5 Reasons “New” Music Producers Should Work for Free

Here are 5 reasons why I think “new” music producers should work for free in the beginning and not be focused on making money right away.

I think there are both pros and cons to working for free.

My Back Story of Working for Free

In high school my passion was graphic and web design. I was young and eager to learn.

While working at a grocery store I created a free interactive CD-Rom for a local non-profit.

Another non-profit saw the project and wanted their own, so they hired me as a full-time graphic designer.

5 Reasons New Music Producers Should Work for Free - Music Growth

So the free project led to my first graphic design job.

While working at the non-profit, because I was passionate about design, I did a number of paid freelance projects and free projects for things I was excited to create.

For every project I completed, it was something new to add to my resume and portfolio of work.

Me building my portfolio of work lead to my second, third, and forth design job. Each job had a $10,000 per year increase.

Today I don’t do free work, but I also don’t freelance. But if there was a project that I am excited about, I would be open to it.

What I’m trying to express is I was passionate about design and creating real projects. And creating projects both free and paid opened new opportunities for me.


Focus on Growth Instead of Money in the Beginning

I get messages all the time from music producers who say they have been making music for 5+ years and haven’t made any money from music. Why? I don’t know.

There are tons of possible reasons for this, but I can tell you working hands-on with people and getting direct feedback from real people would give you some insight into this.

If you are just creating at home, locked in your own bubble, you may not be realizing mistakes that are holding you back from progress.

So the idea of working for free is about getting real hands-on experience.

The same way some jobs require you to be an intern before you can officially be hired.

So here are some of the benefits of taking on some free projects.


5 Reasons “New” Music Producers Should Work for Free

I’m suggesting to be selective and only work on projects you care about, and see as being beneficial to your portfolio, resume, or networking efforts.

1. Hands-on Music Experience

If you’re new to making music, by working with music artists you can better understand what type of things music artists are looking for.

Hands-on experience is the best experience for learning. Experiencing challenges, and overcoming them will help you grow.


2. Portfolio Work

If you are new to making beats, you probably have nothing to show for it.

So focus on gaining that experience and building up a portfolio of work.

There is nothing better than having a website with completed music projects, or a CD to give out with the work that you have produced.

Twelve quality produced tracks with your name on them will show that you know what you are doing, and will show you deserve the money you are asking for when you become a pro.


3. Networking

By working with others for free, these people you work with will be your spokespeople.

People will ask “Who produced that track?”.

They will say you and will gain an interest in working with you. At this point, this person is now a customer for you to charge.


4. Marketing

If you are making music for free, you can ask the artist to give you a shout-out on the song you produced, which will help you get exposure.


5. Experiment

If you only make one type of music, working for free can allow you to open up and experiment with other types of music, or even different types of industries like video games, or movie scoring, theme songs, and more.


Conclusion

Working for free can open a lot of doors for you.

I know some of you can’t work for free because making money is essential, but I can say it has helped me a lot in the word of mouth marketing and has helped me with building my portfolio, which has helped me make the money I am making today.

What are your thoughts on working for free?

Mark V. at Hip Hop Makers

Written By Mark V.

Hip Hop Makers is a music production website that launched in 2008 to teach music lovers how to make music, sell beats, and make money from music.

11 Comments

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  1. Like Jarren Benton said: “it’s hard when you’re working these lame 9-5s in the meanwhile, trying to keep hip-hop alive”. This is the reality of the artist, whether performing art, music, or visual art – you still have to eat. The encouraging thing, is that regardless of if you’re paid for your work or not, you still enjoy making it, and enjoy seeing others hear it and enjoy it too!

  2. I agree with you. Nice writing!

  3. I make quality beats. They’re not free either. Lol

  4. Young Brother, I want you first and foremost understand that I’m not coming at you sideways. But as a pioneer and veteran of this hip hop music, I can’t stand by and not say what’s on my mind.

    Maybe because I’m in a different position with my career as a record producer that I can’t agree with this school of thought.

    It’s probably because I was never big on hiring a publicist until very recently or playing the payola game by paying off certain DJs that I’m not on your radar.

    I’m not one the typical heroes of hip hop production, but most of your heroes know me and quite a few of them love me and my work. That’s mainly because I have been producing records since the 80’s and been signed to more than enough Major and Indie labels as an artist and in some case in house production to know that working for free does not make good business sense.

    Sure one of you kids may go who hell are you old man? but I did score the #1 position on several College Radio charts in the Summer of 2011 with my hit single “The Champ is Here” and since then I have been flying back and forth between my native New York, Miami, ATL, Los Angeles and London to work directly with the artists I’m producing since then, so I think I know a thing or two about my personal position on this matter.

