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What is a “Music Producer”? – An Exciting Job!

All you music lovers know that there is an important person behind your favourite albums right? And no, I am not talking about the most popular member of your favourite musical act. If you are really into music and might just seriously consider turning professional one day, then you need to ask yourself this – What is a “Music Producer”?

For today, let’s take a break from the usual technical audio topics, and discuss about an actual career path in the dynamic and exciting world of music. Find out more about the responsibilities that a producer has in the music industry. You’ll also learn about the various stages of production that takes place when making an album. Ready to learn? Me too!

Music Production

Photo by Pinnacle_College / CC BY 2.0

Music Producer – A Vital Role

Otherwise known as “record producer”, a music producer acts as an overseer and manages the whole production process of an artist’s music. Some important tasks of a producer include brainstorming musical ideas, selecting session musicians, fine tuning song arrangements, guiding the artist and session players during recording, and supervising the entire music making process from recording, all the way to mastering.

More often than not, producers also take charge of the business aspect of music, being responsible for the budget, schedules, contracts, and negotiations on behalf of the artist. In fact, the two main types of producers in the music industry are executive producer and music producer. Executive producers oversee project finances while music producers handle music productions.

In a lot of ways, the role of a music producer can roughly be compared to the role of a film director. A well known professional audio practitioner Phil Ek, describes his role as “the person who creatively guides or directs the process of making a record”, like a director would a movie. The audio engineering [person] would be more the cameraman of the movie.” 

Music Project

Music producer (far left) discussing with the artist (middle)

That statement by Phil Ek has a lot of truth in it, because in the Bollywood music industry, the role’s formal title is actually “music director”Simply put, a music producer’s job is to create, shape, and mold a piece of music. A producer could be involved with only a few songs or the whole album (where the producer will usually provide the overall musical direction for the album).

Production Stages

Producers are typically seen as a “jack of all trades” in the music industry, since they need to be capable of doing every aspect, without specialising in anything. Essentially, a music producer has to provide the “secret sauce” that elevates the music to the next level by helping the audio engineer understand the artist’s passion and creative philosophies.

Let us now look at the various stages in an album’s production:

  • Pre-production
  • Tracking
  • Post-production

    Pre Production

    Photo by Doreimi1120 at English Wikipedia / CC BY 3.0

Pre-production

This is the stage where artists make preparations before recording their music in the studio. At this point, the producer will usually listen to the songs and suggests changes to the arrangement or instrumentation (for example, using male voices for harmonies instead of female ones). At times, the songs may be recorded in order to give the artist and producer a clearer picture of the whole song.

Listening to the recording may encourage the artist to make crucial changes to the song and its arrangement. Producers will always aim to take the song to the next level by adding their unique sound to it. Producers can also become a songwriting critic and may sometimes do the actual writing itself. It’s rather common to see them collecting royalties from artists they’ve written lyrics for.

To summarise, the pre-production stage is all about making sure that the song is the best that it can be before the artist sets foot in the studio. This ensures better efficiency during the recording stage, as the artist will be more prepared and waste minimal time.

Tracking (Recording)

Tracking basically means recording audio to a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) or to a tape recorder. Notice that the older term “track” is still used today, even though digital recording technology has already dominated the music industry. Audio engineers are responsible for the tracking job, and will work closely with the producers throughout the whole process.

Recording Session

A recording session using a DAW / Photo by Andrew Stawarz / CC BY-ND 2.0

At this stage, producers will be coaching artists while they are recording their instruments or voices, so that they’ll be able to convey the emotion of the song and achieve better technical accuracy (e.g., intonation). Producers may also choose to sing or play an instrument, if it helps take the song to the next level. Even at this stage, producers will still be thinking of ways to improve on the song.

Post-Production

DAW

Photo by Jason Meredith / CC BY 2.0

This stage is also typically known as the “mixing phase”. Here, the artist will not be deeply involved and its generally up to the audio engineer and the producer to define the final sound of the mix. At this point, the finalisation of the arrangement is done by moving around audio files and cutting instruments that are no longer needed for the final sound of the mix.

During this whole process, the producer provides an “extra ear” and guides the audio engineer in producing the desired sound. After this stage would be the “mastering” phase, where the producer’s role in the project will end. A mastering engineer makes the final adjustments to the recording (compression, levels, etc.) so that it meets the professional standards of music for radio airplay or CD release.

Alright folks, that’s all I have for you guys today. Already feeling inspired to start producing music? Well, whatever it is, I hope that this article has been helpful!

Don’t forget to leave comments or questions below, and share this article if you like!

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Farhan

When I'm not rocking out to great music, I'd prefer to be sleeping on a field on a windy day =)

6 Comments

  1. Hi Farhan,

    Now I feel myself more educated 🙂

    I’d actually like to know more about music production in such a field as video games industry, as that’s the main area of my interest. I understand that in its essence it’s not entirely different from what an “average” music producer do, but I’m sure there are quite a few interesting nuances about it.

    Would be really nice if you made a post about it.

    Thanks!

    • Hi Dmitriy!

      Thanks for dropping by, and I appreciate your suggestion. I try not to stray away too far from the more conventional audio engineering or music production subjects. Nonetheless, I’ll try to look into music production for gaming, and see what I can find.

      Do check back for updates!

  2. It’s good to have this clarified because it can be confusing know what all these terms mean. Years ago my brother thought that a music producer was the person who mixes it. Although some producers do also do the mixing, not all of them do. Often there is a separate mixing engineer who does the actual physical task of mixing, but the producer will oversee this process, right? I’m wondering if my brother is still mistaken in this belief.

    • Hey Marcus!

      In most cases, big-time professional producers do not handle the tracking work in the studio, and leaves it entirely to a dedicated studio engineer. However, in today’s music industry, there are a lot of professional musicians who are also producers themselves, and they have their own studios at home where they record and mix all the songs on their own.

      It really depends on what type of music you are looking at. Many famous pop artists with chart topping albums usually have dedicated producers (who are also well-known) working on their songs. There’s often a correlation between highly successful songs (or albums) with well-known dedicated producers.

      Thanks for dropping by!

  3. Wow – what an informative article!! I love the music industry and a variety of different genres, but had grossly underestimated what goes into putting together each track. As for the role of the producer I am embarrassed to say I had assumed they took much more of a backseat role, and then took all of the glory… how very wrong I was. Thank you so much for setting me straight!

    • Hi Clare!

      I’m glad that you’ve learnt something new from this article. Yes, in reality, producers are very actively involved in an artist’s album production from start to end. Their creative input adds a huge value to the final product!

      Thanks for your thoughts!

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