Who are the Best Music Producers?

Music producer sitting in front of their computer

Anyone who dreams of becoming the next great music producer already has a list of their audio engineering idols. Having producers who you look up to gives you something to strive for, showing just how far you can go with your craft with a lifetime of hard work and dedication.

While the types of music producers you choose to follow depends on your music tastes and where you plan to go with your music career, these are some names that are universally known in the music production world. With each influential figure comes their own personal story and notable career moves. These become lessons that music producers who are just making their start should learn from.

No matter which genre of music you’re interested in, learning about these iconic producers is an excellent source of inspiration to reach for your goals, and it may help you follow in their footsteps or find even more innovative ways of producing your best music.

Rick Rubin

This is one of the producers behind the rise of hip-hop both on an artistic and commercial level. In addition to co-founding the record label Def Jam and establishing American Recordings, he also served as co-president of Columbia Records.

Rubin has worked with legendary hip-hop artists like the Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, and Run-DMC, but his body of work extends into a variety of other genres as well. He’s produced heavy metal artists like Danzig, alternative rock such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and even country stars like Johnny Cash.

Rick Rubin is a prime example to look at for young producers trying to push the limits and create music that’s fresh and innovative. Beginners can learn from his dynamic range in genres and his willingness to make bold choices.

Quincy Jones

From composing to arranging to songwriting, not to mention producing for TV and film, Quincy Jones is an immortal name in the music industry. Over the course of a career spanning seven decades, Jones has won 28 Grammys and been nominated for 80. In addition, he was the recipient of the Grammy Legend Award in 1992.

This impressive list of accolades is all just a byproduct of Quincy Jones’s massive impact on jazz, R&B, soul, funk, pop, and myriad other genres. He led the way for countless other people of color by being among the first African Americans with a top executive role at a major label.

Besides the many famous songs that Jones has penned, including “Ironside” and “Jessica’s Birthday,” others might recognize his work in the Sanford & Son theme song, officially titled “The Streetbeater,” and “Soul Bossa Nova,” which serves as the iconic Austin Powers theme. His production feats include Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and “Give Me The Night” by George Benson.

Quincy Jones’s story is an infinite well of inspiration for up-and-coming music producers. He’s living proof that hard work and dedication pay off while being a prime example of staying true to your roots.

Dr. Dre

This American producer, rapper, engineer, and businessman started his musical journey in 1985 as part of the World Class Wreckin’ Cru, but it was with N.W.A. that he first rose to fame. His contribution to gangster rap, West Coast hip hop, and G-funk is something that all developing music producers should learn from. Dre’s career shows how far a music producer can go when they look at their work holistically, including not just the artistic aspects but the business side as well.

From founding Beats Electronics and Aftermath Entertainment, as well as serving as the CEO of both companies, he’s not afraid of stepping into the business side of the music and entertainment industries. He was also previously the president, co-founder, and co-owner of Death Row Records. In the 2000s, Dre put his focus mainly on serving as producer for other artists, occasionally contributing his own vocals.

Along with a prominent solo career with such hit albums as The Chronic, Dr. Dre also served as a mentor to other budding young producers like his own stepbrother, Warren G, as well as Snoop Dogg’s cousin Daz Dillinger. He’s an excellent role model for showing how important it is to pass on what you’ve learned once you become the best.

Brian Wilson

This famous founder of the Beach Boys made countless moves to push the limits of audio production, particularly with his groundbreaking Pet Sounds album. His innovative and experimental methods of composing pop music have caused him to be hailed as a genius by many, and his knowledge of music theory and recording techniques only added further fuel to his masterful creations in the studio.

Besides serving as a vocalist, bassist, keyboardist, songwriter, and producer for the Beach Boys, Brian Wilson also kept himself busy producing other bands, such as the Honeys. This put his work on the U.S. Top 40 list more than two dozen times by the mid-’60s.

With the need to take a break from going on tour and giving live performances, Wilson shifted his attention to studio work. This led to an era of more developed, refined compositions that pushed his music in even more innovative directions. This is a valuable lesson for beginners to take to heart: What may seem like a hardship at the time may turn into an opportunity to take your craft to an even higher level.

