Music ProducerAlternate Career Titles:
Beat Maker, Writer
Career Overview: Writes and records music to be used by major artists, licensed for television or commercials, or for their own projects.
Average Annual Earnings: $49,000
General Earnings Range: $25,000 to $1,000,000
Become a Music Producer
Working as a Music Producer means writing, arranging, producing, recording, and completing songs, beats, or soundscapes. With home recording technology now widely available, the traditional role of Producer has expanded. For example, a Producer could be a very popular electronic dance music (EDM) writer or producer, making most or all of his or her music on a computer. This kind of artist may not need the services of a traditional Record Producer, who shapes the sound of another Artist’s project. It might also mean he or she has a quality home studio and produces music for their own projects, either solo or with a band. Someone in this career might also make the leap into Production Music or other music for television, commercials or other soundtrack music.
This career does not have a traditional path of advancement as there are so many directions the career path can take. If one produces music for television, for example, their 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 he or she has produced great music on their own and received lots of accolades, they might be asked to produce a record for another Artist. In that case, the Producer takes on more of the role of a Record Producer, as their job is to help craft the sound of another artist. It may be that another artist likes his or her production style and hires them to produce, or even write and produce, their new material.
An example of this would be Pharrell Williams. He wrote and produced much of the music in his early band N.E.R.D. His sound was so distinct that he was hired by many A-List Artists to produce their music and 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 or 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, quickly and more 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 doing 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 like they would have if the aspiring Producer had attended a specialized music production school or took 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 someone wants to be a Record Producer, it might be useful to get experience as 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.
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 is like, for example.
If an aspiring Producer hope to eventually produce other Artists, he or she will need to be good with people. They’ll also need to know their way around a studio and know what they’re doing. They’ll need to be confident in their perspectives and 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 the Producer does. He or she may want to write beats for Hip Hop artists. If so, he or she might find themselves in their home studio for months on end creating all day long, trying to craft just the right sound. If they become successful, they might move from the home studio into a big label or independent studio and work with top artists.
If he or she takes the path of writing production music for TV, they might again find themselves alone in a studio working out the right music for the project. They might also need to hire Musicians to come play on their tracks, in which case they’ll need to work with these players to produce what the 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.
Sometimes a record label or even another Music Producer may hire a Producer to work full-time creating music, but oftentimes being a Music Producer means working till a project stops and then being on a break until the next project comes. If the Producer is doing TV music, they may be in high demand and jump from project to project. If they’re working on their own music, they may be inspired one month and not the next. If they’re a beat writer, they may be hired to write for an Artist, only to have to find more work once that project is done.
If the aspiring Producer wants to write for TV or commercials, our page on Production Music describes what this field involves and how to get into it.
If the Producer is more interested in writing music or beats for other Artists, they should search for Artists whose music is similar to theirs or who might like where their music is coming from. The Producer should reach out to them directly, through their Managers, or by any means necessary to get their music heard.
The salary 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, all 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.
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, the price might double again. If it ends up being on the show’s soundtrack, the Producer 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 one migrates into functioning more as a Record Producer, there is incredible room for massive earnings from hundreds to millions of dollars. Like being a Rock Star, being a successful Music or Record Producer is highly prestigious.
Unions, Groups, Social Media, and Associations
A good resource is the Association of Music Producers. Performing Rights Organizations also offer a wealth of information to their members. If the aspiring Producer is not a member of a PRO yet, it’s highly suggested they 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.