Do I Need To Go To School To Be A Music Producer?
Many people who are thinking about becoming a music producer have this question. Do I need to go to school? It’s a good question and not a surprising one at all. When we think of getting into a field like sciences or accounting, there are schooling prerequisites that we need to get.
But what about being a music producer? I firmly believe that you do not need to go to school to be a music producer. There are many good reasons to go to production school and they provide a lot of benefits, but it is not essential.
In this article, we will discuss what school can do for you, as well as the pros and cons of formal education, and what it takes to become a music producer.
What Degree Do Music Producers Get?
A Bachelor’s Degree in music production is the standard that most will recognize. This will be worded differently in different school programs but they are essentially the same.
Here are some of the most widely attended music production schools:
- Berkeley College of Music – They have a 4-year Bachelors’s Degree program that will get you a Bachelor of Music in Music Production and Engineering.
- Drexel University – Students will receive a Bachelor of Science in Music Industry Studies
- Middle Tennessee State University – Students can enrol in a Bachelor of Science in Audio Production or a Master of Fine Arts in Recording Arts and Technology. This school is very close to Nashville.
- NYU Steinhardt – offers degrees in Music Technology of all levels including Bachelors’s, Master’s, and PhD.
What School Will Teach You About Music Production
Each school will be marginally different in terms of what they offer as areas of study. However, the core elements will be there in some form.
- some sort of music theory or music composition
- recording software
- understanding of analog and digital music
- recording techniques
- mixing and mastering,
- studio design
- surround sound techniques.
- music business: legal, financial, and marketing.
It is important to point out that you can find all of this information and more online. There are loads of independent producers who offer training in all of these areas, as well as dedicated Youtube channels. Sites like Lynda.com and Udemy.com have full courses in music production that can provide you with all you need at a much-reduced cost to formal schooling.
Pros and Cons of Music Production School
- You are dedicating all your time to learning your craft in a short period. This can give you an edge to get started quicker.
- You are surrounded by like-minded people who will spur you on and inspire you.
- You have unfettered access to industry professionals for training and mentoring.
- You may have access to an internship.
- You will gain a well-rounded understanding of music production.
- Cost – most music schools can cost you between $20-80K
- You will not be guaranteed a job once you graduate.
- The information is now widely available online for a fraction of the price.
- Many times the program is outdated and lacks what is needed for modern music production.
What it Takes to Succeed as a Music Producer
Motivation and Drive
So what about the success stories that every school uses to recruit students? Stories of famous singers and producers who have attended the school. Doesn’t that mean that the school was responsible for their success?
This seems to be the implication, but the reality is that these people would have been successful anyway. It is their drive and motivation that are responsible for their success. They took what they were offered at school and made something out of it. Remember, they could learn that info anywhere.
Motivation and Drive are the foundational building blocks to being a successful music producer. If you want it, go out and get it. Your drive will propel you through the times when nothing seems to be happening.
Having a strategic marketing plan is the second key building block to being a successful music producer. The bottom line is, no one will hire you if they don’t know you are out there. I would venture to guess that in today’s music industry, talent accounts for about 10%, and the other 90% is marketing.
This means that you need to learn a new skill set. This is time well spent as it is a large part of the work needed to cut through and get noticed. Unfortunately, marketing is not really focused on in most music production schools. It is taught broadly and quickly if even taught at all.
There are many places online that you can learn strategies to market the music you are producing and market your brand. It is vital to build a brand that can become recognizable. Right now the strongest way to do this is through your online presence.
I have personally used a training program by Indepreneur that has been exceptional in teaching me some great strategies in online promotion. It is quite cheap for the amount of information you get, as well as, a strategic plan to implement.
A music producer is nothing without artists to produce. In today’s world, it may be the case that you are both artist and producer. In that case, you already have music that you are producing and marketing.
If you are not an artist then you need to be able to build relationships with artists that you would like to produce. Start with your friends and acquaintances. Offer to produce a song for them. Make sure to treat them like a client and start to build a process of creating professional relationships.
Utilize Social Media to find artists and start a relationship with them. Communicate the value you can bring to them through your production skills. Show them how through your strategic plan that you will mutually benefit from this relationship.
Lastly, initiate connections with larger producers, PR agents, and media. I don’t mean spamming them with promotional material but find avenues where you can contribute your expertise and bring them some value. Try answering queries on HARO (Help a Reporter Out) to gain some exposure for your brand for example. Find blogs and discussions and provide valuable insights.
The key here is to understand that those connections are vital to your success as a producer.
Without a doubt, there are benefits to attending and receiving a degree from a Music Production School. The question however is, is it necessary? It is not essential to go to school for music production.
What is essential is motivation and drive, a strong marketing strategy, and building connections. Those things will propel you forward to working in your dream job.
Graeme is the founder and chief editor at Home Studio Labs. My goal is simple…to help you cut through the fluff and figure what you need to make great music at home. I’ve been a working musician and hobbyist music producer for the last 17 years. I studied music in Canada and received my Bachelor of Arts in Music. In 2004 I bought my first audio interface and a copy of Pro Tools. Since then I have spent countless hours learning, recording, and mixing. My passion has been my Home Studio.