Music production is a multi-stage process by which the music is created and prepared for distribution.
So, every song you know has gone through the production process.
But what does the creation of a song from start to finish actually entail, and what does a music producer do?
In today’s article, we will explain what it really means to be a music producer and tell you how to get things started if you want to become one.
What Is a Music Producer?
A music producer (sometimes referred to as a record producer) oversees the whole process of creating a song or an album.
In most cases, music producers help artists to turn their ideas and concepts into music.
They also advise musicians artistically as well as manage and guide the whole production process.
However, the exact responsibilities vary from producer to producer and from job to job.
The role of a music producer also depends on a genre – for instance, 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 which means they are also producers.
Either way, music producers are professionals responsible for supervising and leading the creative and technical aspects of making a recording.
But what does that actually entail, and what does a day in the life of a music producer look like?
What Does a Music Producer Do?
Generally, a music producer helps artists record their songs, album, or project.
But there are many types of jobs available to producers, and there are different career paths you can take if you’re interested in music production.
It’s true – most producers we know of bring an artist’s vision to life.
But producers can also earn money by selling their own beats and samples, offering mastering and mixing services, distributing their own music, and so on.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most common roles of a music producer.
1. Finding Clients and Planning
It takes time to become a successful music producer – you need to gain experience, build a good reputation, and build a strong portfolio.
Therefore, finding artists to collaborate with might be challenging in the beginning.
But once people start to hear about your work, it will get much easier – after all, some of the best advertising is word of mouth.
Once music producers find a band or a musician they want to collaborate with, their first task is scheduling a recording session.
Another important responsibility is budgeting – they need to determine the budget, schedule a session within the appointed budget, and submit the budget to whoever is financing the record.
The appointed budget will probably affect the whole recording process, so they need to make sure they create a realistic schedule.
Planning and creating a schedule also involves:
- Determining the best location to make the record
- Finding and booking the studio to cut the record in
- Helping the artist to find appropriate musicians (if needed)
- Determining the completion date
Now, producers who are involved in a large commercial recording project need to think about the record’s release date (or “street date”) and set the completion date accordingly.
The completion date is critical here, and that’s why one of the biggest responsibilities of a music producer is recording and submitting the finished product on the agreed date.
That said, staying organized when you’re a music producer is crucial.
2. Working with Artists on Arrangements
Music producers are in charge of the business as well as the creative aspect of the song creation.
Producers help the artist choose the songs that will be on the record, and they help them determine the sequence of the songs later on.
But a music producer also needs to have technical skills and knowledge of music – they need to know how to arrange and edit music.
Therefore, a sufficient understanding of digital tools and equipment is a must.
Some producers are not involved in the songwriting process, but they can suggest changes in the track’s arrangement.
They can also work with artists on song arrangements – this means simply tweaking and making small changes in instruments, vocals, and effects to improve the song’s structure and quality.
The role of a music producer is to ensure that the songs are well recorded and produced, and making sure the song is ready for recording is an important part of that process.
3. Supervising the Recording Process
A music producer needs to oversee and lead the process of recording a song.
And during the recording session, they need to identify the best performances in order to bring the best out of the track.
Supervising the recording process also involves ensuring that everything runs smoothly – including the work, the crew, and the overall atmosphere.
Producers should try to create a relaxed and fun atmosphere in the studio – that’s arguably the best way to stay productive and bring the best out of each crew and band member.
Recording a song is not easy, but maintaining a positive vibe in the studio can do wonders.
If a producer, the artist, and the rest of the crew get on well, working in a relaxed atmosphere might be easy, but producers shouldn’t forget about their task and their ultimate goal.
Music producers must move quickly from one task to the next, and they need to encourage others to do the same.
See also: How to Record Songs at Home
4. Polishing the Track
After arranging and recording, there’s still a lot to do.
In fact, one of the most important roles of a music producer is to polish the track and prepare it for distribution.
The post-production phase usually includes mixing and mastering and generally putting everything together in a proper way.
This usually involves shaping the sound, adjusting the volume, optimizing the sound quality, manipulating the frequency, and so on.
There are many things to think about in this phase, and that’s why producers need to have a strong technical background and an in-depth knowledge of how to make the track sound professional.
