5 things they never told you about music production
Read this myth busting article on music production and how to make your work in the studio more enjoyable and worthwhile...
The music production industry is a strange machine.
Often full of as many lows as highs, the industry is fairly unique in that there are next to no guidelines on how to function as a producer, while the parameters for what constitutes one are so broad that even current producers find it hard to nail down all the parts of the job description.
Still there is much about the industry that never really gets explained to those beginning to work or delve into music production. Here is a simple, myth busting article explaining the pros and cons of the industry, along with a few tips to make your time as a practitioner more enjoyable and hopefully feasible.
Effort to income ratio
In terms of the monetisation of skills, the music industry is one of the toughest industries in which to quickly become commercially viable long-term. The best way to describe the first two-three years of a standard producer's journey is as follows: “The pay is bad but the work is hard … at first.”
Make no mistake, as a practitioner you are responsible for proving your worth, so if you intend on taking it seriously, you need to work for two-three years solidly building a portfolio and client base that you can stand by. The more good work you do, the more likely you are to get noticed as a working professional.
The beauty of music production is that you are not confined to one genre or band, and every client you proudly walk away from is carrying your flag forward to the next potential customer. Every seed you sow, through writing, producing, mixing or mastering, all contributes to an improved skill set down the road and a constantly accumulating portfolio."
In terms of time to money, this is something you have to judge for yourself. Music has a massively diminished monetary value these days, so it is important that when you charge for something you have prior work to show your skills and quality, otherwise you will find yourself with either fewer clients or less money per client. As you improve and progress, this ratio will eventually invert, just like in any career path, so the longer and harder you work, the better the pay off ultimately.
An important step in gauging pricing of your skills is to take into account your resources, your own personal speed and the time it will take to get a job done. An album for example, depending on the format of recording and the complexity of the music etc. can take anything from a few days to years to complete, so really consider the effort needed, the deadlines and the quality of the artist when negotiating.
Personality is the ultimate weapon in the production portfolio. This is no understatement; artists genuinely enjoy working with people who proliferate their own positive state and help them to stay motivated and creative when working in studio. Relationships and repeat business are founded upon an ability to prove one's social worth in an environment where so much can be at stake artistically.
Do your utmost to stay positive, even in a difficult situation, because your prevalence will mark you as someone who is level headed, and focused, and by extension capable of working efficiently and reliably on someone’s musical works."
Cuts for credits
Sometimes you have to take a pay cut to get the credit you need. This is based on the state of your portfolio, the amount of paid work you currently have and the potential for commercial value outside of just money. For example, if someone approaches you with a legitimate project that will be incredibly useful as a credit even though there is no budget, then consider the value outside of purely money. Sometimes strategically taking free work or low pay work can actually make you better off in the long-run.
On the other hand, there is no reason for you to accept work unpaid if the project proposer is simply unwilling to pay an appropriate price. This is a job in the end, and while the discretion of who and what you work for lies totally with the individual producer, working constantly for free or low prices engenders a perception in clients that you are either free labour or bad quality. Pricing is critical to public perception of goods and services.
A single skill is not enough
You need autonomy to be competitive, and to not rely on anyone to get your work done you need to be excellent at many things. The idea that knowing Pro Tools or how to record drums as a standalone skill set is enough is completely wrong.
The modern music producer needs to be a recording engineer, a musician, an arranger, a performer, a marketing consultant, a negotiator, a manager, performer and a technology guru. None of these things will come instantly, but knowing that there is constantly a way to go in regards to learning and assimilating skills is paramount to continued motivation and improved production services."
No one knows who you are
The reality of being in the music industry is that you are obligated to make yourself known to people, because unless you do, no one will ever know who you are. There are the one in a million stories in which an artist or producer gets a major break by chance, but the truth it that there is no such thing as luck. Opportunity truly meets preparedness, and when that chance to prove yourself finally appears, if you are ready to show your skills and capabilities, then you will meet good fortune.
Are you a music producer looking to take your career to the next level?
Then why not join us here at ICMP music school in London. Look through our music technology courses and get yourself a place on our next open day.
Our industry partners at Audient recently asked Deftones and Slipknot producer and engineer Ulrich Wild for his tips on how to become a better music producer. Read the article.