“Thank God for the day!” Metro Boomin tweets to the universe, reminding the music community that there is gratitude to be had, there is a God, and Young Metro still lives..
Sure, we all are familiar with local and mainstream rappers and singers, but most of society can be completely aloof to the multi-layer support system that runs the machine. ‘A-list’ celebs like Justin Bieber or Beyoncé have a team of some 2,000 people, from stylist to roadies. Even a roadie at this level makes a good living, if you’re interested in the tour lifestyle.
In this article, we will discuss 13 music industry jobs–some common, some less heard of–to guide you to either pick a major or maybe just in time for your quarter life crisis. For the purposes of this article, we will skip the artist occupation because of it’s nature, but feel free to check out My life as an artist.
What is a producer? A more hotly debated topic lately, the parameters defining the producer’s role have been blurred, especially in certain genres. Traditionally, the producer was known as the person helping to develop the record and shape the artist’s sound.
In recent times, many amateur “producers” have emerged all over the internet. But what really is in place to separate the seasoned Full Sail grad from the 15 year old who just traded in his PS4 for FL Studio out of curiosity? (Sometimes it can actually wind up being the 15-yr-old who makes it, but that’s another story for another day).
This dilemma brings me back to something Gary Vee said recently: “If your Instagram bio says entrepreneur, and you’re not doing anything, you’re not an entrepreneur. You’re a wantrepreneur.”
Unfortunately, no rules exist to prevent amateurs from giving themselves producer titles. In the meantime, a few other terms are in place to specify further what one means when calling herself “producer.”
An engineer is someone who records the session. He is usually in the control room tracking the record and giving input to the artist based on what he hears during the session.
Your engineer can be your most valuable asset–he will make or break the sound of the song. You’re going to want to extend even more hospitality than you do to your Uber driver, that is, if a golden record is more important to you than a 5 star rating.
Engineering a session with a local rap artist
Honestly, an engineer these days is much like a dope dealer. Once you find a good one, you keep him, he offers services that few people do, and in a moment of desperation, a loyal client will run his door down at all hours of the night.
An artist in his own right, an engineer has his own creative input on a song but is usually a more behind the scenes type. Recording sessions on your own, you can expect about $30-50 per hour.
3. Beat Maker
This is where it can get confusing. Many beat makers don’t want this label; they jump straight to calling themselves producers, at which seasoned engineers and experienced producers get their feelings hurt.
In my opinion, you can make beats, but you’re not a producer until you’re making a good income or have some type of reputable standing in the culture. Until then, you’re a beat maker…that’s just me personally.
Once you do start getting some traction, you are #1 on the list to be making some dough. The instrument track gets 50% publishing royalties off the top of any song. Let’s say you’re working with an artist who creates an entire hook and 3 verse to your beat: lyrics and melody. The song takes off, but only because the artist has first paid you, her manager, a few promoters, and some contest entry fees. That artist will then still be splitting publishing royalties with you 50/50. Crazy, right?
4. Music Entertainment Lawyer
Which brings me to my next point. Once you start making some cash, you’re going to need a music entertainment lawyer. Not a real estate lawyer, not a divorce attorney, but a music lawyer. Only someone familiar with the industry will be able to read your contracts correctly.
For this reason, these attorneys commonly charge some $250/hr for their services, unless your client is Brittany Spears and you just work on a per diem basis.
This title probably may you think of someone like Lil Pump’s accountant, who is probably getting a nice percentage of his $8 mil contract. However, not all accountants in the industry operate this way.
It is perfectly normal for any human making money in the industry to hire an accountant; it’s just like owning your own business. You want someone to help you out with you schedule Cs so you don’t get screwed at tax season.
6. Personal Manager
This is the person an artist should be able to trust with his life. If you are an artist’s best friend, you could be in the running for this position. A personal manager handles everything directly related the person of the artist–schedules, gigs, other team members, and maybe even the coffee he drinks in the morning.
Go for this position if A) You really believe in your artist but would rather do promo/behind the scenes work. B) You are a great people person: You’re going to be doing PR with the fan base, venues, and pretty much everyone/everything in relation to the artist. C) You have great organizational skills. Your artist has so many DMs to answer, photo spreads to plan, and trauma to process through his album that he needs to be able to leave it up to you to handle details and get him from point A to point B in one piece.
7. Business Manager
This is the other person an artist should be able to trust with his life.
8. Streaming Promoter
In the digital age, streaming platforms have all but replaced the traditional pay-per-track idea. This is has great advantages and disadvantages for the artist. It is up to the streaming promoter to find all of the advantages and use them to the artist’s advantage. My friend, Cyph, is great at this. You can check out his website at The StreamLord.
Someone in this role may work primarily for one artist, but it would be beneficial to contract with multiple artists. Playlist pitching is a major role for a streaming promoter, as playlists are the new radio. And since promo/marketing is essentially the number 1 weapon for artists, a streaming promoter is invaluable. In this role, you could start out making between $10-150 per promo item, depending on the type of digital pitching or promotion.
9. Digital Promoter
Everyone who wants to sell anything needs a digital promoter. This form of marketing can be the catalyst that pushes your career over the edge. My personal digital promoter owns Imperial Digital Marketing (which I highly recommend): The people are super nice and helpful, and their company is always developing fun digital tools for promo.
Going into this industry, the sky is the limit for profit because of the virtual zero overhead that would go into this type of business. If you are social media savvy and always ahead on Silicon Valley trends, check into this profession.
10. Regional Promoter
Are you a people person? If not, stop reading now.
If you are, fully consider being a regional promoter for local artists and labels. You will be responsible for putting together events and for knowing the market. What’s fun for you is that you will be in contact with so many cool artists, managers, and venues. The other thing that’s cool for you is that green stuff (money, for those of you from Colorado).
Once you get yourself established as a reputable promoter, you will be getting paid for that attention that artists are always vying for.
11. Radio Host
Being a radio host is not as difficult as it used to be. Thanks to the advance of technology, you can be on the radio through an app, while going Instagram live at your radio station a.k.a. barber shop.
Though doing this is separate from mainstream radio, you will have your own tiny little music kingdom for which you are the gatekeeper. You will decide what music/content is played and what gets promoted. With enough local (or internet) support, you may even begin to generate income from some ads.
In the words of Stone Stafford, owning your own publishing house is like owning your own bank. All the money in music is in publishing…once you find some good songwriters, you will be golden.
13. Royalty Bounty Hunter (recoupment)
This is the newest career in music that I’ve learned about, and I had to save it for last because–I mean, let’s just be honest–bounty hunter + music = *insert multiple flame emojis*
Someone in this position is responsible for getting back royalties that you hadn’t been collecting but that you should have. Streaming platforms, or whichever services, that owes you these royalties would be in the same position as someone who owes back taxes. Yikes for them!
Someone doing royalty recoupment knows who to go after and how to collect what you should have been getting paid — for a small fee, of course.
There you have it. A few of the ways you can make it in the music industry without dancing next to strippers or yodeling in Wal-Mart. Just to be clear, I do not discriminate. I don’t think I would be brave enough to rap one of my verses in the junior department, but the sentiment is nice.
What occupation do you currently have in music or are you interested in? What do you think qualifies someone as a producer? Leave a comment below, and cheers to your role in the music industry.
Until next time, Yours,