How to make money as a music producer

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Image credit: Matt Moloney

Independent music producers are thriving today. This is through the ability to work remotely and have access to platforms aimed at helping them earn money.

So how do you enter this niche market?

Here’s how to make money as a music producer …

Prepare to serve customers

Before you go out and get your first production clients, you need to make sure that you are ready. Here’s how to do it …

Know your equipment and your space

First, you need the essential equipment and the right layout for your space. This guide will help you get started.

The basic equipment you will need are:

    • Desk and office chair
    • Laptop or desktop computer that can run your chosen DAW
    • Microphone, XLR cable and microphone stand
    • Audio interface
    • Monitors and headsets

Next, you’ll want to make sure that your space is both attractive and comfortable for customers. This means that you will need a sofa and a second comfortable chair that the customer can use during check-in. Also, make sure you have plenty of water and snacks on hand.

Calculate your rate

How much does a producer earn per song? Well, it depends on the producer, the project, and the artist’s budget. You must therefore determine your rates.

The first step in determining your production rates is knowing how much you want to earn per hour. Consider both your time and your worth as a music producer.

Once you have your hourly rate, estimate how long a production job will take and multiply the number of hours by your hourly rate. Then tell the customer this package.

For example, let’s say a freelance artist wants you to produce a song for them. If you want to make $ 30 an hour and estimate that the whole job will take around 10 hours, you would give the client a flat rate of $ 300.

Obviously, it will take some time to figure out your workflow and how quickly you can produce a song. And if you’re just starting out, you’ll want to produce a song for free for new customers (more details below).

Prepare to collect royalties

In addition to your upfront music producer fees, you should also collect backend royalties.

Most of the songs you are working on may not earn as much royalty. But if you’re producing a song for an exploding client, you’ll be glad you identified the rights holders ahead of time.

Each recording is associated with two copyrights:

    1. The composition
    2. Sound recording (what you will earn royalties on)

Typically, producers will charge 15-25% of sound recording royalties. And the smaller the upfront payment, the higher the royalty percentage can be. So if an artist can’t afford to pay you, you can offer a 50/50 royalty split on the sound recording side.

How do you perceive royalties from music producers?

SoundExchange pays sound recording royalties for digital radio in the United States. And according to Ari’s Take, the artist (your client) needs to send SoundExchange a “letter of direction” outlining the percentage of royalties owed to you.

When it comes to streaming royalties, the artist will either have to 1) manually send you the royalties owed to you, or b) use a distributor that splits up the payments and says you get a percentage of the royalties.

Where to make money as a music producer

SoundBetter

You are probably wondering how to become a music producer who actually earns an income. Here are the best places to connect with potential clients …

SoundBetter

SoundBetter connects producers, engineers, musicians and songwriters with each other for work. Specifically, it is a great place to find clients as a producer.

I’ve found work on this platform, and producers like Tom DuPree III are getting tons of SoundBetter jobs.

DuPree is a professional drummer and producer on SoundBetter. As of this writing, it has over 200 verified and positive reviews on the platform.

And DuPree says that one of the most important paths to success on SoundBetter is to fill out your profile in detail and show why you are unique.

“Everything you put on your profile is a way for a potential client to get to know you before the two of them [of you] never talk, ”he wrote in an article on Medium.

This includes:

    • Your bio (mention your credits / highlights) and your header photo
    • The services you offer (SoundBetter offers you options)
    • Your favorite genre (s)
    • Tracks that show your skills
    • Questions and answers section
    • The equipment you use
    • Your turnaround time and number of revisions

To get started, ask former clients or fellow musicians to leave positive reviews on your profile. This will help you get your first customers, who will then leave verified reviews after working with them.

With a free account, you don’t have access to the job board, but potential clients can invite you to apply for their project. As of this writing, I have a free account and have secured three jobs since arriving in 2019.

To get a premium membership you will need to complete an application, which will put you on the waiting list. The SoundBetter team will then review your profile and either 1) decline your application or 2) schedule an interview with you.

While annoying that you don’t have immediate access to the job site, this verification process is smart. This way, customers only get the best producers, and you know you will have a good chance of making more money.

Upwork

Upwork is a platform that connects freelancers with those looking to hire them. It is not specific to musicians, but there are many vacancies for music producers.

For example, thanks to Upwork, I got jobs where I wrote and produced jingles, did audio editing and even wrote frontline melodies.

There are also plenty of songwriter / artist job vacancies out there looking for music producers.

Creating a profile is free, and then you can purchase “Connects”, which are required to apply for projects (although they give you some to get started).

Social media

As DuPree said, “When it comes to remote work, trust is the key. And that’s why social media is such an effective way to find music production customers.

If you’re on Facebook, join music-related groups, especially if they’re local. I landed a production client through a Facebook group after posting my music.

Choose your social media platform and share your music. Comment on other people’s posts. Join the conversation. Add value.

People will see that you are professional, that you are easy to work with, and that you create professional level productions. If your music is great, people will hire you as a producer or put you in touch with someone who needs your services.

Success doesn’t just depend on what you know, but also who you know.

Getting your first jobs in music production

So how do you use these platforms to get music production jobs? The basic process is the same regardless …

First, produce your own music

If you’ve never produced music, how will customers know if you’re good? You need to start by recording your own songs (whether you sing them or not) to show what you can do.

Even if you don’t charge your initial clients, you need to show them your skills. They want professional production and they don’t want to waste their time. So if they don’t know whether or not you are a good music producer, they won’t even bother to have a free track produced.

Produce as many great songs as you can, but you should have at least 3-5 songs that you can show to potential customers.

Second, create a page on your website

Create a “music production” page on your music website and direct all potential customers to it. What should you include on this page?

I would suggest mimicking the functionality of SoundBetter profiles. So, on your music producer page, be sure to include:

    • The genre (s) in which you work
    • Why should someone work with you
    • Your production credits
    • Songs you streamed
    • Reviews of clients or fellow musicians with whom you have worked
    • Your equipment / software
    • A button / contact form

Third, do it for free

Once you’ve produced some of your own songs and set up your production page, offer to produce 1-2 songs for free for your first customers.

Doing this benefits you in two ways:

    1. You and the artist will learn if you work well together
    2. You have a better chance of hitting the gig

And if you do a great job, that customer is more likely to tell others about you.

Once you have a decent portfolio showing your work with clients, you can start billing.

These basic steps explain how to make money as a music producer. Start with these tips, stick to them, and you have a good chance of producing paying customers.


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