Are you a whizz on Logic, Garage Band or Fruity Loops? Prefer being behind the scenes than on the stages? Obsessed by the backing rather than the lyrics? Then have you thought about taking on the role of the producer?
The production spectrum is wide and varied – from people who make the tracks that form the backbone of the hip-hop scene (like No I.D.), to those making dance music records behind the scenes (like William Orbit), to those who deal with the production elements of live music in the recording studio, and the creation of albums (like Stephen Street). There’s crossover between these elements as well, meaning that there’s a never-ending supply of new paths to follow within the production world.
Producers need to be technically gifted, as well as having an ear for what sounds work best for different artists, and with an extremely wide and varied knowledge of music. Whilst specialist producers in individual fields are found, the ability to cross genres and types of production will only help you in your career as a producer!
Salary & benefits
Like most musicians and those that work within the industry, there’s not really a set salary that you get for being a producer – fees rise depending on your standing within the field and how much people are willing to pay you for your work, so unless you work your way up from within a recording studio, you need to make your name before you can make any money. One smash hit, though, is all you sometimes need to set you for life, and there are plenty of people who are willing to give you a shot if you’re willing to put the hours in. The benefits, as you can imagine, are huge – there’s a huge scope to become involved in the entertainment industry, to make contacts and go to all the best parties in town – you just have to earn it all first!
Seeing as much of this work is freelance, you really work when you want – you can produce a beat just as well at 4am in your room as you could whilst sitting in a studio all day. However, if you’re going to be working with other people you might want to find times that work for you both in order that no-one gets upset! The other exception to this rule is if you’re working for a particular studio or record label, and being part of a production team. Whilst the hours still aren’t your standard nine-to-five, you’ll probably have a much more set schedule than you would if you were working individually on a project.
It’s all on you, this one. If you’ve been making beats for years, a good way to start would be to contact some artists or record labels that might be interested in using them. You’ll have to know the tricks of the trade, and be technically competent with your systems and studios, so a good start might be a Music Technology-based course at University or College, where the basics and way to set up sound arrangements will be taught.
If that doesn’t work out for you, why not trying to find a lower-end role at a recording studio. There’ll be plenty of time to learn the ropes as you progress and it could lead to much higher production roles along the way if you’ve been trained in a well-regarded studio.
Training & progression
Like DJ’s and musicians, it’s vital that producers are up-to-date with current musical trends and the shape of the industry, because it allows you to make tracks that appeal to the majority of people and carve out your own niche in the musical landscape.
To keep skills honed is also key – as technology continually improves, the job that the producer is doing becomes harder and harder, and so you need to be right on the button with the software and hardware you are using, as well as keeping your musical ear sharp!
Progress is made through making a name for yourself, and thus being hired for more and more extensive musical projects – there’s no limit to what you can achieve if you catch the right break and continue to work hard!