Music is an immersive emotional experience that has the power to lift the spirits, inspire and engage. If you have a passion for the limitless potential of music to touch the soul, then you may be thinking about exploring careers in music production. There are many different types of music production careers, all of which involve playing an integral role in the music industry. Take a look at a few of them here and begin planning your own career pathway.
What Is Music Production?
Music production can be defined in a couple of different ways. According to a strict definition of the term, music production is the process of overseeing the creation, recording and production of a song or an entire album. A music producer is someone who manages this process.
According to a broader definition of the term, music production can refer to any aspect of this process and any type of professional who works on some aspect of it. For example, a songwriter, concert technician, music editor and mastering engineer are all examples of professionals who work in music production. It’s even possible to stretch the definition a bit to encompass boom operators, who work on the audio recordings for movies and TV shows, and audio directors, who work on the audio for video games.
Are Music Production Careers Right for You?
Jobs in music production are unique in that they require both technical savvy and artistic talent. It’s essential to know how to use sophisticated music production equipment and software, but also to let your creativity take the reins. If you have dedication and a passion for music, you may think of pursuing music production careers.
Types of Careers in Music Production
If you’ve decided that you would indeed like to turn your passion for music into a meaningful career you’ll love, then it’s time to take a look at some of the jobs available within the music production field. Keep in mind that some of these music production jobs are not considered entry-level positions. People who work in music production often have a few different job titles before they work their way to the top of the career ladder. Here are some jobs that can help lead you to music production jobs:
Production Sound Mixer
One position to consider pursuing is that of the production sound mixer. A sound mixer is similar to a boom operator but specializes in live sound recording and mixing in settings such as newsrooms, TV shows and movie sets.
The main goal of a sound mixer is to capture audio in its “cleanest” form possible, without any undesirable noises. They need excellent technique to continue to capture clean audio despite the movements and improvisations of the actors.
If you love live music performances and enjoy frequent travel, then perhaps a career as a concert technician could be right for you. Concert technicians are responsible for maintaining, packing and setting up all musical instruments and related gear for a band on tour.
A concert technician can specialize in a particular instrument. For instance, a guitar tech is responsible for stringing and tuning the guitars, and setting up the amps and pedals on stage.
During a show, concert techs wear an in-ear monitor, which allows them to keep an ear out for any problems. If something happens, such as a guitar string breaking, concert technicians need to be able to repair the problem quickly and under pressure. Concert technicians may also assist the band during the show, perform sound checks and provide creative support to the band as they work to come up with new sounds and songs.
Becoming a concert technician requires a very deep knowledge of at least one instrument. They must also be willing to work long, odd hours, and to travel for weeks or months at a time. The job of a concert technician is an entry-level one that could potentially lead to advancement as a touring crew chief or tour manager.
Movies, documentaries and TV shows rely on soundtracks to build suspense, accentuate scenes and release cathartic emotion. It’s the job of the music supervisor to work on the overall soundtrack as well as securing the rights and permissions to use the music. Music supervisors must manage the technical, creative and logistical aspects of coordinating a project’s soundtrack.
Music supervisors work closely with composers, who write original scores for movie and TV productions. Because of the importance of this collaboration, all music supervisors must be accomplished musicians themselves. They must also be skilled project managers who are capable of overseeing multiple duties at once.
Audio directors may have a few different job titles, including lead audio designer or senior sound designer. Audio directors specialize in soundtracks and other types of audio for video games. They plan, develop and supervise all of the audio files for each scene of each game.
It’s ideal for an audio director to also be a musician. However, their role encompasses more than the creation of music. Audio directors are department leaders who must coordinate, delegate and oversee the activities of a diverse team, and who must also coordinate activities with other departments.
Audio directors are responsible for the soundtrack of a video game, as well as its sound effects. For instance, the audio director must ensure that if a character in the game is running, the sounds of the footfalls and heavy breathing is authentic and consistent, yet not overly repetitive.
The job of an audio director is not an entry-level one. Typically, audio directors have at least a handful of years of experience. They often start out as sound designers who specialize in a particular type of audio, such as character dialogue.
If you aspire to work with recording artists in the studio, then perhaps you might like to become a mastering engineer. A recording artist will first write the music and record it. After mixing the music, the artist then brings it to the mastering engineer to perfect the recording.
