Category Archives for "Recording"

Nov 13

How Much Do Music Producers Make?

By danny | Recording

How Much Do Music Producers Make?

how much do music producers makeThe question “how much do music producers make” is often asked because most people don’t really understand what they do. They do a lot of stuff, part of which is outlined in my article “What Does a Record Producer Do?” If you’re wondering if you need to hire one to produce your upcoming project, I would say yes! Then the only trick is to find one you can afford who is also going to do a great job for you, and make your record turn out amazing.

To be able to do that, you need to have a handle on what your producer might need to do, and in what order all this music production stuff happens.

Below I’ve mapped out a timeline of what a full project MIGHT look like, if you have a producer working on it. There are hundreds of approaches to producing a recording project – this is just one of them – albeit a pretty common and average approach – just to give you an idea of how it all works.

  1. Producer & artist meet, discuss goals, styles, sounds, favorite artists, costs, pizza, etc.
  2. Producer helps artist nail down songs, whether they are already written, or need to be written, or are partially written.
  3. Producer decides (possibly) to record in his home studio – gets artist in there to do rough guitar or key/vocal tracks with a click
  4. He then writes charts & gets going on production ideas – like who plays what & when, what instruments need to be on the project, how to achieve the “sound” he’s shooting for (the producer’s job in a nutshell!) and decides what players should be involved; books them to play on the project
  5. Sends rough tracks to drummer, who records the drum parts in HIS home studio
  6. Imports the drum tracks and sends those new tracks to bass player, guitar players, keyboard players – or brings them into his studio for overdubbing
  7. He may bring in a programmer (or he might be one) to build some synth tracks of various types
  8. He then dumps the artist’s rough vocals, and records final vocal tracks, adding BGVs & other vocals if needed
  9. Then he’ll do other overdubs, programming, editing, tuning – whatever it needs to finish out the tracks (including vocals)
  10. Sends to mixing engineer – artist & producer will listen to resulting mixes & request tweaks, and eventually end up with final mixes
  11. Send final mixes to mastering engineer
  12. Then producer & artist listen through & revel in their amazing abilities to produce music together!

So you can see, a producer is responsible for a lot, which is why we should be happy to pay them to produce for us! Here are some example costs that the producer might incur:

Possible Costs Involved

Producer: $0-to-thousands per song. Sometimes a producer will produce for free if he thinks it might result in a record deal, of which he then would get a percentage of profits (not huge – usually 6% or less)

Studio: usually by the day, anywhere from $200/day to 600/day, reasonably. But if it’s the producer’s home studio, he shouldn’t be charging any studio time

Players: paid by the song, usually around $100 to $400 per song, but for most indie projects it should land in the vicinity of 200 or so, PER PLAYER, per song

Other talent: BGVs, other singers, whatever – same pay as players, generally – maybe a little lower

Mixing: paid per song, anywhere from $100-10,000! But probably 1000/song or lower on most projects. It’s easy to find somebody decent to mix for 500/song or so.

Mastering: 100-200 per song

As you can see, it’s quite an undertaking, and the details alone are often enough to bog down the typical musician who would like to make a record, especially when he or she doesn’t quite understand the process in the first place.

Now, the answer to the question – how much do music producers make? And guess what – it’s not a straightforward answer. You probably already guessed that one, though.

If you’re asking about some big-time producer producing records for mega-stars on world tours, then the answer is: a lot! Producing for acts signed to major labels is often paid in “points,” which means percentage points of the album’s profits. So, if you produce Taylor Swift’s next record, we can safely say that you’re going to make a boatload.

In more common, indie-type projects (more like the one you might be thinking about), producers often make a flat per-song rate. This can be anywhere from 500 to 5000 per song, or more. If it’s less than 500/song, I wouldn’t trust him to be very good at producing, unless you’re just wanting a demo-quality recording. Sometimes producers can play a lot of instruments themselves, so they can produce demos on the cheap & keep most of the money.

But I would say 1000-3000 per song is a great area to land in. The last time I hired an outside producer on a project, he charged me $3000/song turnkey – in other words, that included everything, from pre-production work, to paying players, to studio time, to mixing. It did not include mastering – I paid $100/song for that after the fact. But this was done in Nashville with first-call musicians (Ricky Skagg’s mandolin player, for instance, in particular, and others just as good). I don’t know what the producer paid him, but I didn’t care! I got what I thought was well worth the price I paid. And it sounded AWESOME!

