonely ride at the beginning that can turn into a wild ride as things ramp up.
Again, this depends on the type of production you do. You may just want to write beats for Hip Hop artists. If so, you might find yourself in your home studio for months on end creating all day long, trying to craft just the right sound. If you become largely successful, you may be doing that in amazing recording studios with your dream artists to work with. Timberland would come to mind as an example of this.
If you take the path of writing production music for TV, you might again find yourself alone in a studio working out the right music for the project. You might also need to hire musicians to come play on your tracks, in which case you’ll need to work with these players to produce what your song needs.
Being a Music Producer can look a lot of different ways, but the lifestyle is generally one of a lot of creativity and artistic expression. This is why it’s considered by many to be one of the best careers in music there is.
While there are situations in which a record label or even another Music Producer may hire you to work full time creating music, being a Music Producer may very well be a scenario in which you work sometimes, and the have a break until the next project unfolds. If you’re doing TV music, you may be in high demand and jump from project to project. If you’re working on your own music, you may be inspired one month and not the next. If you’re a beat writer, you may be hired to write for an artist, only to have to find more work once that project is done.
If you want to write for TV or commercials, be sure to check out what a Production Music is and how to get into it.
If you’re more interested in writing music or beats for other artists, search for artists whose music is similar to yours or who might like where your music is coming from. Reach out to them directly, through their managers, or by any means needed to get your music heard by them.
The earnings range of a Music Producer is all over the place. A working producer can make anywhere from a few hundred dollars a song, to thousands of dollars per song depending on how and where their music is used. For example, a song used in a TV commercial can earn from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars depending on the licensing fees agreed upon, and how and where the commercial will air.
Like any subjective art, the salary range for a Music Producer will vary. Someone writing music for TV, might earn a few hundred dollars for a background piece of music with no vocals. A song played over the credits for a show might earn double that. If there are vocals on the song, you might double it again. If it ends up being the show soundtrack, you could earn millions depending on how popular the show is and if it goes into syndication. It’s a roll of the dice, but there is great potential.
If you migrate into functioning more as a Record Producer, there is incredible room for massive earnings from hundreds to millions of dollars. Behind being a Rockstar, being a Music or Record Producer is as desirable as it gets.
Unions, Groups, Social Media, and Associations
You can check out the Association of Music Producers. Performing Rights Organizations (PRO) also offer a wealth of information to their members. If you’re not a member of a PRO yet, its highly suggested you choose one. The big players are BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC.
- Get a home studio set up and start learning how to work your gear.
- Write lots and lots of music. Then, write some more.
- Get inspired by other producers and do your best to learn their methods. What makes their work so good and how can you get there?
- Consider attending a music production school to kick-start your journey.
- Learn how to mix your music VERY WELL. This is one of the hardest lessons a Music Producer can learn. Great songs mixed like crap, sound like crap.
- Producing is often about creating a unique and identifiable sound. What is your sound? Is it clearly defined?
- Get a good ear going. What is it about the producers you like that makes you like them? Can you really pick it out? How can you bring those elements into your own work.
- Find the best producer you have access to and ask them if you can apprentice under them. One of the very best ways to learn something fast and well is to have an expert teach you. Make it happen.