How Much Do Music Producers Make?

Making the switch to producing music as a thing you love and do just for kicks to something that is your career, is always nerve-wracking. Like any other creative field, you are essentially a freelancer or someone who is running their own business. Money is an important factor. Have you ever wondered how much music producers get paid? Do you think it is a suitable career choice for you? 

Let us try to break down the economics of being a music producer full-time and how to turn your passion into a successful career.

According to Payscale, the average salary of a music producer is $51,080 per year. However, this number is an average of 203 salary profiles that were submitted, and those who submitted that data could be producers that have quite a lot of experience and contacts in the industry. Therefore take that number with a grain of salt!

What Is The Role Of A Music Producer?

The term “music producer” can often be vague. A music producer is someone with deep technical knowledge who brings an artist’s vision to life. We have all heard the song ‘Can’t Feel My Face’ and attribute it to The Weeknd. But the song itself has been co-written and produced by the legendary pop producer Max Martin, who is also responsible for the careers of many illustrious artists such as Britney Spears, Katy Perry, The Backstreet Boys, to name a few. 

A good music producer will be able to provide a framework to an artist’s music and make it presentable to the listener. This will involve understanding the vibe of the artist, guide them through the recording process, arrange their music and often even mix and master the songs. 

How Do Music Producers Get Paid?

Getting paid as a music producer is very different from working for an organization that pays you a salary. When you are early in your career, you will have to freelance and hustle. You can get paid either for every song you produce or for work out a deal with your client for an EP (extended playing) or an album. 

If you are a mix or master engineer, then you get paid a whole lot more. If you are producing music for others, it is advisable that you have sufficient skills to mix your final product. Invest your time and energy into learning how to mix music or at least have basic skills. Your production ideas and techniques might be phenomenal, but if it is not mixed well then the listener will not be able to hear the music properly and you will not be able to get the sound across.

Additionally, you can collaborate with someone you know and ask them to mix the project for you at a good rate. Musicians generally prefer to get their music mastered by a different person since they bring in a fresh sonic perspective. 

Music producers also get paid a percentage of the royalties made by the artist. However, this is applicable only if the artist has registered their music with an organization such as ASCAP or BMI which enables them to collect royalties from the music. If the artist is signed by a record label, the music producer needs to ensure that they have a contract specifying the percentage of royalties they are entitled to.

Film and background score is another way to make money as a producer. Artists like Hans Zimmer and Hildur Gudnadottir are known for their award-winning film scores. 

Breaking Into The Industry

The music business is highly competitive. Since it is not structured like the corporate sector, you essentially start from point zero and have to work your way up the ranks.

Many professionals start their careers by interning with or assisting senior music producers. Although you will not get paid a lot of money, you will gain a lot of knowledge and experience by working with someone hands-on. Music schools will teach you the technical aspects of production but nothing ever beats the experience of working in a studio and learning the tricks of the trade.

With the advent of technology, the music industry now has a surplus of music producers. You need to be not just highly skilled but also incredibly patient at the start of your career. It is always advisable to work with upcoming artists with who you can grow. 

Factors That Determine How Much You Get Paid:

  • Experience: Like any other field, the more experience you have, the more you will get paid. For someone at the beginning of their career, you might make money producing demos for an unsigned artist. This may range from $10-$500 per song and how much the artist is willing to pay you.
    But if you work with major record labels such as Sony or Universal, you can easily charge $10,000 upwards for a single track.
  • Location: Where you work out also determines what you can expect. Living in a larger city like Los Angeles or New York will bring you more work than working out of a smaller city. However, the flipside to this is big cities are expensive and the cost of living is high.
  • Genre and expertise: It is always advisable to find your sound, your signature and pursue perfection in that genre. Butch Vig, who has produced albums for Nirvana, The Smashing Pumpkins, Foo Fighters, etc is the go-to guy every grunge band wants to work with. This is because he understands the genre and can make the artist’s vision come to life.
  • Personality: While this may seem like a strange thing but another important factor that will contribute to your success is how comfortable you can make the artist feel and how easy it is to work with you. In a professional world, nobody likes a diva. Always try to make sure that the artist has a relaxed and enjoyable time when they are recording. Your reputation as a producer will get you more work, more connections, and of course, more money.

Do Producers Get Paid More Than Artists?

Both yes and no. Music producers may get a one-time fee when during the production and the post-production of the music. If the artist does not sign a record label or collect royalties from streaming sites then for the producer, the initial fee is the final one. The artist may however choose to make money from live performances.

However, if you are an experienced producer working with a relatively newer artist, then you will be getting paid more than them. This is the reason why Max Martin could make the same money as Taylor Swift or Katy Perry, if not more.

Summary

If you are thinking of a career in music production, then get ready to work very hard, for long and erratic hours and under very stressful environments. You may not always have the spotlight but producing music is an incredibly rewarding experience. The music you can give birth to, at the end of the day, will make your struggle worth it. 

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