Kanye West (“Ye”)

Although Kanye’s audacious comments on every topic imaginable have generally polarized his fans, it remains indisputable that his work as a producer and musical artist will go down in history. The Atlanta-born and Chicago-raised rapper, singer, songwriter, producer, fashion designer, and businessman made his start at Roc-A-Fella Records, producing for them starting in the 2000s.

Kanye West‘s fixation on the goal of breaking out as a solo rapper drove him to release The College Dropout in 2004, his debut album. The critical and commercial success of his project and enabled him to fund the GOOD Music record label, leading to an era in his career of genre-bending musical experiments.

Beginner music producers should look to Kanye for inspiration whenever trying to do something that’s never been done before. He’s also someone to admire for the way that he sets himself goals, like becoming a hit solo artist, and keeps working until he achieves them. This enterprising and pioneering creative mind is someone who continues to inspire ingenuity in young producers every day.

Max Martin

Whether you know his name or not, you’ve almost certainly heard the work of this Swedish producer, songwriter, and former singer. Many people recognize him from the array of pop hits he’s responsible for in his early career: everything from Britney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time,” NSYNC’s “It’s Gonna Be Me,” and the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way.”

More recently, Max Martin wrote or co-wrote, in addition to producing or co-producing, such hits as “I Kissed a Girl” as sung by Katy Perry, Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” and Blank Space,” and “Blinding Lights” and “Save Your Tears” by The Weeknd. In all, 25 of the songs Martin has written or cowritten have wound up on the Billboard Hot 100 list in the number-one spot. This number puts him at the third-highest songwriter for number one singles, beaten out only by John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

As one of the best music producers, he and legendary producer George Martin are tied for having the most number-one singles on the Hot 100 list, both with 23. Max Martin has also been the recipient of the ASCAP Songwriter of the Year award 11 times, more times than anyone else has received the honor.

Martin’s story is an asset for music producers to learn when they’re just starting out their journey. His songwriting career has shown time and time again that a great song relies on so much more than the person performing it onstage or in the studio. Hit singles require a songwriting mind behind the scenes to make the music possible. One look at Max Martin’s professional journey sheds light on the fact that, with the right combination of producing and songwriting talent, there are a wealth of opportunities in this industry.

How Can You Become a Music Producer?

Even the best music producers had to start somewhere. This is important to remember because it’s easy to become discouraged, especially for beginners who are just starting to hone their skills. Although each of the above-mentioned music producers achieved great things with their work, they all started with practice, trial, error, and by educating themselves.

The most surefire way to receive a well-rounded, comprehensive music production education is through an audio production program. This not only connects you with experienced professionals from the industry but also puts you in contact with other beginner music producers who may become your professional collaborators once you’ve all graduated. It’s as much a networking opportunity as it is an educational experience.

The programs taught at creative arts colleges often provide the most immersive and in-depth academic experiences. These types of schools provide you with an environment where everyone is focused on the arts and thus creativity is everywhere. It’s much easier to become fully invested in your craft when all your peers are constantly pushing you further into it.

Graduating from a music production program leaves you with much more than a degree. You’ll be placed directly into positions to gain work experience and build up your career from the very beginning. Student counselors are there to provide career advice to help you find a real job in music production and immediately put your new skills to work.

Audio Production Program

Ready to get an audio production degree and start producing your own music? The Audio Production and Engineering Program  at the Institute of Production and Recording is an occupational degree program designed to train producer engineers who are entrepreneurs, musically and technically creative, and proficient in modern recording technology and technique. Throughout the program, students are involved in hands-on exercises and real-world studio projects that enable them to apply their knowledge and refine their skills.

At the end of the audio production and engineering program, each student presents a portfolio — a selection of his or her best work to date. This serves as a demo reel for potential employers and clients — an audio resume with professional content that highlights the graduate’s talent and skill.

Contact us today to learn more about the audio production programs and starting a rewarding career.