Do we really need a producer? - Part 5

Let’s take a deeper look at how you can benefit from having a producer for your music. Like the artists, every producer brings something unique to the table. The song is the most important thing, this is what sells first and foremost. The producer is less involved emotionally, which gives him the advantage of objectivity.

The producers are coming up with solutions that help the song, and they concern the musical arrangement, the harmonies, the groove, the sound and the quality of the recording takes. The producers can suggest changes in arrangements, like how the intro should go, how to add or mute some instruments in different parts of the song, how to better support the climax of the song through adding for example some backing vocals, or an instrument that can add a specific flavor (like a leitmotif).

Harmonically, they can suggest some chords modification to build up the song tension, or to offer better support for the main melody. They also can help by splitting the harmony between two or more instruments, to get a certain effect. When it comes to groove, they can suggest some changes to make the song more interesting in the rhythm section.

Regarding the quality and type of sound and the recording takes, the producer has a major influence. When it comes to vocals, the comping is done different by each producer. Some producers are famous for their ability to direct the artists during vocal recordings, and they are pushing them until they are satisfied. Afanasieff is famous for that; he steady pushes the boundaries, as he knows exactly what an artist can do, identify the problems and lead the recording session until he gets what he wants. Each producer wants to get something different, and some are doing it until they get it.

Finally, the general sound: some producers are getting involved and are hands on mixing the song, others are only listening to the rough mixes, and then make their requests to the mixing engineer. There are many styles, but this is the stage where the producer chases the sound he and the artists are looking for.

This is no easy task, and the key to this process is the thrust that gets established between the producer and the artist. Of course, the success is a major ingredient, and many times the artists return to the same producer. Other times, despite success, after one or two albums, the artists are going to other producers, to get help in going into another direction, as they see it as part of their musical evolution.

Given the above considerations, whenever you’re looking around for a producer, have some of your songs ready (even recorded from a rehearsal), and listen to what the producer has to say. This is the moment when you will click or not with him, and you may want to look not only at what his credentials are, but discuss about your songs that he already listened and see if he is open, has some observations, and if his observations are targeting things you felt they need to be improved in the song. Invite the producer eventually to your rehearsals, see what he has to say… do not rush, let the relation to build up naturally.

Looking back at the last 50 years, the role of the producer did not changed too much in essence, however, due to the changes on the music business, some shifting on the way the business is conducted affected the artist / producer relation.

The record label business dropped due to the lower CD album sales, and less and less producers are working for them. More and more producers are freelancing, they are independent, they sign contracts with artists and indie labels or small labels and working on small budgets. As the labels dropped the budgets for producing and album, and usually the producer is the one that handles the budget to satisfy both you and the label, it’s getting harder, everybody has to be more focused and efficient during production.

More and more producers are operating out of their own recording studio.  That makes them more affordable, and you have the opportunity to have a great final album with lower upfront expenses. You may need to go into a large studio sometimes as you want to have a certain sound (usually not at the beginning of the career, that happens when the money start to flow in).  But for the most part, you and your producer will be in control. One thing to have in mind when looking for a producer, is to see how comfortable you are with his studio.

Another aspect that’s good to know is that, with the CD sales falling, and with the pluses and minuses of the digital distribution, the major labels are going through hell, and producers nowadays started to go out, to look out for new bands, work with them to have them signed, and then sale their music. I guess that those with talent will be approached by producers (note that this is an avenue explored even by the most famous producers, like Ed Cherney!).

As they say, today all the card are on the deck!

Stay tuned,

Flo Fandango

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