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There are a million and one skills you’ll need to acquire and hone if you’re going to become a working Music Producer with a successful organization.

Between different software programs, learning the inner workings of the industry, understanding the technology and everything included in a studio, and, of course, harnessing your ideas and creativity and turning what’s happening in your head and your heart into actual art, there’s a lot to be learned. However, all of this still doesn’t cover what is required of those behind the growth of the industry’s most successful music production companies!

There are a number of other skills you should practice if you are not only to succeed, but to rise above the rest, and these are real-world items you probably won’t be taught in a college classroom. Courses on a syllabus will show you how to produce music but mastering the skills listed below will teach you how to build a music production company people respect.

In this article, I won’t name specific places or people who can help you become proficient in all of the following skills (although we have discussed some of the nation’s most effective production schools on the blog in the past).

In my experience in the music industry, these are all important abilities, so they should become part of your creative practice throughout your years making music. It’s up to you to locate those who do these things well and seek out their help in bettering yourself.

1. Networking

Most career paths will see people moving from one position at a certain company to another by applying to job listings, but for Producers, this simply isn’t the case. People rarely post ads looking for a Producer, and if they do, it’s likely very much an entry-level position so after a while in the business, it’s no longer appropriate.

Most Musicians, Writers, Producers, Mixers, Engineers, (and almost everyone else in the music world) secure jobs because of who they know. This isn’t to say unqualified people end up in roles or with jobs they’re not ready for based on friendships (well, not usually), but the vast majority of people who make their living in these kinds of career paths get where they are based on word-of-mouth and recommendations.

You’ll end up spending a lot of time getting to know people, making friends, and following up with acquaintances via any method possible (likely social media, which we’ll cover next), as you never know who will get you an interview or suggest you for some type of paying gig.

This isn’t to say all friendships in the music industry only exist so people can use one another, but rather you’ll rely on those you’re close with to talk you up and help you advance in your career and you’ll be expected to do the same for them.

Social media is a great way to connect with those you’d like to work with and to stay in touch with them, if even through quick comments and likes.

2. Social Media

Speaking of social media, this is a skill you’re going to need to develop if you want to succeed in today’s modern musical world. Platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and even lesser outlets like Snapchat can be helpful in a number of ways and to completely avoid them would only be doing yourself a disservice.

You won’t need to focus on your social image as much as the artists you’ll be producing for do (if that’s the route you want to go for) but you also can’t get so caught up in what you’re doing in your job you forget entirely about maintaining a presence on all the important sites.

Social media is a great way to connect with those you’d like to work with and to stay in touch with them, if even through quick comments and likes. Since networking is so important, let the tools available to you work for you . . . but you’ll, of course, need to exert some effort and spend a little time in the process.

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3. Branding

Branding is something most Musicians and Singers have had to think about for many years now, but for a long time, Producers didn’t concern themselves with it. If you’re going to work behind-the-scenes, who cares what you look like or what your name is? This was a perfectly fine mindset decades ago but it’s no longer the case and now the most successful, most sought-after Producers in the music business are the ones who have “brand names,” at least in some sense.

You can look to the biggest stars in music — both in the vocal booth and behind the mixing boards — to learn some lessons about branding. While it might not be what you want to focus your time and energy on as an up-and-coming figure in the business, these things matter now.

Many stars don’t go by their real, full names but rather stage names and many top-tier Producers have taken to doing the same. You should consider a moniker to work under and think about an image as well. This isn’t something that needs to be carefully tended to as if you were a chart-topping pop star but an interesting public image can make a difference.

Names like Mark Ronson, Diplo, Rick Rubin, and Max Martin have all cultivated a certain image throughout their years in the music business and they are now recognizable on sight to those who follow their work.

You will, of course, still need to spend the vast majority of your time and energy on crafting the best music possible, but if you want to make it to the top, your brand matters as well.

4. Work Ethic

Making a living in music, whether it’s as a Musician, a Singer, or even as a Producer takes a lot of hard work. It’s easy to hear this and assume you’re cut out for it but let me reiterate the sentiment: making a living in music requires a lot of hard work. A lot.

In the years I have worked in the music industry, I have seen countless people quit or stop projects because they don’t have the work ethic or the drive to continue. Many of those people laughed off warnings about how difficult it’s going to be only to realize the pace and workload aren’t for them in the end.

Work ethic is something some people are born with or something others learn as children. Still others find ways to cultivate an inspirational work ethic when they enter college or the workforce. As a Music Producer, don’t think you’ll be able working from 9 to 5 like in other careers. You’ll be putting in extremely long hours, sometimes pulling all-nighters, and for many years, it might be for little money and even less recognition.

Your work ethic will ensure you get everything done you need to, while your drive and ambition (which I also lump in with work ethic) will help you stick with producing even when it seems as if it will never get any better or easier.

You will, of course, still need to spend the vast majority of your time and energy on crafting the best music possible, but if you want to make it to the top, your brand matters as well.

5. Work-Life Balance

I thought it important to place this directly below “work ethic,” as the two are both necessary but it’s often hard to reconcile one with the other. How are you supposed to have a work-life balance if you’re always working? I’m not saying it’s easy, or even always possible, but having both should be a goal you’re always reaching towards.

Make friends in the field you work in (or ones connected to it), try to bring friends and family members who work outside of music into your world when possible, and schedule them into your life whenever you can.

You’ll find when you become a full-time Music Producer that if you want to keep some old friends in your life you’re going to really have to work at it. It’s a shame something that used to be so simple can become a chore of sorts but that’s not just part of the music industry — it’s part of adulthood.

You’ll be much better off if you have even a semi-healthy balance of work and fun in your life and your art will benefit from the effort.

6. Appreciation for Other People’s Art

This list item sounds like it is the easiest here but it can sometimes be difficult, especially after years in the business (or, for some especially jaded musical men and women, just as they enter). You should certainly always be proud of the music you produce but don’t get cocky and think it’s the best thing in the world.

Listen to what other people are doing and find ways to appreciate their art. You can absolutely dedicate more time to the specific genre (or genres) you specialize in but don’t get boxed in and only stick to one type of music.

Some of the greatest Producers I’ve spoken with have been quick to praise the skills of fellow Producers, Musicians, stars, and Songwriters I found surprising, as they didn’t work in the styles I’d typically associated with the person in front of me.

Finding what’s great about something completely foreign to you is, in itself, a skill, and one worth acquiring. Appreciating art not often recognized by either your country or your genre can help you bring fresh, new ideas to the table, and if done right, it can make you stand out as forward-thinking and a taste-making Producer.

7. A Desire to Learn

The fact you’re headed to college or perhaps in college is a sign you’re willing to learn and you understand the importance of an education but don’t think it stops after your four years (or however long) are up.

The best Producers and Musicians of all-time never stopped learning throughout their careers, as they not only understood the notion there was always more out there that could be grasped, but they loved doing it. If you are truly enamored with a subject or a practice you’ll never want to stop learning about it.

I’m not suggesting you should never stop going to school, racking up degree after degree (though if you have the resources to do so, why not), as learning can happen everywhere. Go to concerts. Sit in on songwriting camps. Listen and dissect songs you think are great.

Read books about production, the music industry, and about some of the most successful artists ever and those you admire. Meet with people. Talk with anyone you can at events and really hear what they have to say about what they’re doing and advice they’ve gotten.

You can always learn more in life, and this is something you should carry with you always (and not just in your career as a Producer).

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