Years, even decades ago, music producers were either just sound engineers or had ties only to one or a few record companies. But these days, most of them operate independently as freelance music producers. So what brought about this change in their role?
For casual listeners, the role of a music producer in a song or an album might seem a remote idea. Very often, the same goes even for more devoted music fans. But, as Chron puts it, “music producers are responsible for the way songs sound in more ways than you might think. Music producers provide important creative and technical feedback during the songwriting and recording process – so much so that they’re generally considered to be an honorary member of the band.” Or, in a broader context, they are the artists’ right arm.
These days this has become so much so the case, that quite a number of producers and the recording artist are one and the same.
“In short, music producers write, arrange and record songs, either for other artists or for themselves. They oversee the recording and distribution of songs to ensure that each track is as high-quality as possible. Producers work very closely with musicians during recording sessions, providing helpful advice and encouragement for arranging and improving songs. It’s a very technical job: Music producers are expected to know how to monitor and control virtually all the sound elements of a session. But the role of a producer involves a fair amount of interpersonal skills, as well, because they are also responsible for reviewing prospective artists and negotiating contracts.” (above)
The role and engagement of freelance music producers continue to grow. “Overall employment of sound engineering technicians is projected to grow 8 percent from 2016 to 2026.”
But if you prefer to watch a video instead, click here:
This post was updated on March 2021
Freelance music producers and modern technologies
So, what would be the reasons behind the surge in the role of freelance music producers? Nick Voorhees, CEO, and Founder of Melody Nest notes that “technology has developed to the point that it’s possible to capture professional-quality recordings at home on a budget. Remote freelance work has become more popular than ever because people looking to hire musicians and producers have their pick of the litter. In contrast, freelancers have access to a massive number of potential clients.”
Currently, freelance music producers can provide a wide range of services. Even more so, they can do that online, without being tied to any specific recording studio and/or recording company. Their range of services goes from “songwriting, studio recording (delivering vocals and instrumentals), beat making, remixing, sound design, editing (comping and tuning), mixing, as well as mastering.” (Vorhees)
All these services are now possible without large, very professional recording studios. Quite often the current level of music technology makes it possible for freelance music producers to practically operate from their home. They don’t even need to have an extensively wide array of professional equipment to do so. Modern equipment can handle these varied tasks just fine.
Yet, there are other factors that have helped the spread of freelancer producers in music. One is the quest of artists themselves to come up with music that they can develop without the dictating of big record companies.
The other is the fact, that keeping music producers and engineers on the payroll has become an expensive financial proposition for the music companies themselves. Working on a freelance basis with producers can save them not only salaries but also expensive studio time.
What is involved in the job of a music producer?
The range of jobs and skills a music producer has to handle is growing by the day. Chron (above) says that to start with, music producers write, arrange and record songs, either for other artists or for themselves.
“They oversee the recording and distribution of songs to ensure that each track is as high-quality as possible. Producers work very closely with musicians during recording sessions, providing helpful advice and encouragement for arranging and improving songs.”
Music producers are expected to know how to monitor and control virtually all the sound elements of a session. But the role of a producer involves a fair amount of interpersonal skills, as well. They are also responsible for reviewing prospective artists and negotiating contracts. (above)
To cover such a wide array of tasks, “a music producer should possess in-depth knowledge of music, be a musician with performance experience and know everything there is to know about recording equipment and sound engineering.”
Careerlancer particularly stresses the co-ordination element. The work of a freelance music producer will “include a lot of coordination and liaising with many people.” The must be able to “work in groups and socialize well with other musicians, and you must be able to make decisions, often in communion or alone.”
They should also be able to:
- Help produce recordings for sale or promotion on compact disc or online;
- Provide troupes for musical backing for television commercials, popular recordings, radio, television or film productions;
- Co-ordinate and do pre-production work;
- Control engineering and sound mixing;
- Collaborate on songwriting;
- Do post-production mastering;
- Improvise, transpose, compose or arrange music from other sources, and often on their own.
With the current frequent use of beats and samples, the latter element is only gaining in its importance.
The skills of a music producer
The above source also notes that to have success as a music producer, a person has to have serious artistic inclinations. “Music is one stream in which work takes precedence over personality.”
To be able to achieve that, a freelance music producer has to continuously develop the following skills:
- Musical/Instrument Skills;
- Ability to concentrate for long periods;
- Team Player;
- Post-production skills;
- Sound mixing skills;
- Sound engineering skills.
Yet developing skills is only one step. Each individual that operates as a freelance music producer has to gain and present solid work experience and credibility. Besides mastering at least one instrument, to become successful, a freelance producer should:
- Be able to compose music as per instructions;
- Be sociable;
- Build up recommendations;
- Create an eye-catching website, and promoting a daily blog
- Get out of throw comfort zone as a music producer. This means taking up advanced jobs which require a deeper understanding of languages and socio-cultural norms;
- Be adept at post-production and be able to spot mastering errors or gaps in a track;
- Be open to learning;
- Market themselves.
To acquire these skills and develop the above attributes, potential freelancers have to reach a certain level of music/production education. Some better-known sources for that are Berklee University, Coursera, and Music-courses. All of these offer both paid and free options.
That is a way for a freelancer to make a full use of music production and be able to provide a wide range of services directly or online. As noted, these include “songwriting, studio recording (delivering vocals and instrumentals), beat making, remixing, sound design, editing (comping and tuning), mixing, as well as mastering.”
Where to find freelance music producers and possible remuneration
These days, Bunny Studio is the top option for finding talented freelance music and audio producers. We are savvy domain experts that will source the right fit for you from our network of elite freelancers, usually within 24 hours or less, depending on the size of your project.
In a sea of similar services, we’re a safe bet because of:
- Our quick turnaround times
- Fair rates
- Our focus on quality
- An enormous pool of vetted, high-quality talent.
- A 100% satisfaction guarantee.
- An ability to tackle projects big or small
And, if you’re looking to apply for work, we’re always on the lookout for rising talent.
Doing personal research – Most people involved with music have personal networks. Through such a network, they can research what are the sites these connections use. “The plus side with this method is that you won’t pay a “finders fee” or retainer, but you’ll be spending a lot of time doing individual research before you even get to the stage of interviewing candidates, conducting background checks, and putting your candidates through test assignments.”
“Compare freelance websites: freelance website comparison tools like developersforhire.com are great when you aren’t sure which freelance talent website to use for finding and hiring a freelancer. If you’re trying to save yourself the time and hassle in the search for a good freelancer, try websites that give you personalized recommendations of the top sites to hire freelancers.”
According to Careerlancer (above) “average remuneration for freelance music producer based on projects and can be from anywhere from <$1 to close to around $500 for each project. The remuneration depends on the scope of work required and the skill needed to perform the task. There are many projects available where music producers are required to hand in compositions, which are usually the highest paid jobs one can find as a freelance music producer. Other jobs revolving around the industry don’t pay as handsomely.”
Eliminating the luck element
The task for potential clients seeking freelance music producers can involve a lot of trial and error. Taking the rights steps and advice is one, but being certain what services exactly they will need from a music producer are also essential.
Of course, having a ‘good nose’ for what will really work can certainly help. The recent huge success of Lil Was X and his “Old Town Road” speaks volumes. The artist started out by buying a banjo sample by Nine Inch Nails from BeatStars for $30. The site is one of the most renowned around as a marketplace to buy and sell beats. Yet another element where freelance music producers have a huge role. The rest is (musical) history that changed the American country music charts. So, the element of luck can be involved, but careful preparation brings along good luck with it.