In other words, the mastering engineer is the last stop before an album is released to the public. It’s their responsibility to ensure the recording is as perfect as possible. Mastering engineers work with an eye toward ensuring the music is cohesive and that it manifests the artist’s intent. They also ensure that the music will sound right on a variety of playback systems.
The job of a mastering engineer is a senior-level one that requires extensive experience and a highly trained musician’s ear. These professionals typically start out as assistant engineers at audio post-production companies, recording studios and similar organizations. Mastering engineers may be freelancers working from a home studio or employees of a studio.
How To Pursue a Career in Music Production
No matter which particular career in music production you’re thinking of pursuing, or even if you aren’t quite sure yet which career is right for you, your path begins with education. If you’re still in high school, talk to your guidance counselor about your career aspirations and see if you can adjust your course load to reflect your goals.
You will want to take as many music-related courses as possible, of course. However, other courses can be surprisingly beneficial for music production careers. These include classes pertaining to finance (your future career may involve balancing your company’s departmental budget), language arts (communications skills are crucial) and computer applications (you will likely need to use sophisticated software for your work).
In addition, you should strive to get involved in multiple extracurricular activities. Along with music-related clubs, look for other opportunities to develop and demonstrate your leadership and collaboration skills, such as with a sports team. Lastly, look for relevant volunteer positions, such as a job as a music tutor for young children.
After high school, you will need to plan on earning a bachelor’s degree in music performance, such as a voice performance degree. You should take advantage of any opportunities to get involved in musical productions on campus, and you should look for internship opportunities and jobs in music production that can help you build your professional network.
Following graduation, you’ll be prepared to pursue your dream career. However, you should bear in mind that, depending on what your dream career is, you will likely need to work your way up the ladder. Be prepared to accept one or more internship positions or a job as an assistant, which will allow you to gain practical, on-the-job experience and continue building your professional network.
Earn a Voice Performance Degree
For people who are passionate about music, earning a voice performance degree can be an amazing experience. You’ll be fully immersed into a learning community full of students just like you who love music and want to refine their skills and talents. There will be opportunities to collaborate with your fellow music lovers, and to showcase your musical abilities.
Although you’ll have fun studying a field you’re passionate about, you should be prepared to put in long hours of hard work. You’ll take lecture-style classes, and have group and solo practice sessions with your instructors. Outside of class, you’ll spend hours refining your musical skills, preparing for recitals and collaborating in the campus recording studio.
The specific curriculum will vary a bit, depending on the program you choose. In general, voice performance students can expect to study topics such as the following:
- Rhythmic, melodic and harmonious dictation, as well as skill development in analysis and composition
- Class instruction in piano technique and literature
- Italian, German and French diction, with a look at song transliteration using the International Phonetic Alphabet with an emphasis on the correct performance of sounds
- The fundamentals and techniques of conducting, including baton technique, left hand technique, score reading and non-verbal communication
- World music as an expression of culture and worldview
It’s likely that your school will mandate your participation in certain campus performances, such as recitals and ensemble groups. This is your opportunity to demonstrate your musical skills and talents, to work together with other musicians and to build a professional portfolio that will serve you well after graduation.
A voice performance degree gives you fundamentals of music. The skills attained while earning a voice performance degree can help you as you make a career for yourself in music production.
Land Your First Job in Music Production
Even if your ultimate career goal is to become an audio director or mastering engineer, you will likely need to work your way up to those types of positions. After graduation, begin your job search not only by checking job databases, but also by reaching out to contacts in your professional network. In the entertainment industry, jobs are often acquired through referrals.
Look for internships and assistant jobs at recording studios and similar organizations. Expect to spend at least a few years on the job before moving up the career ladder.
Note that many people in the music production field decide to open their own studios and work with recording artists on their own terms. If you have an entrepreneurial mindset and can juggle the business aspect of the industry, this could be an excellent opportunity for you. However, you should still expect to spend at least a few years in positions to gain practical experience.
Students with a strong passion for music and performance will find a supportive, likeminded learning community at Grand Canyon University. Among our many performing arts degrees is the Bachelor of Arts in Music with an Emphasis in Voice Performance program, which instills core competencies in vocal arrangements, music theory, voice science and more. This degree program is aligned with the standards of the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM), and upon graduating you will be qualified to pursue meaningful careers in music production.
Approved by Dean of College of Arts and Media on Dec. 20, 2022.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.