So you want a career as a record producer ??
Often glamorised, seldon understood. The modern day music producer can be a man/woman wearing many hats, most of which usually not music! The great Quincy Jones was a said to be on the phone more than on the console!
In the music industry, a record producer has many roles, among them controlling the recording sessions, coaching and guiding the musicians, organizing and scheduling production budget and resources, and supervising the recording, mixing and mastering processes. This has been a major function of producers since the inception of sound recording, but in the later half of the 20th century producers also took on a wider entrepreneurial role.
The music producer could, in some cases, be compared to the film director in that the producer’s job is to create, shape and mold a piece of music in accordance with their vision for the album. Unlike in film, the music producer is seldom responsible for raising the funds to create the record – more like the film director, the record producer is hired by those who have already obtained funding (typically record or publishing companies, though occasionally the artists themselves).
Producers now typically carried out most or all of these various tasks themselves, including selecting and arranging songs, overseeing sessions (and often engineering the recordings) and even writing the material. Independent music production companies rapidly gained a significant foothold in popular music and soon became the main intermediary between artist and record label, signing new artists to production contracts, producing the recordings and then licensing the finished product to record labels for pressing, promotion and sale. (This was a novel innovation in the popular music field, although a broadly similar system had long been in place in many countries for the production of content for broadcast radio.) The classic example of this transition is renowned British producer George Martin, who worked as a staff producer and A&R manager at EMI for many years, before branching out on his own and becoming a highly successful independent producer.
As a result of these changes, record producers began to exert a strong influence, not only on individual careers, but on the course of popular music. A key example of this is of Phil Spector who defined the gap between Elvis and the Beatles (1958–1964) with such acts as The Ronettes, The Crystals, Darlene Love, The Righteous Brothers and The Paris Sisters. Spector’s Wall of Sound production technique also persisted after that time with his select recordings of The Beatles, The Ramones, Leonard Cohen, George Harrison, Dion and Ike and Tina Turner.
Modern Day Production
In modern digital music, it is possible for the producer to be the only person involved in the creation of a musical recording. The said producer is entirely responsible for writing, performing, recording and arranging the material. The existence of such producers is, in some ways, challenging the role of the traditional recording studio in that feasibly, an entire album can be created and recorded from the producers home studio. .This change has been partially due to the increase of inexpensive yet powerful music production software (such as Ableton Live, ProTools, Digital Performer, Logic, Cubase and Sonar), which allows for entire tracks to be composed, arranged and recorded on a single computer, allowing the roles traditionally carried out by a team of people to be performed by one individual. With the advent of portable recording equipment, live album production has become much more cost-effective than in the past. Also with the new innovation with MIDI technology the world isn’t so bland after all. This has resulted in countless live music recordings.
With the advent of the computer web applications like Facebook, YouTube and MySpace, record producers can now serve in very non-traditional roles, using “social networking.” They can produce music via the internet by having their clients email .mp3 or .wav files to them. In this way the producer can be located in a different geographic location and still accomplish their goal.
Producer can be classed into several catogories:
• MUSICIAN PRODUCER
As long as you can communicate effectively and have a basic awareness of what the studio equipment can do, you don’t actually need any technical knowledge at all to produce a record. This point is more easily understood if you think of the director of a TV commercial. He will be very visually aware, and will know what can be achieved with telecine and digital video effects. He cannot be expected to be a technical expert, but as long as he can communicate clearly with the telecine operator and digital artists, the result can be visually amazing. So, the musician producer needs to know what can be achieved in the studio, but someone else will be pushing the faders. A musician is obviously in a much better position than an engineer to know how to put together a piece of music for a recording from scratch, but the one thing that successful producers from either field have in common is that they have a clear image in their mind of the importance of the final product.
• EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
As well as the engineer producer and musician producer there is a third type, which I shall call the executive producer. The executive producer doesn’t know anything about engineering or about music, but knows the right people with the necessary technical and musical skills to handle all the elements of production, and most importantly, knows when something sounds right. Executive producers don’t need to be present all the time in the studio, they just need to hear work in progress occasionally. Their instinct will tell them whether the product is marketable or not. DJ’s often find their way into production along this route as they are in an ideal position to know what will, or will not please an audience. The difference between something that sells and something that ends up on a cut price market stall may be incredibly small, but the DJ will usually be able to tell.
• FREELANCE PRODUCER
Any type of producer may work as a freelance producer. In this situation, a record company might have signed a band or act and be scouting round for someone to co-ordinate them in the studio. Obviously, all the producers know the record company A&R people, and the A&R people know who the key producers are. Matching an act with a producer is an important A&R skill. Sometimes the decision will be made on a ‘flavour of the month’ basis. If a producer has had a series of successful records, then he may be seen as being on a roll and the next production will be a big seller too. The act and the producer must also be compatible in some way, though. Perhaps they will share the same musical vision and have a deep understanding of the style of music in which they work. They may get along well together because they are musically in tune, or the band could be wilful and potentially difficult to work with. The producer must be capable of exercising a degree of control to shape the band into something that will work on CD as well as it does on stage. Maybe an older and more experienced producer will have more respect in the band’s eyes, or maybe they need someone who is able to share their vision and will simply smooth over the rough edges. The freelance producer will be paid by the record company (who will get that money back from the band’s share of the eventual profits), and he is then free to go on to work for another record company.
• ENTREPRENEUR PRODUCER
‘Entrepreneur producer’ is a title I have invented to cover the type of producer who initiates a project and then sells it to a record company in the form of an act with writing, recording and management already in place, or as a partly developed idea working towards the same end. Either way, the producer will be at the top of the food chain and will receive the lion’s share of the rewards. The project could be a band in which the producer takes the roles of songwriter and musician, with a front man or woman to handle the vocals and provide a focus for the marketing machine to work on. Alternatively, the producer might be an engineer or musician who takes on the role of A&R scout and looks for a band or singer to work with. There will probably be a certain amount of investment involved, since the band will need studio time and promotional material. The entrepreneur producer will need to be able to promise the band or singer the earth, and give the impression that he is capable of delivering it. A track record of success will of course help! One of the advantages of working in this way is in the payoff. Not only is the entrepreneur producer entitled to a larger slice of the financial cake, he is also in control of an ongoing project, rather than staggering from one to another.
Hewitt, Michael. Music Theory for Computer Musicians.
Moorefield, Virgil (2005). The Producer as Composer .Shaping the Sounds of Popular Music