Email Question: Advice for a Budding Music Producer
Ok i have been talking about becoming a music producer for some time now i am 24 i have no music talent what so ever but i have a real passion for music and i know alot about it i wanna start my own record lbel and see what happens if you could give me some advice i would like that thanks for.
I have several responses to questions like this here on my website. You can find them by entering “Music Producer” into the search box. Or here are some links:
On my other responses I’ve talked about resources and approaches to learning the technical side of producing. This time I’ll answer your question in a different way by talking about the social interactions that I think will benefit you on your road to producing music.
The way you get your next project, is by exceeding the client’s expectations on the last project. Notice I didn’t say that you exceeded your OWN expectations – it’s all about pleasing the client. It’s important to understand what the client’s expectations are before you start so you know what your restrictions are. A big red flag is if you don’t know the client well and they say “Do anything” – if you start working on that then there’s a good chance you’re going to be re-arranging ad nauseum.
Music production is a design art, much like designing graphics, custom home building or interior design. You are taking your talents and experience to the table in order to bring the client’s vision to life. And EVERY client does indeed have a vision, even if it’s not very defined.
First step – talk with the client and just listen. Listen carefully to what it is they are looking for. Think the project through and think of all the elements needed to make it happen for them. Make sure you know you can bring the project together. If you can’t do it, don’t take the project. It’s more important to get a track record of SUCCESSFUL projects than it is to get a track record of lots of projects. “Successful” means the client is happy with the final project.
After you know what the client wants and you have an overall idea of what needs to happen to complete the project, then figure out what you need to make that happen. Make sure you have the funds, time and desire to do the project. There has to be something in it for you. If it’s a project that will give you notoriety or rare experience, you might want to lowball your price quote. If it’s something you’ve done dozens of times and you already have a rep for doing it, then stick to your price.
If there’s not something in it for you – you will do a poor job. At least that’s the way I work. For me a project either has to garner me Money, Experience or Fulfillment. If the project does not have at least one of these three elements, I don’t take the job.
Starting out you’ll want to take every job you can that comes your way. Think experience. Do your best on every project, and each one will have it’s own list of demands that will force you to learn new things. Important note: You cannot think your client is stupid. If you do, you can’t do your best work. Respect your client. I seperate a client’s vision from the client themselves – for me it’s not so important to “click” with a client as it is to “click” with their vision.
What if you seriously don’t like a client? Don’t take the job. With music production you are likely going to have a lot of interaction with this person. On the rare occassion where I truly and simply did not like a client and did not want to do anything for them, I just said “I don’t think I’m the best person for this project.” When they still press, which they will, then say “Your project will be done better by someone else.” I say this gently and respectfully. I’m saying the truth and not being rude. You are letting the client know that your #1 priority is that there project be the best it can be, whether or not you do it.
If you can click with the client’s vision, see a compelling reason to engage in the project and you have the tools and resources to deliver – THAT’S being a music producer.
TRUST – Once you have committed to the project it’s important to have the complete faith and trust of the client. That’s how I need to work anyway. Once working on a project if a client is second guessing me or jumping in and muddling things up, I’ll simply say to them “You hired me for this job, you need to let me do it.” or I’ll say “You need to throw me the ball.” I say this gently, because I am truly ASKING them for this. With rare exception, client’s understand this and step back to let the work carry on. I’ll usually tell clients upfront once we agree to go forward that I need the space and creative trust to do it. I would say that overall, to me this is the single most important part of working on a project. It doesn’t mean there won’t be changes from the client, it just means you have that creative wiggle room that makes you go “Ah, this is the best project ever!”
And a final note is on the term music “producer”. Music producers “produce” no matter what. There is no excuse. People want to know that you will get it done.
I hope that helps.