This expression evokes the imagination and the mythic pictures and images of Sir George Martin emerge. They revolve around the legendary Abbey Road or Phil Spector conducting a recording with a huge orchestra. At the time, the term “record producer” referred to the person overseeing the completion of the musical product. Given today’s diversity of music creation and recording, this simple definition has become disjointed and confused. So there is a need to bring more clarity about the modern role, responsibilities and duties of the music producer.
“PRODUCER” – Definition
According to the performance rights of the organization BMI, the “Producer” in the recording is like the director in the film production. When it comes to making a film, the director manages everything – the work on the set, communicates with the actors, technicians, writers, and takes care of achieving a complete and complete vision of the film. Exactly the same meaning is put into the role of the producer when it comes to sound recordings. Musically, the producer should have the experience and routine to make strategically important mixing decisions from the audio engineers. To “clean up” the arrangements of the songs and together with the artists to arrange the songs in a suitable sequence. In addition to these qualities, it is necessary to possess certain financial analytical skills in order to manage the budget. To find suitable studios and to negotiate and sign contracts. In short, the producer directs the entire creative process, acting as part creative consultant and part musical artist as project manager.
The role of the producer in the audio recording process
In the most general sense, a producer must have a set of technical skills, as well as the ability to look at the project from the outside, to help and guide the “making” of the sound and the specific sound of the song and artist. He has to feel the nuances well and match the energy of the song with that of the artists. So that he manages to arrange the sounds and gradate the dynamics and sound pictures to convey artistic value to the project. At the same time, the producer must be well versed in the recording process. Finding the right audio recording studio with the right equipment and the right recording rooms is essential to the final result and mix of the album. Moreover, during performances, he must guide the musicians to reproduce the “correct” sounds, whether it is an instrument or a voice.
Thus, the producer becomes part of the performers in the song as he skillfully and consciously guides the direction of the recording towards the idea he has to achieve a specific result.
Of course, the role of the producer can vary depending on the type of project and the performers. In such a wide variety of genres and musical styles, artists have different needs.
According to music producer Donnie Baker, “The music producer is hired because of his ideas in your musical style.” This means in practice that producers often specialize in working and producing only certain styles of music. This specialization and the experience they have gained focusing on specific styles will make them a desirable stylistic addition to any project in their portfolio. For example, sometimes the band needs someone to complement the ideas instrumentally, while at other times they will want full control in that aspect.
A good general opinion about the figure of the audio producer is given by Fick Ek: “A good producer agrees with what is best for the band and helps to bring out the best and do it in the best way to present the band the best. Whether it’s the producer’s idea or not, it’s the right creative direction!”.
The rise of digital audio studios and the production role.
In the past, an audio producer would perform these functions within a project intended for record label release and would receive engagements for studio projects tied to specific deadlines. But what happens in the changed audio digital environment, where the entire studio is in one computer, and the absence of the typical analog studio model changes the functions and roles of producers quite a bit?
The answer, as you might imagine, is quite complex and leads to a fragmentation of what might traditionally be considered a record producer. This also gives rise to quite heated debates within the music community. But in many ways, the role and functions of an audio producer are still similar, and the differences come down to one key distinction: beatmaker vs. record producer.
Beat maker vs producer?
In simple terms, the difference between these two figures is similar to the difference between an old-fashioned songwriter (composer) and a record producer. The former is only responsible for writing the song that will be recorded in the studio by the artists. (This still exists as a working scheme, but only in the upper echelons of the pop music business). The analogy is that the beat maker creates the beat or idea of the song as a basis, which is then sold or becomes the basis of a song to the artist. Subsequently, this song, performed by the musicians and guided by a producer, becomes a full-fledged song.
However, in the current DAW environment and modern way of composing and recording, this distinction becomes quite blurred for producer functions. For example, what would be the role of the producer of a hip-hop album for which the music is composed in a DAW, the artist has prepared all the beats and the songs are almost ready. The producer has to put everything together and add the vocal lines, some of which may have been pre-recorded and sent from elsewhere. The figure of the “Producer” is now a combination of beat maker, composer and producer all rolled into one. There is an even more complex situation when “Bedroom Producer” – artist X alone, using ready-made libraries of beats, samples, software synths and effects, composes, records, performs, mixes and produces the songs in the DAW.
How can we untangle and clarify this confusing system of terms and functions? And does it even make sense to do so? Royalty payments are very important in the music industry. (Of course not only there :)) Paying for the specific work done is differentiated by functionality in the workflow, by the making and completion of the song or project depending on whether you are an artist, composer, producer or manager.
Ultimately, the distinction between a beat maker and a producer comes down to the former making beats and basic song ideas and selling them to other artists. The producer, even if he makes the initial ideas of the songs, has a vision for the final finished product. He continues to work with the contractors and guides the process through to completion. If you carry out the entire process from creating the idea to releasing it in its finished form to the market or public space to listeners, then you are a producer. Perhaps in this example, the producer (if not part of the band) is also involved in composing the songs, but continues to guide the entire process to the final product.
That being said, production is more accessible than ever, but making a beat in Ableton doesn’t equate to a finished product. The challenge is still there and it remains to be seen how things will pan out. Can you compose, arrange, record, mix and master your own product or with the help of a team of artists? This seems like the next step and definition of the future role of the producer.