How Much Do Music Producers Make?

By danny | Recording

Nov 13

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!

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