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Q: "What are the job requirements for being a producer?"

A visitor yearns to be a record producer. Hmm, something almost logical there. But what qualifications do you need to get the job?


Question from a Audio Masterclass visitor...

"What are the job requirements for being a producer?"

I'm presuming that the questioner wants to know the entry requirements, and what a budding producer's resumé needs to contain.

Well firstly, you are very unlikely to get a job as a record producer. I mean a job in the sense that you have a regular place of work, work regular hours, pay into a pension scheme and get your tax deducted before you get your pay check.

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There might be a few possibilities - perhaps a university music department might have a 'Producer in Residence'. If anyone actually does have a regular job as a record producer, or knows of someone who does, then please let us know.

Being a record producer these days is therefore always a freelance activity. And as a freelance, you don't need any formal qualifications. You just need to be able to produce recordings that are marketable.

But a budding record producer does need a suitable background of experience, ready for the first day they take charge in a recording studio.

Firstly and foremostly, a record producer needs a deep understanding of music. Perhaps not the full width, depth and breadth of all of the music created in the last thousand years. But at least in one genre of music a budding producer needs to be among the few people in the entire world who understand that genre best.

Suppose for instance you wanted to produce electronic dance music. I chose this as an example because the most obvious route to market for your recordings is through live DJs.

DJs who become successful have an intense understanding of the music they play. They know exactly what will please the crowd, and how to create a mood and atmosphere that will bring people in night after night.

As a producer, you have to give the DJ the music he or she wants. And if your appreciation and understanding of music isn't as good as the DJ's, how on earth are you going to be able to do that?

So if you want to become a record producer, you need to breathe, eat and sleep music. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. There is no other way you will become competitive.

Oh, and you don't just have to understand your chosen genre of music, you have to be able to push the style further, creating new sounds that people will want to buy.

The next quality on your imaginary resumé that you will need is the ability to work with people, direct them and get the best out of them.

Yes, some producers work alone, but they are very much in the minority. Even if you produce the entire backing track of a song yourself, you will still have to work with and get the best performance out of the singer.

Being able to play an instrument and operate the equipment would be nice, but if you really were a such a musical hotshot as I have described, you would be able to find musicians and engineers to work with you. This would allow you to concentrate fully on the music.

But I will still list it among a producer's skills. So, as a budding producer, if you are musically expert, creative, can get the best out of musicians, and can operate the equipment and get a good sound, you have a very good combination of skills.

I think we can see now why getting to be a successful record producer is so difficult.

But not impossible...

By David Mellor Thursday November 30, 2006