A recording or music producer is a professional whose role is to oversee and manage the recording or production of the artist’s work. A producer has many roles that may include, but are not limited to, gathering ideas for the project, selecting songs and/or musicians, coaching the artist and musicians in the studio, controlling the recording sessions, and supervising the entire process through mixing and mastering. Producers also often take on a wider entrepreneurial role, with responsibility for the budget, schedules, contracts and negotiations.
In most cases the music producer is a competent arranger, composer, musician or songwriter who can bring fresh ideas to a project. He/she also makes any songwriting and arrangement adjustments. The producer often selects and/or gives suggestions to the mixing engineer, who takes the raw recorded tracks and edits and modifies them with hardware and software tools. This creates a stereo and/or surround sound “mix” of all the individual voices and instruments, which is in turn given further adjustment by a mastering engineer.
Since the turn of the 21st century there’s been a greater focus on digital audio workstation (DAW) technology. Consequently, a record producer’s role has blossomed to encompass roles in songwriting, sound engineering and audio mastering. This has resulted in an increase in demand for a one-stop-shop multi-instrumentalist type producer.
Associate’s Degree– A music production degree at this level is usually offered as a major within a greater 2-year music program. These programs are built around the use of a campus’ music studio, and students likely spend more time in the studio than in the classroom. Students in this program learn the basis of music and mixing technologies through the understanding of analog and digital music. Courses are often taught by professional recording artists and musicians. Some schools refer to this degree as an Associate of Applied Science in Audio Production (AAS). A sampling of associate’s courses: music concepts, digital audio specifications, recording techniques, mixing and mastering, studio design, and surround sound techniques.
Bachelor’s Degree– The student majoring in music production and engineering (MP&E) will learn about the creation and production of recordings of music and how to successfully complete recording projects that are typical of those found in contemporary professional recording and production environments. The student’s mastery of the discipline will be shown through the completion of recording and production projects of professional quality. The music production and engineering graduate will be prepared to enter the contemporary music production field as an effective professional in a number of roles. At this level, the student will learn about music hardware and software technology, music theory and history, and composition.
The degree level is referred to a Bachelor of Arts in Audio Production by some schools. Typically, the university requirements for the four year degree are 120 total credit hours. A sampling of courses are: audio technology, sound synthesis, production mixing and mastering, and sound studio techniques.
Master’s Degree– There are degrees in music production offered at this level. One school, College of Arts & Sciences, American University in Washington, D.C., has graduate level programs in audio technology and audio production. The student is instructed in advanced recording and audio mixing concepts, critical listening, audio engineering for CD recordings, and electro-music composition.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lumps broadcast and sound engineering technicians together. According to the BLS in 2012, the median annual salary was $41,200 with an associate’s degree. The projected growth is 10% through 2022 which is average for most occupations. In this field, there were 121,400 engineers employed in 2012 and the change in employment is expected to be 10,600 through 2022.
This is a highly competitive field that provides more employment opportunities in the audio and film arena than broadcast. Also, this is one industry in which employers prefer applicants with experience. Means of obtaining experience are working in a college or university radio station or volunteering to work at a local radio station.
Some record producers are current recording artists:
- Jack Johnson- American singer/songwriter, actor; former professional surfer; recording artist and movie soundtrack composer (Curious George)
- Pharrell Williams- Singer/songwriter; record producer; 7 time Grammy winner; soundtrack composer (Despicable Me)
- Brian Wilson- Creative force behind the Beach Boys; original member of the group; record producer since 1963
These recording artists are the exception. They possess both the creativity to write and compose music as well as the technological savvy to produce their respective arrangements. That leaves plenty of opportunities for the aspiring record producer, according to the BLS.