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How did you make a career path in the music industry?

I started producing my own music when I was about 12 or 13 and since then I've learned a lot and wanted to potentially turn it into a full blown career, so I was wondering how people in the industry got to where they were and made good amounts of money.

+25 Karma if successful
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To: Friend
Subject: Career question for you


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Kevin’s Answer

The great thing about pursuing a career path in music industry is that there are lots of ways to get there!

For music producers it usually involves getting experience working with vocalists (singers and/or rappers).
This is because in today's business the majority of producers "make beats" or compose music but often prefer to have others write and record vocals to their tracks.

The path to being a music producer in the music business can involve both formal and informal experiences.
There are many institutions that provide training that lead to professional qualifications that prepare producers for a career in the music business. These are also good places to get to know people with the same interests and a way to network and get opportunities to work in the business.

I believe it would be fair to say that for the majority of music producers the most valuable experiences they have for their future success are the informal types. These situations often begin working with friends or vocalists in their neighborhood who love music. Today the cost of having equipment is not as high as it once was so it is common for people to be able to record at their homes or in a rented space with just a computer, DAW, digital interface and a microphone.

Normally a producer will invite vocalists to their studio to record. Word usually gets around if someone makes great music and people will want to work with that producer. These early experiences are often an opportunity for a music producer to experiment and learn how to work with others without the pressures of working for a major artist or record label where the producer has to deliver and make hits right away. The informal situations can happen at the producer's own studio or at the studios of others. Studios are always different. Sometimes studios or artists like to record late at night and through the early hours of the morning (most) but others operate during normal day time hours. It varies considerably. This can be dependent on the artists or the personalities of musicians involved.

Sessions can also be varied too. Some environments can be just hanging around for hours before recording while in others situations people work through every moment until a song has been created and completed. The producer is usually responsible for how the final version of the song sounds so has a lot of influence over what happens. However, vocalists are important to what the music producer is making so producers have to learn how to work with and get the best out of a wide range of personalities. Some vocalists can deliver right away as soon as they get in the vocal booth and need very few "takes". Others may need to warm up. Some may not be easy to work with and others may need the right situation to give their best. A producer has to be able to bring the best out of the vocalists so that they have the best music possible as their success will depend on it.

Producers (whether they go to school or college) or they teach themselves find success in a number of ways.

If they have a lot of people who want to work with them in their neighborhood then it isn't unusual for word to spread further afield about that producer. If a producer is making good music then people will want them to produce for them or to use the tracks they have made already but have not been used yet. After a while if a producer is heavily in demand they will be able to charge more for their music. If for example a producer has 1000 artists who want their music there is only so much time they can give and so they would be expected to be able to increase what they charge for their beats or tracks. It might be at this stage they start getting interest from major record labels. A major record label will always want great producers as having them increases the chances that their famous artists will have hit records.

It also can be the case that an artist that was not well known has a hit record. One of the first things most people ask is "Who produced the track?" Therefore working with up and coming artists before they are signed to major record labels is a path in today's industry that music producers can pursue.

Producers can also have success by being in a closely related field within the business such as mixing. It is sometimes the case that a producer decides to be an audio engineer for other artists in the beginning to learn the business and becomes an expert in sound in order to use those skills for their own songs. They then later branch out to make their own music.

Producers can also start in other areas such as remixing or being session musicians.

There are many ways to become a music producer but the best way is to make music people enjoy.

If a producer makes great music people will want to work with them and the more in demand they become the more successful they will be.

Kevin recommends the following next steps:

Learn about copyrighting and protecting music. Make sure all music is protected before sharing it. Also join ASCAP or BMI.
Once music has been formally copyrighted share it with others and see if they like it. If you know DJs ask them to play your music on their radio show or at a club and see how people react!
Find vocalists locally or remotely who like the music you make who need beats or tracks and work with them once a partnership or collaboration agreement has been signed about who will be doing what so that there are no disagreements if anything you both work on becomes a hit!
Go to a professional studio to see what it is like. If you have friends ask them if they know anyone who will let you sit in on a recording session.
Consider getting a formal qualification at college in music production, sound engineering or a related field.
Thank you comment icon This is amazing advice! Such a robust answer Gurpreet Lally, Admin
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John’s Answer

Hi Jordan!

Hope this answer helps you out. There are some common themes among the arts like music, acting, fashion and being a high-end chef that will help you think about your art. If you were a math guy, I would simplify it this way Talent times Work = Success. I suspect you have some natural talent for music which is why you drifted toward producing at such a young age. That's a good start. But to make good amounts of money you will have to be in a select group of people. Very few people actually make it in the arts. Not because they don't have talent but because they don't put in the work. The good news is you have time to put in the work!

Let's look at the equation for success again: Talent x Work = Success. There are 3 parts. The amount of talent you have, the amount of work you put in, and the amount of success you get out of it. Let's look at all three in reverse order. Starting with Success. What does "good amounts of money" mean to you? Is it 100K per year in royalties? Or $1,000,000 total? What are the other parts of success besides money? The music business is fraught with social dangers like drugs, alcohol, STDs etc... Take some time and write down what you want your life to look like when you are a music success. Write it down on a 3x5 card and carry it with you in your wallet. Put everything you can imagine on there. What kind of car do you want to drive? What kind of house do you want to live in? Will you be married? Kids? How much money will be in your bank account? Where will you vacation. Take about 5-10 minutes writing it all down on the 3x5. It's important so that you know when you've become a success.

Second let's look at the Work. Malcum Gladwell, in his book "The Tipping Point" popularized the idea that it takes about 10,000 hours to master a skill. There is an interesting story about the Bettles in his book you might like to read. It's in most libraries. Just to be safe, let's assume it takes 20,000 hours to master producing music. That's about 10 years full time or 2000 hours per year. That's the equivalent of a full-time job for those 10 years. I would include in that time, any time you are in class studying music, going to concerts (assuming you aren't high) and listening to music. Imagine if you will, swimming in music under water. Studying your craft, working on your craft and most importantly making music is your life.

The third component is Talent. Some may say that talent is either there or not there and there is nothing you can do to change it. And maybe that's true. But in the context of our formula (Talent x Work = Success) I believe you can do things that boost the Talent quotient. In a word study. There have been some amazing producers in the world. And amazing composers and singers and song writers. Study them all. Figure out how they did what they did. Make that part of the Work you put in. Every hour you put in studying will multiply the rest of the work you put in. How many successful producers when to college? How many finished college? This might be a radical idea to suggest that maybe college isn't the right track. But do your own research and figure it out. I suppose you were trying to get the specific answer here. Unfortunately, I don't have it. But it's out there. Google is your friend.

So, let's summarize, Talent x Work = Success. Do you have your 3x5 card? You have talent and you've put in some work. Now you must study study study and work work work. Do that for about the next ten years at least 40 hours a week and you can't help but be successful.

I've written a couple other articles related to your question I think you might like. They are about different industries but each dealing with art and becoming an artist like you want to become.

Wishing lots of working hard and a little working smart,


John recommends the following next steps:

Write out your 3x5 card about what success means to you
Find 10 producers who have what you want and find out how they did it. Call them if you can't find it online.
Study everything you can find about making music. Maybe go to college for it if you can find the right program. Maybe skip college and buy a sound studio instead.
Go to every concert you can, not just for fun but as work. Study it. (Skip the weed.)
Make music. Make a ton of music. Make music every day. Swim in it. Make making music your life.