Do we really need a producer? - Part 4

If you’re serious about your music, you do need a producer, period (there are exceptions to that, however, like Prince, but the exceptions are there to reinforce the rule actually). Here is the interesting thing in the real world: the acts are looking for a producer, and the producer are looking for acts. Each side has certain criteria when they go through the process.

As a producer, I listen to the demos I get, and the song is the most important thing in my book. I am definitely looking for good songs where I fell can help to make them really stand out, but there are also some other criteria when I choose an act to produce. But from the reader point of view it is more important to understand how to choose a producer that will definitely help craft the songs and bring to the table all the ingredients needed to bring the artist vision to life.

I was talking about different types of producers, coming from different backgrounds (former musicians, former engineers). Years ago, a band or a solo act used to be produced by the same producer for a long period of time; that has changed. The record labels used to have their producers, and they actually created the label sound to a large extent; nowadays, most of the producers are independent, looking for acts they can work with. Walter Afanasieff (Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Barbara Streisand, Lionel Ritchie, Celine Dion, Josh Groban, etc) started with Narada’s Michael Walden, and then went to work for Sony for almost 14 years, and then he went independent. Like him, many other top producers, as the music business model changed over the years.

The way I see it, the artist has to define clearly what his needs are, and then look for a producer that has the experience for his needs. Some producers work very well with solo acts, they’re the hands on type, they create the musical arrangement for the songs – some examples at the top would be Afanasieff, David Foster, Lynda Perry, Ballard, Dr. Dre, etc. Some other producers are very comfortable working with bands, having excellent communication skills, understanding how the songs move, being able to asses the band technical possibilities, bring musical ideas to the table, etc. Afanasieff wouldn’t work with bands, he always avoided that and he wasn’t shy to say it; on the contrary, Ben Harper, David Grohl, T-Bone Burnett, Rick Rubin, Chris Lord Alge, Eddie Kramer, Alan Parson and many others are famous for being able to click with multiple personalities, stimulating them and push the boundaries into the right direction.

There are also producers that are comfortable on both situations, and they move from one genre to another – like Ross Hogarth, Mitchell Froom, Matt Wallace, Michael Rosen, Ed Cherney. Moving from one genre to another is a great asset; these producers bring to the table some interesting and different sonic solutions, which can help tremendously the song.

There is no fast rule; ask around, talk to producers, hear what they have to say, spend some time with them, get to know their musical approach, from the use of technology and sound preferences to how are they looking at this process- from arrangement to recording and mixing … You want to find somebody that communicate well, that gives you space and confidence, and who can help you achieve your musical vision.

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