Record Producer

Last updated: Aug 17, 2021
Reads: 198,202

Career Overview

Record Producers guide the production of a record by coaching the musicians, advising in pre-production sessions, and directing the in-studio recording and production process.

Alternate Titles

Producer, Music Producer, Recording Producer

Avg. Salary


Salary Range

$41K – $105K1

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Career Description

Record Producers, sometimes also called Music Producers, bring the artistic, technical, logistical, and often financial aspects together to create recordings, usually in a recording studio, meant for commercial release or for use in visual media or advertising.

Record Producers work most often with musical artists, or sometimes artists themselves might also be Record Producers. Many successful musicians also go on to produce records for other artists, in the same way that a big-name Actor might become a Film Director. Some artists are self-produced or might serve as Producer for other artists’ recordings.

A Record Producer is involved in all the decisions about making a recording, from pre-production to post-production. They might choose the material to be recorded, arrange the music, write and play instrumental parts, engineer the recording or oversee the Engineer, mix the tracks, and approve the final masters. The Record Producer acts as a team leader for everyone involved with making a recording. A Record Producer may be affiliated with a record label, and have input into the artwork, marketing, and development of an artist’s career.

More commonly, Record Producers work independently. They are usually paid a flat fee and can also receive a share of the royalties from a song or an album. The term “Record Producer” is often used interchangeably with “Music Producer,” but it is a bit more old-fashioned since it comes from a past time when producing a physical record (vinyl or CD) was the goal. Some professionals choose to call themselves a “Recording Producer” instead.

There are many kinds of Record Producers; some, like an Executive Producer, might oversee the financial budgets and also be responsible for the marketing and distribution of the recording. There are also Assistant and Associate Producers, who work under an established Producer to support the success of the recordings. Producers often play or sing on the recordings they produce. They also choose the songs and the musicians in many instances or create all the musical tracks for the artist to sing over.

To learn how to become a Record Producer, we talked to several recording industry professionals to get their thoughts on building a career in music production. In this article, you’ll hear from Record Producer, Recording Engineer, and Mixer Adam Moseley, a Los Angeles-based Producer who teaches music production through UCLA Extension, Berklee Valencia, The Recording Connection, and Garnish. He has worked with artists like Yeah Yeah Yeahs, U2, and Lenny Kravitz.

You’ll also hear from 5-time Grammy Award winner Elaine Martone, Executive Vice President of Production at TelArc, Governor for the Chicago Chapter Board of the Recording Academy, and Ojai Music Festival Producer. Martone has worked with many jazz and classical luminaries, including the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Ray Brown, and Oscar Peterson.

Weighing in from the world of hip-hop are legendary production duo Arkatech Beatz. The Atlanta-based team came to prominence after Big Pun’s Capital Punishment was released and have gone on to work with Nas, Raekwon, Curren$y, and Freddie Gibbs.

Grammy-winning Producer, Engineer, and Mixer Matt Lawrence also contributes. Lawrence began his career working at Van Morrison’s studio before moving over to London’s Metropolis studios. Over the course of his career, he has produced and/or engineered for the likes of Bjork, The Clash, The Rolling Stones, Elton John, The White Stripes, and Lady Gaga.

Read on to get their takes on some of the most commonly-asked questions about how to become a Record Producer!

What does a Record Producer do?

Arkatech Beatz (Nas, Freddie Gibbs, Raekwon)

The role of a Record Producer (not to be confused with just a Beat Maker), is to put a record together from start to finish. A Producer may pick or create the track, find Writers or suggest song topics, oversee the recording, bring in featured artists, sequence and edit songs, oversee the mix, etc. The Producer is hands-on in the entire process of song creation.

Elaine Martone (Ray Brown, Oscar Peterson, Cleveland Orchestra)

A Record Producer is the person responsible for putting the project together with the artists, facilitating the logistics (studio or venue, times and durations of the recording sessions, break times, figuring out how many hours are needed to complete the project, making sure all of the instruments are there and tuned to the specification of the Artistic Director or Lead Musician in the project, and many more things), running the recording session, letting the musicians know if the particular piece or work is covered (that is, are all of the piece’s parts as well performed in that moment as can be?

The Producer is the liaison between the Recording Engineer who is responsible for capturing the sound to the satisfaction of the performers AND the Producer. The Producer can/does translates what the performers want in the recorded sound so that the Engineer understands what to change or improve in terms of microphone selection, mic placement, warmth in the sound, brightness in the sound, bass, and high frequencies, and so that all the things that make up a world-class recording are present.

The recording Producer works at the session to be sure all is captured and documented so that the takes recorded are able to be found later by the Editor and the Producer and artists. Then, the Producer puts an edit map in the score or gives the take choices to the Editor, and oversees, then signs off on the master (along with approvals from the artists).

Adam Moseley (Beck, John Cale, U2)

As a Producer it means getting involved right at the beginning with the songs, working on the song structure, working on the arrangement, working on every note of every part and putting that whole picture together, getting into rehearsals.

Pre-production can be done in my loft here with a guitar or piano, just sitting down and playing the song. That’s the best thing: getting the song right at its earliest stage. Once the basic parts are worked out, we’ll go to a rehearsal room and try every idea, try every drum fill the drummer wants to come up with, let every musician try what they want.

We’ll have the song structure written down, and if we want to make a quick change to the song structure it takes a few seconds in the rehearsal room and you can do that at $15-$20 an hour.

In pre-production I let the drummer try every fill, then we’ll choose the ones that work. We’ll decide, “This fill is great, it definitely should be in but it’s too busy too early, so let’s save it. Let’s build the tension. Let’s keep the fills simple and then maybe after the bridge, coming out of the bridge, that’s where you can do the busy crazy fill.”

It’s all about letting the musicians express themselves while all the time you’re just guiding and filtering. I see the role of the Producer as being the catalyst and being like the mirror image of the band. When they have an idea, to take their idea and throw the next idea back at them and see where I can take them.

