Various ways music producers can get paid - Multiple income streams
In today's music industry, music producers form an important part of the creation process. We drive the project from its inception right up to the point of completion of the master and even beyond. Our ability to perform relies heavily on our skills and our equipment. To be able to afford good equipment is a blessing that's often built on our ability to generate income from multiple streams. In this article I'm going to highlight these streams and give explanations as well as my viewpoint on their relevance. Be sure to leave a comment if I leave any streams out.
This income stream is often the bread and butter for any music producer. Artists require a comfortable environment to conceptualize, write and create their music. This environment is where true networking happens. Creatives share each other's thoughts and feelings to reach common ground about the direction of a song. Working together in this setting often leads to the strongest relationships and a loyal customer base.
Starting up this service takes a bit of upfront capital, but if you can set up a decent chain between your microphone and your computer then you can start recording clients. Initially I recorded people for free until I was comfortable in my skills. When I was confident in my ability to deliver a solid product that could be used on radio, I started charging.
I've seen studio rates range from anything between R300 an hour right up to R1600. Prestige and clientele are big factors in how much you're ultimately going to be able to charge. My best advice here would be to find out what your desired clientele are paying for studio time and find a balance between that and what you'd like to be paid for your services. Be realistic about your prices because charging low may bring you more customers, but can lead to faster burnout while charging high may pay you more, but you may struggle to find clientele happy to pay you your asking price.
Mixing and mastering
This is where the magic happens in most genres. Recording requires less technical skill if the environment and equipment are right. On the other hand, mixing and mastering require large amounts of upfront skill. Being able to deliver a crisp, clear and loud product every time takes skill. These aren't skills that can be remedied by a few vst presets and some high-end plugins. Often, the best mixing and mastering engineers will talk about how important a good ear and experience are. Equipment often comes second to experience and can be the difference between a good mix and a great one.
If this is a stream that you want to explore, I'd recommend starting off by playing around with mixes of your close contacts. Ask them for separates/stems of projects that they're working on and offer to mix for free to learn without pressure. I used a similar approach whereby I mixed a few songs for a friend and each time I presented the song to them, they'd give me feedback. Once I was confident that I could deliver a good product repeatedly, I began charging.
Prices for mixing and mastering started out as a few hundred but over 2 years moved into the thousands. As I saved revenue from this service, I upgraded my equipment to be able to monitor my mixes better. I currently rely on my Yamaha HS5s and my Beyer Dynamic DT770s for my mixes.
This income stream is often the first one that music producers are exposed to. Artists need beats and producers provide them. Often, producers that specialize in this income stream are called beat makers. They specialize in creating Instrumentals for artists to record over.
Prices for beats vary incredibly from as low as a few hundred Rands for 100 beats to tens of thousands of Rands for one beat. There are no regulatory bodies for beat makers so it's rare to find a standard price other than that decided upon by seller. In some cases the beat maker will waive the upfront fee for the beat and instead ask that they get paid only through royalties generated when the song is played.
Exclusivity of beats also varies based on licenses. These licenses can state Nonexclusive usage or exclusive usage. How exclusive a beat is often governs the price of the beat. Other factors governing the price of the beat is who the beat maker has worked with and how many hit songs they had a hand in creating.
It'd probably be useful to mention that sales happen mostly on beat selling websites like Airbit and Beatstars. These websites make it easy to upload work, have people listen and then sell. I know beat makers who focus on this revenue stream alone.
All skilled environments have room for tutors. If there's a skill that you excel at, it can be taught. I've run sessions where I tutor beat making, mixing and mastering and recording. I generally run these at an hourly rate and I also give the person in tutoring material and homework to solidify the skills I've taught them. During the height of the 1st Covid wave, I ran paid zoom sessions where I made beats, critiqued music and went over fundamentals. The recording of the session was then sent to the client for learning purposes.
A major benefit I found when teaching was that I was forced to learn how to articulate myself musically. Where I used to just push buttons because I knew that was the next step, when teaching I had to explain each step. This helped me solidify certain concepts for myself and often resulted in me experimenting with alternative methods to make it easier for the people I was teaching.
Whichever revenue stream you decide on, dedicate a few months to getting good at it before going all in with the charges. People aren't always happy to pay for a service where someone is still learning.
As you develop one of these methods, you can move into the next and before you know it you'll have multiple streams of income from music.
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