Becoming a music producer is a prospect many consider, especially those who love music and think it would be fun to work in the industry.
But exactly how much money can a producer expect to make?
In this guide, we answer your most asked questions about how much a music producer can earn, along with plenty of examples.
How Much Do Music Producers Make Per Year? – Quick Answer
PayScale says the average base salary for a music producer is $51,324 per year ($4,277 per month). Economic Research Institute has the number a little higher, at an average of $76,228 per year ($6,352.33 per month).
Stats and opinions do vary quite a bit, but either way, active (and experienced) music producers, on average, can expect to make anywhere from $47,000 to $84,000 per year.
Of course, there are many producers earning considerably less, and there is relative few earning two to four times the highest average estimate.
The amount you make as a producer is going to depend on a variety of factors, such as whether you’re working as a freelancer or in-house producer at a label, whether you are a sought-after established name or unknown independent, who you’re connected to (your network), whether you have other income sources, and more.
What Is a Music Producer’s Earning Potential?
According to research, the most a producer has earned in a year is $277,666.
This research obviously does not include the likes of Timbaland, who reportedly earns anywhere from $6 million to $22 per year.
Sure, Timbaland is more than just a producer, and is also a DJ, singer, rapper, songwriter, and record executive. He has multiple sources of income. Even so, what he is most known for is his work as a producer.
Most studies around music producer salary clearly do not factor major producer figures into the equation.
Realistically, time is always a factor. How many projects can you take on in a year? If you’re paid on a per project basis and aren’t earning royalties on your work, then it stands to reason the best you can hope for is to trade hours for dollars.
Meanwhile, if you have other reliable income streams and have passive earning power, you can enjoy more freedom in your career while you’re taking on the types of projects that excite you most.
What Does A Music Producer Earn Per Song?
What you earn per song as a music producer depends on your skill level as well as on negotiations. Here’s a general overview of what you can expect per song depending on your experience:
- New producer: $0 to $3,500 per song
- Mid-level producer: $3,500 to $7,000 per song
- Top tier producer: $10,000 to $15,000 per song
Producers will be paid a flat fee or an hourly rate for their work, earn two to 3.5% of the album’s revenue, and advances (usually reserved for top tier producers). This all depends on negotiation.
Naturally, how well a release does would play a part in your earnings per song if you’re earning on the album’s revenue.
What Are The Main Ways Music Producers Make Money?
Naturally, producing music is a producer’s main source of income.
That said, there are many other ways to earn an income as a producer.
Some of these include:
- Selling samples and beats
- Becoming a session / freelancing musician
- Ghost producing for another artist or producer
- Licensing your music
- Selling merchandise
Are Music Producers In Demand?
There are different ways of answering this question.
Broadly speaking, the demand for music producers is expected to remain about the same for the next 10 years. One of the reasons for this is because funding may not be available for orchestras, music groups, and performing companies who regularly hire music producers.
While this may be the case, there is an ever-increasing number of companies producing and distributing original content – Netflix, Amazon, HBO, Disney, and others.
And if you were to include sites that are primarily homes to user created content, be it YouTube, Vimeo, TikTok, or otherwise, the sheer amount of content requiring music in some capacity is only booming by the day.
From this perspective, opportunities are near limitless. Of course, it depends on the audience you want to serve and how much you expect to get paid. Contributing royalty free music to sites like Pixabay may help you get your name out there, and earn a few tips, but it might not lead to a profitable career short term.
Another factor worth considering is the number of new artists popping up every single day. Realistically, you’re not the only one starting from scratch (if you are starting from scratch), which means you can build alliances with artists, musicians, and other producers who are interested in taking their careers seriously.
Finally, we can’t forget record labels. Labels always have new projects and are hiring producers most days of the year. Can you put yourself in a position where a label would approach you to work on one of their projects? It’s going to take some work to get there, but it certainly isn’t beyond the realm of possibility!
