Can you really make a living editing, mixing, and mastering songs? Yes, you can. You could be spending your workdays in a professional studio behind a complex mixing board, ears digging deep into that new record in progress, engaging with the sound, and using your expertise to maximize its sonic potential. That’s the reality for countless music producers, from the big-name celebrities to the average everyday working producers.
So many people dream of breaking into this iconic, creative, challenging line of work without ever asking themselves if it’s a good career, to begin with. While some might wonder if it’s a fanciful dream that only a lucky few are actually able to make a living at, there are in fact countless niches in which music producers can make a comfortable living.
What Does a Music Producer Do?
The main role of a music producer is to work with bands and individual artists in the studio to cut a record. While many people imagine communicating with pop stars wearing giant headphones through a pane of glass, it is but one of the numerous examples of what a music producer’s life might look like. A music producer is responsible for:
- Managing artists, instrumentalists, audio engineers, and other studio staff
- Using Digital Audio Workstations (DAW)
- Recording sounds, instruments and vocalists
- Layering tracks to make a song
- Mixing and mastering albums
- Working with A & R departments to find talent
- Distributing music through online and streaming services
What Equipment and Software Do Music Producers Work With?
In today’s modern technological age, working in a high-tech studio doesn’t always look the way people picture it in their heads, if that’s based off what they’ve seen in the movies, anyway. DAWs, or digital audio workstations, have eliminated the need for a full mixing board in many cases. This has enabled more people to do the same work that professional music producers do in a studio using a MacBook from the comfort of their own living room.
Digital Audio Workstations (DAW)
This is certainly not to say that analog systems and mixing boards are not used in the professional world. Working in a studio means you’ll be dealing with countless rows of switches, knobs, and faders. It’s just that with the addition of digital technology, you now have a whole new way of dealing with your workflow. Ultimately, the addition of digital interfaces or the complete shift to digital has made music producers of all backgrounds more productive and has given them the tools to do more with their work.
Headphones & Monitor Speakers
Music producers always need a great pair of headphones so they can get right in the middle of their mix and fully immerse themselves. It’s key to be able to listen to your mix in a number of different ways so you’re recreating the experience of all your different listeners in all the different ways that they’ll be listening on various devices. Headphones are also a critical component of any music producer’s career if they happen to have roommates. That being said, a quality set of speakers is also important to that you can hear and feel your mix filling up a room.
It is common to work with many different types of microphones as well. Any music producer working with microphones needs to know which one is right for which occasion so they can get the best sound the first time. Most commonly, condenser and dynamic microphones can get the job done, but sometimes ribbon microphones can add an interesting and highly textured sound to certain unique voices that the music producer wants to bring out.
Music Production Careers
There are many different careers you can start after graduating from a music production program. You can begin working as a traditional music producer or as an audio equipment technician or sound engineering technician. You will have many options.
Career #1: Music Producer
Music producer is the most common career for those that graduate from a music production program. It involves working in a studio with all kinds of artists, be it singers, instrumentalists, or voice actors. The music producer has to know how to get the best technical recording but also how to work with artists to get the best possible performance out of them. As performers are only human and can sometimes be temperamental, needing a little extra coaxing, a music producer truly has to know how to work with people. Patience is a key component of this career.
Career #2: Audio Equipment Technician
This is the job for anyone who loves the gear associated with making music. Without people who are knowledgeable about every piece of equipment, it would be impossible to have the music we hear today on our favorite playlists. Those who follow this career spend years studying everything from amplification, to mixing boards, to microphones, becoming a music producer’s best friend in the studio.
Career #3: Sound Engineering Technician
The sound engineering technician is the person in the studio who operates all the equipment. When the sound engineering technician is at work, they’ll be ready to make the perfect adjustment on any equipment used in a studio or live event. This person is able to make the lives of everybody around them easier by applying their special knowledge to the tools that everyone is using.
What are the Benefits of a Career in Music Production?
There are many benefits to a career in music production. You get to be creative, work with like-minded colleagues, entertain others, and be part of a community. These are only some of the reasons many become music producers.
Benefit #1: Creativity
Being creative makes going to work so much more rewarding. When you choose the career of a music producer, you will be creative in every single thing you do. The very concept of producing is creative in itself, and that certainly shows in the work of every kind of music producer in the music industry.
Benefit #2: Like-Minded Colleagues
When you get to work with colleagues that have a passion for music, you’ll find yourself all the more inspired to create. Having people around you who are working on the same types of projects will push you to do your best work and be as creative as possible every single day. There’s nothing more exciting than seeing what your friends and colleagues have been working on when you get back to the office from a long vacation.
Benefit #3: Entertain Others
There’s something very satisfying about being able to sit down at a gathering and put on a mix that you’ve produced. When you get to witness firsthand the joy that it brings people when they listen to your music, you’ll find all those countless hours toiling over levels and debating which mix is the best were well worth it in the end.
Benefit #4: Be a Part of a Community
One thing that has been and will always be true about the music world, is that it is inhabited by a thriving community of creative people. Music would be nothing if it weren’t for the people who make it, appreciate it, talk about it, and argue about it relentlessly.
While there are some universal truths in music and audio production, as an art form, there are always going to be different schools of thought that everyone from amateurs to industry professionals might follow. The community element is what allows different artists and producers to bounce ideas off of one another, often times challenging each other’s perspectives, all for the betterment of their respective careers and the industry as a whole.
As a music producer, you will use your passion to entertain others, work with like-minded colleagues and be a part of a community. Those in the industry share a common bond, making it easier to make friends through the power of music. Start contributing to the music community today.
Audio Production Program
Ready to get into audio production and start creating music? Now that you know becoming a music producer is a good career and you have many options once you begin, it is time to learn more about the audio production program itself. 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.