August 6, 2020

How To Be A Music Producer in South Africa

Music producer in South Africa

We often hear all the hot songs on the radio and clubs but in most cases, the average listener wouldn’t bother to ask “who produced the song?” Instead, the question would be “Who is the artist”.

All the attention goes to the artist.

But that’s understandable. Someone has to press the right buttons and make things happen behind the scenes.

If you have an interest in music and would like to know how you can be a music producer, stick around because I wrote this post for you.

Although the title ends with “in South Africa”, the points I’m about to go through with you have nothing to do with location.

This post was written from a South African context.

  1. Learn how to play an instrument
  2. Listen to different genres
  3. Familiarize yourself with a DAW
  4. Get the basic tools of the trade
  5. Establish a reputation for yourself
  6. Practice, Practice, Practice

1. Learn how to play an instrument

Contrary to popular belief, you should learn how to play at least one instrument if you intend to be a music producer.

A guitar or piano would be a great start. Learning how to play any of these instruments will give you the basic foundation for music composition. Here’s why you should learn an instrument:

  • Helps with the ability to play your own melodies
  • You can compose songs using chord progressions
  • You learn the relationship between chords and scales
  • The freedom to experiment and improvise
  • There no limitations on how you can create music

When you make music it is important to know what you’re doing in the first place. You don’t necessarily have to be a master instrumentalist.

But try to at least familiarize yourself with the fundamentals first before you go any further. You will thank me later

2. Listen to different genres

Training your ear and learning how to play an instrument go hand in hand, so it’s important to listen to different types of music.

Listening to only your favourite genre will make you one dimensional.

There’s nothing with being a one-dimensional producer if that makes you happy.

But at this stage, if you’re not sure on the type of music you intend to produce then you should expose your ear to different sounds and styles.

The type of music you listen to will most likely influence your personal style, sound and the type of music you that produce.

This is just my personal recommendation though. There are no hard and fast rules.

3. Familiarize yourself with DAW

DAW is an acronym for Digital Audio Workstation. It’s just a fancy word for music production software (Cubase, Fruity Loops, Pro Tools, etc.)

Most of my producer friends started making music from day one with Fruity Loops. Fruity Loops was popular (still is) in the early 2000s in South Africa.

Almost everyone I knew was making music with that software programme because it was easily accessible. 

But I would recommend that you get your music education in the form of learning an instrument (as mentioned above) first. When that is taken can of, making beats with the software will be much easier.

Here are the benefits (some) of music production software:

  • Programme your music from scratch
  • Editing and mixing
  • Mastering
  • Record vocals and live instruments
  • Add effects
  • Arrangement

Of course, you need a computer or laptop, but that’s just stating the obvious.

4. Get the basic tools of the trade

When you are ready to finally put your skills into practice, you will need some sort of a make-shift recording studio.

But for now, these basics will do:

  • A midi-controller keyboard to programme and play your music and sounds
  • A good soundcard with low latency
  • A condenser microphone for recording vocals and acoustic instruments like a guitar

5. Establish a reputation for yourself

The South African music market is fairly small compared to the USA and the UK.

So you really have to network and promote yourself as if your life depends on it (That’s if you want it that bad).

You can do the following in order to get noticed:

  • Start producing music for aspiring and upcoming artists in your neighbourhood
  • Open a SoundCloud account and post samples of your beats.
  • Attend the MOSHITO music conference. This is where you will meet industry key players, artists, producers, etc.
  • Contact established artists and offer “free” beats in exchange for a production credit
  • Many artists are looking for beats and record deals, so you can start your own digital label, and produce music for artists that you signed.

At this point, your main focus should be making sure that your name gets out there. When your music starts getting some traction then you can consider charging for your services.

For now, just focus on paying your school fees.

6. Practice, practice, practice

You’re only as good as the last song you produced. If you can live by that motto, your music production skills will only get better with each beat or track that you compose.

It only makes sense that you keep making as much music as possible and learning from each production, whether it is considered good or “bad”.

But don’t forget to keep practising playing your instrument of choice. You could even take things a step further and enrol in a formal music college or online course.

Final Thoughts

The path to be becoming a music producer in South Africa is unclear. Many people (family and friends) might not understand what you’re trying to do, and chances are they might not be supportive.

It is possible that you might do all the right things and yet fail to establish a lucrative and “successful” career. There are no guarantees in life.

But before you make the decision to embark on this journey, ask yourself why you really want to do this.

The right motive will help you to have staying power and persist in dark times.

With that being said, I can only wish you all the best of luck.  You will need it.