Do I need a music producer? And what does a music producer do anyway?
If you are an aspiring artist, songwriter or band, or if you are brand looking to introduce music into a campaign, then you would do well to understand the role of a music producer and how they can help you.
What is a music producer?
A music producer or a record producer can work at many different levels of the music industry, from bedroom music-makers to beat-makers working with aspiring songwriters and bands, through to commercial hit makers.
A professional music producer collaborates with artists and clients in all aspects of the music creation process.
They offer honed skills, depth of experience and a network of contacts in the music production world. They can be involved at every stage of cutting a record, from pre-production and rehearsals, song-writing and arrangement, to recording, programming, mixing and mastering records, and looking for commercial opportunities.
Producers do specialise. For example, in re-mixing and sampling, in experimenting with engineering techniques, in different genres of music, or in becoming the artist themselves!
Depending on what the client needs, a good music producer is like ‘Music-Making Polyfilla’ covering the artist’s skills and knowledge gaps, and contributing to things like:
commenting and guiding on musical ideas, helping with arrangements and overseeing the project to achieve the artist’s goal
A music collaborator not a director!
A good record producer supports the artist when they need help and steps back when they don’t. The professional music producer is a collaborator with the ability to lead when needed.
5 Benefits of hiring a producer
So, do you really need a music producer? And why would you want one anyway? You can hire a studio with an engineer to make a record, or produce music in your bedroom if you want, but then how serious are you about sounding great?
Musicality is often overlooked, but this is where a producer can make the most valuable difference.
1. A music producer allows you to focus on creative, artistic music-making
Making a record is an intensive process with plenty of experimentation and decision-making for the artist. You may be skilled in project management, have your own network of musicians, and you may also be able to devote the time and effort to organise schedules, equipment, bookings etc., but is it really the best use of your focus and energy? Certainly not. Hand over the technical, budgeting and organisational tasks! A producer will free you up to stay in your creative head so you can focus on music making.
2. A producer gives you impartial, supportive encouragement and feedback
Music producers have extraordinary ears and deep musical knowledge. They can hear the smallest sounds in the mix, they can hear when a nudge to an arrangement will radically improve it, and they understand the commercial marketplace of their genre. They will help you by providing objective feedback designed to support your progress.
3. A producer helps you develop and grow musically and helps produce musical alchemy
Musicality is often overlooked, but it is an essential quality for a music producer and often where they can make the most valuable difference. A music producer helps fire the creative process, by advising and contributing to composition and arrangement (most notably in the pre-production phase) but also by utilising recording techniques, software effects and sampling. Often producers are multi-instrumentalists, arrangers and composers themselves, and they can elevate a song significantly. The gold standard example is George Martin working with the Beatles on the song Eleanor Rigby where he composed the string arrangement and then recorded the strings in a unique way.
4. A music producer shares depth of skills and experience in the record-making process
It’s the producer’s job to help you journey through the record-making process and act as your mentor as you make decisions about your songs as you construct your music. They are continuously training and learning about new equipment, software, recording techniques, and trends within their commercial marketplace. This enables the artist to concentrate on their act: their song-writing, performance and promotional work.
5. A producer can help with record release and distribution
A record producer will have experience releasing music in today’s marketplace and can be your helping hand when it comes to looking for commercial opportunities for your music. They can guide you through self-release and distribution, or potentially help connect you with record labels.
How to decide if you need a music producer
The first question to ask yourself is: do you have room for a producer in your project?
Would you benefit from someone to answer the question, “How do I turn this into the record that I think it should be?” Yes? Then this is the stage that you are most in need of or ready for a music producer and also when you will get the most benefit out of that relationship.
Get help on board at the preparation stage. Read my article here on pre-production and arrangements to help you prepare.
Or if you’re established in making music, having made a few records and having gained some studio experience already, you may be pretty happy with your artistic voice. The question at this point is how are you going to develop and grow? Is there value in inviting a producer into your creative process for the purpose of finding new chemistry? Having a music producer on hand for a 2nd opinion and objective ear will also be exceedingly valuable, not to mention they can manage the schedules and tasks on the project and help you stick to your budget.
Do you have any budget for a producer? And how much should one cost anyway?
As a building contractor cannot quote for a new house without plans and a budget, a producer cannot tell you the cost of a record without consulting with you. Cost will always be a compromise between your ideas and your budget – this will dictate what sort of record you can produce. Your budget also gives you a bracket of quality.
For example, Artist A has a £5k budget to produce five commercials songs and Artist B has a £5k budget for one song. This will determine a multitude of factors, everything from time in pre-production through to recording studio time, the quality of musicians playing on the records, to the quality of mix.
Having said that, a decent music producer will often be able to save costs through the use of their own studio facility and by tapping into a network of trusted personnel and studios to obtain the best rates.
My ‘in a nutshell’ guide to the tasks a record producer undertakes.
What does a music producer do?
Liaison & Contracts
- Terms of work and payment
- Production and writing agreement
- Liaison with label-artist-studio-musicians
- Booking studio / musicians / equipment
Songwriting & Pre-production
- Listening sessions and rehearsals
- Contributing ideas / co-writes
- Rehearsals and creative development
- Additional instrumentations
- Preparation of scores
- Studio set up
- Leading sessions
- Coaching for performance
- Tuning vocals
- Timing edits
- Dynamic control
- Spatial effects
- Fine tuning mixes
- Level for different formats
- Credits / artwork
- Commericals release data: ISRC codes
- PRS & MCPS registration
- Advice on:
- sync licencing
- PR & marketing
If you are serious about making good music and sounding great, then a music producer is an essential addition to your team.
Pick my brains!
I am music producer who is serious about making your music sound its best. Get in touch to chat through your ideas.