Everything you need to know about why, how, and when to get started collaborating with the right music producer for you.
If you have reservations about hiring a music producer (or hiring one again), you’re not alone. Losing any amount of creative, visionary, or organizational control is unappealing to most artists. At-home recording equipment and online self-distribution platforms promise to provide everything you need for a stellar DIY production, as long as you are willing to do the work. Hiring a music producer is pointless if you really can make your music sound how you want, put it out, and get people to hear it on your own.
The thing is, self-production offers no substitutes for (the right) music producer’s skills, insight, and industry connections. Hiring a music producer is not a de facto act of giving up control. Nor is it a lazy or financially predatory pay-your-way path to success. Rather, it is a way to delegate responsibility, get expert recording and distribution input, and tap into an otherwise inaccessible professional network of audio and mastering engineers and label representatives.
What Hiring A Music Producer Will Do For You:
A music producer’s job is to get your music into the homes, hearts, and music libraries of the largest number of listeners possible. A contract with the right producer will yield the best possible (most profitable, most efficient, and most honest-to-your-brand) outcome of your creative process, including the best use of your time and energy. A music producer will give direction and criticism on each stage of your writing, composing, recording, and mixing processes. As a part of a fully collaborative relationship with an artist, the right music producer will:
- Clarify And Protect Your Artistic Vision. A music producer is an ally for your music. They will seek to understand your vision and use it to inform their efforts to compose/write music and communicate with recording engineers. This will ensure that your recordings will always sound like you, but sound better than you ever imagined.
- Find Ways To Make Your Vision (And Your Music) Profitable. It isn’t enough to just make good music; your music must find an audience who wants to hear and buy it. A music producer will tailor your production to target a demographic or niche, thereby ensuring that your music resonates with an audience. This will ultimately create financially exploitable recordings.
- Expedite Your Creative Process. A music producer holds everyone involved in the creative process responsible for their contributions. Hiring a music producer will push your writing, composition, and recording processes stay on track, build momentum, and adhere to a final checklist of deliverables. This will ensure that production is efficient and exceeds expectations.
- Bring Fresh Ears To Your Project. A music producer’s perspective and intuition are indispensable. Not only will they have a wealth of ideas about what will and won’t help your music gain traction with your target audience, they also will have an instinct for guiding production in the right direction — even if it is unexpected.
- Advocate For Your Success. Hiring a music producer gives you access to all of their excitement, energy, industry-awareness, and connections. A music producer will be a tireless advocate for your music and a driving force behind your success. They will build you up while breaking down communication- and connectivity-barriers that are holding you back.
Best Practices For Hiring A Music Producer:
This is not a passive process; music producers are unlikely to contact artists first. Take an active role in identifying and soliciting music producers who represent music you like, that is like yours. The right music producer will already work with your audience and you’ll already generally agree with their decisions and appreciate their taste.
- How To Find A Music Producer: It is often unclear how artists who are just getting started, have never worked with a music producer before, or who have previously had negative production experiences can find the right music producer for them. As a starting point, find out who was involved with music you think is well-produced. You can also ask anyone whose music you admire for recommendations; the worst thing that happens is they don’t respond.
- What To Look For In A Music Producer: When considering hiring a music producer, keep in mind their: musical influences (as apparent in their productions), relevant skills (including as an instrumentalist, editor, recording coach, and mixer), and personality (especially whether or not they seem trustworthy). You should also examine the style and genre-focus of their work to ensure they align your own. You should feel empowered to ask questions about any and all of their qualifications and reserve the right not to hire someone if they aren’t the best fit for your music.
- How To Contact A Music Producer: E-mail is the best medium for soliciting a music producer. Include demos of your music, when possible, and be brief, professional, and confident. Be honest about what you want to achieve by working with a music producer in general, and also specifically by collaborating with them. Also give an honest representation of what have already achieved as well as your time frame and financial situation.
- What To Pay A Music Producer: When negotiating a budget and/or royalty split, keep in mind that producers can charge anywhere from $300-$15,000 per song. The contractual costs of working with a specific music producer depend on their track record and client-type (whether they tend to work with independent artists, major labels, music publishers, or film companies). A typical royalty rate is 3 percent or “points,” meaning that they make 3 cents to every dollar your music earns from mechanical royalties and streaming.
By the end of this week, I want you to revisit your favorite tracks and albums from other artists and critically assess their production. Start taking steps to notice when and whether you agree with all of the decisions made concerning the writing, composition, arrangement, and mixing. Consider what you would have wanted done differently if it had been your track, and start keeping note of the production elements that are most important to you and the production choices that gel most with what you want for your music.
As an artist, you want to be recognized as an expert creator, someone whose music is unique and valuable. You want your music to fit so well into your listeners’ lives that they come to you — and keep coming back to you — when they want to feel inspired, entertained, or seen. The production of your music is a big deal. It ultimately determines whether or not the best and biggest potential audience hears the most authentic and impactful version of your music. As such, it is no wonder that sharing control of that process is an intimidating prospect.
The truth is, by hiring a music producer, you’ll gain more control over the quality of your music, the visibility of your brand, and the financial competency of your business. With that (relatively) simple, yet consequential, step, you’ll see your good music transformed into high-quality records that are demonstrably more popular than before.
Keep an eye out for part 2 of my Beginner’s Guide To Hiring A Music Producer (focusing on how you will know you’re ready to hire a music producer, what you should expect a music producer like me to do once you’ve hired them, and what most contracts won’t cover), coming soon!