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What does a record producer do, how much do they make, and is it a good start- up job for someone who likes music and art?

I am very interested in record production and I really want to know what it is like to be one. #music-recording #record-labels

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Daniela’s Answer


The Record Producer has one of the most sought-after careers in the music business, and works to get an album produced. With that goal in mind, the Record Producer has a lot on his or her plate in terms of responsibility. For one thing, they help Recording Artists choose which songs they’ll record for a given album. Then they’ll select a studio and book the proper amount of recording time. From there, the Record Producer will work with a Music Arranger and an Audio Engineer, and will also need to find Background Vocalists to assist with the songs.

Once the studio recording starts, the Record Producer works closely with an Engineer, who helps him or her find or achieve certain specific sounds or feelings to portray through the music. This process will usually continue throughout the entire studio session, as the Record Producer will inject their personal opinions on just how each song would sound best. It’s important to note, though, that the Record Producer has to keep an eye on the budget. Recording time is not cheap, and if he or she ends up spending more than the allotted amount, the record label or Artist could be on the hook for thousands of extra dollars.

After each song is recorded, the Record Producer is usually the person who then mixes it into its final version. This isn’t always the case, though, as sometimes special Engineers or Mixers are hired to perform this job. When that happens, the Record Producer still supervises the mixing process, as it’s such an important aspect of creating an album. Even at this point, the Record Producer still has plenty of work to do. Many times, an entire album is recorded in the studio, complete with songs that don’t end up making the final cut. Part of the Record Producer’s job is to help choose which songs make the final album and which don’t. They’ll also help decide what order the songs will play in throughout the album (i.e. the songs’ track numbers). The Record Producer will also be a part of selecting which songs will be promoted and sold as singles.

There is still licensing to be worked on, as well as copyright issues, and consent forms and releases from Artists, Engineers, Photographers, and pretty much anyone else who receives credit for their work on a given album. Once all of that is complete, the Record Producer submits receipts and bills to the record label.

Certain Record Producers work as employees for record labels. Others work independently as freelancers, and and may be contractors for either an Artist or a record label.

When working on staff at a record company, Record Producers generally earn a base salary, along with royalties from records they produce. If they are freelancing for the record company, they will still usually earn royalties, but they’ll command a fee instead of a salary. Record Producers that have a proven track record of success can negotiate larger royalty payments, usually in advance.

Staff Record Producers can earn anywhere from $25,000 to $75,000 or more per year, while very successful independent Producers may earn up to $1,000,000 or more annually.

See more in: https://www.careersinmusic.com/record-producer/


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Chima’s Answer

Hi Leigh,

Great question. As a music fan, I started producing by accident. The first thing to do is to join a songwriters organization and subscribe to music magazines. Also, read lots of articles about the music business such as this one: http://bit.ly/1MC8VfI

The music industry if full of opportunities and one can make a good living once your craft has been developed especially given the pace at which social media is changing the dynamics of the industry. With Applications such as PODBUM® , any music producer can write a song from the comfort of their home recording studio and release it to music fans the world over.
Best wishes as you pursue your music dreams.

Keep the dream alive!

Deejay N.

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Lars’s Answer

The book "All You Need to Know About the Music Business" has great chapter explaining what producers make and how the definition is wide open. Some are actual songwriters. Some are a bridge between a song idea and it's final public form. There are many options.
Perhaps this book is available at the library. Art before business though. If you want to be good at it.

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Billy’s Answer

A record producer has many functions.. and they vary from artist to artist. Most often they are responsible for getting the performances out of the musicians to compile the best sounding track or song for the artist.
This is a vague question that can go deep in it's answer.

It can be stressful to be a producer... most often you are the person in charge and definitely responsible for the outcome of the music and it's production. Sometimes it's loads of fun and rewarding though.

What they make depends on the artist.. the artists money or financial backing... record labels budget (if there is one) and if your deal includes profit percentage. (points) Which it's effected by record sales. How much can be nothing to millions... IT IS NOT a startup job. it usually takes years as a musician or engineer in the studio.
If you were new to the making of records... no one would trust you and it would be obvious you were new to the process. call anytime if you need to ask further. www.sullystone.com

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James’s Answer

Hi Leigh,

I just wanted to add a little to Daniela's great answer.

Being a producer is not usually a startup job for someone new to recording music. The position has a lot of responsibilities and usually requires a lot of knowledge and experience with recording. The exception is producing hip hop music, because there the producer is also the person making the beats. Since that's more directly involved in creating the music, it's a bit different. If you are interested in learning how to make beats, there are a few free websites where you can try it out:


Otherwise, the first thing I would do would be to call some recording studios near you and ask if you can come in and watch a session some time. Just an hour in a studio will tell you a lot about whether you want to do this for a career. If you like it, you could call them back and ask to do volunteer work there, or intern. That's a great way to get experience and make contacts.

