13 jobs in the music industry you should be doing right now:

“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.

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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.

1. Producer

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.”

2. Engineer

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.

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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.

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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.

5. Accountant

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.

A1A50BB3-7A8F-4915-BD62-6C34AA467A4CSomeone 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.

12. Publisher

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*

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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.

Conclusion

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,

-El Z

Home Studio 101

For the past 4 years, I have been slowwwly, meticulously curating my own home studio. Any well-informed current artist, according to Felix Snow, needs to be able to record him or herself.

Yet how does one go about it? Where do you start? After doing everything the hard way and making countless errors that have wasted time I could have used actually devoted to the music, I would like to break down a few guidelines to hopefully save you some of the same griefs that I was forced to experience.

1. Decide on a DAW.

DAW, or digital audio workstation, is necessary for any studio. At most prominent recording studios in major cities, they’re using Pro Tools. I recommend this if you’re planning on working your way up in the industry, becoming a well-versed engineer, or just want to record your own vocals well.

As valued as Pro Tools is, it can also be expensive. Some artists/engineers who are just starting out prefer a more economical version. Also understand that it is not necessarily the tool you are using as much as the knowledge of the user that defines a good product (e.g. an inexperienced engineer using a $10,000 console is still likely to crank out a whack record).

A couple of other DAWs that are currently popular are Logic Pro X, FL Studio (formerly Fruity Loops), and Ableton. Felix Snow used Ableton when he produced Gold with Kiiara, and Metro Boomin started (and still mostly uses) FL. You will need to consider what type of sound you are going for when choosing one of these secondary DAWs: In my opinion, the stock plug-ins (or sound samples) for Logic Pro lend more to EDM while in FL lend toward trap music.

2. Pick a computer.

Depending on which DAW you have chosen, you may be limited in what type of computer you can go with. For example, if you do decide to start out with Pro Tools, you more than likely with need an Apple computer to handle the software, as Apple products are kind of build for art programs.

Understand that this is an objective claim, considering that I would hardly recommend an Apple product otherwise, but I digress. You will then need to decide whether you need a desktop or laptop for you needs, depending on whether you will be more mobile or if you need more of a stable core for your work space.

I must mention here, as well, that if you are a producer starting out with FL Studio, you will need a PC, which is what the program was made for. It is possible to use a trial third-party platform converter for Apple computers, but I recommend using the software on the system that it originally was intended for. I have found some good articles recommending the best computers for running FL and have included one here:

http://picknotebook.com/blog/best-fl-studio-laptop/

Of course, the whole article doesn’t necessarily have to be studied, but it does include some valuable information, if not other than for the specs. The third brand listed, a Razer, is my personal recommendation, and Metro Boomin’s, for what that is worth. Also, a Fruity license is included with the puchase if you buy one new. Even as I say that, I am currently running Fruity on the El Cheapo Dell Inspiron gaming version, and haven’t had any problems with that either.

3. Select an interface.

Ok, so you have a computer with a good DAW. Now, you need some way to move sound from a microphone or instruments to your DAW. How does this happen? If you’re planning to make beats with a USB controller or just a solitary mic, you may be able to skip this step.

However, for us mere mortals wanting the option of recording 2 keyboards, some girls singing, and maybe your friend’s guitar, you’re going to need something that you can plug that into.

Enter the interface. Depending on which DAW you have chosen, there are interfaces made to work specifically with that DAW. For example, Avid (Pro Tools manufacturer) creates interfaces that come with a Pro Tools license. Depending on your recording needs, they range anywhere from a couple of I/O slots all the way to professional studio gear.

Whichever brand you’re going with, first consider type and number of microphones/instruments you will be recording. This will give you good parameters in your search.

Conclusion

With these first three basic items, you’re ready to add monitors, instruments, and microphones to your studio. But first, make sure that you consider the best DAW for your budget and the best computer for the platform. With an interface to link it all together, you can become a DIY hitmaker.

Beat Making 101

I’ve been making beats for about year and a half, and about 50% of the time people hear about it, the response I get involves questions about how to get started. With current technology, beat making does not require a complicated process, a college degree, or even a huge budget. Your main objective, if you’re serious about the endeavor, is to get started. Like with anything, your most valuable commodity is going to be experience.

My interest spans a few different genres: Mainly hip-hop, but also some pop and acoustic. I have done my best to outline your startup process as follows:

1. Save $$

Like with many goals, money can be the primary deterrent from achieving what you set out to. However, life is too short to let that happen. Must be nice to have unlimited resources, you are thinking. Well, I don’t. As a single female working in hospital registration, I had to scrape for everything that I had. My MIDI keyboard is a fortunate hand-me-down, Logic is from my tax money, and Pro Tools Express and an Mbox took my entire Christmas bonus.

It’s all about prioritizing, when it comes down to it. Ask yourself:

  • What’s really important to me?
  • Where do I see myself in 5 years? 10 years?

If you’re 25 and unhappy, but do not wish to see yourself in the same habits at 35, it’s time to make a change.

Saving is really less about making a lot and more about living within your means. Even if you save $50 a paycheck, at the end of every month, you will have another $100 to spend on gear. Making sacrifices is part of success: If cutting out a few more trips to Starbucks or Wing Stop get you where you want to go, consider it worth it.

2. Pick Your Gear.

I’m not going to lie to you: Audio gear is not cheap. However, that is no excuse not to be great. Metro Boomin was producer of the year, and he started on a $99 piece of software (FL) with a laptop and a keyboard. He still uses these platforms as his base to this day.

Young Metro

Case in point: Pick out one or two essential pieces of gear just to start. You don’t need to be all fancy to make a good beat. In fact, being in front of a gigantic interface with 500 plug-ins would likely overwhelm you to begin with. Now, what you need will slightly vary depending on the type of music you wish to produce, but at the end of the day, your best friends will likely be:

  1. A laptop
  2. Recording software (a.k.a. Digital Audio Workspace or DAW)
  3. A MIDI controller

That’s it. Yep. These three items are a good start for beat making. A laptop, you likely already have. Any type of computer will work, really. You will have to research which DAW will work for your music style. Most prefer Logic Pro X for Mac or FL for PCs. FL is what a lot of hip-hop and trap beat makers use, though it can be tricky using on Mac. Formerly Fruity Loops, they have attempted to make the platform a bit more fancy, with upgrade options for recording vocals, etc. On the other hand, you may prefer Ableton Live, a made-for-home platform promoted by Kiiara’s now trending producer, Felix Snow.

A MIDI controller is any device that can send electrical impulses, read through your DAW as sound. A keyboard can be a MIDI controller, as can a beat pad. The go-to beat pad for hip-hop music is Akai products, beginning with the original Akai MPC from 1988, so classic they put it on T-shirts. If you want to dig one of these babies up, good luck going under $1K. However, Akai has several modern, evolved MIDI controllers, including the MPD218 for $89. If you choose the Ableton software, they manufacture MIDI controllers as well, so that may be an easier option regardless.

3. Start.

Just start. Stop making excuses. Everybody, at first, feels completely lost and clueless. Totally normal. When Childish Gambino (Donald Glover) discovered FL, he locked himself up in his dorm room, skipping classes at NYU for a week to learn and make beats (disclaimer: I am not recommending that you skip college courses to make beats).

Childish-Gambino

There are lots of beginner YouTube tutorials and articles about how to use Logic and FL. With more practice, you will figure things out and develop your own shortcuts and templates.

There you go…you’re welcome. Now you can make your own beats, or sell beats–whatever your end game, you have all the resources. The only thing stopping you is you.

Mary Beth, CHAA; Assistant Audio Engineer, Fresco Recording Services