You'll need to be highly creative, driven, resilient and a great communicator to make it in the exciting and competitive world of music production

A music producer assists artists and groups in the studio to create recorded music, for an album, a film, advert or any other kind of creative output.

Music producers are responsible for developing and making creative content. You could work in a studio, as a live events producer or as producer/sound engineer. The term 'music producer' covers a number of careers in music production, and there are several different routes you can follow.

A producer's role is to pull together the separate parts of a sound recording. As a music producer, you'll work with bands, or make decisions on the types of musicians required to record a piece of music. You'll also decide on the type of recording process to use and the budget available. The role includes writing, arranging, recording and producing music for other artists or in their own right.

Music producers working on live music events are responsible for running creative spectacles like concerts, festivals or live shows. This involves coordinating technical staff, performers and other stakeholders to ensure events run smoothly. Live events may be one-offs or regular annual events, and can be held at indoor and outdoor music venues of all sizes.

Producers can work in the publicly funded or commercial sector, and many work on a freelance basis - crossing over into other disciplines such as theatre production, composition and direction.

Responsibilities

Specific responsibilities vary depending on the artist, recording studio, radio station, label, or organisation that you works for. In general, your tasks will include:

  • listening to an artist's demo tapes and working with artists to produce the sound they require
  • deciding on an appropriate studio for an artist's music and equipment
  • advising on album songs
  • operating technical equipment including mixing desks
  • technical work including audio editing, sound design and ghost production
  • helping artists to achieve the sounds they're striving for
  • working with organisations, venues and artists involved in live events
  • finding and booking suitable venues
  • planning event schedules, timings and performances
  • making logistical arrangements for artists
  • ensuring the arrangement of other facilities, such as catering, toilets, entertainment, and insurance
  • working with marketing teams to prepare printed material.

By its nature, the role of music producer requires you to be flexible and adaptable. You'll need to turn your hand to a number of tasks, and acquire new skills quickly.

Salary

  • Most music producers work on an hourly basis, with fees starting at around £25 to £55 per hour.
  • Experienced music producers can charge up to £200 per hour, depending on their previous work and level of skill.
  • If you're a music producer on live events, salaries may be more fixed. The BBC, for example, employs producers on its music programmes and live events. An entry level salary for this kind of role ranges from approximately £18,000 to £25,000.

Your income will vary widely depending on whether you're freelance or employed, and whether you're developing your own music or working with other artists.

Working hours

Working hours can be very long and will include unsocial hours and working weekends. The nature of freelance production studio work and event work, salaried or freelance, typically means intense periods of activity, based on the individual project, followed by periods of relative inactivity or downtime. Even salaried positions are usually offered on a fixed-term contract basis.

What to expect

  • If you're a studio-based music producer, you're likely to be based in cities where recording equipment and studios are more prevalent. You may be working for a large studio, independently in smaller studios or in your home environment.
  • You might be asked to work overseas, often at short notice - because of this, you must be prepared to be away from home for periods of time.
  • Employment can be insecure, so you'll need a flexible attitude to work.
  • The production environment can be stressful, due to demands on your time from artists, venues, and other stakeholders, and the work will often require an all-hours approach to meet deadlines. However, the trade-off is that the work is exciting, and results in the creative output for a large-scale event. Those working in music production generally consider this to be fair.

Qualifications

While you don't need a degree to be a music producer, a number of producers will have a degree or some technical training alongside running their own production projects. The following subjects at degree or HND level are most likely to provide you with relevant skills or knowledge:

  • music
  • music production
  • sound engineering
  • multimedia.

There are many universities offering music production and music degrees - visit UCAS for details and to find out how to apply.

Some courses focus more on the academic side of music, whereas others are more vocational, offering placements in industry, which allow you to experience the practical side of music production. Make sure you do your research to ensure that the course matches your career aims.

Courses containing practical elements may increase your chances. There are now several online courses in music production, which may be a cheaper way to develop your skills enrolling on a university-based course. Look for courses that provide excellent technical resources and contacts within the industry. Further information on training can be found at:

Most course applications will require you to demonstrate evidence of enthusiasm, skill and practical experience so make sure you're developing your music production skills and own creative projects alongside studying. You'll need sufficient practical experience before moving into the role of producer, and a qualification on its own won't be enough.

Specialist postgraduate qualifications may also be useful and could help you make additional contacts within the industry.

It's possible to get into music production via an apprenticeship. See what’s available at UK Music - Apprenticeships.

Organisations such as the BBC may also offer apprenticeships with a production or music focus - see BBC Careers - Trainee schemes & apprenticeships for more information.

Skills

You'll need to have:

  • creative flair
  • a love for music and a good working knowledge of the industry
  • the ability to network and build relationships with a wide variety of people in the industry to build up your profile
  • the ability to put artists at ease
  • self-motivation
  • strong communication skills and the ability to demonstrate and communicate your ideas to artists and other relevant people
  • technical understanding and ability, both musical and digital
  • organisation and planning skills
  • patience and resilience
  • the ability to cope well under pressure
  • adaptability and flexibility
  • drive and perseverance.

Work experience

As with most jobs in the music industry, competition is fierce. Music production is an area that people are working in for the love of what they do. Getting involved with music production at an early stage will greatly benefit you, whether you're producing your own work or working on remixes of other artists, getting involved in student societies, music and sound production for theatre and film, or working with local artists. A broad and open-minded approach to obtaining work experience will help you build a portfolio and find out which area of production you'd like to pursue.

You'll also need practical experience, either by producing your own music or spending time learning on the job or in a voluntary capacity. Get into a recording studio as soon as possible and start learning how everything works. Build your network of contacts in the music and creative industries, and ensure you've got an online presence if producing your own work (using sites such as Soundcloud). Networking is key, as opportunities often come through the people you meet via word of mouth.

Most producers will start with low wages and limited contacts, but this can build quickly if you have the tenacity to keep producing work and developing your skills and contact list.

Gaining experience of producing live events can be obtained by volunteering at music festivals and gigs, securing an entry-level role as an events assistant or working with organisations such as Sofar Sounds to see what goes into producing a live music event.

Employers

Music producers work in studios, either on an employed or freelance basis. There are opportunities at record companies, or big brands that rely on creative content, such as:

You may also find employment with:

  • community film or video projects
  • theatre companies
  • digital or internet channels.

Look for job vacancies at:

Professional development

You'll need to continue training to improve your technical skills throughout your working life. As the music industry is fast moving and responds to trends, keeping on top of technological advances in production is key. The majority of professional development occurs on the job. Once you've started to develop your interests and skills, you may decide to train in other areas of music production, such as sound engineering or live events production, or cross-over into other arts disciplines. Larger employers, like the BBC, may also run in-house training schemes.

Further training and support and advice on funding opportunities is available from:

It's also worth reading any industry-specific publications, such as Music Week, to keep up to date with what's happening and any skills gaps in the industry.

Career prospects

Establishing a career as a music producer can be difficult, as the sector as a whole is very competitive. Most roles are freelance or fixed term, and you'll need the tenacity to keep producing your own work and promoting yourself between jobs. Roles in production of live events may be more stable as they can be with larger employers, but given the nature of the work, production roles here are often project based and have fixed timelines.

Once you've gained experience in the music industry, it's possible to move into other roles in music administration, business and management, or into other creative roles that require knowledge of music production (e.g radio producer, musical director, theatre production).

It's also possible to have a portfolio career, running music production work alongside other projects, or move into related areas of work in music education and community arts work.