A song and a studio album need to be smooth and coherent, and they need to make sense.
This is where digital tools and programs come into play, as well as your technical skill and an eye for detail.
As you can see, producers have many different responsibilities.
Therefore, a typical day in the life of a music producer varies from person to person.
Many producers spend most of their days in the studio, recording, arranging, and manipulating sounds and beats.
But that also depends on the exact project they’re working on, as well as the current phase of the project.
Just like many other jobs in the music industry, a music production job entails tough and challenging days as well as more relaxed, fun days.
How to Produce Music
As we already mentioned, music production has many stages, and handling them all can be tricky, especially for beginners.
But in this day and age, creating music has also never been easier – digital tools and editing programs make everything a lot easier.
For instance, if you’re just starting out with music production and recording vocals and instruments seems too challenging for you, 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.
Sampling involves taking a section of audio from another source and integrating it into your new track, and it’s therefore great for beginners, but it’s also very common in various music genres.
What we’re trying to say is that you can easily make music from the comfort of your home – and that’s a great way to get started.
1. Music Production Equipment
Learning how to produce music takes time, and you need to start somewhere.
So why not invest in basic recording equipment and build a small home recording studio?
Generally, the essential equipment for music production includes:
And when it comes to a home recording setup, many home studios include amplifiers, a microphone stand, a pop shield (pop filter), and extra cables.
Extra gear that more experienced producers use includes synths, drum machines, groove boxes, and effects pedals.
You don’t have to buy high-end equipment and invest a ton of money into building a studio – you can start with the basics and expand and improve your studio over time.
One of the essentials every aspiring (and seasoned) music producer needs is a DAW.
A DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is basically where music production takes place – it’s an electronic divide or application software for recording, mixing, and mastering audio files.
DAWs cover every part of the music-making process, and although they might seem complicated at first, they’re actually great to work with.
If you’re just starting out with music production, we recommend checking out the following DAWs:
- Apple Logic Pro
- Steinberg Cubase
- Apple GarageBand
- Ableton Live Lite
- Pro Tools
Pre-production is essential in every song creation process – if you do it right, you shouldn’t come across any big problems during the rest of the process.
Producers need to be well-organized, as we discussed before.
But the preparation phase also involves coming up with musical ideas, communicating with artists about their vision and ideas, determining the concept of the song, and arranging songs.
You can record vocals and instruments with your home recording equipment, or you can hire a studio.
Professional producers usually work in well-equipped recording studios, and others run their own private studios.
Mixing usually involves combining multi-track recordings, balancing sounds, and generally blending everything together nicely.
Some of the tools producers use in this phase include:
- 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
Mastering is the final step of music post-production.
It usually includes enhancing the overall sound, optimizing the sound quality, and generally polishing the track and preparing it for distribution.
Mastering can be a tricky part for beginners because it takes some time to become familiar with all the options you have to polish your recorded audio.
How to Become a Music Producer
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 aspect of the song-creation process.
It’s an interesting and versatile profession, and there are many types of careers available to music producers.
Depending on their specialization, producers 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, while executive producers tend to be focused on the entrepreneurial or business aspect of the role.
That said, if you want to start a career in music production, you first need to think about what type of job you want to do.
You can ask yourself the following questions:
- What is your dream job?
- What music genres and styles do you like?
- What are your existing skills, abilities, and strengths?
Once you set clear goals, you should also determine how far you’re willing to go to achieve them.
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 succeed in the music industry, you need to be ready for a lot of hard work.
Success doesn’t happen overnight, and it takes time to build a good reputation, find clients, and generally get yourself noticed.
But if you want to start a career in the music industry, you should definitely go ahead and try – with practice and persistence, there’s no reason not to become a great music producer.
Starting a Career in Music Production
The first step in landing a music producer job is to hone your skills.
And one of the best things you can do to improve your music production skills and expand your knowledge is to take music or singing lessons.
This is not a requirement for becoming a professional producer, but it will definitely help you out.
Learning how to play an instrument will help you understand basic musical concepts and allow you to train your ears and improve your musicality.
That way, you’ll be able to step into the role of a music producer more confidently and professionally.
After all, artists and musicians like to work with producers who can understand the language of music.
