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"I want to produce music, I just don't know what type yet"

An RP visitor wants to become a producer, but he doesn't know what style of music he wants to produce. Hmm...


Question from a Audio Masterclass visitor...

"I currently (like many others) have a studio in my basement. I write my own lyrics and make my own music (hip hop), record it and produce it myself. I enjoy all of those, and I will soon be headed off for a music production and recording college in Canada, but for an unknown major. I don't know yet what type of field I want to produce in the music industry, maybe all of them? Can you give a little advice, and maybe tell how you yourself decided what you wanted to do?"

I could say from the start that you have answered your own question - if you like hip hop, then that's the style of music you should work in.

But suppose for a moment that you had a wide range of musical tastes crossing the full spectrum of music all the way from one end to the other. What would you choose then?

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I can easily think of two major criteria. The first of course would be money! How much money do you want to make?

If you really want to make a lot of money, then you should be looking at mainstream hip hop. Mainstream hip hop is the biggest-selling form of music, so that's where the potential for making most money lies.

Don't expect it to be easy though. The hip hop industry is very well established. They pick and choose who they want to elevate to star status. It's unlikely to be you, no matter how good you are.

So you could pick a niche market. Comedy hip hop for example. That's so niche I don't even know whether it exists. And if it does, I'm sure it's only going to be a small market. Tell me if I'm wrong.

But a niche of any kind is more approachable, and you will have more chance of success. If you can get to dominate your niche, you might indeed make a lot of money.

But hey - there's more to life than money...

If your musical tastes truly were all-encompassing, then you would still have to specialize. Music is very competitive so you can't spread yourself too thinly.

But in which genre of music?

The answer would be the one that has the most potential for creative development. That is where true musical satisfaction lies.

One way to pick a genre would be to look for an area where there has been little development over the last ten years or so.

That would seem to be a good option.

OK, the last part of your question... how did I choose which area I wanted to work in?

The answer is that, like many people, I didn't. It was purely by chance that I got into theater sound, in parallel with production music for television.

I was looking for a job in sound, many years ago. I shared a house with two other guys who had the same ambition.

Then a couple of opportunities came up at around the same time. One was in theater, the other in television. But the theater position came up first. I was offered it and I took it. The other two got jobs in TV.

Similarly with music. I had touted my music all over the industry. At one point I had seen the inside of almost every record label and publisher in London (it's harder to do that now).

But my first contract was for production music. I found I had a knack for it, and I liked it, so that's what I continued doing.

My advice to anyone starting out is to choose their path, and make every effort to follow it. But at the same time remember that you need to be open to possibilities.

There is so much to enjoy in sound and music that any avenue you take has the potential to lead to immense personal satisfaction.

By David Mellor Thursday November 30, 2006