At times I’ve worked with an artist where the artist has just come in and sung and I’ve put all the arrangements together, all the backing tracks, all the string arrangements, done the whole thing and the artist has just shown up to sing their song.

What I prefer to do when I work with the bands is to push them and show them the way to go to do something that they didn’t even know they’re capable of, or they didn’t have that idea, to throw the next idea at them and see what comes back. It’s about making music and making something unique and special.

If I’m going to be involved and to help the band, it’s about helping the band achieve something better than they would achieve on their own, without a Producer.

Once we’re in the studio it’s about capturing the moment and then after the basic tracks it’s down to doing the overdubs, additional instruments – maybe additional guitars, lead vocals, maybe some backing vocals or keyboards or extra touches here or there. But it’s always about keeping the vision or keeping the concept. The most important thing is having the concept very clear.

From the first time an artist sits down with me and plays the song on the guitar or piano I have a concept for the song. I have a shape, a mood and colors, and positions.

Is it hard to become a Record Producer?

Arkatech Beatz (Nas, Freddie Gibbs, Raekwon)

It’s not hard to become a Producer if you have a passion for it. Like any craft, one has to be consistent in developing.

So if you are making beats you have to be consistent with it, put yourself on a schedule, and always look for different creative methods that can improve the workflow. One also should be aware of the music that is currently out and make sure the music they are creating can compete with what is currently on the market.

Elaine Martone (Ray Brown, Oscar Peterson, Cleveland Orchestra)

It took me about 8 years from when I started producing recordings in 1988 to when the “light bulb” went on, and I understood that I now KNEW what I was doing. And every recording since then, I continue to expand my knowledge and add to my toolbox. I think that’s a pretty great life—-to continue to grow after doing this for 40 years!

Adam Moseley (Beck, John Cale, U2)

I think that’s the hardest challenge for aspiring Producers and Engineers. How do they get their break? It’s much harder for someone even if they go to audio recording school.

I was a driver for my uncle in the fashion business for six months, writing letters to studios, trying to get into a studio because back then there were so many studios. Now nearly all of those opportunities have disappeared.

Those studios don’t exist anymore because the business changed and there wasn’t the money being made and people couldn’t afford to spend that kind of money in studios just because the return on the record wasn’t going to give you enough profit.

I must have written to maybe sixty or eighty studios, maybe it was even a hundred letters. I got one response. And it was for an interview at Trident. I got hired as a Chef and a Builder because I’d worked at construction sites and they were enlarging the control room to bring in a new trident A-range series, a desk.

So that’s how I got into a studio. I worked eighteen hours a day, seven days a week, from 9 am to 3 am, for three months, not knowing if I’d get hired after the initial construction work.

I was promoted to what was known as a Tea-Boy. It’s like a Runner. I worked through that, then became a Tape Operator – like an Assistant, but you’re just running the multi-track all day. Then [I was] learning from these absolute legends that had come before me who made the Bowie albums or the Beatles albums, learning by osmosis and listening and watching, trying to figure out what was going on.

An Engineer [would] tell me, “Put this mic on this guitar cabinet” and then “put a different mic somewhere else” and I was listening to the different microphones and training my ear as to why this one worked and why that one worked, [learning] what happened with a different mic in a different position. It created a different sound and a different mood and captured a different emotion.

I went from being the Assistant to engineering with the Engineer, then becoming an Engineer and working with bands. If I had ideas they liked, they’d ask me to co-produce or produce, so it was a very natural kind of organic progression.


Most Producers get their start by interning at a recording studio or assisting established Producers and may be paid very little or nothing while they have the chance to learn the art and craft of producing recordings. The sky is the limit for what major Producers working with the big stars can earn. Flat fees for Producers can start in the several thousands of dollars and be as high as a million dollars or more when working for a major artist and label.

Producers also usually earn a percentage of the royalties for the master rights to their recordings, so the better the song does, the more they are paid. They might get paid an advance against future royalties.

It could take from several weeks to many months to finish a project, so Producers, like Film Directors, might only work on a few projects in a year. Others might work in a fast-paced environment for advertising or TV and work on many projects simultaneously. There are few salaried positions available for Record Producers, so most work is project-based, and each job’s payments are negotiated up-front and then a contract is signed.

Some Producers become household names and earn huge sums, while others toil in relative obscurity and are paid by artists or Songwriters to visualize and create recordings of their songs. The more accomplished and well-known Producers can make a lot of money, while many others work hard and are paid a decent living wage but perhaps not much more. Skills, reputation, and referrals are all very valuable in the world of record production.

Level of pay is linked to experience, accomplishments, reputation, and abilities.

How much does a Record Producer get paid?

Alison Stolpa (Careers in Music Staff)

On average, Record Producers earn approximately $68,200 per year. The salary range for Record Producers runs from $41,000 to $105,000.

How do Record Producers get paid?

Arkatech Beatz (Nas, Freddie Gibbs, Raekwon)

Producers primarily get Producer royalties, which are a negotiable percentage based on the sale of the record. Often Producers are paid an advance, (an upfront payment of royalties), which are to be repaid through future record sales.

Some Producers who become notable in their field are also able to collect a Producer fee, which is an upfront cost for their services. If the Producer did any songwriting (made the beat) then they are also entitled to publishing.

Elaine Martone (Ray Brown, Oscar Peterson, Cleveland Orchestra)

Producers get paid in various ways. Some Producers collect a royalty on each recording unit sold. I have charged a flat rate — all-inclusive, except for travel and accommodations -— of the same rate for the past many years.

An artist or organization and I agree on what they will pay me for my services. I am an independent contractor, so I  negotiate a flat fee (this does not include health insurance or any other benefits, of course).

My going rate for producing a standard 60-minute recording is generally $5,000-$7,500 depending on the scope of the project, which I have not increased in over ten years. Of course, all fees are negotiable based on the needs of the client and whether I want to do something or not!

