Over the years we’ve had the pleasure of speaking to some of the industry’s greatest music producers and businesspeople, who have kindly shared with us their artistic advice, lessons learned and answered that all important question: how on earth do I get started?!
We’re going to share some of those golden nuggets of advice with you about what steps you can take towards getting started in that dream career. Whether you’re an amateur producer, a bedroom DJ, or maybe just interested in finding out more about different areas of the music business, there’ll be something in here for everyone.
Meeting Like-Minded People
You might ask, what has this got to do with becoming a producer?
The truth is that many producers who are at the top of their game today are there because they collaborated with their friends. You’ve got to start somewhere, and sometimes that somewhere is right before your eyes! So, get out there and mingle with all the musicians, songwriters, bands and businesspeople that you can. You never know who you might meet, and where that relationship could take you.
Get the Theory Down
This one goes without saying, but we’ve got to say it anyway: know your stuff. Music production can be a technical game, and there are a tonne of software’s, programmes and techniques you’ll need to get under your belt in order to prepare yourself for any scenario. Knowledge is power, and you want to be able to say yes to any opportunity, so make sure your skill level matches that ambition. Hey, you could even take a Rockschool Music Production graded exam or two, to fill in any gaps you may have in your production picture.
Getting a Broad Knowledge of Music
It’s important not to just hang out with other producers. As much as you’ll be able to learn from each other, share techniques and ideas, one of the things that made a huge difference in Fraser T Smith’s career was hanging out and surrounding himself with all different types of musicians. He said:
“As a guitar player I was naturally drawn to rock guitar and I was in quite a narrow sort of window of what I was listening to, but being surrounded by keyboard players, by singers, by flutists, by violinists and just learning how to communicate with musicians in a live sense, in a social sense, in a recording studio sense, I think that set me up for the diversity musically that I’ve had in my career.”
It's safe to say that your career is far more likely to flourish if you don’t limit yourself to one particular genre or area of music.
Say Yes to Every Opportunity
Do we really need to expand on this? Don’t wait for the big jobs to come along, because without a portfolio of experience you’re not likely to get the gig. Also, you never know what might come of that little job you did for a friend or acquaintance. That “little job” could just turn out to be something quite special.
Production extraordinaire Danton Supple started out being the assistant to engineers, simply to get himself in the studio. The rest is history!
Practise Your Craft and Stay True to Yourself
It’s no secret that competition in the music industry and in the world of music production is rife. Let’s be real, there are some exceptionally talented individuals out there and that can feel quite overwhelming at times. So, stay in your lane. Try not to focus (too much) on what others are doing and stay concentrated on your own goals. Practise! Refine your skills and only think about being in competition with yourself. RSL Fellow Fraser T Smith gave us a great piece of advice:
“Enjoy the lack of distraction if you can. Don’t feel too tied to your phone. Put on a stopwatch and say, I’m going to do an hour on social media but use it in a way that’s creative, and see some incredible musicians playing or some words of wisdom that will help nurture you in your creativity… If you’re consistent and you really are authentic in the music that you craft it becomes really noticeable… You can tell the people that have spent the time on the right things and they’re usually the people that have longevity in their careers.”
Preach. And on that note, it’s so important to ask yourself, how am I going to stand out from the crowd? How am I going to distinguish my work to the work of my contemporaries? And the answer really does lie with authenticity. Embrace everything that makes you who you are and that will be your greatest weapon!
For more on these points, we’d really recommend listening to our interviews with Fraser T Smith and Danton Supple, as there’s so many more amazing pieces of advice to be taken from our conversations with them. Here's to you getting started in music production!