Studying Music Production

I’m interested in studying music production. What can you tell me?

Music production is the process of creating audio recordings. Although artists and songwriters usually receive credit for compositions, it takes a team of sound editors and audio recording engineers working behind the scenes to perfect any piece of recorded music by using techniques like sound mixing and mastering. You do not need a college degree to find a job in music production. However, the field is competitive, so earning a degree will help you to stand out among applicants. In addition, you will be able to network with other recording professionals, which will give you an edge when you are seeking employment. Music production is usually studied at the undergraduate level. If you enroll in a music production program, you will learn a variety of technical skills like how to use sound effects and troubleshoot audio equipment. You will also study music theory and composition so that you can develop an ear for music that you can apply to the studio.

Let's hear some other perspectives

An Interview with Cody Wicks

Cody Wicks

Student, Bachelor of Science in Music Production,Full Sail University

“My advice for students who are interested in studying music production online is to make sure that this is what they want to study. If it isn't something you are passionate about, it isn't worth doing because it will frustrate you and you won't do as well in your classes.”Read the Full Interview

An Interview with Darren Palmer

Darren Palmer

Student, Associate of Arts in Digital Audio Engineering,Shoreline Community College

“When I first considered studying digital audio engineering, I thought I knew a lot about music. Now that I have been in this program for over a year, I can’t believe how much I have learned. The first year basically doubled my knowledge, and it has opened up a whole new world for me.”Read the Full Interview

Music Producer Overview

What exactly is a music producer?

Music producers oversee recording sessions at music studios. They collaborate with artists by offering advice and ideas for projects. They may also have a hand in recording tracks. In addition, music producers generally work for record companies, so they are responsible for managing budgets and promoting the artists on their company’s label. However, the majority of people who work in music production are not music producers. More common jobs in this field are audio recording engineers, sound technicians and sound editors. People in these professions record tracks and edit them for sound quality. They often work for record companies or corporations with broadcasting needs.

Let's hear some other perspectives

An Interview with Igor Correia

Igor Correia

Music Producer, Editor, Product Manager,Nightingale Music Production

“Try to stay true to your own creative values in order to produce worthwhile work that makes you proud.”Read the Full Interview

Personality Quiz

How do I know if music production would be a good fit for me?

Here is a quick quiz to help you decide if you have the personality it takes to succeed as a music producer. Rate, on a scale from 1 to 5, how well each of the following statements describes you, with 1 = Never, 2 = Rarely, 3 = Sometimes, 4 = Usually and 5 = Always.

I communicate clearly.

During the creative process, music production professionals work with abstract ideas. You must speak effectively about your thoughts to avoid confusion and conflict with others who are involved in the process.

I work well in a group.

Music production requires teamwork and cooperation. It is common for artists, songwriters, producers and audio recording engineers to work together on a project.

I am comfortable talking to new people and networking.

The music industry is very competitive and professionals in the field need to be able to market their skills. You will have a better chance of getting a job if you can establish relationships with other music industry professionals.

I am a good listener.

The primary skill of a music production professional is listening to determine the ways that various effects change a piece of music. You will need the ability to hear subtle differences in order to succeed in this field.

I like to use technology.

Music producers and editors use electronic sound equipment like mixing boards, synthesizers and computers. You need to be confident manipulating music technology to produce sound effects and edit tracks.

I have a natural ear for music.

Music production professionals use audio equipment to perfect recordings. You must have a finely tuned ear so that you can balance elements like tone, pitch, rhythm and harmony.

I work well under pressure.

The music production industry can be fast paced. The ability to work calmly when you are up against a deadline will help you to succeed as a music production professional.

I am patient and I do not give up easily.

It can take a long to time to polish and perfect a music track. You may have to repeat the same task many times to get the right sound before your perseverance pays off.

I appreciate constructive feedback.

Music production professionals use their own judgment to edit a piece of music, and they may encounter criticism from those who don’t like how it sounds. You need to be open to criticism so that you can learn from others in the field.

I am creative.

The music production industry is flooded with artistic expression. You need to think of interesting and original ways to approach music if you want to stand out in the field.