Since you also like art, you might also be interested in other aspects of the music business too, like maybe creating the cover artwork for records or helping design music related websites. There are a lot of different ways for you to make a career out of those things.

Hope that helps and good luck!

James, excellent resources - thanks! Kevin McCluskey

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Michael’s Answer

Hey Leigh! I like your question because I can really relate to your potential career path. After graduating from Berklee, I began producing Hip Hop and R&B artists. I loved it and learned a lot in the process. after a few years of that, I got a job at the Hit Factory, Criteria in Miami and continued my productions and well as mix engineering career. A short time later I was lucky enough to make a few connections in the tV and Film world where I still do most of my work today. The reason I'm telling you all of this is so you understand that I do have experience in both worlds and can advise you both ways. First off, If you want to produce songs/artists, you should start by just doing that all the time. Constant;y write and find others to produce and work with. Work on your craft constantly! You could also find a an entry level job at a major studio to get your foot in the door as I did at The Hit Factory. That's a tough road, but if you stick it out, it'll pay off. Even if you decide to do that, you STILL have to constantly work on your craft of writing/producing. That's the most important thing. In the end the money can be huge, but very hard to come by.

As far as the TV film thing goes, it's great, the work is more consistent, and you work more with yourself than other artists. You're the artist. I've been writing music for TV and movie trailers for about 10+ years and it's a great aspect of the industry to be in. As far as the money goes, you can earn as little as a few hundred dollars a track with back end royalty money to $60,000+ for one movie trailer track.

I love both sides of the industry and am currently using our success in the TV/Film world to get back into the industry side. If you have any other questions, feel free to hit me up. Hope that helped!


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Reza’s Answer

The music producer is not a job it is the art that we should have a lot of experiences & skills in the music...Music Producers write, arrange, produce, and record songs, whether they’re shaping the sound of another Artist’s album or creating beats or songs for their own projects. With the growth of home recording technology and boutique recording studios, many Producers find themselves pulling double or triple duty as Studio Owners and Sound Engineers....Production is an extremely competitive field, and advancement comes as a Producer builds and diversifies his or her skill set or works with more prestigious Artists. Luksa puts it this way. “Lots of little kids dream of being star athletes, but they’re more likely to win the lottery. The music industry has a similar statistical likelihood for Artists and all us production folks trying to reach the top. I think Producers need to be realistic about the current and evolving state of the music industry. The game has changed and you have to be more than just a Producer nowadays. So many of my peers not only produce, but play on records, write, engineer, DJ, program tracks or function as Artists themselves to pay the bills. You have to ask yourself the question, “what kind of records do I want to produce?” because you need to be in love with the work. There is no guaranteed financial success. Competition is crazier then ever and the current demand for free content doesn’t help. You need to pick this line of work because you refuse to do anything else. It’s a hustle, and you are constantly looking for the next gig, even while working on a current project.“...
The people who want to becoming a music producer needs to learn instruments and have a lot of experience and skills...

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Charles’s Answer

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Being a Music Producer today is very different than it has been in past yeas or eras of music production.

My profession is currently as Professor of Music Technology and Production at the University of Southern California (USC) at the Thornton School of Music. I have @ 200 student per semester studying music production and technology as educational paths or career opportunities when finishing their education.

The position today is multi-facet. Background in music theories, styles, genres and pop culture are skill times one would find desirable to the production.

The production process has changed over the years. Moving from Industry studio models to more independent content creators. However the basic backgrounds and understanding of technology are still again desirable skills to have.

Playing instruments comes to mind. Having played instruments for my entire life has been very beneficial. From band instruments to pop instruments and everything in-between.

Music is a communication or language that some have internal instincts of, and others have to develop a process of music and understanding.

Not knowing your background I can't tell you what skills or abilities you might already have or others that need to be developed. However, there are many places to get information (other than youtube) that individuals can take advantage of in todays search for knowledge of music production.

If however you would like to communicate more in depth on this subject feel free to contact me via my educational portal at USC. I am a teacher.... to all that want to taught. Good luck and listen well. MR. G

Great answer! Did we go to Berklee together in summer 1979? Are you from Arizona? Kevin McCluskey

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Israel’s Answer


Being a record producer is definitely not an entry-level job. It requires experience and the knowledge that comes from that experience. My suggestion is that you find the music you like and begin to study it. I don't mean academically. I mean gaining a deep understanding of what makes it what it is and what is it that you like about it. Then attempt to replicate its essence. The best way to learn is to work on projects. The sooner you begin to collect experience the sooner you will be capable of producing for others.

It is quite simple with todays technology to set yourself up with the basic tools of the trade that will allow you to begin the journey. Check out the following:



Good luck.


