What does the future hold for freelance music producers? In this article I’ll be dishing out my predictions based on trends that I’ve seen starting to happen already. Firstly, if you’re in camp doom and gloom and feel like the audio services industry is crumbling then you couldn’t be more wrong. I get the pleasure of watching independent audio professionals build massive businesses using the internet on a daily basis. There are certainly things to look out for, but in general all of my predictions are pretty damn positive. There are a lot of savvy producers doing really amazing things and this new era is only getting started.
So let’s dive in…
Online work will become more norm.
To me it’s the only thing that’s been normal because I started my music production business online. And, working with clients remotely isn’t anything new but you’d be surprised how many audio professionals still can’t pull it off. Over the next few years I think we’ll see more and more music producers abandoning their “engineer / local studio” model and adapting to the current music market… More programming, more composing, writing, etc. It makes way more business sense. The rise of solo artists, duos, and “programmed bands” are replacing your standard 4 piece pop-rock band. Just listen to what’s on Top 40. That’s the sound that a large portion of artists want to pursue, and the cool thing is that you can do this type of stuff remotely. Once you go remote you immediately have access to a larger clientelle. I rarely see a local studio guy put up the numbers that an online producer does now-a-days.
Producers will become more results oriented.
As technology makes it easier for anyone to produce a great song, the value of solving that problem diminishes more and more. I’ve already started seeing producers try to offset this by going all in on trying to help their artist clients get traction. In my opinion this is one of the smartest things you can do. There are a lot of producers who can make great songs, but if all of your clients are growing, getting more streams, landing placements, etc. then that gives you a big advantage. It also makes it easier to raise your rates so that you can dedicate more time to each client and make the best music possible vs. hustling audio 24/7 just to keep the rent paid.
Most producers have it backwards. They simply “wait” to land a client that is doing all of that stuff instead of trying to help their current clients get there. I have a client right now, Mark Eckert, who actually has artists making a return on their investment working with him. It’s pretty badass to watch. That’s why he can charge upwards of $2,000 / song pretty easily without major credits. His clients are doing really well because he went the extra mile to make sure that happens for them. Now, does it happen for every client? Not yet. It’s a work in progress, but it’s absolutely where I see things going.
Producers will be more personal-brand focused.
There’s just too many great examples of this already for it to be ignored… Independent music producers building a brand that then turns into a wildly successful business in which they can leverage into bigger opportunities. Using the internet to build a personal brand isn’t anything new, but just like many things… Audio professionals have just started to come around in the past few years. Deep down, we all want to be that mysterious genius whose work just “speaks for itself” and everyone bangs down our door trying to give us money. This kind of ego has kept a lot of music producers from showing up and putting themselves out there.
Producers are starting to realize that there isn’t much downside (and a lot of upside) to people knowing who they are and what they do. I can pretty much relate every big career-win I’ve got to someone discovering me online because I showed up daily and built a brand.
Producers are going to go all in on value.
Want to build intrinsic value and real value at the same time? Create something that everyone loves you for. This could be lumped in with point two but I felt like it deserved to stand on it’s own. One of the processes I take my clients through is creating a “Big Value Idea”. The internet is a noisy space so it takes a lot to stand out. I am of the belief system that you have to create so much value for your market that it makes it impossible for them to ignore your offer (services / what you do). There are a lot of great examples of this, but I’ll use two from my consulting clients. Austin Hull launched “Make Pop Music” which turned out to be one of the best music communities on the internet. I’ve watched members of the group connect with people that change their life. It gives musicians who are isolated a place to go to meet, discuss, and share. At the time that I am writing this there are about 20,000 worldwide members. This group is the main vehicle that Austin used to become full-time and build a 6-figure/year business. People associate the positive experience they have in the group with him.
Another example would be Mark Eckert who created a really dope service called That Pitch. It’s a website that connects indie artists with music supervisors for film, TV, and advert placements. The pricing model beats everything else on the market and they are super transparent and artist friendly. He originally created this for his production clients and then decided to open it up to the public. Artists love it and often come to Mark to get their production done because they found him through the service.
I’m massively excited about the future for independent music producers. As artists are starting to figure out how to navigate the new music industry and do their own thing, so are producers. I feel like a very healthy “working class” is starting to bubble up.