How to Become a Music Producer
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Music producers have a varied and creative role. If you are interested in the music industry and enjoy working with people, this career might be right for you. Understanding the role of a music producer can be the first step toward deciding on your own career goals. In this article, we look at what a music producer is, what music producers do, the career path to enter the industry, as well as the education and training required to get started in this career.
Music producer job profile
The role of a music producer oversees the process of creating a song or album from beginning to end. For example, choosing a musician, the instruments, and where the song is recorded. Producers may also be responsible for finding investors, crew members and studios.
The music producer needs to give constructive advice and feedback throughout the process to ensure the artist understands the brief and timescale. As the main contact between client/record label and artist, a music producer has to be able to make split-second decisions and convey the vision of the final song to all those involved—the audio engineer, the musicians, the singer—in a manner that gets the best performance possible from each of them, as well as possess an excellent understanding of logistics and budgets.
Music producer duties
As the person who dictates the overall vision for the song or soundtrack, the producer decides what's played, when it's played, and how it's played. It is an integral role that covers everything from managing vocals and instruments to engineering and mixing the track, resulting in something that is commercially successful.
Other areas a music producer might be involved in include the duties of a recording engineer, composer, music arranger, musician, or mentor. Their core responsibilities include:
Budget and deadline
The music producer will have to be able to work within a budget to ensure that deadlines are met and the team is paid. A professional working relationship will involve drawing up contracts for the client and artist and ensure that they keep to the schedule promised. This contract is vital so that all parties agree to the project being completed on time. Music producers who work for major labels are under a higher level of pressure as there will also be manufacturing and publicity deadlines to meet, so it is imperative to have the logistics fine-tuned.
Creating the song
From the lyrics to the bassline, the music producer will take the raw sound and lead the team to create a polished, finished song. By calling upon a wide range of musical tastes, the producer will be able to tweak all aspects of production to create the desired result, and will instinctively know when instruments and vocals should be raised or lowered. Understanding the technical basics of recording music will really help the end result of the song and often a producer is in charge of placing microphones or running a soundboard. However, a producer can also just be called in to listen and give advice.
The music producer is responsible for visualising and imagining the end result, so they must be able to listen, experiment and explore all aspects of music performed under their watch. They are responsible for capturing the best of the band, and trusting their instinct. They also get to decide what is included or removed from the arrangement.
How to become a music producer
Most music producers are musicians themselves and have spent a lot of time going to gigs and listening to live music, which will have given them practical experience within the industry. You might also consider these steps:
1. Earn a degree
It is not necessary to have a degree to be a music producer but courses can be useful and cover the fundamentals of studio recording, the science of acoustics, the art of composition and music technology. Many universities offer students courses which specialise in contemporary music production, electronic music production, audio engineering and/or creative sound design.
2. Gain industry experience
Competition is very strong within the music industry so after studying, you may want to look at a placement in order to gain practical experience, which will give you a step-up in being considered for a permanent position. This could range from internships or voluntary work. During your time in education, it is also worth joining student societies and going to industry events to create a network of contacts.
You will find that record companies welcome interns with fresh and creative ideas. Therefore, it is also essential to stay up to date with the music industry, research music producers and try to find a mentor. Starting out as a music producer requires a lot of motivation and initiative, but it will help if you are eager and enthusiastic.
Music producer education
To become a music producer, you don't strictly need a degree. There are many people who have started a career in the industry by gaining practical experience. It can also be worth having technical training to advance your career. The most common subjects are music, sound engineering and music production. It is important to consider courses that offer practical elements, and some even offer professional placements during the time studying. You can also find online courses as a less expensive alternative.
As music production is a creative industry it is important to show your enthusiasm and interest in the industry, for example with personal or community projects. A qualification certainly helps, but it needs to be complemented with practical experience. You can also find organisations that offer apprenticeships and training schemes.
Music producer skills
As mentioned above, a music producer will play a range of different roles during the production process and throughout their career, so they need to have a wide array of skills. The most important skills include:
Communication and problem-solving
A music producer will need to communicate effectively (sometimes with erratic artists). They need to be patient yet firm, and be able to manage big egos in order to keep on top of schedules. Acting as the ‘middleman', their role is vital in buffering communication between the team and ensuring everyone understands and is on the same page. When problems arise, they will need to be able to negotiate and find ways to solve these efficiently without losing time or money.
Leadership skills are a must for any music producer. As they oversee the project, they need to be able to manage others and delegate. They are responsible for making decisions and giving constructive feedback. They will also need to make sure all other team members are working to the best of their ability.
Music producers will have to work with fellow creatives who may have opposing ideas, so they will have to know how to collaborate effectively. In some cases, they may even need to mediate between team members. They will also need to negotiate budgets and deadlines with record companies.
Creativity is an essential skill for any music producer. They establish the vision and oversee the result. A big part of the role is coming up with original and fresh ideas, inspiring others and offering practical advice to create the best song possible.
Music production jobs are certainly not your typical 9 to 5, the industry is notoriously late-night, so expect to work long and unusual hours. In order to cope with extended periods with the same team, you will need to be dedicated, motivated, and flexible in all situations.
Marketing and networking
A music producer with marketing knowledge is worth their weight in gold, and those who can assist with the process after the song is made as well as understand what the record company expects for distribution and promotion, such as getting music heard and growing an audience, are indispensable. You will also find that creating relationships within the industry is paramount, and you should always be available to connect with fellow producers, artists, studios and record labels.
It's the music producer's job to make sure everyone works well together and the project moves forward on budget. So people skills and being good at managing others is critical to success. All creative industries require a modicum of patience as you are dealing with a range of different people who are perhaps not used to being told what to do. They also need to focus on creating habits and routines which focus on consistency over intensity in order to achieve results within the whole team.
Music producer employment
A producer earns an average of £34,111 per year. Once you develop your career further and gain more experience, you could increase your fees. However, for live events and TV production, music producers will receive a fixed salary. You can also find positions with record companies, commercial brands, community projects, theatre companies and digital channels.
A music producer's income will depend on if they are freelance, employed or working on their own music. You will also find that there are intense periods of work and then periods of inactivity- and a lot of positions offer fixed-term contracts. Most music producers will work in cities, where more resources are readily available, or a band may wish to record overseas and take a producer with them.
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