Behind the Scenes: The Job of a Music Producer
Google, “What is a music producer?” and you’ll get a vague, generic answer like, “A music producer assists an artist with their recording project.” Much like a film director or baseball manager, a music producer is responsible for an overarching set of intangibles that are sometimes hard to define. Ultimately, they can make or break an artist’s final recorded product. So how does a music producer shape the sounds you hear?
What Does a Music Producer Do?
“Jack of all trades, master of none” could have been coined to describe a music producer. They aren’t necessarily experts in singing, mixing, or other elements of music recording, but they know enough to understand how they work together to create a specific sound. A music producer has a vision of what the final product should sound like and works to coordinate all the elements.
Here’s a look at some of the major activities that make up the job of a music producer:
- Oversee Schedule and Budget
This is one aspect where a music producer dons a business hat instead of a creative hat. While artists would prefer not to be concerned with schedules and budgets, these are real concerns for commercial recording projects. Good producers have demonstrated the ability to keep a project on time and on budget.
- Hire Personnel
Does a solo singer need musicians or back-up vocalists? Who will handle mixing and other technical duties? A music producer generally takes care of locating and hiring the appropriate personnel for a project. If the producer is working with a solo artist instead of a band, they will often consult with the artist about what musicians they want to work with.
- Shepherd the Creative Process
This is both the most important part of a music producer’s job and the most difficult to quantify. No matter how talented a singer or musician is, they can’t simply record their performance and call it good. Their work needs to be massaged and molded into a final product with commercial appeal. Producers apply their combination of knowledge and instinct to elicit the performances, arrangements, and other factors that will bring the project to life. George Martin, iconic producer for the Beatles, referred to it as, “painting a sound picture.”
- Resolve Conflicts
Legendary stories about bands from the Beatles to Fleetwood Mac to Oasis show that even success doesn’t guarantee immunity from creative conflicts. Producers are called on to stay level-headed and keep disagreements from getting out of hand.
- Maintain Optimum Workplace Conditions
A music producer can help prevent conflicts from surfacing in the first place by making sure the recording studio has a positive atmosphere, or “vibe.” Long hours and creative pressures wear on people, and a smart producer finds ways to strike a balance between work and play so spirits stay high. Many artists are also prone to self-doubt, so a producer will recognize the signs and provide support and encouragement.
- Manage Social Media
This is a more indirect activity, but today’s music industry is so entwined with social media that it can’t be ignored. In addition to building a following and creating opportunities for artists, a music producer uses social media to stay on top of current trends and find out what people are listening to.
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