Do you want to start a career in music production but you don’t know where to start?
You’ve come to the right place – in this article, we’ll explain the steps of how to become a music producer.
Besides providing you with tips and tricks on how to get things started, we’ll also explain what it really means to be a music producer and how hard it is to become one.
What Do Music Producers Do?
Music production is the process of creating, recording, and fixing music before it can be distributed.
In other words, music production covers every phase in the creation of a song, and that usually includes:
So, music producers are professionals who help artists turn their ideas into music.
They also advise musicians artistically and manage and guide the whole process of producing a song – and that’s the main difference between producers and audio engineers.
Audio engineers, on the other hand, are focused solely on the technical needs of the record.
Nonetheless, music producers have different roles in different genres.
For example, in hip-hop and R&B, producers usually create the beat of the song, while in electronic dance music (EDM), artists usually make their own material, so they’re also producers.
In any case, if you want to become a music producer, you’ll have to acquire a variety of skills and be prepared for different tasks.
Being a music producer can be quite exciting, especially if you’re able to make a living from your music or collaborate with successful artists.
This can indeed be a lucrative job, but there’s a lot to go through before you start making money.
But one of the advantages of modern music production is the possibility to create high-quality music from the comfort of your home.
You don’t have to invest a ton of money in your home recording studio – for a beginner, basic music production equipment will do just fine.
But we’ll get more into details of setting up a home studio later on.
For starters, let’s see what are the first steps you should take if you want to become a music producer.
See also: What Do Music Producers Do?
How to Become a Music Producer – 6 Steps
Producing music requires a special set of skills.
You need to be familiar with the equipment and digital tools, but you also need to understand the creative side of making music.
It’s an interesting and versatile profession for sure, and there are many types of careers available to music producers.
But no matter what your exact goals and dreams are, there are several steps you can go through to create a solid foundation to build upon.
1. Learn an instrument or vocals
As we just mentioned, there’s a creative side to music production.
Therefore, one of the best things you can do to improve your skills and expand your knowledge is to take music or singing lessons.
Knowing how to play an instrument is not a requirement for becoming a professional producer, but it will definitely help you in your career.
Music lessons will help you understand basic musical concepts, but they will also allow you to train your ears and improve your musicality.
With the basic knowledge of music theory and/or vocal techniques, you’ll be able to step into the role of a music producer more confidently and professionally.
Artists and musicians like to work with producers who can understand the language of music.
And if you want to create your own melodies and chords, basic piano or guitar skills are rather necessary.
If you’ve never taken music lessons, there are many ways to learn how to play an instrument.
For instance, you can check out piano or online guitar lessons – they are usually very affordable, convenient, and flexible, and they will teach you the basics in a quick and easy way.
2. Get a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)
One of the most important things every beginner producer should get to start producing music is DAW.
DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is the program where music production actually takes place.
It’s a software application for recording, mixing, and mastering audio files.
Finding a good DAW is essential, as DAWs cover every part of the music-making process.
If you’re just starting out, we recommend checking out the following DAWs:
- Apple Logic Pro
- Steinberg Cubase
- Apple GarageBand
- Ableton Live Lite
- Pro Tools
Producing music in a DAW is fairly easy, so it’s great for beginners, and there are many learning resources and tutorials that can help you familiarize yourself with your DAW.
And if you’re already familiar with DAWs, it might be a good idea to expand your knowledge and learn more about its features, tools, and processes.
3. Build a home recording studio
Besides a computer and a DAW, there are several other things you should get if you want to practice and start producing music at home.
Sound recording equipment can be quite expensive, but you don’t have to buy high-end equipment right away, and you can expand and improve your studio over time.
For starters, you can get key pieces you’ll need to get started.
Generally, the essential equipment for music production includes:
With these basic music production pieces, you can produce your first track.
And some extra gear that comes in handy to more experienced producers includes synths, drum machines, groove boxes, and effects pedals.
When setting up a home recording studio, the most important thing is to find a space where you can create, record and edit music without distractions (and without being a distraction) – that’s the only way to stay creative and productive.