    The thing is when you work for free, you devalue your work and people in this industry will either take two stances with you: They will 1. Use you up until you’re no longer needed and they can do this because if they can’t market your record to a purchasing audience then you are considered a loss leader and the major label system does not like that. Major labels do not care about quality and they certainly do not care about music. They are in the business for the sake of selling music and as you see they moving further into the branding, marketing and advertising aspect because music on a whole is no longer doing enough for them.

    2. Unlike College Radio where people can dictate the out come of what’s truly a hit record because these stations do not sell advertising, Corporate Radio is all about selling ads. They certainly do not care about quality music, it’s all about what are their corporate sponsors who spend hundreds of millions of dollars per year want on the airwaves.

    Thanks to this over-commercialized culture of personality, stars are a dime a dozen these days, but real music artists are rare and truly special and they can become stars if everything is in placed for them.

    As a record producer your job is to see that record through from beginning to end. Production is not just about making a beat and emailing to whoever. It’s about you being responsible for the recording budget, the booking of the studio, securing the right engineers and working alongside with the label to choose the right release dates for your singles and the album.

    Sadly an entire generation of beatmakers do not know about this because all they do is email the beat. More than a few of these beatmakers who are credited with producing a hit record has never even met the artist, been in the studio with the artist or participated in the mixing or mastering session of the records the hit that’s all over the radio. And this is by design by people in the industry who realized that since there are so many young people who are willing to work for free that they can get away with this.

    I can get so much deeper into this topic but I rather ask those of you who consider working for free this one question.

    What would you rather do, command a respectful fee for your hard earned work and have a long running career or allow a major label system to destroy your true potential as a serious record producer before your career could get off the ground?

  5. @Pete

    Thanks for the comment. I appreciate your point of view. At the beginning of the post, I pointed out this post is for newbies without experience, and it’s not meant for everyone.

    I understand your view, but I think in a lot of ways, working for free at the start of some projects can have a lot of benefits.

  6. I cited that tis post was for “quote” newbies. I think the the orginator of the article makes an excellent case for what he’s trying to get across. I agree with most of his views. However, I do know EXACTLY what our esteemed friend is saying about not working for free. I haven’t been successful like him, but I do know where he’s coming from. Best of all, you didn’t flame each other like lil boys and conducted yourselves like men. Much respect.

  7. I’ve worked with artists for free in the past and it has helped me at times to make money, build new relationships. Try it and if it doesn’t work then stop. Lol

  8. definitely feel where pete is coming from but like my man mr. V said this is directed more towards newbies just getting started out which is good advice.

    lots of people in all kinds of fields of work work for free or “freelance” too jump start there careers. its even recommended when you go to school or whatever.

    im into digital film and am trying to get better at photography also. i was thinking to freelance a little to accomplish this. reading and trying to learn on the internet can only get me so far lol. its helped me understand a lot tho.

    prolly wouldn’t work for a major record label for free. they’d prolly suck the blood out of me. lol

  9. When I produced my very first single “Let’s Make some noise” at the age of 15 years old I was paid $3,000 which I invested in production gear out of a $10,000 recording budget. Choice was paid $3,000 and $2,000 went in the studios, while Chubb rock made an easy $1,000 and my Managers split the remaining $1,000 which ended up coming back to me so I can get more gear for my home studio.

    The bottom line was each and every time I got hired to produce a record, make a beat, play an instrument, design a sound, perform scratches or even speak on a record I make it my business to be compensated.

    Newbie or not, working for free especially in today’s climate where the turnover for beatmakers are very high, it makes no business sense. Charge these people something, be it a few grand or few hundred dollars, but make sure you get paid in advance for whatever you do.

    Don’t believe the lie the industry are selling people, the money is there, you just have to be smart and determined enough to get paid for your work.

    This is a business, be a business person.

  10. Ima have to say, both the article and Pete Marriot make good points. A little bit of both mentalities leanin more towards Pete’s ideaology is how I get down…

  11. I’m starting out as a producer myself and I’m part of a rap group and the way I see it is with my group I do all of the in-house production for them for free to gain experience but for now, with other people, I actually charge them. Not much though for example I sent the very basis of a beat to a small-time rapper I know and he really liked it so this weekend I’m going into the studio with him to actually show him the full beat and work out a song and I’m getting paid for it.. very little but I feel that since it is one of my first tracks to ever sell and he isn’t a big-time rapper at all yet it’s fair plus I’m getting producing credit and my tag is going to be on it anyway

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