Sound of Digital Music

Updated: Dec 24, 2014, 17:44 PM IST

Music production is an industry that demands versatility and offers diverse, lucrative career options. Sanchayan Bhattacharjee sings a different tune

With the proliferation of digital technologies, the music industry has evolved, both from the producer as well as the consumer’s point of view. While the consumers have forced a rethink of the entire the industry’s revenue model, producers are not averse to using technology to complement or even supplement their work. As a result, music production today has evolved to include a wider gamut of activities as compared to the 1990s. Essentially, it is the art and science of creating a song, from composition to release. A career in this field involves being well educated about the aesthetic as well as the scientific side of music.

“Today a music production professional can play the role of both a music arranger as well as a sound mixer. In fact, most composers are expected to play multiple roles either as an independent artist or in collaboration with others,” says Ashutosh Phatak, founder, True School of Music (TSM), Mumbai. Since technology forms an important component of a music production professional’s repertoire, institutes focus on sound programming. “It involves using software rather than real instruments to formulate a musical idea into sound. The process can be used to recreate the sound of any instrument or even come up with completely new sounds,” says Ed DeGenaro, head, Music Production, Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music, Pune.

Several institutes across the country offer certificate courses of varying duration in music production. While there are no set qualifications prescribed for most of these courses, a basic understanding of music and the science of sound is certainly helpful. For a beginner, the curriculum begins at a basic level focusing on history and context of music, software, etc. before moving on to the next level, which includes song writing, arranging music, orchestration etc. “The idea is to introduce students to the uses, concepts, techniques, and terminology of computing through music  applications,” says DeGenaro. Students are evaluated via regular assignments and assessments throughout the programme.

Although these private institutions have robust infrastructure, their fees are generally quite high. Even a six month certificate course at most institutions could easily cost more than a lakh. However, the Mumbai University’s (MU) Department of Music also provides a six month Studio Recoding course that costs Rs 45000, which is significantly lesser than its private counterparts. “It is primarily conducted in the University’s studio where students get hands on experience of recording,” says the department’s head Anaya Thatte. “We prefer students who have studied Physics at least until class XII,” she adds. However, while the University’s programme is cost effective, the private institutions score where giving guidance to students with regard to placements is concerned.

Both the University faculty members as well as those from the other institutes agree that a certificate can at best act as an entry point. “In this industry, you are only as good as your previous work. I have a degree from abroad, but not once have I been asked to brandish it in the last 20 years,” says Phatak.

Music production presents a plethora of career opportunities. Indian viewers can choose from more than 650 television channels. Almost all these channels have a revenue model which depends on advertising. Industry experts suggest that approximately 19,000 ads are made every year for these channels. Each advertisement requires music. In addition to this there are radio ads, corporate films, documentaries, independent projects and the huge Bollywood industry, which provides good job prospects. “Composing a background score for corporate films, jingles for television commercials; working with game developers to provide sound are some of the avenues available to a music production professional,” says Reuel Benedict, head, placement department, TSM. A fresher can earn anything between Rs15, 000-30,000 for each project. “Depending on the quality of work and resourcefulness of the individual, it is not difficult to complete 3-4 projects a month,” he adds. Despite all the permutations and combinations, a career in music production is a talent driven one. “Technology has certainly made learning easier for a beginner. However after a certain level, it is originality which differentiates the best from the rest, something that no technology can help with,” says Phatak. DeGenaro adds, “An audio professional's job is to realise someone else's musical vision and translate it to sound. Regardless of one's own taste in music, one should be non-judgmental about the work that they take and attempt to see the music or work on its own merit.”