Also, having your own recording space will help you get more collaborations.
So, although all of this might sound like a big investment, it will ultimately pay off.
4. Create music
Once you set up your equipment, you can start making beats or create complete original songs.
It all depends on your abilities and goals – the important thing is to start creating.
To make your first beats, everything you need is your computer and your chosen DAW.
And thanks to their intuitive interface, smooth workflow, and modern editing tools, beginner-friendly DAWs are relatively easy to use.
Nevertheless, don’t worry if you don’t make a perfect track right away.
Learning how to make music takes a lot of time and practice.
As a music producer, you don’t need to have outstanding songwriting skills and make complex songs – simplicity can often do wonders.
Also, in music genres such as pop and rap, a lot of beats and loops are created with digital tools only.
There are even artificial intelligence music generators that rely on existing music data to produce new beats in real time.
AI music generators are getting more and more popular in the music industry, and many producers use them as supplemental tools.
But you can also learn how to make songs from start to finish without relying on AI artificial generators.
It all depends on what kind of producer you want to be.
If you want to make your own original tracks, this is where the knowledge of music theory, vocal techniques, and instruments comes into play.
By understanding musical concepts such as melodies, harmonies, chords, and rhythm, you’ll be able to create your own music.
More importantly, you’ll be able to make good music.
Plus, it will be easier for you to collaborate with artists, if that’s the path you want to take.
If you want to produce music for other musicians, you need to be familiar with their style and genre, and you need to be able to talk with them about their ideas for an album.
And knowing the note names, rhythm figures, and singing terminology, your communication (and therefore collaboration) will be more successful.
5. Consider a music production degree
No matter what your career goals are, if you want to learn how to become a successful music producer, you should consider getting a music production degree.
Applying for music college is a big decision, and enrolling in a music production study program will require you to invest a lot of time and money.
On the other hand, getting a degree can improve your career prospects and provide you with valuable knowledge, experiences, and skills necessary to enter the field.
The thing is, many employers seek people with skills, talent, and work experience.
But some positions in the music industry do require a degree.
Also, a music production school can provide you with internship opportunities, which is helpful and beneficial on so many levels.
On top of that, going to music college can also help you make connections – and connections are crucial in the music business.
See also: Best Online Music Production Courses
It’s true – music is a business.
And that’s why you shouldn’t underestimate the power of networking.
People skills are important in the music production business, and meeting fellow producers, artists, musicians, and other people from the music industry will help you get around in the industry.
Networking is not about getting jobs because you know someone – networking can advance your career because it allows you to access new information, get advice and support, and look at things from a new perspective.
And yes, networking can also bring you new opportunities.
You know what they say about luck – luck is when preparation meets opportunities.
Therefore, if you want to build a successful career as a music producer, you should work on your skills, but you should also increase your chances of finding opportunities.
7. Build a portfolio
If you want to be ready when you come across a good opportunity, building a solid portfolio is a must.
The thing is, companies and artists looking to hire you will want to hear your work.
Your music production portfolio can include recordings and clips of projects you’ve worked on – basically, it’s music you created and you’re credited for.
Musicians and artists usually create a music EPK (Electronic Press Kit), a pre-packaged digital resume that helps music industry professionals (managers, booking agents, venues, journalists, and promoters) to access and review their work.
And once you start working on projects and looking for new clients, you’ll have to start promoting yourself as a producer too.
This can include anything from becoming active in music communities to developing a powerful social media presence.
Here are some of the best marketing tips that will ultimately help you build a strong portfolio:
- Define your brand
- Create a website
- Be active on social media platforms
- Reach out to artists
- Reach out to playlist curators, content creators, and influencers
- Be consistent
Developing a marketing strategy for music production might seem unusual.
But the more people hear about your work, the more work you’re going to get – and then you’ll be one step closer to finding the job of your dreams.
See also: Best Music Marketing Strategies
What Skills Does a Music Producer Need?
As we mentioned before, people skills are important in the music production business.
So what are the skills and qualifications needed to become a music producer?
Well, every music production job requires a different set of special skills, and every producer has a different path to acquiring them.