If you want to know more about the work I do, my website is

Adam Moseley (Beck, John Cale, U2)

Generally, it’s per project. In my mind, I work out a budget of how long is this going to take. If I’m mixing a record and its very simple, a Singer-Songwriter [with an] acoustic guitar, very few tracks, and very little instrumentation, then I can charge less.

If I’m getting a band that has a hundred tracks of overdubs or a hundred piece orchestra or a thirty piece choir, I know those mixes are going to take me three or four days. Again, the whole structure has changed. It used to be a set rate. Now it’s much more fluid.

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Career Outlook

There’s certainly a demand for Record Producers, as there’s always a need for new music to be produced, marketed, and sold to audiences worldwide. Music is a global industry, and the opportunities can come from literally anywhere. It’s important for the aspiring Record Producer to have great business instincts and to learn all the ins and outs of the music business.

A Producer must be a team leader and know how to get along with all kinds of people. Producers often liaise between the record companies, artists, Engineers, musicians, and Songwriters, and are a part of the artist’s A&R (Artist & Repertoire) team.

In spite of the global pandemic, and perhaps to some degree because of it, there seems to be a steadily increasing demand for recorded music. There has also been an increase in demand for music to accompany visual media which seems likely to continue. Some industry veterans are predicting a flowering of all the arts once the pandemic is finally behind us, like what happened a century ago during the “Roaring 20s” (after the end of the Spanish flu). If there is indeed a blossoming of the arts, it makes sense that there will be more and more opportunities for Record Producers to make a name for themselves.

A love of music, a passion for listening, and being confident in the vision for a recording and what’s right for the song and artist will go a long way towards moving a Producer to the A-list. Being true to the art and highly trained with skills in many areas allows a Record Producer to confidently charge a fair price for their services.

Building on their reputation, a Record Producer can prepare for outsize success in the music industry by constantly learning, increasing their familiarity with the popular music landscape, and increasing their understanding of the history of music and music production. It’s a very competitive industry to break into, but people will always recognize and reward talent and ability.

What is the most challenging part of being a Record Producer?

Matt Lawrence (Adele, Amy Winehouse, Mumford & Sons)

When working with a band, it’s trying to give everyone opinion on the record, there’s often someone who talks loudest or is most charismatic. Some of the best ideas come from the quiet one.

How many hours does a Record Producer work?

Adam Moseley (Beck, John Cale, U2)

If I’m doing a record and there’s an absolute set amount of time, that can be six days a week, fourteen hours a day and all that exists is that record and mixing it.

A lot of the way things have changed now is there is much more freedom. A band may say, “We’re making a record, but we can only afford to do a couple songs every three months. So then I’ll map that out and that’s why I’ll have three or four different projects on the go at one time.”

Whoever is paying for the record – whether it’s the band paying themselves because they raised the money on Kickstarter or it’s an indie label or a benefactor or someone who’s putting the money–up when I hear the songs initially I have to sit with the songs and think, “What does this song need? Does this song need extra instruments?”

Maybe it might want real strings, a quartet. That means going to a studio. How much is that going to cost? How much can I get my players for? How few hours can I get good results in without wasting the money? How long it takes depends on what’s required.

Is being a Record Producer a good career?

Matt Lawrence (Adele, Amy Winehouse, Mumford & Sons)

It’s amazing! You get to make records for a living and then go home anonymously at the end of the session.

Career Path

There isn’t one way to become a Record Producer, but the vast majority of Producers start out as musicians. Not all Producers sing or play an instrument, but it’s very helpful for a Producer to have a solid understanding of how music is put together and to have arranging skills, along with the ability to sing or play an instrument well.

Getting good at music can take some time, so future Record Producers will need some years to study and prepare for a career in music, learning about the business and the history of music and recording. Learning to use current music technology and software, learning to use different DAWs (Digital Audio Workstation), and learning to read and write music are all important steps for Producers starting out in their careers.

Working in a studio setting or making live concert recordings as an Assistant is a great way to learn the skills needed to become a successful Record Producer. Watching an accomplished Producer at work is one of the best ways to learn how to produce records. Always being prepared, paying close attention while learning from mistakes, and thinking ahead to anticipate the needs of the team are what ultimately leads to getting the call back and to future referrals.

Once a Record Producer has an established reputation, they should have plenty of clients seeking them out for their services.

How do you become a Record Producer?

Arkatech Beatz (Nas, Freddie Gibbs, Raekwon)

Becoming a Record Producer starts when you can identify the music you want to create. When you are able to facilitate putting that music together by either making the music yourself (using various instruments/electronics) or hiring musicians to make the music, you are then operating as a Record Producer.

Elaine Martone (Ray Brown, Oscar Peterson, Cleveland Orchestra)

There is no one course or path to becoming a Recording Producer. I became a Recording Producer after being a very good Editor and learning what made a performance great from the inside out. I was also a performing (classical) musician (oboe was my instrument).

Adam Moseley (Beck, John Cale, U2)

They can do a two-year certificate and come out knowing audio theory probably more than I do but they won’t have their ear trained in the way my ear is trained, to know exactly which mic and in which position and which compressor and how I’m going to set everything up.

They have to find people to work with and learn in that way. I’ve always had studios and I’ve always brought people through. I’ve always taken teams of people and educated them.

I loved when people came for an interview to try and see if there was an opening; I wouldn’t care too much if they had a certificate or not.

If they were the right kind of person who I knew could handle the pressure and if I knew they had the right kind of personality to fit in with bands, to anticipate and also be invisible when they needed to and also give a bit of feedback when they were asked and not give feedback when they weren’t asked.

If they were the right kind of personality I would hire them because I can teach them the right stuff. I can teach you everything else about the console and why I do this and why I use a certain thing or a microphone or a compressor.

I can teach [them, but they have] to be the right kind of person who can also be in a room with the band fourteen to sixteen hours a day or more, keep their head and anticipate what’s going on, fit in and be the right kind of person.