If there isn’t a demand for your work yet, don’t worry. You can create the demand. But you will need to become known for what you do. The very sound you create needs to be in demand.
Is Music Production Hard?
Anyone can buy a laptop, a decent pair of headphones, an audio interface with cables (optional), a MIDI controller (optional), and get into music production today.
So, exactly how hard is it?
Experienced pros are often knowledgeable in:
- How their ears work and perceive sound
- The ins and outs of their DAW, keyboard shortcuts and all
- Audio recording, editing, mixing, and in some cases mastering
- Recording hardware and software, as well as how to use it
- Music theory, songwriting, and composition
- How to play an instrument (they may play multiple instruments)
- Branding and marketing
- And more
Does this mean that every producer knows everything about everything? Not at all. Some well known names don’t play instruments, don’t really understand music theory, and may have never read the first thing about how the ear perceives sound.
The point is that it can take time to feel comfortable with music production. There are many dimensions to it, depending on what you’re called upon to do. Learning to play an instrument well, for instance, takes at least three years if not 10.
A music producer is a specialist. And specialists generally have a fair bit of education behind them and have put their share of time and effort into developing their craft.
Is A Career In Music Production A Good Path?
The best plan is to find out whether you enjoy music production.
If you’re passionate about music, and love to help artists bring their creative vision to life, then you will love music production.
But it’s generally not a great career to get into if you’re only in it for the money.
Not only are there better paying jobs, but you should also not expect to land amazing jobs after a year or two of schooling. A producer needs to gain a lot of real-world experience to be valuable to others.
Some new producers even fill their schedule with pro bono work and don’t start charging until they’ve built up demand.
Where Can You Go To Learn About Music Production?
As with most things, there are multiple paths to learning music production.
Broadly speaking, you can go to school, take courses online, watch YouTube videos and read online tutorials, read books, start producing and experimenting inside your own DAW environment, or some combination thereof.
It’s good to remember that going to school does not guarantee a job in the field you’re thinking about getting into, but there can be other advantages, such as industry connections, resources, and access to professional studio environments.
Some of the best online course providers include:
- Berklee College of Music
- MasterClass (learn from the likes of Timbaland, Armin Van Buuren, deamau5, Hans Zimmer, and others)
If you live in or near a major city, you should also be able to find schools in your locality that teach music production.
Understand – some of your favorite artists and producers don’t necessarily have walls full of diplomas and degrees. Many of them are self-taught, to lesser or greater degrees.
If you have the determination to learn, and a passion for music, you will have the tenacity necessary to gather information from a variety of sources, experiment, and figure out how to create music at the level you desire to.
These days, the free information available is better than it’s ever been.
What Skills Do I Need To Learn As A Music Producer?
There isn’t one specific path to becoming a music producer. Some music producers were artists first. Some set up a home studio and earned their stripes producing independently. Others went to school and followed a more traditional path to getting hired at a local studio.
Just as there is no one size fits all to becoming a music producer, there isn’t a list of skills every producer necessarily needs to acquire to be competent at their job. The truth is every producer has certain strengths and weaknesses.
Some producers work primarily on hip-hop. Others produce music for film and TV. And while there are some commonalities to the skills required to do either (or anything else for that matter), there are also some differences.
With that in mind, here are some of the skills you should consider developing.
Listen broadly to a variety of music in different styles. Make observations about the sounds you hear on these recordings and see if you can identify specific production techniques. Also see if you can duplicate these techniques in your own projects.
Additionally, learn to identify pitch, tempo, and harmony.
Ear training can be an expansive topic, requiring patience and work. But the work you put into training your ear can only help you in the long run.
Software Based Recording
These days, most projects are produced inside a Digital Audio Workstation (or DAW). While you might process your audio through preamps, compressors, reverbs, and other outboard gear before the signal ever reaches your computer, fundamentally, most of your work is going to happen in your DAW.