And luckily, taking piano or guitar lessons has never been easier – you can choose from online courses, piano/guitar apps, virtual classes…
Also, by understanding musical concepts such as melodies, notes, harmonies, chords, and rhythm, you’ll be able to create quality music.
The truth is, there’s no single best way of becoming a music producer.
Some music producers start out as sound engineers, and others start out as musicians.
The important thing is to work on improving your skills, create music, and keep learning more about each stage of music production.
Once you feel more confident, you can start building an online presence and making connections.
Networking is an important part of the music business, and meeting fellow producers, artists, and musicians will ultimately help you gain new perspectives, receive valuable advice, and come across opportunities.
If you want to advance your career, you shouldn’t forget about networking – therefore, start to be active in music communities, visit local events, and don’t be afraid to reach out to people.
Another crucial step you should take to find your place in the music industry is to build a solid portfolio.
Companies and artists looking to hire you will want to hear your work, so your music production portfolio should include recordings, video clips of projects you’ve worked on, and basically all music you created and you’re credited for.
Before moving on, let’s quickly summarize some of the steps you can take to start a career in music production:
- Learn an instrument or vocals
- Create music
- Build an online presence (social media, website…)
- Build a portfolio
What Skills Does a Music Producer Need?
It’s true – music producers need to work hard to start earning money and build a good reputation.
And being a music producer entails a wide range of responsibilities.
But some of the general skills and qualifications every music producer needs include:
- Basic knowledge of music theory and composition
- Communication skills
- Marketing skills
- Production skills (recording, editing, mixing, mastering)
A good music producer needs to be creative, artistic, administrative, communicative, and business-minded.
Of course, it’s hard to excel in all of these skills – but it’s important to be familiar with every stage of the production process.
And over time, you’ll get to know your niche and find what you’re passionate about.
Some producers enjoy songwriting and they spend a lot of time discussing artistic ideas with musicians, and others prefer the technical side of it all and earn money by offering mastering and mixing services.
It all depends on your interests and abilities.
How Much Do Music Producers Make?
Becoming a music producer is a challenging yet rewarding process.
But if you really succeed in the music industry, you can start earning a substantial amount of money.
Now, 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, you can make money as a music producer in different ways, and how much you’re going to earn depends on many factors.
Some of the most common ways producers generate money include:
- Working for record labels or artists
- Generating money through music royalties
- Selling beats and samples online
- Sync licensing
- Offering mastering and mixing services
How Hard Is It to Become a Music Producer?
One thing is for sure – becoming a music producer is not easy, especially if your goal is to work with acclaimed musicians.
It takes a lot of time and effort to develop the necessary skills, gain experience, and make connections.
You need to practice and work a lot before getting to a level where your music is actually worth releasing.
And then you need to work on your marketing strategies to help you gain exposure and find clients.
So in the meantime, try to be active as much as you can – create music, explore new styles, collaborate with others, keep improving your skills…
It’s a long process, but the most important thing is to get started.
When it comes to the best ways of becoming a music producer, there’s one-size-fits-all.
You need to find your own path.
And if you stay motivated and persistent, success will surely come your way.
Music Production Courses & Programs
If you want to become a skilled producer, you should also consider enrolling in a music production degree program.
Many schools offer excellent music production degree programs designed to prepare students to enter the field.
A music production degree is usually not a requirement, but it will undoubtedly improve your career prospects and give you an edge over competitors.
Most employers seek people with talent, experience, and skills, but some positions in the music industry (like schools and various institutions) do require a music degree.
No matter what your career goals are, a music study program will help you make connections and learn from experts.
Alternatively, you can check out online music production courses and lessons – they are more affordable and flexible, and they allow you to choose your learning material and focus on your interests.
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 music producer.
There are many great learning sources out there; you just need to find a course that meets your needs.
What Does a Music Producer Do? – Final Thoughts
The short answer to ‘what does a music producer do’: everything related to the creation of a song.
Music producers have a wide range of responsibilities, including budgeting, arranging, recording, editing, and generally managing the entire production process.
In most cases, producers help artists bring their ideas and vision to fruition, and that requires a special set of skills.
That said, becoming a successful music producer is a challenging journey, but it’s also a very rewarding one.
You may also like: How to Become a Music Producer – Full Guide