If you’re working with someone, often the person you’re working for is doing everything on their own and it might be hours that you’re just sitting there waiting. Don’t go on Facebook. Don’t go on the Internet. Watch and learn.

Even if you’re not [involved] in the process, watch what they’re doing. Learn their method so you know how they go about things because at any second they may turn around to you and go “I’m going to the toilet. Can you jump in and tidy up, do the crossfades, consolidate the files and do a bounce or export?”

Make sure you constantly save the session and back everything up in a new playlist. And if you’re suddenly like “Sorry, I was messaging with a friend” for me you’re gone. So always be in the moment, even if you’re sitting there and assisting for hours. See what the person is doing.

If you’re in a studio or someone’s home setup and they’re working with an artist and they say they’re going to do the guitars in a bit and then take a break, set up the guitars so when they come back and tell you “I think we’re going to do guitars now,” you can say “Everything’s set up as it was the other day.”

You’ve anticipated and stayed in the moment and that’s how you’ll keep your job and move up. That’s how you’ll get called again. That’s how people will know you’re of value and they can trust you and they’re not having to stop and say, “Excuse me, if you could leave Facebook alone for a minute, I wouldn’t mind if you could put some microphones up for me.”

There’s nothing worse than having to stop what you’re doing and teach someone something when you’re under pressure to do something as the Producer or the Engineer or the Programmer or Composer or whatever. You’re trying to be in the creative moment. You’re trying to stay in this place of your creative connection with the song and you don’t want to be distracted.

You don’t want to be pulled out of that moment. So if anyone’s going to be with you, they’d better be able to slip in without you having to break.

You might just have to leave the room and clear your head for a minute and you’ll give the Intern or Assistant some tasks to do and they’ve got to be exactly in the same moment that you were, in the same step, even if they’ve been sitting there for six hours with nothing to do. If it’s not of interest to them then they shouldn’t be there.

And that’s how you will get further. Intense situations do happen. Some Interns do just get used for their initial trial period–a few weeks, a few months—or for their certification. Others will get hired. That’s the difference for those who do get hired.

Listen to music. Listen and absorb it and analyze it. In my UCLA Extension course, I do an exercise. The whole thing about creating music is hoping to create an emotion and it’s through the lyrics, the sounds of the notes and the combination of all of it, whether it’s a dreamy sound or a very aggressive sound.

The minute the music starts, the sound of it gives you an emotion. It washes over you or it pumps you up and makes you happy. Or it makes you sad or melancholy.

In the course I have students choose a song that they absolutely love because it creates a certain kind of emotion and have them examine the song, to get past the vocal and the lyrics and actually listen to the sounds of the notes and try to find out what is it in the sound of the song that also makes them feel a certain way.

Is it that the drum kick is very aggressive or a certain kind of snare? That kind of training is how I learned. By listening to music and just loving it and analyzing the parts, seeing how this artist or this band put their music together. It’s training your instincts, training your ear training your responses. Listen to music and pay for it.

Experience & Skills

Being a Record Producer means constantly learning. Record Producers succeed by understanding the needs of the musicians and artists, coming up with ideas, and having a vision for the song from the very beginning that makes it better than the artist could do on their own. A good Producer knows all about the possibilities and constraints of the equipment used in recordings, the different kinds of microphones and what they are used for, and how to shape the frequencies of every note on the recording.

Producers need to also understand how tonal characteristics and notes are used to evoke certain moods, emotions, atmospheres, or vibe. Probably the best way to achieve all this is to do a LOT of focused listening to great recordings, and then to analyze all the elements to pinpoint exactly how and why the recording is successful. It’s worth the extra time and effort to figure out why a recording is great, and why you like it. Music conveys emotion, and a good Producer knows how to use the notes and sounds of a recording to evoke the desired emotions and moods.

Awareness of what the competition is doing, and the market demands placed on artists and Producers is also a key to advancement. This is true regardless of musical genre.

The sound and quality of recordings also change over time, so it’s smart to go back and listen to the great recordings throughout history to understand the trajectory and how we got to where we are today. There are terrific musical recordings going back over 100 years at least, and the aspiring Producer should strive to understand what happened previously, and the historic innovations that accompanied the rise in popularity of commercially recorded music.

An understanding of the history of the music business will also be helpful since music is a business and Producers need to be paid to succeed in plying their trade. Producing music is an art form, but it’s also a trade.

Besides technical and business skills, Producers need people skills. Leading teams requires “soft skills” to communicate the vision for the project, manage personalities and egos, motivate the players to deliver their very best work, keep things on track, find ways to compromise, and make the necessary decisions about how to proceed with the music.

There are some cases where very well-known Producers were fired in the middle of a project because they didn’t “click” with the artist. It may have been that the musical visions were not compatible, but it was likely also a clash in personalities. It’s important for everyone involved in the recording process to have their ideas heard, and a good Producer knows how to make that happen.

What qualifications do you need to be a Record Producer?

Elaine Martone (Ray Brown, Oscar Peterson, Cleveland Orchestra)

To be a Record Producer it is helpful to have great attention to detail, patience, musical taste, solid, justified opinions on what constitutes good sound and great performance. It’s also a great quality to be a people-person, with the ability to really get in someone else’s world and listen.

I often say I am a combination cheerleader and committed listener, truly listening for what is great in a performer, and doing my best to bring that quality into the world of recorded music. It’s good to have a knowledge of the instruments and the ability to read music and scores.

It’s very helpful to understand and have researched the music you are recording and to understand from where it has originated. Context is everything! Compassion and empathy are other good qualifications for a Recording Producer. And loving music is the number one qualification.

Arkatech Beatz (Nas, Freddie Gibbs, Raekwon)

These days you really don’t need any major qualifications to be a Producer. However, just being an average Producer versus being a great Producer will depend on one’s creativity, drive, and ability to think out of the box.