However, there are some general skills every successful music producer has, including:
- Basic knowledge of music theory and composition
- Communication skills
- Marketing skills
- Production skills
In short, a good music producer needs to be creative, artistic, administrative, communicative, and business-minded.
Music production is a multi-stage process, and you’ll have to become familiar with each phase.
Songwriting and Composition
Some producers decide not to write songs, but if you’re interested in the creative side of music production, you should give it a try.
When creating a song, you should pay attention to melodies and harmonies, while trying to play them on different instruments.
Try to search for interesting melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic concepts, and play around with them to see how they fit the structure of the song.
Arranging a song entails taking the core elements of the song and breaking them down into building blocks.
So in this stage, producers usually add melodies, vocal tracks, instruments, or details to their tracks.
Once your song is finished, you can record it, or find a vocalist who will record it for you.
This way, you can create a demo song and send it to a music publisher or another artist.
But even if you don’t want to create and distribute your music, spending time in a recording studio will most likely be a part of your day – producers’ responsibilities usually include overseeing the recording process and generally working with the artist to create singles or albums.
But recording vocals and instruments can be challenging for beginners.
So if you’re just starting out, you can use digital tools and play with samples.
Samples are audio snippets that can include anything from short melodies to individual instruments, rhythmic loops, and various tracks.
So, sampling involves taking a section of audio from another source and integrating it into your new track.
Using samples is great for people who are starting out with music production, but it’s also very common in various music genres.
Developing and enhancing editing and mixing skills is essential for every aspiring music producer.
Mixing involves combining multi-track recordings, balancing sounds, and generally blending everything together so it’s smooth and coherent.
Some of the tools you’ll use in this phase are:
- EQ – manipulates the frequency and shapes the sound
- Compressor – helps you even out dynamic spikes and adjust the volume
- Reverb – provides a sense of space and natural depth
Some music producers earn money by offering mixing and mastering services, so becoming really good at it would surely be beneficial to you.
Mastering is the final step of music post-production.
Mastering usually includes enhancing the overall sound, optimizing the sound quality, and generally polishing the track and preparing it for distribution.
Music Production Tips
The best way to start a career in music production is to be ready for different kinds of tasks.
In the beginning, you’ll probably do some projects you’re not very interested in – but they will ultimately lead you to something bigger.
Meanwhile, you can work on your skills.
For starters, familiarize yourself with your DAW and learn your tools.
Once you master the basics, you can start exploring different genres and styles, and you can challenge yourself with new creative projects.
Also, don’t forget to listen to music – this is important if you want to make it in the music industry.
Finally, practice regularly, and build an efficient workflow.
And don’t be afraid to make mistakes – focus on finishing your track instead.
Starting a Career in Music Production
If you’re ready to embark on your journey as a professional music producer, there are several questions you need to ask yourself first.
For instance, you should set clear goals and think about your dreams – do you want to build a good reputation and work with famous artists?
Or do you want to learn basic production skills and do side projects while having another ‘day’ job?
You also need to determine how far you’re willing to go to achieve those goals – do you want to learn how to produce music by yourself, or do you want to enroll in a music production degree program or search for an internship?
In any case, if you want to become a skilled producer, you need to put the work in.
Success doesn’t happen overnight, but with practice and persistence, you can achieve anything you set your mind to.
There are different career paths and types of jobs available to music producers.
Depending on your specialization, you can work in a recording studio and manage the entire music production process for various musicians.
Some people are interested in becoming creative producers – they usually take an artist’s vision for a song or record and bring it to fruition.
Executive producers, on the other hand, tend to be focused on the entrepreneurial or business aspect of the role.
Some producers even become ghost producers – ghost producers earn money by making music for artists without being credited.
Generally speaking, there’s no secret formula for success in this field.
You just need to take it one step at a time.
Some music producers start out as sound engineers, and others start out as musicians.
There are many career paths you can take – you just need to find the one that aligns with your goals, abilities, and values.
Is It Hard to Become a Music Producer?
There’s no doubt about it – becoming a successful music producer is not easy.
