Do we really need a producer? - Part 7 - Producers for today’s market!

Is there such a thing as a producer for today’s market? Yes, it is! You want to deal with a producer that, aside of his knowledge in music production, he understands the way the music business works these days! Both musicians and producers have to adapt! And this is not necessarily a bad thing!

I read a very interesting book, and I recommend it to everyone interested to make it in music business: Futurehit DNA by Jay Frank. Jay has a lot of experience in music business, as a former SVP Music Strategy at CMT, and previously VP Programming at Yahoo! Music. In his positions, he got access to some tools that very few had, statistics and charts, and he was able to see through and come up with some extremely interesting conclusions; he also has an excellent understanding of the new business model.

Until the internet days, people dialed in radio stations and they stumble upon different areas of the song, like chorus/hook, or end. That is completely changed! In today’s world, people browse across the music channels, be it youtube, Pandora, Spotify and many others, and they start to listen with the beginning of the song! REmember: they start to listen with the beginning of the song! There is no DJ who talks in the beginning, it is just the song!

On the other hand, with the low cost of producing a recording today, there is a huge amount of music – statistically if you listen every day 12 hours, you can only hear 5% from what’s being released every day! It doesn’t take a NASA scientist to figure out that you have to create the interest in the song in max 10 seconds; the fastest, the better! There is a very short amount of time you have to capture the listener attention, and that is a challenge!

Assuming that the beginning of the song does that, a good producer also understands that you have only one song to build up the interest for an artist, so you want the song crafted such manner that it leaves something to be desired in the mind of the listener. No easy task, however, the main ally you have is the behavior of the human brain! I mentioned in one of the previous blogs Daniel Levitin’s book “This is your brain on music”: he explains in plain English the mechanism brain functions when you listen or play music.

The song is still the most important thing, but having a producer that can help with arrangements that keep the song very much alive in its three main places: beginning, middle and end, is invaluable.

There is a second aspect very important here, and with a lot of implications: in radio days, the main idea about the song duration was clear, a song has to be 3 to 3:30 min long. This is another thing that undergoes a fundamental change. The reason is simple: money. The internet streaming services pay per song, regardless of the length of the song, so their interest is to promote longer songs, paying less money. Obviously, they prefer to play “Shine on you crazy diamond” instead of three regular 3 min songs, paying way less money to the artists.

This leads to both good and bad facts: on the positive side, you can express more in a song, and, if your song gets air time on internet channels, it maintain the listener attention for a longer time, so you gain as an artist, establishing a relation with the listener and having a better chance to transform him in a valuable fan. However, you need to make sure the songs atre interesting for a longer duration, so more craft and musicianship is required. This aspect is also another nail in the traditional album’s coffin for obvious reasons.

Let’s take the example of a hip hop artist that wants to get somewhere. He wants it bad, but he has limited financial resources, so he ends up buying a beat from internet (let’s hope is a 24 bit and steams- but I rarely see that, it is rather mp3 and they sound, well, like an mp3!). These cheap beats are actually a permanent repetition, and, while the lyrics may be interesting, it is hard to keep the listener on his toes for 4.5 minutes when the beat sequence is the same over and over again!

That actually goes for almost every style of music; it is all across the board. That will not change soon, so you want to be proactive and get to work with a producer that, aside his musical abilities, understands how the market changed and he can help you crafting your songs so they get you somewhere!

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