Music producers oversee all facets of a recording session and 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 style 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.
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 run 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 into the amount of work that a music producer can have. Students use industry resources to find events and networking opportunities. A few of these resources can include:
The National Association of Recording Professionals (NARP) offers services such as a member resume database for employers, a mentor network, and other educational programs.
The Association of Music Producers (AMP) provides message boards, classified ads, and master recording license agreements, to name a few.
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is a trade association that provides music industry links and licensing information for recording companies.
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.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), it is projected that the employment of music directors, composers, and producers is expected to grow one percent from the 2018-2028 period. The competition for full-time jobs as a music producer is tough. However, there are individual states that have a higher level of employment rate than others. These states include California, New York, Oregon, Florida, and Texas.