Music Producer – How To Become A Success
Music producers play an essential role in the music-making process, although at times the producers themselves remain fairly invisible and out of the public eye. In recent years, there have been a number of popular music producers releasing music under their own names featuring collaborations with famous singers. Producers such as Brian Wilson, Phil Spector, Mark Ronson, Calvin Harris and David Guetta have all brought the role of music producer into the spotlight.
Music producers can have one of the most varied and creative jobs in the business, working on all sorts of projects with a wide array of artists. Most producers will work freelance and although it may seem glamorous, sitting in a recording studio with top-selling artists, it is also a business that you must constantly manage. We’re going to examine the role of a producer and everything involved in their career.
As a music producer, it’s your job to master and record tracks for recording artists or for your own projects. A good producer will do more than simply produce the music, but help develop the artists sound and create symmetry throughout their records. Sometimes you’ll also help develop the compositions, play on the track and engineer the music.
Education And Training
For a number of careers in the music industry, traditional training and education may not be necessary as long as you have a solid understanding of your field or practical experience. For music production, however, higher education is advised. As record producers could work with any number of genres and musical styles throughout their career, an in-depth education can greatly assist in your future work. A broad skill set and a sound understanding of music theory and recording techniques can set you apart from other producers and will enable you to adapt to technological advancements and changes within the music industry. As you’ll be running your own business, any training in music business practices and a broader knowledge of industry procedures will only aid your success.
When you start your music producing career, you’ll likely begin in an improvised home studio. You’ll begin small and freelance until you prove your worth and ability, then maybe secure a permanent position in a recording studio, or set one up yourself. Many begin their careers as interns or apprentices to sound & audio engineers and other producers as a way of acquiring practical experience and learning the ropes. You can come by music production work through online advertisements, connections in the industry or your local music scene or by meeting with emerging artists at shows and advertising your services.
As you build your repertoire and develop your portfolio, you can start charging more for your services and move on to produce larger projects with higher selling artists. You may be promoted within the studio you were working at or catch the eye of record labels. As with any career, hard work, skill and perseverance are the keys to success. A music producer’s career path should always be moving up.
Most producers generally will work on a freelance basis and constantly be fighting for the biggest projects to further their business. Their studios will go from bedroom setups to more professional looking studios with more equipment and better tech. If you are working as a freelancer, you’ll also spend a considerable amount of time networking, ensuring your equipment works, managing your calendar, handling your accounts and marketing your business. As you develop your business into a lucrative and successful enterprise, you can take on more staff who can assist you with these elements, enabling you to concentrate on the music.
Networking And Self-Promotion
The music industry is very much about who you know. Connections can help you find work, introduce you to more players in the industry and advise you on your career. Attending networking and industry events, like conferences and union meetings, can be great for meeting new people and potential clients. You should always be prepared with business cards and a short concise pitch about your work so that when people ask, you can tell them what you do and why you’re different.
Connections you make across the industry can bring in business and lead to opportunities for career development. Everyone wants to work with people they like. If you make a good impression and maintain a strong relationship with someone they are likely to turn to you first for upcoming projects. When you’re starting out and looking for work, connections can be the ones to alert you to job openings and introduce you to other professionals looking for an extra pair of capable hands.
As a music producer, the most valuable people to you are your customers. You should go to gigs constantly, not just to approach bands and ask them to record with you, but also to get inspiration for your own music mastering and keep ahead of the curve. Approach bands and artists and tell them what you can offer, make a good impression so they might consider working with you.
Earnings – Fees And Royalties
When you’re starting out you need as much work as you can find to begin your portfolio. Work with anyone and everyone, you might not get paid the first few times but it can lead to more work later down the line. Once you’ve got a good catalogue of songs in your back pocket, then you can start charging more for your services. You will have to invest your earnings into your production setup, you can’t charge professional fees if you’re still recording songs out of your bedroom. Set your prices relative to your operating scale and the success of your clients.
When writing and producing music, there will always be a delegation of rights to the copyright. This needs to be discussed at the time of recording and agreed upon by all parties involved. The way in which the copyright is split should depends upon each party’s contribution to the writing and mastering of the song.
When a song is recorded, there exists master rights and compositional copyrights. The master belongs to the owner and producer of the track, the compositional right belongs to the parties involved in the writing of the lyrics and melody. Usually, the producer or record label producing the sound recording will own the master recording unless the recording artist has had a hand in it too.
The compositional rights will belong to anyone stated to have contributed to either the lyrics or the melody. Any co-writers or producers who have also had a hand in the composition may argue their case for a portion of the compositional rights.
From a business point of view, have templates of contracts drawn up before you embark on a project with someone. Hire a lawyer for their time to help you draw up easy to adapt contracts that you can alter on a per client basis. It’s important to have written and binding contracts to your rights so that you can be paid correctly and any disputes of copyright can be backed up on paper.
Once you’ve recorded a track, sit down with all the parties involved and discuss the delegation of rights. If you’ve helped write the music for their track, your claim to the compositional rights can help bring in more revenue for your business and needs to be formally agreed upon.
We’ve touched on the skills needed to have a successful producing career, but there are so many involved in this field. You’ll have to be competent at all of them if you want to build a profitable career.
Business skills are a must for anyone working for themselves. You must understand all the legalities involved in your work, what insurance you need, how to manage your accounts and how to conduct your customer relationships. If you’re going to employ anyone you need to understand all the rights they have and fair business practices for your employees.
As you’ll be interacting with all lots of different people throughout your career, you’ll need to be able to comfortably communicate and engage with anyone. When working with clients, you’ll need to communicate clearly with them about their music, offer direction and criticism without causing offence and navigate the relationships within their team.
