How long does it take to become a successful music producer?
I see this question asked all the time, and it’s something I used to ask myself quite a bit, too. I felt that it shouldn’t take THAT long to become a successful producer. Some of the superstar DJs are not even 20 years old before hitting the biggest stages, so how long does it take to become a successful music producer?
Every producer goes through a few stages of their career, and we all start at the very beginning.
I’ve split the career timeline of a producer into six sections:
The dawn of a new producer (0 - 3 months)
You’ve made the decision you want to take matters into your own hands. Maybe you’ve just seen your favorite DJ, heard your favorite song, or already made some music and you want to transition into production. You’ve decided that this is something that you want to do for real.
You probably don’t know where to start, which DAW to use, or where to even find the answers to these questions. You’re excited and eager to start this journey but also feel slightly lost and overwhelmed.
The good news is that it doesn’t take thousands of dollars in gear or a professional studio to get started as a music producer (or even become a successful one).
Every producer in the world starts at this stage (even Tiesto and Prydz). Don’t feel discouraged if you don’t have all the answers, yet! It’s all part of the process.
A lot of people might lose interest at this point, realizing that it was just a spur of the moment idea and that becoming a successful DJ isn’t really for them. I mean, who wants to travel the world and get paid to play music to thousands of people? 😉
If you’ve made it past this stage without giving up, you should be proud. You are already further than thousands of other people who didn’t make it beyond the first stage. You’re already one step closer to your goals.
Aspiring Producer (3 - 9 Months)
This is where things get fun!
Early on you’ll start to really understand your software and be able to begin writing much quicker. You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and excitement when each track you finish writing sounds better than the last.
You’re likely experimenting and discovering tools and sounds you didn’t know existed. While this is exciting, it can be daunting at the same time. Here is where you start to realize there’s more to music production than just simply the writing.
Bedroom Producer (6 - 24 Months)
You will be opened up to a world of information as you constantly discovering new techniques and tools. This new information will aid you in your music production but can also be intimidating. There’s still so much to learn. So much to learn in both production quality and overall songwriting.
However, it’s at this “bedroom” stage where most producers get stuck. Many never acquire the knowledge and skills needed to get past this phase, usually because they give up too soon.
But why do these producers get stuck and give up?
They get stuck because they stop learning.
They either don’t have the discipline or passion needed to keep learning. Perhaps they severely underestimated the time commitment needed and don’t fully understand how long it takes to become a successful music producer.
In order to get past the bedroom producer phase, you’ll need to do well in four major areas:
I’ve ordered them in what they should be focused on first.
Something that turns a lot of producers away is music theory and songwriting. The truth is, you don’t need to know much music theory to write good electronic music. But having even a basic understanding of notes and keys and general theory will set your music apart.
Mixing is the art of balancing audio so it all fits together the best it can.
This is by far the biggest hurdle any producer will face as it is something people spend their entire lives perfecting. But that’s because it’s always changing and improving. Fortunately for us, the digital age has made mixing music tremendously more affordable than it was before, and much easier to understand and do.
Every song will require mixing in order to sound presentable, and with proper mixing, you can take your song from good to great.
Simply put, the more you practice, the faster you’ll progress. No one got anywhere fast by sitting around and slowly chipping away at a task. The more work you put into your production learning, the faster you’ll be successful.
Wait, what? I know, it’s not what you expected to see, but according to Next Big Sound, 90.7% of all artists are undiscovered. How many producers are sitting at home writing music in hopes of becoming successful? How many of those artists have amazing music but no one to hear it? That’s why learning early on how to create your brand and market your music can help your production career soar.
If you’re interested in working on your digital marketing as a producer, click here.
Up and Coming Producer (12 - 24 Months)
This is a huge turning point in every producer’s career. Getting their music ready to hit the radios, clubs, and festivals. Something to excite you is when you start signing music to labels, chances are other DJs are going to start playing out your music in live settings.
Knowing that people are hearing your music potentially all over the world is definitely an exciting part of every producer’s career.
You may even start to get some local bookings at bars and clubs where you can test out your productions to a crowd.
But with this excitement also comes a lot of negative energies that almost every single artist in the world experiences.
Self-doubt, inadequacy, lack of confidence, frustration, depression, and anxiety to name a few. You’ll feel overwhelmed that you just don’t have what it takes to become successful. This is another stage where a lot of producers quit since they don’t feel like they’ll ever be successful enough to continue on.
Every successful artist has felt this at least once if not 1,000 times. (I think I’m at my 6,000th time by now)
When you hit these walls of emotions, just understand it’s all part of the process, and you’re not alone. It stings, but it makes your victories and growth that much more rewarding. This is where being a part of a music production community can really help, by offering a support system when you are feeling down.
In order to surpass this stage of your career, you’ll need to really hone in on the skills that are not as strong. You’ll need to learn more advanced production skills that will take your music closer to professional quality, and eventually get signed by bigger labels.
Established Producer (3 - 5 Years)
At this point you will be signing music to industry-standard labels, selling and streaming enough music to make some extra cash, but not enough to quit your day job. Your music will be on radio shows and in the hands of DJs all over the world.
This is where you’ll start to get some small paid bookings.
Successful Producer (5 - 10 Years+)
You’re able to fully live off your sales, streams, and booking fees. You’re touring and playing shows internationally and getting paid to do so. You have a growing fan base and are now considered to be a successful producer. You did it!
Don’t Give Up!
So, how long does it take to become a successful music producer? The answer will vary greatly from person to person. It depends on how hard you are willing to work and how much you are willing to learn. How much are you willing to invest in yourself? Remember, no matter how long it may be taking you, no one ever got successful by giving up.
If you’d like to fast-track your music career, a course in music production can be just what you need if you are currently feeling stuck.