You have your idea for your first album, movie short, soundtrack or jingle; your creativity (or a creative team) is raring to go; and you may even have some of chops to cobble together a rough version of your musical masterpiece. But what you don’t have is an outsider who can understand your vision, mould it into perfect shape and polish it to perfection. Not to mention project managing the whole thing so the individual parts don’t crumble.
That person is your digital music producer. Hiring one is easier and cheaper than ever, and we’re going to teach you how.
What is a freelance music producer?
The job description of a music producer has expanded as digital formats have exploded. But a foundational task has always been to make music “pop” using a number of tactics, including:
Implementing recording and stylistic recommendations
Arranging and mixing the individual tracks of a musical piece so they fit together and “make sense”
Weaving in some of their own flourishes, like samples from other music, sound effects or their own instrumentation
The expansion of the role has led to some specialisation. For example someone adept at sampling other music could conceivably carve out a career in sampling alone.
What can a freelance music producer do for you?
To make themselves attractive to a wider audience, most freelance producers a range of services which you can choose from, including:
Strategy. Devising a musical solution that best fits your vision and your audiences’ expectations
Management. Managing your musical project from start to finish by coordinating musicians’ schedules, securing the recording studio, directing and recording musical sessions, and ultimately driving your project toward completion via your vision
Arrangement. Arranging pre-recorded musical tracks into a coherent and polished whole
Musicianship. Adding their own musical flourishes to your work, like mixing in sound effects, sampling or their own instrumentation
Leadership. Creating musical collaborations and fostering partnerships with other artists
Why would you need a freelance music producer?
If you are developing any type of audio for commercial marketing purposes, a producer can take it from amateur to professional. Examples of audio you might consider for your business - depending on the type of business of course - include:
Intro and outro music for videos or podcasts
Sound effects for videos or podcasts
Soundtracks to films or video games
And just about any type of audio you can think of. Freelancer.com has thousands you can choose from
What’s the difference between a music producer and an audio engineer
An audio engineer is someone who controls the sound output of a particular track of music. For example, by adjusting the bass and treble tones up or down, or lowering the volume of a singer’s voice.
An engineer will often work under the supervision of a music producer. However, on smaller projects, a producer can also act as the engineer.
What should you pay your freelance musician?
Most freelance music producers charge by the hour, and one common piece of advice they get is to charge what they think their time is worth. Of course they also have to consider what the market is willing to pay.
The real rate is somewhere in the middle and can run anywhere from $15-$500 USD per hour based on the freelancer’s experience and quality of output. In developing countries, the rates could be a lot cheaper.
A freelancer can vary their baseline rates due to a number of factors, like whether there is travel involved, whether or not the session will take place after hours, how complicated the music is and seasonal demand.
In all reality, you should be able to find a competent freelancer for anywhere from $25-$60 per hour.
How to find the right producer
Do your research. Research several freelancers and choose a shortlist of those whose portfolios attract you the most. Freelancer.com is a great place to find a large number of quality producers all in one place.
Create a brief. Describe your project in as much detail as you can, including your vision for the project, your budget and your ‘must haves’.
Ask for bids and proposals. Send your brief to a few freelancers and ask them to describe how they’ll solve your problem, the time required and the cost.
Review submissions. The best proposals should convey that the freelancer understands your goals and challenges, offers solutions that meet your criteria and stays within budget.
The importance of a music producer’s portfolio
Any producer worth their salt will have a public portfolio of their work available online. The level of effort they put into its presentation can often align with the level of effort they’ll put into their work with you.
Here are some characteristics of a good portfolio:
Good navigation. The navigation structure makes it easy to drill down into the different types of work they’ve done and actual projects they’ve delivered.
Wide range of work. By nature, the role of producer means they can “do it all”. A good portfolio will display a range of different types of work.
A clear style or brand. A producer that conveys a distinct style is one that has vision. Does the producer’s work have a funky flavour to it, or more of a mellow mood? Choose a producer whose style matches your own.
Reviews and testimonials. A freelancer’s portfolio should show evidence of happy clients, such as testimonials. A site like Freelancer gives freelancers a star rating based on client feedback and has testimonials all in one place.
What to include in your contract with your music producer
After choosing your freelancer, draw up a contract describing the parameters you’ve both agreed on in the process above, and make sure to describe what happens if certain conditions aren’t met. Here are some examples:
What is the deadline and what happens if the producer misses it?
How much will you be paying the producer per hour, and how many hours did the freelancer estimate the project would take?
Are there milestones along the way to completion, where you’d like to see evidence of progress?
What channels of communication do you expect the freelancer to use, and when do they need to be contactable?
What happens if the project runs over budget through no fault of the freelancer?
How will the hourly rate change if you decide to extend the project or request the freelancer work overtime or late into the night?
How many revisions is the freelancer responsible for if you change your mind at any time?
Before the digital age, hiring a music producer seemed to be limited to the domain of musical artists, Broadway productions and movie score composers. Not to mention the geographic and technological restrictions.
But these days, you can find a producer at the click of a button.
If you need to bring some pizzazz to your next audio project, jump online to find it. It’s never been cheaper or easier.