Careers in Music Production & Engineering
The producer plays a variety of roles depending on whether they are working in music, film, theater, dance, video games, or other media. In the music industry, producers often work with recording artists and record labels to create songs and albums for release. The music producer supervises all aspects of the recording process—including contracting session players and overseeing the recording budget—and may also help the artist select songs to be recorded. Preferably, a producer should be an excellent musician with a lot of performance experience. In addition to possessing a great depth of knowledge in music, a producer should hold extensive technical knowledge of recording equipment, engineering, and acoustics. A producer must also demonstrate creativity and excellent interpersonal skills.
The recording engineer operates the mixing console and other equipment during the process of recording music or sound. Recording engineers generally run recording sessions, with oversight from the producer. They may also be responsible for setting up equipment in the studio prior to the session, and discussing what the end product should sound like with the producer and talent. It is the engineer’s subsequent responsibility to craft a recording that meets all stakeholders’ stated desires. Many engineers are also called upon to be mixers, working with the output of recording sessions to piece together a polished finished product. Recording engineers/mixers must possess well-trained ears, advanced technical knowledge of recording and mixing tools, and an ingrained understanding of studio etiquette.
The assistant engineer works in the recording studio and is responsible for assisting the recording engineer with setup, recording tracks, and mixing. This person works as directed by the recording engineer.
As the producer's right-hand person, the production assistant handles details for the producer such as contracting talent (musicians/vocalists) for sessions, scheduling studio time, placing telephone calls, sending emails ensuring everyone is aware of when and where the session will be held, assisting on the session, and setting up the equipment in the studio for a session and/or returning it to its proper place after the session.
The studio manager/owner is the person responsible for running the business of the recording studio and may be a sole or partial owner of the business. Studio managers are responsible for booking acts to record at the studio, scheduling engineers, marketing the studio, and budgeting and providing for all the needs of a professional recording studio. The studio manager/owner is also the in-house diplomat, acting as the liaison between engineers and clients, ensuring client satisfaction, and handling all financial transactions with clients.
Sound technicians are responsible for high-quality sound during live performance. They usually arrive at the concert sight before the performers and are involved in unloading and setting up the equipment and instruments along with the road crew. Sound technicians supervise the placement of equipment and work with the talent during the sound check to achieve the best sound. They may even work a soundboard during the actual performance.
Acoustic consultants provide complete audio, video, and acoustic design services for performance spaces such as concert halls, arenas, stadiums, studios, convention facilities, clubs, churches, and synagogues. Acoustical consultants can provide an acoustical analysis of a particular venue, identify acoustical problems, and make suggestions for equipment or interior design changes for fixing any problems.
Audio Engineer for Videos
This engineer's specialty is making certain that the audio tracks are synchronized and equalized with the video.
Digital Remastering Engineer
This engineer's responsibility is to take older analog masters, which are on vinyl, 8-track, or audiocassette formats, and remaster them for release on CD or other digital mediums.
Live Sound Engineer
This engineer's primary responsibility is to operate the soundboard during a live performance. The live sound engineer is also involved in sound check and the placement of equipment in preparation for a live performance.
Recording Equipment Manufacturer's Rep/Customer Service
A recording equipment manufacturer's rep will usually work at the company's headquarters in a customer service/tech support role. They will also represent the company at trade shows or conferences and potentially serve as a product demonstrator. Usually, someone with strong playing ability as a musician is selected for this role.
Mastering Engineer (Post-Production Engineer)
This engineer is responsible for taking the final mixes of recordings that have been sent by a studio, band, or artist for finishing touches such as EQ (equalization), overall effects, and possibly compression.