When it comes to networking and promoting your production services you’ll need to make a memorable, favourable impression and maintain that relationship if you want to benefit from it. It doesn’t matter if you’re having a bad day; if you go to an event and you’re not promoting a good image of your work ethic or personal character you won’t see any interest in your business.
Writing and production skills go without saying, but the more ability you have can draw people towards your business. If you can offer creative direction, extra accompaniment, lyrics and songwriting guidance and the sound engineering, these are all marketing factors you can use to attract business. It especially helps to be a one-person show when starting out, as you and your clients don’t need to bring in extra pairs of hands and can keep costs down.
The Music Producers Guild is there to offer support to producers and their teams, offering memberships for producers, mixers, recording engineers and programmers. They not only link you to a wide group of other professionals in your field but host networking events for their members and provide access to industry resources. Unions can provide backing should you have any business issues or disputes and act as a supportive force for your cause.
Successful Music Producers
One of the most successful music producers of the last century is still relatively unknown within the public view but has written or co-written 22 Billboard number 1s. Swedish born Max Martin is a producer, songwriter and singer who began his work with high profile artists in the 90s, working on tracks such as Britney Spears’s …Baby One More Time.
In 2017, his net worth was believed to be around $260 million. More recently, Martin’s worked with some of the most iconic artists in pop, such as Ariana Grande on her fifth studio album, Thank U, Next, as well as with P!nk and Taylor Swift. What makes Max Martin such a record-breaking producer is his ability to craft melodies and lyrics for the mass market. His work is contemporary and on-trend, tailored to the music market at that given time and appropriate to the artist. Although all his music falls within a pop sphere, his style is highly versatile.
If you’re considering starting your own music business as a producer, check out our music jobs listings.
Q: What music producers do?
A music producer has many roles that may include, but are not limited to, gathering ideas for the project, composing the music for the project, selecting songs or session musicians, proposing changes to the song arrangements, coaching the artist and musicians in the studio, controlling the recording sessions, and supervising
Q: Who are the best music producers?
Here is a list of the best music producers of all time.
- Rick Rubin
- Dr Dre (Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, NWA)
- George Martin (The Beatles)
- Quincy Jones (Michael Jackson – Thriller, Frank Sinatra)
- Brian Eno (Roxy Music, U2, Damon Albarn)
- Berry Gordy (Motown)
Q: How much does a music producer make a year?
Most professional producers working fulltime for a studio will be on a salary basis and are either employed or paid by a record label. According to labour statistics, the average salary for a music producer is around $55,000 per year.
Q: How do you get a record company to notice you?
Here is a list of how best to get your music heard by record labels executives and A&R
- Write a great bio.
- Create great demos or finished recordings
- Get researching online to find who are the best people to approach at the labels.
- Be original, but balance that with being relevant if your vision or being original doesn’t gravitate towards anyone in the public, EG fans
- Think like the person receiving your demo at the label, would you sign yourself?
- Make an approach, in a personal, polite manner and give some context to that approach, maybe you reference an artist on their existing roster for example.
- Submit a demo through a trusted source, A&R platform, such as Music Gateway
Q: How do I get my music noticed?
There is a lot of competition in the market, to get your music noticed and traction on streaming platforms such as Spotify and iTunes. Here are the top ways to get music noticed.
- Develop and grow your own social media presence
- Make meaningful connections within the music industry (networking)
- Conduct yourself professionally at all times
- Engage with your audience and give them access into your career, including exclusive content through social media
- Build relationships with influencers and playlist curators on streaming platforms
- Get yourself a PR or Music Promotions agent, such as Music Gateway
Q: How much do music producers make per song?
Record labels will pay advances when signing a recording. These are called recording advances. Producers will earn royalties on the sales of the record and the royalty advance is normally recouped as part of the agreement.
Producers can simply be hired for a fee and can sometimes negotiate royalty points on the record, but only if they are well established. Some producers will get involved in the writing and therefore have a % of the publishing rights. Fees can range widely depending on the quality of the producer and can receive between nothing and $3,000 per song.
Higher-level producers can charge upwards of $7,500 per song. Famous produces can negotiate much larger fees.
Q: What skills do you need to be a music producer?
Producing music on a professional level involves numerous skills which include using a DAW such as AVID, Logic Pro or Cubase, managing other creatives in your team, collaboration, communication skills, budgeting, scheduling, time management and tons of technology and software for production, producing, engineering, mixing engineer, recording, monitoring and arranging the music. Marketing as a music producer is also a valuable tool.
Q: Who has produced the most songs?
Here is a list of some of the hardest-working artists in the music industry.
- The Fall
- Frank Zappa
- Johnny Cash
- Elvis Presley
- Nana Mouskouri
- Tom Jones
- The Beatles
Q: How do you become a record producer?
Start off with a simple home recording set up, which simply includes a PC, DAW software, a set of monitors or headphones, a microphone and a midi keyword and off you go.
The best way to become a professional record producer is to have the dedication and desire to understand the art of music production. Built-up your own recording studio or secure a job working in a recording studio, which will help you grow your skills and work with different artists and clients.
Q: What qualifications do I need to be a music producer?
There isn’t a standard level of education needed to become a music producer like there is with being a DR or Lawyer, so really your credentials are all about your music, productions and past clients.
If you are looking to start a career in music, as a record producer, then we recommend you check out the various colleges and specialise companies such as Berklee, BIMM, ACM, Access to music that provides music production programs at bachelor degree level. These degrees range from 2-year to 4-year courses, covering a broad range of experience and learning recording arts technology and the music business as a whole.