First let me post what the music industries standard definition is of the role of a producer, in the pro music business.
Record Producer Career Profile
By Heather McDonald
Record Producers - What Do They Do?:
The record producer works with the band, session’s musicians and the studio engineer to "produce" the sound the recordings. Often the producer's job is to provide an extra set of ears, to produce a certain sound or to provide experience. They may be involved with arranging parts of the track or even writing it. In smaller studios the role of engineer and producers may be combined, and the band may producer or co-produce the recordings with the engineer.
In House Record Producers:
An in-house producer works in a particular studio, and his fees will usually be included in the cost of renting the studio, although they may also receive "points." Studios can often be keen to retain in demand producers as they can provide a major reasons for artists to come to the studio. Some producers, such as grunge pioneer Steve Albini in Chicago and lo-fi producer Kramer own their own studios. When booking a studio if you want to work with a particular in house producer, make sure that they are available and booked in for your session.
Independent Record Producers:
An independent producer will be employed by a band, or the label on the band's behalf, in order to gain a particular sound or in order to gain from the producer's reputation. The producer and the band will then go into a studio to record. The producer's fees will be separate from the studio rental fees. The producer will usually oversee the recording sessions as well as the mixing and the mastering of the recordings, but make sure this is made clear before the work starts, and that the overall fee is agreed.
How Do Record Producers Get Paid?
Most producers will be paid a flat fee/advance for their work. Some will also receive points - a percentage of the dealer price of a record and/or a share of the profits made from the recordings. It's common for producers to receive both. A producer may work for a reduced up front fee in exchange for some points, or may secure a fee plus points, if they feel their production will be important to the record's success. Initially some producers may work for free to build up work but top producer can be very well paid. If you're involved in the songwriting process, you can expect royalties on top of your production fees.
Pioneering Record Producers:
Here are just a few producers credited with actually changing the way music sounds:
George Martin – the fifth Beatle. Working with The Beatles he invented many studio techniques still used today
Joe Meek – As well as pioneering numerous production tricks he was an electrical whiz who built some of the equipment he used.
Phil Spector – Used multiple musicians playing the same parts to create the “Wall of Sound” production style.
Robert Lange – Developed many multi track recording innovations, e.g. recording each string on Angus Young's (AC/DC) guitar on separate tracks for their seminal Back in Black album.
Hip Hop Record Producers:
The rise of hip hop saw the rise of the producer as star, with producers having a higher profile, and higher fees, than many of the artists they produce. Superstar hip hop producers can virtually guarantee a song will be hit, although the flipside is that they often pass in and out of style quickly, meaning the wrong producer at the wrong time can break a record as well.
Bedroom Record Producers:
The availability of computers has seen a rise in home studios, and bedroom producers. One of the most successful is Brian Burton. He began working on tracks in his bedroom under the name Danger Mouse, raising to prominence with The Gray Album, a mash up of Jay Z's Black Album and The Beatles' White Album. As well as bringing him to the attention of EMI's lawyers he caught Damon Albarn's ear, who brought him in to producer the second album by his virtual band Gorillaz, which earned Burton a Grammy. Next up was the worldwide smash hit Crazy, as Gnarls Barkley, and he's now one of the world's most sought after producers.
How Do I Become a Producer?:
Traditionally producers begin work as engineers in studios, or sometime as session musicians, gained experience in the studio environment. Then they begin working as an in-house producer until they gain a reputation. As Danger Mouse's story shows these days a producer can start working from their bedroom, however studio experience is very valuable to a producer. As a producer you'll probably be working with a studio engineer, but you'll be expected to know your way round a mixing desk. Working at your production skills in the bedroom is a good way to start, and try and gain work experience at a local recording studio.
Record Producer Contracts:
As with all aspects of the music industry, contracts are important, not least because they let everyone knows where they stand and what is expected of them. An engineer may feel that they're 'producing' the session - the band may not. A band may expect the producer to oversee recording, mixing and mastering but the producer may be only be expecting to work on the recordings. These issues, along with fees and point are more easily discussed before recording begins, and a contract can clear up any misunderstandings.
My whole theory and teaching I do is geared towards only the independent, home recordists, or as the article puts it above, the bedroom producer with a PC.
The industry steps to becoming a pro producer are the same as a self contained artist, or producer in general. In a studio I started out as a Recording Engineer, than I moved on to study Mastering Engineering, and lastly, of late Post-production work for music videos and Independent movies. My last goal in life is to make some independent movies, so I have been in study in that field. More so the post production audio side, still have not learned film, video editing, but I do have a working knowledge of it and the Avid system, the industry standard.
Let me explain something that the true, but stale facts, listed above left out.
You write songs from the heart, you can learn music, and read music, but music that is a natural gift, is from the heart, that’s me, and if you want to be a great free-lance, bedroom producer I hope it comes from your heart as well. I have written over 2000 songs, in every style aside from Country and Rap, because I am not good enough to do those styles. I do, pop-rock-ballads, CCM, and film music. I am a word smith, always have been, in many forms like, a Story Teller in the local school Department years ago, a camp fire story teller, currently working on an action, post apocalyptic book now called, Goshen falls -Book 1. I have several short movie scripts, story boards, all ready to go, just no equipment, or funds for even a cheap movie camera at this time, but one day I will, and than I will make my movie, the locations already scouted out and such, the movie score done by, who else, me LOL.
I find as a self contained artist and producer, you have to be able to know more than your recording equipment. I said in a previous article about, how to write a hit song, song writing, see those, that’s my biggest gift. You need to be able to be like an orchestra conductor, only add, you are the one that wrote the composition. I take a musician, duet, band, I listen to a few songs they are working on, or have just a few parts to, what I do, is I put the parts together, like you would if you were using samples and loops, your creating advanced compositions with loops. I have done 30 track compositions in Acid Pro, it is simply wild. Back in my day, we only had a four track Tape recorder and, now unlimited tracks, unlimited ways to put down your ideas. This is what a good producer does, and a good self contained artist.
I will stand before the band and listen, I hear a good part I yell, “stop" they in shock at first stop, once they learn how I work they look for me to do this as the conductor, the helper. I never try and put my style into an independent artist, but help them to blossom as they are, sound as they do.
In the music business, many arrogant producers have destroyed many recordings. This is why the bands that have been around a while, now have their own label, own song publishing, and own producing, with full control, but to do this in a band, you need someone that can write, produce, if not, you turn to someone like me. I will listen and yell, " stop" OK, that's great, that little part you just did, that is your verse, repeat that one part several times, I will write some lyrics, and they continue, next again, " Stop, that's your chorus,...Stop that's your break" It is putting together a song like you would loops and as said, it works the same way.
A great song is a great song with one instrument and a vocal. All the tricks and sound effects will not make a poor song great.
OK, you have a great song, now once done, in comes adding pads, and mixing, and such. This is how you do it in a studio, or in a bedroom.
I have a lot more to say on this, but this will end part 1.
Till next time-Dr Dan