How to Become a Music Producer

Careers as a Music Producer

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Music producers are music industry professionals whose job it is to oversee the production and creation of music. Producers are to an album or a piece of music what a director is to a movie. Producers perform many roles in the music business, from gathering talent and ideas for a musical project, selecting or even writing songs for an album, guiding the musical talent in studio, arranging and running rehearsal and recording sessions, and eventually mixing and mastering recordings for distribution. Producers also handle budget issues, schedule production, and negotiate concerts, radio releases, and other promotional ventures.

How to Become a Music ProducerWant to know how to become a music producer? Read on for information about music producer salaries, education and training necessary to become a producer, and the step by step process to becoming a music producer.

Music Producer Potential Income and Salary

Any job in the entertainment business is going to have a wide variety of salaries. Think about a movie actor who starts out with bit parts for a few bucks a day and may one day play lead roles for millions of dollars per movie. The same is true for music producers. Many producers start out recording music as a hobby, making albums with their own bands in high school or recording other people's bands as a favor or to gain experience. Early on in their careers, producers may spend their own money recording bands just for practice.

After proper education and training, a music producer can start to earn a little money for their work in the production booth. It's common for a record label to hire young producers for a few thousands dollars per album--if they work on a lot of projects, they may make $20-$30,000 a year when they get started. It isn't unheard of for a young producer's salary to be tied directly to an album's sales. If the band sells well, the producer earns a percentage of their income.

Once a producer has a few projects under his belt and starts to work with more famous acts, its possible for that producer to command a larger fee for their work. If a producer in the first few years of his career works on a surprise hit, he'll be able to charge more for future projects. Some producers, like Rick Rubin, luck out and get in on a new genre or sound before it makes it big. Rubin's influence on early rap recordings has made him one of the most sought-after producers in the music business. Rubin now commands millions of dollars per album and has a net worth of $400 million.

Music Producer Education and Training

Once upon a time, music producers learned their craft as apprentices or by trial and error. Early music producers were musicians who took on the role to help a musical project get off the ground. These days, certification and even two-year and four-year degrees in music production are offered by vocational schools, junior college, and four-year colleges and universities.

Learning to work as a music producer requires a specific set of skills as well as a certain knack for music and production. Some aspects of a music producer's job can be taught, others come over time or are skills that a person is either born with or not.

As for areas that a music producer should study:

  • Musical History and Theory
  • Composition
  • Songwriting
  • Ear Training
  • Copyright Law
  • Finance and Marketing
  • Entrepreneurship

All of these subjects can be learned in a classroom. Music departments at colleges and universities can help people train their ears, understand the elements of composition, and practice their songwriting abilities. A good knowledge of music history and theory comes with a basic education in music. As for copyright law, finance, and entrepreneurship, business administration classes would serve a future music producer well.

As for those aspects of a music producer that can't be taught--some music producers have an innate ability with music. Some people know what's cool and some don't. There's no way to teach the kind of skills that Rick Rubin used to found Def Jam Records, combine Aerosmith with Run DMC, and be a pioneer of hip hop. You can't send a person to school to learn how to identify a trend in music production and run with it. That's where luck comes in.

Training and education to become a music producer can take anywhere from two to six years, depending on what sort of training and education you're looking for. An associates' degree in music production will give you the basics you need to get in the studio and record music, while more complex bachelor's degrees in music theory or music production combined with upper-level courses in law and business administration may better prepare a future music producer for the demands of the job.

Qualifications to Become a Music Producer

Music producers looking to work with artists to create new and amazing music don't technically need any credentials or license at all. The trick is to convince an act to work with you as a producer. This is easier to do if you have a degree or some experience in music production, but that's certainly not required. Many music producers got their start recording their own garage bands and fell in love with production along the way. Still other producers started out as session musicians and eventually made their way into the production booth by chance or out of necessity.

How to Become a Music Producer Step by Step

1. Learn everything you can about music. It would help if you learned a musical instrument, learned to sing, or learned how to write song.

2. Get experience recording and producing music. Joining a band or recording your friend's bands is a great way to learn the craft.

3. Earn a degree in music production, or combine experience in music production with a law degree or degree in business.

4. Build a client list by working as a session producer or offering your services as a producer. Over time, the experience you gain in the booth should lead to more work and better pay.

Producers are the puppet masters of the recording studio. Often, they select the music a band will record, assist the band in writing and re-writing songs, and physically record and arrange music for release. The potential rewards of being a music producer include fame and fortune, though most producers live a comfortable life, earning a six figure salary only after years of experience.