Get My Score

*Note that this is not a scientific quiz. The result is simply my rough estimate of how well I believe your personality matches that of a successful music producer.

By my assessment, a career in music production is probably not a good fit for your personality. Please go to the Admissions Advisor homepage for a listing of other careers you may want to consider.

By my assessment, although a career in music production may not be an ideal fit for your personality, if you are willing to adapt in a few areas, you can still find success in the field. Please see the list to the right for information on the areas that you may need to work on.

By my assessment, your personality is a good fit for a career in music production. Scroll through our site to gain valuable insight into what it will take you to earn the necessary credentials.

Making the Right Choice

Is there anything else I should consider in deciding if music production is the right choice for me?

Informal Education

It is possible to start a career in music production without any formal educational training. However, experience is important in this field. If you decide not to earn a degree, you must take the initiative to learn about new recording technologies on your own. You will also have to seek out your own connections in the business and find an internship so that you can gain practical skills in a recording studio. Earning a degree is a good way to network inside the industry and find an internship where you will gain studio experience.

Music Production Professions

What music production professions can I choose from?

Education Required:

Bachelors (4 years)

Average Salary:

$39,000

Work Environment:

Radio stations

Job Description:

Radio producers are responsible for managing the content of radio broadcasts. They select music or brainstorm program ideas based on market research and monitor the response of the audience to those programs. They also hire and supervise radio station employees like DJs, reporters and technical staff. In addition, they make sure that broadcasts follow copyright or media laws.

Education Required:

Associates (2 years) recommended

Average Salary:

$41,000

Work Environment:

Recording studios

Job Description:

Music producers manage the recording process and help artists to develop their unique sounds. They contribute ideas during recording sessions, organize timelines for recording projects and control the budget and promotion of artists and their music. They select the songs that make it onto an album and the musicians that record each part in a song. In addition, they may use audio equipment to improve the quality of sound on a recording. More frequently, they translate the artistic goals of musicians to the technical sound editors.

Education Required:

Associates (2 years) recommended

Average Salary:

$45,000

Work Environment:

Recording studios, radio and television stations

Job Description:

Audio recording engineers operate the digital and analog equipment that is used to make high quality audio recordings. They use and care for equipment like recording devices, mixing boards and amplifiers. They may also use special effects equipment to create sounds used for emphasis on radio or television programs.

Education Required:

Associates (2 years) recommended

Average Salary:

$54,000

Work Environment:

Radio and television stations

Job Description:

Sound editors work in the post-production stage of recordings, which means that they work on projects after they have been recorded. For audio recordings, sound editors make sure there are no unwanted background noises. For video recordings, they add sound to enhance the tone or mood of a scene and they sync the audio recording to the image that is projected on screen.

Education Required:

Associates (2 years) recommended

Average Salary:

$47,000

Work Environment:

Radio and television stations, entertainment venues

Job Description:

Sound technicians concentrate specifically on the quality of sound in recordings, broadcasts or live events like concerts and sports matches. They are particularly concerned with the way that space affects acoustics. Sound technicians run sound checks on audio equipment like microphones and amplifiers to make sure that they produce high-quality sound without feedback or static. In addition, they often perform on-site trouble shooting at live events.

Job Outlook

What is the job outlook for music production professionals?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were about 114,600 broadcast and sound technicians working in the United States in 2008. Employment is expected to grow by 8% through 2018, which is about as fast as the average projected job growth for all occupations. With the increasing importance of Internet broadcasting technology, many companies will hire technicians for audiovisual departments. However, applicants will see a lot of competition in major cities. Few statistics are available about the job prospects of music producers. But the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that there were approximately 98,600 producers working in the music, film and television industries in 2008. By 2018, the projected growth for producers is nearly 10%, which is slightly above the average projected growth across all areas of employment.
Profession Employment 2010 Projected 2020 Average Growth
Producer 122500 136000 11%
Music Composer Or Arranger 93200 102800 10%
Music Director 93200 102800 10%
Music Director Or Composer 93200 102800 10%
Musician Or Singer 176200 194100 10%
Musician 176200 194100 10%
Singer 176200 194100 10%
Talent Agent 24100 27500 14%
Sound Engineering Technician 19000 19100 1%