One has to have an ear for music and be familiar with the various stages and components of putting a song together from start to finish. One has to be able to visualize the end product and know how to get to it. Learning music and its history can also give a Producer a major advantage over others.

What skills does a Record Producer need?

Matt Lawrence (Adele, Amy Winehouse, Mumford & Sons)

People skills. Really listening to what people want. Exuding a sense of confidence in what you are all doing when some start to doubt the direction.

Adam Moseley (Beck, John Cale, U2)

From the very first time I hear a song I have a very clearly defined idea of how the song should sound, of what its shape will be. I can visualize the song. I can draw the shapes of the instruments, and their perspectives, whether they’re out front or set back or wide or high in the mix.

I have a concept right from the beginning so I know where I’m going to go with it, but what I want to do is get the band to explore and try their ideas.

I did a talk recently for Ableton and someone asked me in the audience how do you know when a mix is done (when a song is finished)? About twelve people laughed. Under their breath they’re all going, “Oh you never know, you never know.”

I said, “How do you know when you get in the car that you’ve arrived at where you were going? Do you drive aimlessly for two hours and suddenly pull up at Ralph’s and think, ‘Oh I guess I was going to buy groceries?'”

You get in the car and you start a journey normally with an idea of where you’re going. Same with a song. You have a concept and you visualize the end result. You’re really in touch with what the band wants and the song needs and you eliminate the things that won’t work and focus on what are the strengths of the songs.

What are the integral components? What do we have to achieve with the song? What is the mood? What is the emotional impact that we have to find? Is it to make people want to go out and fight or go out and dance all night or sit in a corner and cry or fall in love?

Whatever it is, if that’s your purpose with the song, then achieve it. Then it’s about putting the pieces together, the tracking, the overdubs.

Then I sit down to mix the song and I’ll often spend days on a mix just to really get it, to play every instrument, to get every moment as special as it can be because there’s already a reason why every single note is there and why it’s played at the moment that it is and why the note sounds like it is in relationship with the other instruments and the whole sonic picture.

Again it’s just to get the absolute full achievement of the concept from the very beginning, and the purpose of the song — to represent that and hopefully to capture that. So that when someone listens to it they just get it.

As a Producer it’s like being a Film Director, having the concept of what you want to achieve from the performance of the song and its dynamic and emotion and making sure you get your artists to the absolute best they can in that moment.

When I first began co-producing and became a Producer one of the scariest things was the band saying “What should we do now?” and having the confidence to voice my idea.

Luckily what I realized I’d been doing through all those years [of listening to music] was training my instincts. Trying to absorb and educate yourself as much as you can and building this kind of [musical] library and educating your instincts, then starting to try new ideas.

As long as you’re in touch with the song and you have a clear vision of the concept of where the song should go, hopefully, you have an idea and it’s instinctive and based on an emotional response to the artist, the music or the song.

If I was being truthful and honest and in touch with the song generally the idea I would come up with would be relevant and advance the song. Then if the band liked it, that would breed the confidence of having more ideas, while always remembering that I have to be absolutely centered, in touch with the song and the artist, and in the moment.

As long as I’m in that place, most of the ideas I’m going to have are going to work or they’re going to trigger the next idea.

At the beginning, I was very quiet, when I got into the studios as a Chef and Builder and the console arrived, I was one of the twelve people who carried the console frame in. They started putting the modules in the desk and I started thinking, “What have I done?”

I thought, “I will never understand how any of this works. I should have stayed in law school. I screwed up. I will never get to know how this works.”

I’m not a technical person, but I just discovered a love for sound and for the process of making music and I just knew I had to be there in this environment. It was a very tough time. I was at Trident for four years; very few people survived that long. It was a tough process, a lot of people burned out.

I saw two or three people break down as soon as they became an Engineer because of all the pressure and the head games by Rock Stars. So you’ve got to have a real sense of focus. You’ve got to have the ability to read people and also know when to adapt, when to step up and be strong and when to step back and be invisible.

I must have worked with 200 different Producers and Engineers. I think there are only five out of all the Producers I worked with who had such a complete awareness of sound and how to relate their concept to get the Engineer to make the changes they wanted in terms of frequencies, to add a frequency or subtract a frequency.

The Producer must know how to relate to an artist, how to get a performance out of an artist, how to keep the artist on track, how to keep an artist from drinking or doing too much stuff or when to allow the artist to have a smoke or something because that’s where they need the artist to be, in that kind of headspace.

[They must know] how to talk to every person on the team, including the Runner, and build a team where everyone feels that they belong and have a role and works with each other.

In making music it doesn’t matter how high or how low you are in the supposed ranking. Every time I’ve worked on a record it’s about building a team and getting the best out of everyone, having discipline, making sure people are serious and don’t screw up, but also giving respect where it’s due.

If the Runner is doing a good job then let them know, because if they’re doing a great job then the session will run smoother because your musicians aren’t bitching that they wanted a cup of tea a half an hour ago or they wanted a soda and it’s still not here.

If the Runner is absolutely on it, if they’re listening every time there’s something going on and they hear “Ok, maybe we’re going to take a break in a couple of hours,” the Runner knows to have the kitchen set up or the lounge or the dining room.

So when they take a break they’ll feel great and the Producer’s going to go “Wow, this guy’s on it and my session is running smoother” because the band has just walked to their break, everything is set up and we’re not going to waste time now while someone’s fumbling around trying to tidy up the room and clean up the table.

The Producer, client or artist will request that Runner or Assistant for the next time they are in the studio.

You have to be absolutely determined and focused and always on. You read the room. You read the people. Anyone can learn software. Anyone can learn how to operate a board.

The difficult thing is being able to operate the board when you’ve got five people in the room all asking for different things at the same time or someone in the band is really messed up or someone is just really pissed off and you’re trying to stay focused and keep your center and keep everything going.

Anyone can learn the software; it’s essential. But it’s who you are and your ability to read people and to interact with people.

Education & Training

There are many schools, colleges, and universities offering courses, certificates, and degrees in music production, including graduate level studies.