It takes time to develop the necessary skills, gain experience, make connections, and find clients.
And when it comes to the best ways of becoming a music producer, there’s no one-size-fits-all.
However, if you have clear goals and if you’re ready to work hard, you can get there sooner than you think.
The important thing is to be patient and consistent, create good music, and build a good reputation.
All things considered, becoming a music producer is a challenging yet rewarding journey.
And if you want to pursue a career in the music industry, go ahead and do it – you’ll never know what you’re capable of if you don’t try.
How Much Do Music Producers Make?
One of the rewarding things about becoming a successful music producer is money.
Many producers enter the field because they’re passionate about music and/or music technology.
But every aspiring music producer tries to find an answer to this question sooner or later.
There are many factors that can affect a music producer’s salary, such as education, experience level, and special skills.
But according to PayScale, music producers’ average salary is $50,986.
Either way, there are many ways to make money as a music producer, and how much you’re going to earn depends on many factors.
How to Make Money as a Music Producer
The most common way music producers earn money is by producing music for artists.
Musicians and artists need music producers for so many reasons.
But that can be beneficial to you too – collaborating with different kinds of artists will help you build a good reputation, expand your professional network, and earn more money.
And if you do a good job, you’ll find new clients – some of the best advertising is word of mouth.
Another popular way of earning money by producing music is through streaming royalties.
Music royalties are the payments generated from the usage of your songs, so every time someone plays your track on platforms like Spotify and Apple Music, you can generate money.
This is a viable way for freelance producers who want to create and distribute their tracks.
If you want people to listen to your songs, you’ll have to create an effective music marketing plan, reach out to playlist curators, promote your music, and so on.
In other words, you need to put a lot of effort (and probably money) into promoting your music to get yourself noticed.
See also: Ways to Promote Your Music
Nevertheless, earning money from royalties can also be rather easy, as long as you’re ready to find effective ways of promoting your music and getting it to relevant platforms and playlists.
Another good way to make money as a music producer is by selling your beats, loops, and samples online.
Despite digital tools and AI music generators, there are many artists and companies looking for ‘real’ beats and samples, and that’s where your skills and creativity come into play.
You can sell beats and samples via your own website, or you can do it through external websites and libraries, such as Splice Sounds and ADSR Sounds.
Many producers decide to be freelancers – this way, they can sell their beats, offer to master and mix services, offer music production lessons, and so on.
Freelance producers also have the option to explore sync licensing.
In short, sync licensing includes music that is used in movies, TV shows, video games, music videos, vlogs, podcasts, and so on, and if you successfully pitch your track to a music library and they use it, you can earn a nice amount of money.
For example, video game music has been quite profitable for music producers for a while now.
So, sync licensing can be a cool way of earning some extra money, but it can also help you make connections and build a portfolio.
Music Production Programs and Courses
As you can see, there are many different paths you can take as a music producer.
And in this day and age, making money from music has actually never been easier.
You can build an affordable home recording studio and start producing music from the comfort of your home.
You can also offer mixing and mastering services online, sell your beats, look for freelancing jobs, and so on.
However, to be able to offer your services and build a good reputation, you must first hone your skills.
And the best way to do that is to take music production lessons.
As we mentioned earlier, getting a music production degree might not be a bad idea.
Many schools offer excellent music production degree programs designed to prepare students to enter the field.
But you can also consider online music production courses.
Online programs are more affordable and flexible, and they allow you to choose your learning material and focus on what really matters to you.
Some online courses are focused on beat-making and specific music genres, and others will provide you with practical tips and tricks on how to become a better producer.
The important thing is to keep expanding your knowledge and getting fresh ideas – that’s the only way to succeed in this rapidly evolving industry.
How to Become a Music Producer – Final Thoughts
If you want to learn how to become a music producer, you first need to know that there’s no one-size-fits-all.
However, there are some things you can do to get things started, such as buying recording equipment, getting a DAW, and learning basic music theory.
Once you learn how to produce music, you can start networking, building a good reputation, and looking for opportunities.
And if you stay motivated and persistent, success will come your way.
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