Average Salary Growth 2006 - 2011

Profession 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
Producer 72210 77070 83030 86870 88610 92220
Music Composer Or Arranger 53320 53970 54840 53410 52750 53760
Music Director 53320 53970 54840 53410 52750 53760
Music Director Or Composer 53320 53970 54840 53410 52750 53760
Musician Or Singer 57221 56722 58822 60528 62858 66019
Musician 57221 56722 58822 60528 62858 66019
Singer 57221 56722 58822 60528 62858 66019
Talent Agent 84070 82730 81550 87430 89840 92250
Sound Engineering Technician 50260 54220 53110 53940 54030 56110

Salary By Percentile

Profession 10th 25th 50th 75th 90th
Producer $32010 $45400 $70660 $116020 $187200
Music Composer Or Arranger $22190 $35370 $47410 $62180 $85770
Music Director $22190 $35370 $47410 $62180 $85770
Music Director Or Composer $22190 $35370 $47410 $62180 $85770
Musician Or Singer $17950 $25667 $47819 $84677 $137301
Musician $17950 $25667 $47819 $84677 $137301
Singer $17950 $25667 $47819 $84677 $137301
Talent Agent $27540 $41740 $64790 $116370 $187200
Sound Engineering Technician $21520 $31070 $46750 $70360 $98240

Education Requirements

How long would it take me to become a music production professional?

You do not need formal education to work in music production. However, many people choose to earn a 2-year associates degree or a 4-year bachelors degree to gain practical skills and network with other music production professionals before they enter the field.

Areas of Study

What can I expect to learn while pursuing music production?

While you study music production, you will increase your knowledge about music and its effect on the American culture as you gain a number of useful skills.

KNOWLEDGE

Fundamentals of Music

Courses in the fundamentals of music offer the chance to integrate theory with practice using the essential musical elements like rhythm, melody, scales and chords. In addition, this subject emphasizes the development of pitch recognition. Basic knowledge of music also covers the proper way to write musical notation and to sight-read sheet music.

Music Theory and Composition

In music theory, the structure of a piece of music is examined in order to analyze how a song is built. It often involves comparing different musical styles or periods to dissect the differences and similarities in the construction of a piece. Music theory goes hand in hand with music composition, which refers to the way that the language of music is written through musical notation. Compositions can be written for a single voice or an entire orchestra.

Music History

The history of music explains the way that different cultures have used music to express themselves in the past. Music history surveys key composers, works and musical styles. It explores how time periods and fashions have influenced popular music over the centuries and affected the work of diverse musicians from Beethoven to Johnny Cash.

Business

The music business is sustained by consumers who buy performance tickets and musical recordings in several formats, including records, CDs and digital files. Knowledge of the music business describes the distribution process that allows companies to get musical recordings from an artist through the recording studio and into the hands of consumers through online and traditional channels.

Copyright Laws

Musicians protect the music that they record and publish by copyrighting it. The complex issue of copyright laws covers topics like intellectual property, digital licensing and the widespread issue of illegal digital music downloads. Discussions involve the rights that laws guarantee artists and basic questions about the history, purpose and effectiveness of copyright laws.

SKILLS

Audio Equipment Operation

As a music production professional, you will learn how to operate and maintain different types of audio equipment. Some of the equipment that you will be able to operate includes soundboards, mixing boards and amplifiers. You will also become proficient with digital recording software like Flash and Pro Tools for computer-based music production.

Sound Design

Sound design will teach you how to use sound to create a particular experience for your listener. You will learn to convey meaning by altering elements like loudness, tone and intensity. You will also try methods of manipulating sound effects for emphasis. Many sound design courses include a visual component that helps students to see how sound can help tell a story on television or film.

Marketing

Proper marketing is the backbone of every business. In your music production classes, you will learn to market both yourself and the music that you produce. You will learn how to use market research to make decisions about the best way to promote artists and their music. You will also learn how to network with other music production professionals so that you can endorse yourself in the competitive music business.