For post-secondary educational institutions, it’s a relatively new field; the first music production courses came into being in the late 1950s and 1960s as the music industry grew rapidly in size and breadth. Today, students interested in furthering their studies after high school have a very wide choice of programs, in the US, abroad, and online.

The focus of various programs tends to differ. Some will focus more on the audio engineering and digital recording technology aspects, perhaps leading to a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.), while others may focus more on the musical aspects in addition to the technology, leading to a Bachelor of Music (B.Mus.) or a Bachelor of Art (B.A.) with a major in music technology or audio recording.

There are also diplomas and single courses offered by some institutions and organizations. Regardless of the focus, any worthwhile degree program will include courses in music industry since a Producer needs to know how to prepare for the business to have a viable career after graduation.

Most college programs in music production will expect applicants to have some background in music. Many, but not all programs require applicants to play a musical instrument. The computer may be accepted as a digital musical instrument (DMI) at a few schools. Gaining a deeper understanding of and familiarity with all aspects of music-making should be part of any aspiring Record Producer’s ongoing goals.

It may be expensive to attend school, but most will students qualify for and receive some level of scholarship funding in order to attend. Going to school is the best way to learn a lot about all aspects of record production, music, and the music industry in a relatively short time period. It’s also a great opportunity to network with other talented young students who are embarking on careers in the music business.

Going to school isn’t the only way to learn, of course. Even graduates of top schools will seek an internship shortly before or after graduation, to learn how to produce hands-on and under the guidance of experienced Producers and Engineers. Learning on the job is a tried-and-true method to success and will also help new Producers get their foot in the door of a competitive industry. Not only does observing a master Producer at work offer unique chances to learn and grow in essential knowledge and skills, but it also gives the fledgling Producer a chance to build a future network and gain referrals for work opportunities.

Most studios and Producers prefer to accept Interns and Trainees from a college or university program, since they know they will be trained in the technology, but earning a degree isn’t a hard and fast requirement for working as an Intern, Trainee, or Assistant. It is, however, the path chosen by most, and for a good reason.

It’s also never too late to go back and take a few courses to jumpstart a career. Whether or not attending a school is in the cards, there’s no better option for learning than watching a competent professional Producer working on making a record.

Do you need to go to college to become a Record Producer?

Adam Moseley (Beck, John Cale, U2)

I think going to a school helps because if someone wants to be an Apprentice or Intern to me now I haven’t got the time to teach anyone how to use Pro Tools. If someone’s going to assist me they need to know that inside and out.

If you can’t afford to go to a school, teach yourself. There are so many clips on YouTube.

Even me, when I’m working in Ableton Live, which isn’t my prime tool, if suddenly I want to do something in Ableton and I don’t know how to do it, I can find a YouTube clip for a certain topic and normally within a couple of minutes, I’ve got my answer and I can just quit YouTube and be creative again. So you can teach yourself if you can’t afford to go to school.

The most important thing is to train your ear and your instincts. One of the best educations I had was being trained by great Producers, Engineers, and artists, by watching, listening, and learning. They never turned around and said “I’m doing this because of this” and “I want to achieve this here with this artist.” There was never any time for that.

An Assistant or Intern is going to come in and sit with someone who’s already under pressure with the schedule and the budget and they’re just going to turn around and say, “Do this. Do that. I need this done. I need that.” They don’t want to know you can’t do it.

If something comes up during the day that you don’t know, make sure during the night that, even if you’ve got hardly any hours of sleep, you go home and learn so you’ll never be caught out again on the same thing.

If the person you’re assisting or interning for sees that you went home and fixed that and learned it then, they’ll give you more options. They’ll say, “Ok, they didn’t know that was coming. Not everyone can know everything, but this person went and they learned and now they know how to do that simple function.”

So that’s the thing; to be on top of your game and never make the same mistake twice. In my day, making a mistake once would be the end of your career.

Additional Resources

Adam Moseley is a big proponent of online self-education. He says, “All the information is out there on the Internet. You can watch videos, documentaries, tutorials of how to use compressors, and great Producers and Engineers that are active. Pensado’s Place [and the associated Facebook group] is a fantastic resource and another great resource is Pro Audio Files. It has articles every single day on a specific topic.”

Aspiring Producers may also find the Audio Engineering Society and The Recording Academy (GRAMMYS) to be helpful learning resources.

Moseley says, “If it’s something that you want to do, you can find the information and teach yourself. If you don’t understand how a compressor works, look it up. Write it down. If you want to see why a certain Engineer uses a certain compressor you can probably find a three or five-minute clip of them on why or how it works and you can educate yourself and your ear. Then try it with your plugins. The good ones are incredibly accurate so you can train your ear with a plugin.

“Put an instrument through compressors and just see how the sound of the instrument is different, see how each compressor changes the sound before it’s even compressing. Because each compressor has different components and electronics, a different character, reacts in a different way.

“Train your ear. You can do that at home. Put your bass track on and just open different plugins and see how they sound different. Read up to see what people use and used to use. It’s pretty easy to find the info.”


Do record labels sign Producers?

Alison Stolpa (Careers in Music Staff)

A record label could sign a Producer who makes their own music, such as Dr. Dre, Calvin Harris, or Diplo. But Record Producers like those mentioned in this article — the people who put all the behind-the-scenes work into an album and oversee its recording process — are not signed to a label. They are free to work with artists at any label.

What is the difference between a Record Producer and a Music Producer?

Alison Stolpa (Careers in Music Staff)

These days, Record Producer and Music Producer basically mean the same thing. Record Producer is a slightly older term, dating back to the time when the recording industry’s focus was on records more than on streaming or singles.

Sometimes people mistake Beat Makers, the individuals who create beats and melodies for Rappers to rap over, with Music Producers but they are not the same. Beat Makers create music, whereas Record and Music Producers handle all elements of putting an album together from pre-production to post.

Do Record Producers get royalties?

