Music producers work with artists and groups in the studio, helping them to realise their full potential in creating recorded music
The term 'music producer' covers several careers in music production and there are different routes you can follow.
As a music producer working in a studio, you may create music for albums, films, adverts and other creative endeavours.
If you work as a live events producer, you'll be involved in running concerts, festivals or live shows. For these, you'll coordinate technical staff, performers and other stakeholders to ensure events run smoothly. Live events can be one-offs or regular annual events and take place in indoor and outdoor music venues of all sizes.
Whatever type of music production you work in and regardless of whether you're working with individual artists or with bands, your role is to pull together the separate parts of a recording process. This includes writing, arranging and mastering, and also the selection of different production techniques and types of musicians to get the required effect.
Music producers often work closely with sound engineers and both roles require a solid understanding of the technical aspects of sound production. However, a music producer also has a more artistic, visionary ability.
You may also be known as a record producer or track producer.
Your responsibilities as a music producer may vary depending on the artist, recording studio, radio station, label or organisation, but in general 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.
- 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 can be very long and will include unsocial hours and weekends. The nature of freelance production studio work and event work is 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.
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 production
- sound engineering
Many universities offer 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:
- Creative & Cultural Skills - Creative Careers Programme
- LinkedIn Learning - Music Production Training and Tutorials
- ICMP (The Institute of Contemporary Music Performance) - Music Production Courses in London
- Udemy - Music Production
- UK Music - advice about music careers
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, 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.
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
- 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.
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.
Practical experience is essential. You can gain this by producing your own music or by learning through a paid or voluntary role work experience role. Better still, both.
Get into a recording studio as soon as possible and start learning how everything works and if you’re producing your own work ensure you've got an online presence by using sites such as SoundCloud.
Networking is key, as opportunities often come through the people you meet via word of mouth, so be sure to build a network of contacts in the music and creative industries.
Experience in producing live events can be obtained by volunteering at music festivals and gigs, securing an entry-level role as an events assistant or by working with organisations such as Sofar Sounds to see what goes into producing a live music event.
Find out more about the different kinds of work experience and internships that are available.
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:
- BBC Careers
- Music Business Worldwide
- Red Bull Music
- Sony Music UK
- Universal Production Music
- Viacom CBS - home to big-name television brands such as MTV, Comedy Central, Paramount, Bet and Nickelodeon.
- Warner Music Group
You may also find employment in the publicly funded or commercial sectors, on for example:
- community film or video projects
- theatre companies - working on production, composition and direction
- digital or internet channels.
Look for job vacancies at:
- Music Week
- Music Jobs
- UK Music - also offers a new ‘Mentoring in Music’ guide.
You'll need to continue training to improve your technical skills throughout your working life. The music industry is fast moving and responds to trends, so keeping on top of technological advances in production is vital.
Most of your professional development will occur 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 you may choose to cross over into other arts disciplines.
Larger employers, like the BBC, run in-house training schemes, and the Music Producers Guild provides training, support and advice on funding opportunities.
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.
Establishing a career as a music producer can be difficult as the industry is so competitive.
Most roles are freelance or fixed term, so you'll need the determination to keep producing your own work and promoting yourself between jobs. Roles in the 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.