Negotiation

Music production involves a lot of collaboration, so sometimes you will experience conflict with other people who are involved in the creative process. In your music production classes, you will learn to express your ideas and to actively listen to the thoughts of your peers. You will discover strategies to help you reach compromise and work together to finish a project.

Problem Solving

Music production professionals may encounter a range of problems in their daily work from faulty equipment to miscommunication among producers, sound technicians and editors in the recording studio. Your music production curriculum will teach you how to quickly spot and fix technical problems and to navigate personnel issues in a professional manner.

Academic Degrees

What academic levels are available in the field of music production?

Academic credentials in music production are offered at the undergraduate level. In general, associates degrees prepare you for technical positions, while bachelors degrees teach you management skills for business positions. You can also earn undergraduate certificates in music production. However, degrees at the masters and doctoral level are extremely rare.

Select the degree level you are interested in:

  • Certificate
  • Associate’s
  • Bachelor’s

Certificate

What are the different types of certificates that I can earn in music production?

Some schools offer undergraduate certificates in music production or music technology. These certificate programs are usually intended to give students who are majoring in music programs a chance to learn more about the technical music production process.

How long will I have to study to earn my certificate in music production?

Undergraduate certificate programs in music production typically require students to complete about 18 credits. You can typically earn an undergraduate certificate in music production in less than a year.

What types of courses will I take while studying for my certificate in music production?

The exact courses that you will take to earn an undergraduate music production certificate will vary by program. Most certificate programs include introductory classes in music theory, recording techniques, mixing and mastering.

What types of jobs can I hope to secure with a certificate in music production?

A certificate in music production will increase your chances of getting a job as a sound technician, audio recording engineer or sound editor. You do not need any formal education to enter many music production professions, but a certificate program may help you to network with other music production professionals.

What about getting an online certificate in music production?

An online certificate in music production is not a good idea. While you may be able to learn the theory of music by earning an online music production certificate, you need to be present in a recording studio if you want to learn how to use audio equipment like soundboards and amplifiers. Online music production schools can offer instructional videos or lectures to view on the web, but these are not good substitutes for practical hands-on experience in the studio.

Associates Degree

Many schools offer associates degrees in music production. An associates degree will teach you the fundamentals of sound and techniques for operating audio equipment in the production studio. It will provide you with the skills and knowledge that you need to get started in the music production industry. Keep in mind that some schools call their music production programs by a different name, like music technology, recording technology or audio production. You should look into the classes that these programs offer to see if they will prepare you for a job in music production.

What are the different types of associates degrees that I can earn in music production?

Associate of Arts AA

An AA degree in music production has a liberal arts focus, which allows students to explore fields outside of music production.

Associate of Science AS

An AS degree in music production offers courses that focus on science and mathematics. There is little difference between this degree and the AA.

Associate of Applied Science AAS

An AAS degree in music production consists of courses that teach the most practical aspects of the career.

How long will I have to study to earn my associates degree in music production?

Associates degrees in music technology require students to complete approximately 60 credit hours, so you will have to study for about 2 years.

What types of courses will I take while studying for my associates degree in music production?

An associates degree in music production will teach you the fundamentals of the music business and audio technology. You can expect to take courses about music theory, sound engineering, studio management and music business and marketing.

What types of jobs can I hope to secure with an associates degree in music production?

An associates degree prepares you for the majority of jobs in the music production industry. For example, you will be qualified for entry-level positions like sound technician, sound editor or recording engineer.

What should I consider when deciding upon a school to earn my associates degree in music production?

The most important criteria to take into consideration when you choose a music production school for your associates degree are the quality of your school’s recording studio and whether your school will help you to find an internship. It is important to attend a school with an advanced studio so that you will gain hands-on practice using the latest recording and editing techniques. And because the music industry is so competitive, your career prospects will be greatly improved if you are able to work as an intern so that you have some professional experience to enhance your resume.

What about getting an online associates degree in music production?

An online music production associates degree is not recommended for several reasons. First, it will mostly qualify you for technical jobs in recording studios. But earning a music production associates degree online will not give you access to an actual music studio. You will have a difficult time getting a job or an internship in the music industry if you cannot prove that you have the practical sound editing and recording skills that in-studio practice will give you. You may be able to find a partially online music production associates degree that presents some coursework online, but you will still be required to attend a physical campus most of the time.