Alison Stolpa (Careers in Music Staff)

Yes, Record Producers receive royalties. Often, if they’re working with individual artists, they’ll also charge a set fee for their time in addition to potential royalties.

If they’re working with a record label and the label’s artist, they’ll receive points. This term refers to a Producer receiving a percentage “point” of what the artist will receive as part of their record deal. Basically, the better the artist does, the better the Producer does.

What is the single biggest suggestion you would give to someone wanting to get into this career?

Adam Moseley (Beck, John Cale, U2)

“If you can get to assist someone, there’s nothing better than that. That’s basically how I learned all the machinations of how everything worked. If you can intern for a studio you may meet a client who’s coming in [and] who sees that you get it, that you’re reliable.”

“It might be three months down the road that this client’s making a record and they need an Assistant, so try and get the opportunity, get your foot in the door. Every second of every moment have your head in the game because you never know where that opportunity is going to come from.”

“People will remember you if you’re lousy and if you screw up the session or make a mistake. But if you’re always on it–then even if that Producer or artist who was in the session might not have an opportunity, someone might call them and say ‘I need an Intern. I’m on a film’ or ‘I’m doing a record and I need an Assistant, can you suggest someone?’”

“And they’ll be like ‘Yeah! When I was at this place there was this guy or girl that was really on top of their game.’ I’ve done that loads of times. So always be on top of your game and try and get as many opportunities as you can for exposure to be in a place where people can see how good you are.”

What’s the #1 mistake people make when trying to get into this career?

Adam Moseley (Beck, John Cale, U2)

“Not being in the moment, zoning out. Not realizing the importance of where they are and not realizing that any moment can be a make-or-break moment.”

“Someone else not being in the moment, not being reliable, screwing up on something because they weren’t paying attention or [they] made the same mistake twice–that is your opportunity [to step up]. So make sure it isn’t you who makes the same mistake twice or screws up, who isn’t in the moment or doesn’t anticipate what’s next [when] you’re on a session or you’re assisting someone.”

What is the question people should ask about this career but rarely do?

Adam Moseley (Beck, John Cale, U2)

“I think a lot of it is covered. Be open. Be open to other people’s ideas. When I first started I was very nervous about my own ideas. If someone didn’t like my idea, it would throw me and I’d have my confidence shattered. I’d be nervous to come up with my next idea until I learned that it’s ok; it’s an exchange of ideas.”

Not every idea you come up with [while working] with an artist has to be the final idea as long as it leads to another idea or leads to a reaction. Or the artist says, ‘Well, that’s crap.’ Then you say, ‘Well, what would you do?’

See what they would do. Then there’s still a purpose in you having had that idea they didn’t like because you pushed them to that next idea that maybe works. So one of the most important things is just educating your instincts through trial and error. There’s no rule book–otherwise, everyone would be having a hit record all the time.”

What is one thing I should have asked which I didn’t?

Adam Moseley (Beck, John Cale, U2)

“I think you’ve covered it. The one thing is (again) about educating yourselves. With my students, I tell them to go on the Internet. I give them a lot of YouTube clips to watch. Watch Butch Vig talking about producing Nirvana. Do your research.”

If music’s what you want to do, you want to be an Engineer or Producer or artist, then educate yourself by listening and trying to figure out how music works. Listen to Nirvana or Madonna or whatever kind of music touches you – find out why it touches you. Listen to the parts. Listen to the sounds. Educate your ears and your heart and its emotional response to music.”

If you could describe in one word what makes you successful, what would it be?

Adam Moseley (Beck, John Cale, U2)

“My ability to work in different genres of music. Some Producers work in one genre and they’re great at it; they have one process because they found a formula that works. Why people come to me and why I’m successful is I think I’m able to start over completely with each artist, absorb what they’re about and find out what I need to bring.”

“To really push them in a gentle way, but to help them dig deep and bring the very best out of them that I can, and also to really just have a very clear concept and discuss that with them beforehand, [including] how I think the song should sound, how I see them as an artist, where I think the song should go.”

“Then the process of making the music is normally really simple and straightforward and has a real energetic flow because I do so much preparation and put a lot of care and understanding into who the artist is and just really describing where I think it should go. Did I manage that in one word?”

Record Producer duo Arkatech Beatz
Arkatech Beatz

Quietly becoming one of the most consistent production teams in the business, Arkatech Beatz, (formerly known as The Infinite Arkatechz – Mike “Trauma” D & Jugrnaut), have produced records for some of the most successful and respected hip hop artists in the industry. With humble beginnings working as A&Rs at the legendary Loud Records/Sony BMG, Arkatech Beatz (hailing from New York) began their production ascent with Big Pun’s Grammy-nominated Capital Punishment (2X Platinum).

After the success of Capital Punishment Arkatech Beatz went on to produce records for Nas (My Worst Enemy) and on Big Pun’s sophomore release Leatherface. Arkatech Beatz then landed a production deal with Loud Records/Sony BMG and went on to produce for Terror Squad (Triple Threat), The Game (Never Be Friends), Wu-Tang’s Raekwon the Chef (Live From NY), Mobb Deep’s Prodigy (Self Conscience), Shady Records’ Obie Trice (What You Want), The American Cream Team/RZA (It’s Not A Game) & many others.

During this time Arkatech Beatz also worked as a Musical Supervisors for James Toback’s film Black & White, starring Elijah Wood, Robert Downey Jr., Brett Ratner, & Brooke Shields. In addition, Arkatech Beatz also coordinated artist development deals with Epic/Sony BMG & Fontana/Universal Music Group.

The duo has received coverage in The Fader, Hot New Hip-Hop, The Hype Magazine, Makin’ It, Voyage ATL, Digital Music News, and Hip-Hop DX.