Often you can get the best sound (and deal) in Nashville, because there are so many world-class musicians there looking for work every day.

I hope this helps with the question of how much do music producers make, and also gives you a better understanding of the whole process and how it works.

Thanks for reading! Now, go make some music!

Oct 27

What Does a Record Producer Do?

By danny | Recording

What Does a Record Producer Do?

what does a record producer doThat’s the question on so many musical minds – what does a record producer do? I think that’s often what people mean when they ask me “what does a music producer do?” And we all know he produces records. (NOTE: when I say “record,” that means an album, or CD project. Usually, in the industry, they’re still called records. Because that’s what it really is – a record of a performance.) So… how? Well, it’s not rocket surgery. Here is a simple breakdown of the steps a good record producer might do in order to produce an album for an artist. He will:

ASK & LISTEN – A smart producer will START by asking the artist what he/she wants to achieve with this project, and actually listen to the answer! Including style, mood, instrumentation, vibe, songs – everything. A good producer will listen to his artist before he starts forming a plan.

FIND SONGS – Every recording project starts & ends with songs, so that’s where the producer should start with his part of the project. He will help the artist find songs, and write songs; and once they’re chosen, help guide the development of them. That is one of the major jobs of a record producer, and a huge reason the artist needs the producer. A producer will hopefully provide an expert, unbiased opinion of original songs, and often help write (and rewrite) them. He will also have access to other songwriters that might have songs the artist could record, or even cowrite on. We’ll talk about that more later.

DEVELOP A PLAN – One of the most valuable things a producer brings to the table is contacts. Your producer should know tons of studios, players, engineers, and songwriters. He’ll listen to the artist’s ideas & songs & hopes for the project, then make intelligent decisions on where to record, who should play on it, who should engineer, who should mix, who should master, who should do artwork, who should manufacture – it’s a big job! But a seasoned producer will have contacts in all those areas, plus many more. He’ll be well worth the money he gets paid.

PUT THE PLAN INTO MOTION – This is where it gets a little more complicated to explain. Your producer will choose a studio setting, whether that means his laptop (with a mic & a good preamp), or somebody’s home studio (sometimes one of the players’), or a commercial room, or anything in between. Sometimes he’ll record the rhythm section (drums, bass, keys, guitars) all at the same time in a room together, which is called a “simul” session. More often, though, he’ll piecemeal it together here & there – maybe send a rough demo (tracked to a click) to a drummer who has a personal drum recording setup, then send that to a bass player with his own setup, then add guitars in a similar way, etc. Sometimes it’s done completely online, without even ever being in the same room with the players! Every producer has his own way or ways of doing it, and there’s no one version that’s better than all the others, necessarily.

ENGINEERING – Some producers are recording engineers, and some aren’t. You don’t have to know engineering if you’re wanting to produce music; but often people learn how to handle it themselves in order to keep more of the money. And there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as they’re good at both producing & engineering! I would prefer to use an engineer on my projects, so I don’t have to be distracted by all the technical stuff (that I’m not really the expert in anyway). In recent years, the engineer has become an important part of the creative team though, so it’s often the same guy or girl that’s doing the producing.

MIXING – Just take it from me – mixing should be done by a mixing engineer. It’s such a specific job that requires such a distinct skill set & unique tools (plugins, outboard gear, etc.), that even your producer probably shouldn’t try it. Unless, of course, he’s also a mixing engineer! I’ll expand on this a little more down the page, but this little item can get expensive. A good producer will have a handle on mixing, whether it’s doing it himself, or hiring somebody else.

MASTERING – Mastering is… um… well, nobody but mastering engineers even know what mastering actually is. I don’t get it. But it makes everything sound better! And often louder, too. You won’t be doing this yourself, even if you’re a producer. Unless you’re a purveyor of the secret dark art of mastering yourself. Most likely, you’ll just pay some geeky dude in a dingy room in some warehouse district to do your mastering for you. And a good producer knows how to find him!

…AND THE REST – Sometimes your producer will take you on past this point, like helping get the project on iTunes, manufacturing actual CDs, and so on. But that’s a different article.

If you’ve wondered what does a record producer do, you’re not alone. It’s hard to put a handle on it, because there are so many ways to do it! Sometimes the producer is barely even involved, he just knows how to hire amazing musicians and get a great product out of them. Sometimes he’s extremely involved, and is the driving force behind all the musical creativity in the studio. But suffice it to say – every record project has a producer, in some way. And now you are among the few who will be ready with an answer the next time somebody asks, “So what does a record producer do, anyway?”

