How To Become a Music Producer

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published February 15, 2021

Being a music producer is a dream job for many people. Music producers create new songs and have them played on the radio, in clubs, in movies and TV shows around the world. There are many paths to becoming a music producer, but all of them require time and dedication. In this article, we discuss what a music producer is, their typical duties, salary and how to get started.

What is a music producer?

Music producers are professionals responsible for shaping the sound of individual music tracks and guiding the overall vision of an album. All genres of music have differing roles for producers who work with artists, hire studio musicians or work alone. There is also a business component to the career and music producers often own and maintain their own studios, sell and promote music and offer mix and mastering services. Music producers can create beats alone, write entire songs, mix and master existing music, and arrange and sample music.

Related: Music Producer Skills: Definition and Examples

How much do music producers make?

The average base salary for a music producer is $42,336 per year in the United States. A music producer's pay rate can vary based on whether they work independently or for a company, what projects they work on, the artists they work with and their level of fame. Many also accept alternative forms of compensation, like service exchanges. Many music producers stress that while earnings can fluctuate, the job is about the satisfaction of artistic expression and love of music more than money.

Related: 16 Careers You Can Pursue in Music Production

How do you become a music producer?

There is no one way to become a music producer. Some enter the profession as musicians, record label executives, music school graduates or sound engineers. With the proliferation of the internet, social media and consumer-grade recording equipment, it has become easier for self-taught producers to enter the career as well. Regardless of your approach, there are some steps all aspiring music producers can take.

Here is a list of steps you can take to become a music producer:

1. Train your ears

Become a student of music and listen to different styles of music from multiple eras. Consider what makes musical trends popular or obscure, and what makes different genres and their musical qualities unique. Listen to how other artists use their instruments and other sounds, and learn how to recognize pitch, harmony and tempo. You can do this independently or enroll in a music course to help get you started.

2. Learn an instrument

Even if a music producer doesn't play an instrument professionally, it is important for them to know how to play instruments like drums, piano and guitar, and be able to read sheet music. Learning how to play a few of your favorite songs is an effective way to learn musical concepts like chord progression. It can also be helpful during the creative process to record your own sounds while developing ideas, rather than waiting for a session musician.

3. Get a digital audio workstation

Technology has made it easier for anyone with a computer to explore music production. Aspiring music producers can download a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) to familiarize themselves with the software used to record and produce music. While the software used in music production may appear complicated at first, there are many online tutorials and resources to learn their features quickly and easily. There are several options when selecting a DAW, so consider a free trial period to decide which one you prefer.

4. Have a production and recording space

While a professional-grade studio space may be out of reach for a beginner music producer, it is possible to start simply and build a professional studio as you progress. When starting out, a space dedicated to making music can help you be creative and make artists more interested in collaborating. Begin with the most necessary equipment, like a computer with DAW, soundboard, microphones in a quiet room and invest over time in building your studio.

5. Learn how to use an audio mixer

Besides a DAW, an audio mixer is the most important piece of technology a music producer needs. An audio mixer, also called a soundboard, is a device or software for controlling multiple audio channels. With it, you can alter the volume and effects of individual sounds to create your musical composition. While these may seem complicated to use and understand at first, there are tutorials and guides available if you are self-teaching. Or, you can enroll in a music production course to learn audio mixing skills from a professional instructor.

6. Network with artists

Networking is an important skill in music producers and you can develop it with practice. Consider opportunities to network with music industry professionals at concerts, recording studios and on social media. Many artists who are also just starting their careers may be more willing to work with you for free or in exchange for production services. Promoting your work at live events and online can also help attract people to you for collaborations and business opportunities.

7. Consider a degree in music

Some producers choose to get a music production-related degree. These programs teach the technology used to create, mix and master music, and can also be a valuable opportunity to meet people in the industry. A cost-effective way to learn music production may be to enroll in an online course because many are free or cost less than a college.

8. Take an internship

To learn more about the music industry and music production, intern at a record company. Research the record label before you apply to understand what genre they work with, their major artists and why you want to work for them. This can help you write an effective cover letter and prepare you to answer questions during an interview.

9. Create music

No matter what stage you are in your journey to become a music producer, you can create music. This may include producing beats for other artists, crafting remixes of existing songs and sounds, or even making your own original music. Consider using social media to promote and share your work to build your reputation, attract artists and draw opportunities for projects.

Related: How to Become a Producer

List of skills a music producer should have

Some skills of successful music producers include:

  • The ability to read music: Being able to read music can help you communicate better with musicians.

  • Proficiency with multiple instruments: Learning an instrument can develop your understanding of musical concepts and help you create your own music samples.

  • Music composition: Composing and arranging music is a fundamental skill of music production.

  • Pitch, melody, and rhythm: Being able to identify which sounds are in what key is a vital skill for producers and musicians.

  • Social media marketing: Promoting your work for customers and collaborations is critical for being a professional music producer.

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