CareerExplorer’s step-by-step guide on how to become a music producer.
Is becoming a music producer right for me?
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Listen to all kinds of music
Many, if not all, music producers start on the path to their profession very early in life, simply by virtue of their love for music. They listen to a lot of songs across a lot of genres. They write down what they hear in every song and begin to recognize the patterns, characteristics, and features of various genres and styles. This early openness to all kinds of music, song writing, and production is very often the foundation of a career in the field. Diverse musical exposure is one of the music producer’s most basic keys. When a recording session is not going well, flexibility and willingness to consider a fresh perspective and approach can be the way to finding the right sound, tempo, or rhythm and to ending up with something even better than was originally planned.
Become a musician
Music producers are intimately involved in shaping the sound and the vision of a recording. They must have the expertise to recognize what makes good music. Becoming a musician, learning how to read and write music, and understanding composition, therefore, are logical steps to cultivating this talent; to knowing the sound and reach of different instruments in particular arrangements.
Start making music
You have cultivated your love of music. You have researched music genres and recording styles. You have learned to play one or more instruments. Now it’s time to start making music. Playing or singing in a band will teach you about microphone placement and how the volume of the instruments affect the overall performance. In addition, seek out feedback from music forums. A great way to do this is to upload your work on online music platforms, such as Soundlcoud, Beatport, and Audiomack.
At this stage, you will probably identify the kind of music that most speaks to you and begin thinking about specializing in a specific genre.
Some post-secondary institutions with outstanding music programs, such as New York University offer summer programs in music production to high school students.
While educational requirements for music producers may vary, a Bachelor’s Degree in music production is the unofficial standard.
Having developed an appreciation for and an informal understanding and knowledge of music, most prospective music producers pursue an undergraduate degree in music production, recording arts, or a related field. Coursework may cover music theory and composition; audio engineering and recording software; digital sound equipment and hardware; song writing; and music genres and their structures. As music producers are essentially the entrepreneurs of the music industry, music production programs also incorporate business concepts: legal, financial, administrative, and marketing.
Research music production schools here.
Recognized worldwide, London’s prestigious Royal Academy of Music is one of the leading schools for the study of music and music production.
Many music and music production schools form partnerships with local studios and radio stations to provide students with internships and opportunities to learn from working professionals. At some educational institutions, completing an internship is a requirement for graduation.
Throughout these internships students are exposed to producers, as well as other industry professionals. They see the entire production process, learn industry terminology and methodology, and come to recognize that the music business is all about making connections. These connections often open doors to future career opportunities.
Some of the most sought after internships are with record labels:
Network and make use of available resources
Once you have achieved a certain level of skill – through both formal and informal training and experience – it is time to take networking and making connections to the next level. Music production is largely a word-of-mouth business. The more relationships you build the more links to potential work and potential clients you will have. Take initiative to meet people in the field.
Use the resources provided by industry associations, which can often help with message boards, sample contracts, and general questions about the business:
• The National Association of Recording Professionals offers educational programs, a job bank, a member resume database for employers, a mentor network, and other services.
• The Society of Professional Audio Recording Services offers educational programs, internships, business conferences, and networking opportunities.
• The Association of Music Producers provides music production payment guidelines, sample music rights, master recording license agreements, messages boards, and classified ads.
• The Recording Industry Association of America is a trade association for recording companies, not individuals, but its website provides music industry links and licensing information.
Find and promote new artists
While the importance of connections in the music industry cannot be overstated, finding and promoting your own new artists is the ultimate goal. Scout new bands and artists by keeping up with industry social media. Consider hiring promoters to inform potential audiences of your artists’ upcoming events. Always remember that your success as a music producer relies largely on the music you release and the referrals that may follow those releases.
How to become a Music Producer
Although there is no standard level of education needed to become a music producer, many colleges offer four-year Bachelor’s Degree programs in music production. Curricula typically cover a broad range of topics, including musical history and theory; composition, song writing, and ear training; recording arts technology; contracts and copyrights; artist and project management; music publishing and distribution; marketing and advertising; finance and accounting; as well as entrepreneurship and the music business as a whole. Courses may include recording industry law and ethics, sound editing techniques, digital audio software, and electronic music. Some programs require students to produce a full-length recording and/or participate in an internship. Common degrees earned are a Bachelor of Science in Music Production or a Bachelor of Music with an emphasis in production.
While formal education is encouraged, by no means does it guarantee entry into and success in the field. Simply stated, this is because being a music producer is diverse and difficult. Certain producers may excel in sound design; others in sound mixing and mastering. And it invariably takes a long time to get to a level where your music is actually worth releasing. There are intricacies in music production that not only take a while to understand in theory, but require significant practice.
Regardless of the individual path they choose to hone their craft, music producers generally have some things in common. They have a love of music. They become an expert of a specific music genre. They listen to and appreciate all genres of music to cultivate a rich musical palette. They know what sounds right and how to transform an ordinary song into a hit. They know how to assemble and manage a musical production team, which includes the songwriter or music publisher, the artist, recording engineers, the mixing engineer, and the mastering engineer. More often than not, they know how to play several instruments – a skill that is particularly valuable when it comes to working in a studio in collaboration with multiple musicians. Many music producers start their careers as sound engineers.