“...Remember: this was your dream. You are making music for a living. You already won.” - Miles Walker
Interactive and Mixed Media Specialist
Interactive and mixed media specialists work to create features for websites, software, and a wide variety of digital multimedia applications. These features may contain sound, music, text, video, images, and/or animation. Interactive and mixed media specialists may be charged with developing and implementing “front-end” content or “back-end” functions, or both. As such, this position requires a broad spectrum of skills, which may include graphic design, web design, web development/computer programming, sound design, editing, and more. Typically, interactive and mixed media specialists are enlisted to help clients meet sales or fundraising goals, so in addition to technical skills, interactive and mixed media specialists should possess an understanding of marketing, communications, and digital user behavior.
Rerecording Mixer (Film and Video)
If a film or business wants to use a particular song for a commercial or movie, they will often rerecord the song or composition again in order to avoid having to negotiate and pay a hefty master-licensing fee to a record label for use of the actual (master) recording. By rerecording the song, they will only have to pay the mechanical licensing fee, which is a rate that is established by the U.S. government and is much cheaper than a master-licensing fee. Therefore, a rerecording mixer for film and video rerecords a song or composition that has already been commercially released.
Record Company Staff
Many times successful producers and engineers who have a track record of working with and identifying successful artists and bands will be tapped for an executive level position at a record label, to oversee artist development, production, or A&R. These producers and engineers usually have had an exclusive agreement and history or working with the record label for several years, and the success of the producer or engineer has resulted in the success of the label.
Recording Studio Setup Worker
This person is generally charged with the responsibilities of setting up for a recording session by arriving early before the session musicians, artist, or band and setting up any necessary musical equipment, such as amplifiers, drum set, microphones, running microphone cords, music stands, etc. This person is also generally the last person to leave, since they are left with the responsibility of ensuring that all equipment is returned to its proper place.
Studio designers provide complete audio, video, and acoustic design services for recording facilities. Studio designers can serve as consultants for designing or renovating studios for select and distinct purposes.
The studio technician is extremely knowledgeable in the field of electrical engineering, circuitry, and audio electronics. This person may work within the audio manufacturer's headquarters and/or conduct fieldwork, such as visiting a client's studio for customer service–related issues or product repair.
A music editor is responsible for mixing and synchronizing music with a visual counterpart, such as a film or video game. The music editor often provides a temporary track that is used as a stand-in for the final score until that score is ready. The music editor must be versatile and possess a great musical sensitivity, a keen ear for balance, and an awareness of how music can make or break a dramatic scene or sequence. In addition, the music editor must be familiar with the technology used to mix and synchronize music in conjunction with visual media.
The programmer uses software to produce MIDI keyboard/synthesizer tracks for inclusion in a score for visual media such as film, TV, video games, and commercials, or for art installations, live performances, and more. A programmer may also sequence a composition so as to enable the composer, music editor, or others an opportunity to hear it—and identify any problematic areas—without having to hire a full orchestra before it reaches its final performance or recording stage. A programmer must possess strong skills with music sequencing software and notation software.
The sound designer is employed to develop and/or utilize a sound library to implement sounds and effects for a variety of potential clients, including artists/bands; films, television shows, video games, and other visual media; live theater; production and multimedia companies; and manufacturers. The sound designer typically uses an array of sophisticated electronic equipment to find sonic solutions in their work. A sound designer must posses a creative mindset, the ability to record and edit audio, and the discipline to manage a multitude of audio files across various projects.
The DJ/remixer may be charged with editing a song or completely recreating it to sound different from the original version. The DJ/remixer may also mix recorded music live for an audience. Skills required involve knowledge of audio editing and music production software as well as performance dynamics and knowledge of current musical trends.
Audio developers create, collect, and/or compile sound effects and music to be used in apps, video games, and other web-based features. The lead audio developer may record sounds or music or draw from a preexisting sonic library, or both, and may oversee voice-over recording sessions. The audio developer’s primary role is to ensure that the finished product contains professional-quality audio. An audio developer should possess electronic production and sound design skills, a working knowledge of professional audio recording and editing software, a creative mindset, and typically must harness the ability to deliver results under tight deadlines.