Now go make some music!

Oct 25

What Does a Music Producer Do?

By danny | Recording

What Does a Music Producer Do?

what does a music producer doWhen I was an adolescent band-nerd kid, I used to wonder daily, “what does a music producer do?” I had asked every singer and player I knew – anybody remotely related to music, read every album liner I owned, plus anything else I could find on the subject (these were pre-internet times, back in the old days!), but I could never quite figure out the answer to that question until much later.

Fast-forwarding a few years, I was in my early 20s, working in a commercial recording studio as a peon/gopher/doer-of-all-the-stuff-nobody-else-wanted-to-do, and still trying to find the answer to ‘what does a music producer do.’ I was so intimidated by everybody & everything around me at that job that it took me a while to get the nerve to ask anybody, because I thought they would expect me to already know.

When I finally did start asking, the producer-types I was working with were very happy to tell me ALL about it, but the answer wasn’t quite as definitive as I thought it should be. There was no clear definition, no common job description, and no obvious path to get there; everybody had a different answer. I was determined, though – so I kept working at figuring it out, and now I’ve been doing it professionally for years! But since it’s so hard to get a handle on, I’m going to try and simplify it for you, whether you’re a singer who is wondering if you need a producer, or if you’re like I was, & would like to be one yourself.

What a Music Producer Does

There’s one simple answer I’d like to start with: A music producer is a producer of music! I know, that’s real helpful, right? But actually, that’s 100% true – it’s a very generalized term, which is why it’s so hard to nail down. Someone who produces music in some way for others to enjoy is a music producer. Someone who produces recordings for people to listen to & enjoy is a music producer. Someone who writes songs & shows a band what he wants them to sound like, then performs them is a music producer. Someone who programs music for a video game is a music producer. If you make music in any way, you’re a music producer.

However, the actual title usually refers to something a little more specific, even if we can’t come up with a succinct definition.

Technically, the title “Music Producer” came about to describe the person who calls the shots in a musical production of any type. With regards to a recording project, the producer helps with song choices, songwriting, arrangements, instrumentation, backing vocals; as well as engineer choices, studio choices, creative directions, etc. He’s kind of an overseer & keeper of the entire project. It’s all on his shoulders to make this recording turn out great, and pleasing to the artist or client.

How to Become a Music Producer

Now pay attention – I’m about to tell you the answer to the age-old question of how to become a music producer! And you’re going to be so impressed. When I started my first peon job in the studio (a studio I ended up running, by default, after about 1 year), I finally got the nerve to ask my boss – a former major label president & producer himself – how to become a producer. And this was his answer, verbatim:

“Well, you click your heels together 3 times, and each time say ‘I am a producer.’ Then, you just have to convince somebody to give you their money to produce some music for them.”

I am not kidding – that was his answer! And he was right. Anybody can be a “music producer.” But you have to be good at it to convince someone to part with their hard-earned cash to let you produce their music.

I realize you may be a singer who’s trying to decide whether you need to hire a producer for your project or not. The answer is yes, you do; but whether or not you can afford it is another question! However, the real truth is that you probably can’t afford not to hire a producer, if you’re serious about your project. There are huge amounts of details involved in producing a record of any size (LP, EP, even a single), and often the biggest value a great producer brings to the table is connections – connections with great engineers, players, etc.; and the ability to juggle all these at the same time & keep everybody happy. Usually, good producers are also really good at relationships. And music. And details. And math. Well, maybe not math. But it might help!

If you’re a singer trying to figure out the role of a producer with regard to your upcoming project, here is a short list of things to consider:

  • Creative – you definitely want your producer to be creative
  • Relational – a producer should excel at relationships
  • Detailed – this is a tough one, but it is helpful, because there are a million details involved in a recording project. Literally – 1,000,000.
  • Talented – he should have a good handle on music, and what’s current, popular, appropriate for you, etc.
  • Servant – he should be able to realize that this is YOUR project, not his!
  • Connected – he should have contacts in all directions, with all types of pro-level talent
  • Discerning – he should have a good feel for what makes a great song, and what doesn’t, and have a handle on how to get there, or help you get there.

That’s not an exhaustive list, of course – but it’s a start. If you’ve found yourself wondering “what does a music producer do” at any time in your life, maybe now you have a clue – even if it’s a small one!

Good luck, and stay musical!