Ever since I can remember I’ve been the type of person to move from hobby to hobby.
I don’t ever recall a period in my life where I wasn’t learning a new skill.
To name a few: Skateboarding, BMX, Ice Hockey, Competitive Gaming, Snowboarding, Surfing, Guitar, Piano, Web Development, 3D Printing, Microsoldering, Music Production, and probably a few others that slip my mind right now.
One of the things I like to know when I start something new is how much of a time investment I’m going to need to make to go anywhere with this.
So the question I had in this case was “How long does it take to become a professional music producer?”
And before you say “who cares how long it takes, just do it because it’s fun”. Realize that of course I do it out of enjoyment, but when you start to obsess over something you tend to start asking questions like “how long will it take me to get good at music production?”
Some of these things have only taken a matter of months to get proficient at and some are life long pursuits where you never quite know where you stand.
How can you judge when someone is good at something? Especially if it’s a creative art form? It’s all so subjective.
Most of the time you just know something is good intuitively because it gives you some form of emotion. Like you feel impressed, happy, euphoric, motivated, maybe you feel sad, whatever it may be, you feel something.
But this is pretty hard to quantify. I couldn’t exactly ask a bunch of producers “how long did it take until you produced a record that made people feel something?”.
Well, I could’ve, but the answers would have probably been a bit vague or resulted in a bunch of “no idea” kind of responses.
So instead I decided to look at things like when they first signed to a reputable label.
If a business is willing to put money and time into releasing and promoting an artist or track you can pretty conclusively say that the producer behind the project has become proficient.
So that’s what I did. I contacted a bunch of known producers from labels like Monstercat and mau5trap and asked them the following question:
“How many years did it take from the day/month/year you started producing, to the day you signed a track for the first time to a reputable label?
If you can expand on this at all with a few sentences that would be great, if not a simple number of years will do”
Of course, most of these producers aren’t that easy to contact, they either have a manager you have to go through that simply wont bother forwarding your question on, or they themselves won’t reply for whatever reason.
However, I managed to get a handful of responses and also tracked down information from other interviews, and publications. I’ve given both the data and the actual responses from the artists below.
So here’s the data
- In a survey of 10 professional producers, 5 of them said it took them 5-6 years before they saw any significant success.
- 4 said it took them 3-4 years
- 1 of them said it took 7-8 years
- The other 1 said it took 2 years (at 14 hours a day of practice).
And here’s the responses
Direct – I started producing in 2006 when I was 12. Uploaded my first track to SoundClick in 2007. Released my first tune on Monstercat in 2012.
So I guess 5-6 years but I did take breaks throughout since I was unsure what I wanted to do and high school took up time.
Au5 – I started producing when I was about 13, so 14 years ago. This time I was not trying to get signed or even knew about the existence of an EDM scene. I released 2 albums between 2010 and 2011 and scored my first label release in 2012 from a small startup label from Australia. Over the next few months I got in touch with a talent buyer in Baltimore and began playing local shows about once a month. I took a leave of absence from school during that time, and coincidentally got contacted by Excision’s manager expressing interest in releasing songs on his label, Rottun. By the end of the year I was discovered by Monstercat and the rest was history.
To answer the initial question, there is no exact answer because I don’t have a definite time I began producing with intention.
But I’d say approximately 6 years before I saw any traction.
KUURO – I can’t remember it exactly just because it’s such a long time ago, but I probably started messing around with music production when I was about 10-11 years old. My first official release was when I turned 15, on a small Dutch label called Crystal Clouds, after they had initially rejected a few of my demos. Then after that I quickly signed to bigger labels. So I’d say it took about 5 years!
Protostar – hard to answer really, but maybe like 3/4 years
Sublab – hard to say as I transitioned from doing music as a hobby when I was a kid to a more serious approach later. I’d say around 4 years.
Also let me add that depending on the genre you make music in Labels are losing more and more power. My goal at the moment is not to release on labels but to stay independent.
Julian Gray- The numbers I have are pretty loose, as I’ve grown up in music my whole life. I’d say I started seriously producing in 2013, and signed my first major record contract in 2016.
ASHE – I started producing in 2006 (I think). First label, though, it wasn’t reputable was in 2011. So i’m gonna use mau5trap as the example. Which would mean that I signed onto a reputable label 2018. So probably 12 years of producing BUT I had like a 4 year hiatus.
Jonas Aden – This isn’t an official response. However, according to this video he started producing in 2009 and released his first major record in 2015. So around 6 years.
Skrillex – According to his biography, Skrillex left From First to Last in 2007 and two years later he released his first electronic EP Gypsyhook. His first successful was the My Name is Skrillex EP in 2010 so we can more or less say that even although he was heavily involved in music prior to this he only really picked up EDM production in 2007 and saw his first major success in 2010 so around 3 years.
Virtual Riot – According to this video his first song ever was in 2007 at age 13 so we could probably assume this was when he started producing. And when going through his discography it seems his first major success was with Energy Drink in 2013. There is also a significant improvement in the quality of his music from 2012 to 2013. So we can probably go with 6 years.
REZZ – She initially picked up Ableton when she was 18 in 2013. 2 Years later and 14 hours a day worth of practice released her debut EP, Insurrection through OWSLA’s sub-label Nest HQ.
If there’s anything you should take away from this is that it will take most producers 3-6 years to start making music that is on the same level as other professional artists.
REZZ managed to get it done in 2 years but I believe this to be down to 2 big factors.
- She said was producing 14 hours a day! Most people getting into this wont be able to maintain that level of motivation. If you practice anything for 14 hours a day you are going to make progress in leaps and bounds. This clearly gave her a massive advantage.
- Her style was very unique, there weren’t a lot of people producing this dark, 100bpm hypnotic bass music. This again gave her a big advantage. Anyone will tell you that to make waves in the dance scene you have to stand out.
Another thing to take into account is that some producers can take much longer than the average, however this doesn’t mean that when they do reach that level that they see any less success or their music doesn’t sound as great. Take deadmau5 for example. I didn’t include him in these stats because his musical journey wasn’t very straightforward. He didn’t just pick up ableton and start producing one day. He first dabbled in sound design, recording, and engineering for years before he actually made his first record. He did this for something like 6 years. And then it took him another few years and multiple projects before he blew up.
The main take away from this is that you shouldn’t beat yourself up if you’ve only been producing for 1 or 2 years and your music still kinda sucks. Know that this is an art form that usually takes the better part of a decade to master. It’s a long journey and you need to truly have a passion for it to stick it out and see success.