In addition to a lack of studio experience, as of 2012 there were no online music production schools accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM), although this could change in the future. The NASM offers accreditation to schools with associates degree programs that meet the professional standards to prepare students for careers in music. Although music production employers do not always require an accredited degree, if you attend an accredited program you will know that you are getting a good education.

Bachelors Degree

You do not need to earn a bachelors degree to find a job in music production. But if you choose to get a bachelors degree, you will learn technical editing and recording skills as well as advanced music marketing strategy, composition and music theory. Some schools call music production programs by another name, like audio production or recording technology. You should research the courses these programs offer to make sure you will be trained to become a music production professional.

What are the different types of bachelors degrees that I can earn in music production?

Bachelor of Arts BA

A BA degree in music production requires liberal arts courses, so you will study the humanities along with music production.

Bachelor of Science BS

A BS degree in music production requires more mathematical and technical courses. Otherwise, there is little difference between this option and the BA degree.

How long will I have to study to earn my bachelors degree in music production?

Students in a music production bachelors degree program need to complete around 120 credit hours, so you will study for about 4 years.

What types of courses will I take while studying for my bachelors degree in music production?

Your bachelors degree program will teach you about the technical aspects of music production and the theory of music and business management. Exact courses vary by program, but you are likely to take technical classes about digital music production, recording sessions and sound mixing and mastering. You will also take courses in music theory and the history of music. Finally, you will learn to promote and protect the work of recording artists in classes about music marketing and copyright laws.

What types of jobs can I hope to secure with a bachelors degree in music production?

If you choose to earn a bachelors degree, you will be qualified for any job in music production. For example, you could be a radio producer or you could work in any technical position like audio recording engineer or sound editor. But you do not need a 4-year degree to qualify for the technical positions. You should keep in mind that many companies in the music business value work and internship experience more than formal education.

What should I consider when deciding upon a school to earn my bachelors degree in music production?

There are several things to consider when deciding on a school for your music production bachelors degree. First, you should research the program’s admission requirements. Some schools require applicants to include a portfolio, which shows that you have experience in music production. Second, you need to consider the quality of the school’s music studio. It is important to have an excellent studio so that you can practice music production techniques like editing and mixing. Finally, you should make sure the school that you are considering offers internship placement so that you will have experience working in the field, which will increase your chances of employment.

What about getting an online bachelors degree in music production?

Depending on the job that you want after you graduate, it might be acceptable to earn your music production bachelors degree online. It depends if you need access to a recording studio, which you will not have if you attend an online music production school. For instance, if you want to be a radio producer, you will not need the kind of technical skills that a sound technician or audio recording engineer needs. Therefore, the only drawback to earning your music production bachelors degree online is that you may not be able to network as well with your peers in the music production industry.

On the other hand, if you are attending school to learn technical skills like audio recording or sound editing, it is not a good idea to earn an online music production bachelors degree. You will not have access to a recording studio so you will not get to develop your skills through practice. Many employers in the music production industry value experience more than degrees, so a lack of hands-on training will be a serious disadvantage to you when you are seeking a job.

Licensing Information

What else should I keep in mind when considering studying music production?

In addition to the training you will need, there are a few things that you should keep in mind if you want to study music production.

Internships

Hands-on experience is crucial to success in the music production industry. Therefore, you should choose a school that will help you find an internship where you can hone your professional skills after you graduate with an associates or bachelors degree in music production.
An internship will make you a more attractive job candidate and you will become more confident in your technical abilities.

Relocation

Most of the jobs in music production are located in large cities that have vibrant music scenes like Los Angeles, New York and Nashville. Although you will face a lot of competition, you will be more likely to find internships and jobs if you relocate to these areas, so you should think about whether relocation is a realistic option for you.

Questions & Answers

Select a category to find answers to your questions

Resources

What are some other resources that can help me learn more about pursuing a degree in music production?

American Federation of Musicians

Audio Engineering Society

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Higher Education in the Arts

InfoComm International

National Association of Broadcasters

National Association of Schools of Music

Society of Broadcast Engineers