Record Producer Matt Lawrence in the studio
Matt Lawrence

Matt Lawrence is a Grammy-winning Producer, Engineer and Mixer who has worked with artists such as Adele, Bjork, Amy Winehouse, Mumford & Sons, U2, The Clash, The Rolling Stones, Elton John, Justin Timberlake, Ellie Goulding, and Lady Gaga. Lawrence is currently on the Pieces of 8 roster. He was shortlisted for a Music Producers’ Guild Award for Recording Engineer of the Year in 2011.

Lawrence has been profiled in the MixBus podcast, Business Review, KMR Audio, and the Sonnox Plugins YouTube.

He is a FabFilter artist. His discography can be viewed via Discogs.

Grammy-winning Record Producer Elaine Martone
Elaine Martone

In her 29 years at Telarc as Executive Vice President of Production, Elaine Martone built the finest audio production team in the industry, garnering praise for excellence in all major audio publications.

Trained by industry icons and visionaries Robert Woods and Jack Renner, she led the Production Department of 12 highly motivated creative individuals who worked seamlessly to achieve the company’s goals and mission of audio excellence while adhering to the highest standards of integrity. She was responsible for post-production audio direction and approval for every Telarc release.

As a key executive in planning and creative decision making in weekly Artist and Repertoire meetings, she managed more than 1,500 projects on time and on budget, accountable for more than $6 million annually in production costs, and $15 million in sales.

As a world-class producer, she is a 5-time Grammy Award winner in both Classical and Jazz, an 11-time Grammy nominee, is a member of the Grammy Producers and Engineers Wing and is a Governor for the Chicago Chapter Board of the Recording Academy.

As head of Artist Relations, Elaine collaborated with artists and organizations on a daily basis to determine the concept and repertoire for each project using clear and concise written and verbal communications, to ensure a smooth recording process and the highest possible quality result for the artist.

Elaine began her career in 1980 when Telarc was in its infancy. Born in Rochester, New York and reared on Long Island, Elaine moved to Cleveland to study oboe with aspirations of playing with a symphony orchestra.

A graduate of Ithaca College with a Bachelor of Music degree, she was a novice to the recording business. Elaine quickly grasped what determined the Telarc sound, becoming an accomplished editor, and then recording producer and an integral part of the senior management team.

Elaine has served as producer on award-winning recordings of both classical and jazz, including those by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra with Robert Spano, Donald Runnicles, Yoel Levi, and Robert Shaw, The Cleveland Orchestra with Franz Welser-Möst, the Philharmonia Orchestra with Benjamin Zander, Empire Brass Quintet, classical guitarist David Russell, and jazz greats Geri Allen, Ray Brown, Ann Hampton Callaway, Michel Camilo, Oscar Peterson, Tierney Sutton, and McCoy Tyner to name a few.

Elaine was Executive Producer for Spring for Music, an orchestral music festival produced at Carnegie Hall with founding directors Thomas W. Morris, David V. Foster and Mary Lou Falcone, music industry legends. The festival took place during one week each May from 2011 through 2014 at the iconic hall, with orchestras invited to perform based on their innovative programming.

She was Festival Producer for the world-renowned Ojai Music Festival, one of the most exciting and creative music festivals in the field, from 2012 to 2019 and was Lab Director for the innovative Blackbird Creative Lab from 2016-2018. She has served as a Visiting Artist at CalArts

From September 2009 through June 2010, Elaine was engaged as Interim Artistic Administrator for The Cleveland Orchestra. In that position, she managed all aspects of artistic planning and programming, collaborating with the Music Director, Executive Director and General Manager.

During those ten months, it was Elaine’s responsibility to help guide the artistic profile of the Orchestra, and to initiate, develop and maintain the Orchestra’s relationships with major conductors, composers, guest artists and managers.

Together with her husband, Robert Woods, Elaine has formed a music enterprise, Sonarc Music and is pursuing her passion, producing great music and musicians, as well as working with talented young people in a wide variety of musical styles.

Her leisure time is given to spending time with family, reading, cooking and gardening, competitive ballroom dancing, fitness and volunteer activities. She was a founding board member of Red {An Orchestra}, which completed seven seasons in Cleveland, Ohio. Elaine and Bob reside in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

Martone’s career has received coverage in NPR, Time magazine, Billboard, Los Angeles Times,, The Fader, Sound Girls, Cincinnati Business Courier, The Absolute Sound, Pro Sound Web, CAP Radio,, the Josie Talks podcast, the Creative Careers podcast, MIX Online, Maestra and Janelle’s Notes.

Adam Moseley
Adam Moseley

Record Producer, Recording Engineer and Mixer Adam Moseley began his career at the legendary Trident Studios in London. He moved to Los Angeles in 1996, eventually taking charge of the Dust Brothers’ Boat Studios in the Silver Lake neighborhood.

Over the course of his career he has worked with such luminaries as U2, Lenny Kravitz, Spike Jonze, Wolfmother, Nikka Costa, Roxette, Maxi Priest, Richard Marx, The Cure, Kiss, Visage, Rush, Beck, Baaba Maal, Branford Marsalis, Talvin Singh, Earth Wind and Fire, Hoagy Carmichael, Ben Harper and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, to name just a few. He is an Ollo Audio artist. You can check out his discography via Discogs.

He teaches production through UCLA Extension, Garnish, Valencia Berklee, and Recording Connection. He has served as a presenter to the Audio Engineering Society.

He has been featured and mentioned in Mix Online, Sound on Sound, Medium, Atwood Magazine, the Vintage King blog, the Recording Connection blog, Barefoot Sound, the Music Beyond the Speakers podcast, and Fast and Wide.

You can get more of Adam on his episode of Pensado’s Place. For more video, check out his apperances on Barefoot Sound, RAWartist Media’s Music Industry Exchange, UCLA Alpert’s Music Beyond the Speakers, UCLA’s Les Paul’s Birthday Celebration, PMI Audio Group, Ultimate Studios, and Apogee Electronics.

  1. 1. "Record Producer Salaries in United States". published: Dec 20, 2019. retrieved on: Sep 10, 2019
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