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Mikal’s Answer

They make tracks, mix tracks, record songs, mix songs, and a lot of other things and yes if you love music this is for you, money wise it depends on who you choose to work for just because some other producers might not make a lot of money has nothing to do with you you pick the best companies to apply for and some them what you can do for their artist and company and you should do just fine.

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Paul’s Answer

Hi Leigh,

I started out by being a musician first, learning not just about the genre of music I play but also other aspects of the industry. Being a producer is not easy. I was actually thrown into the producers chair on a recording session I was on, when I found out there was no producer on the session & the artist had no clue about what to do or go about it. And the engineer on the session was just soaking up the time & money. I had to call a few producers friends to get their input on what the basics are. And basically your the middle man. Your the going between the artist & the session players, the artist & the studio. And over all it's your job to make the artist happy by giving them the sound that they are looking for. Your the person every turns too. Your involved in every aspect of the recording process. From the pre production to the final master of the project. If a record label is involved then or if it's a individual who's paying with their hard earned money, you are responsible of everything. I am a independent producer. And I have artist with success on the regional charts. My pay at this level varies from what I negotiate with that artist or band. It ranges from $1500 for one song to $8000 for producing & mixing a 10 song cd. I have over 30+ years in the music business.
My advise is to start out as a recording engineer's assistant and/or musician. Learn about music, develop good ears. Cause either as engineer or producer, good hearing & good instincts is what essential to being successful. Plus, having the right breaks. Find out who produces your favorite artist are & listen & study what they are doing. Analyze it, read article about him on the internet & videos (if any) like on YouTube. Get with local songwriters & artist who plays original music & listen to their originals. Preferably in acoustic form. Listen to the song as if you were producing it. And take notes on what instruments who hear playing on it, is the song have a good feel, how easy is it to relate to the lyrics, is the singer nailing the vocals to leave a impact on the audience.
I hope this helps. The other responses are pretty dead on. It is very tough to start out as just a producer. If you have anymore question pertaining to your question or about engineering. Please feel free to ask away. I'm glad to help anyway I can.

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Jeff’s Answer

All great answers above. I would just add that being a producer is almost like being a therapist as well. Great producers are able to coax great performances out of the artists and musicians they work with. Artists are putting their work out there and can be emotional, egotistic, etc. You have to be able to navigate all of that and help the artist realize their vision, and guide them if they become lost. Basically, you just have to be good with people. Best of luck!

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Bruce’s Answer

Record producing isn't really a starting position. If you already write music, are a reasonably skilled recording engineer , play a few instruments and have an ear for arrangement, you have the skills needed to produce records. There are always the exceptions, some people have a huge amount of vision and are great communicators. Those people can still have difficulty turning that in to a living. If you have any specific questions feel free to write me back. Good luck!!

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Kevin’s Answer

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First, there are some very good answers here from my colleagues and peers in the industry, so you're off to a good start.

The answer to your question could fill a book, and in fact is the topic of a great many books.

I was the executive producer of a student-founded record label, and every year, for 15 years, we released a compilation CD of original jazz compositions.

I want to keep my contribution focused and based only on my life experience.

I suggest you get a big piece of paper, say 2' by 3,' and some colored magic markers.

In the center, draw a circle and put the word "Me" in the middle.

Then like satellites circling around planet "Me," I would put all the words you can think of that have to do with getting a musical idea (the song) to the customer (the fan).

Something like this:
Studio Musician
Audio Engineer
Schools with Audio Engineering majors (like Berklee)!
Recording Studios
CD manufacturers (like Discmakers)
CD distribution (like CDBaby)

*Discmakers always has great, free PDF downloads of concerning various aspects of production. The one they have up now is on Live Recording.

** When you visit, make note of how major industry players, like CDBaby, are releasing new product. It may not be necessary to press a final CD, but you will still need to mix, and then master, your songs as if they will be cut to a digital disc.

My goal for you with this exercise is to give you a tool, a vehicle so that you can discover things on your own, have a way to organize them, and also to see:
1.) Where the producer fits in within the industry
2.) Who your potential mentors and supporters might be
3.) How do relationships form, change, grow together, and perhaps grow apart.

Finally, I would make the suggestion that being a producer can be divided into two distinct parts:
1.) The business side; budgets, project management, price negotiations, scheduling, timing.
2.) The creative side: A&R (what tunes should the artist be recording), tracking (live to two-track stereo, multi-tracking, or some combo of both?), mixing, mastering, track sequencing.

The hardest part of the creative side is being able to say "no", and mean "no" and not let anybody push you around. For example, we had a very tight budget, so we could only spend 4 hours on tracking, 2 hours on mixing, and 1-hour mastering per song. So, for a 10-song CD, we had roughly 70 hours of work to do.

When we were getting close to the 4 hours of recording time being done, the session would always reach the point where somebody wanted more time, but there wasn't anymore! Plus, the second band of the day was waiting to record!