Whether it’s tracking, editing, mixing, or mastering, your computer is going to be the starting point for must projects. Thus, software-based recording is an essential skill. You must know how a keyboard and mouse work, learn your keyboard shortcuts, understand your DAW’s workflow, and more.
Admittedly, not all music producers have a complete or firm grasp of music theory. That said, if it’s your job to come up with backing tracks, chord progressions, hooks, and the like, you should at least have a good idea of what sounds good.
A music producer’s involvement in a project can be expansive, and you never know what you might be called upon to do.
Additionally, if you understand music theory, you can communicate with the artists and musicians you work with in a more targeted way.
Competency On An Instrument
Some producers only work with MIDI grid controllers. Others can play just about anything you can name – guitar, keyboard, bass, drums, and more.
Rarely is the ability to play an instrument a detriment to your job. But the extent of the skill and knowledge required will depend on the type of work you’re taking on and what’s expected of you.
Learning to play an instrument makes you more valuable as a producer overall, makes you a better composer and arranger, and it can help you better communicate with musicians and artists too.
Additional Music Producer Case Studies & Examples
Here we’ll look at some of the world’s top music producers and what their annual earnings are.
Record producer and former co-president of Columbia Records Rick Rubin also established American Recordings and is the co-founder of Def Jam Recordings. He is best known for his work with the likes of the Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Run-DMC, among others.
Rick Rubin reportedly earns $20 million USD per year.
Dr. Dre is a rapper, record producer, and entrepreneur. No surprise, then, that he has multiple sources of income.
Dre originally found fame with rap group N.W.A., and his 1992 release, The Chronic, made him one of the best-selling American music artists of 1993.
Before long, he would go onto produce the likes of Snoop Dogg, Xzibit, Eminem, and others.
Dr. Dre makes a cool $50 million per year from his various ventures.
Max Martin is a Swedish record producer, songwriter, and retired singer. Martin has written or co-written 25 Billboard Hot 100 number one songs, most of which he produced or co-produced.
His stamp is all over the likes of Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, NSYNC, Katy Perry, Maroon 5, Taylor Swift, and many others.
Although we’re not sure exactly how much Martin earns each year, in 2016 his company brought in $54 million, and he personally profited $19 million.
British musician, composer, record producer, and visual artist Brian Eno is known for contributing to and / or steering the careers of Robert Fripp, David Bowie, David Byrne, Devo, U2, Coldplay, Daniel Lanois, and many others.
Some reports say Eno is one of the highest paid musicians in the world, pulling in $75 million from April 2021 to April 2022.
Quincy Jones is a record producer, musician, songwriter, composer, arranger, and film and television producer. He’s received 80 Grammy Award nominations, 28 Grammys, and the Grammy Legend Award in 1992.
Jones has worked in a variety of capacities with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Count Basie, Michael Jackson, and others.
Jones has an estimated salary of over $30 million per year.
Nile Rodgers is a musician, record producer, and composer. Having played guitar on countless records, you will have heard his work (as a guitarist or producer) on the likes of Diana Ross, David Bowie, INXS, Madonna, Duran Duran, and many others.
Nile Rodgers reportedly earns about $200,000 yearly.
Mark Ronson is a British-American DJ, record producer, and record executive. You probably know him best for “Uptown Funk” featuring Bruno Mars, but he’s also collaborated with Duran Duran, Amy Winehouse, Adele, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, and others.
Mark Ronson is reportedly one of the highest paid musicians in the world posting an amazing $96 million between April 2021 and April 2022.
How Much Do Music Producers Earn? Final Thoughts
If you’re trading hours for dollars, there might be an upper limit on what you can earn as a music producer. But if you layer in additional income streams, realistically, there is no ceiling. You can command hundreds of thousands of dollars, and in some rare instances, millions of dollars per year.
But because it is an attractive profession, it’s fair to say there are many people vying for the same opportunities you are. If you want to make a business out of it, you will need to take it seriously. You can’t expect to rise through the ranks without putting your time into your craft.