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Music Producers

Learn about the role music producers play in the music industry.

Music producers listen to demos, like this one, to find new talent and ideas. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
Music producers listen to demos, like this one, to find new talent and ideas.

Music producers play a vital role in all facets of recording an album. A music producer acts as the creative leader in a studio and oversees all aspects of the recording process. The first thing music producers usually do is meet with the artist, discuss the artist's creative vision, listen to songs and decide what needs to be worked on.

Producers are responsible for hiring talented musicians, also known as session players, to lay down tracks for a recording, as well as selecting background vocalists. They also oversee the recording budget and help artists select appropriate songs for the album.

The mid-1990s brought about the practice of independent producers assuming the role of arranger. Producers who arrange the music for a song are often considered co-writers of the song. Typically, music producers are talented musicians with significant experience as performers and knowledge of the technical equipment in the studio.

Are music producers really necessary?

Music producers are responsible for many tasks during a recording and can be a very useful resource in the studio. One of the greatest benefits of working with a music producer is having someone around with an objective ear. As the creative process evolves, a music producer can offer objective insight, advice and constructive criticism. A producer can also identify when something doesn't sound quite right or if a vocalist or musician is off key, off pitch or not emoting enough. A music producer provides valuable guidance about the best songs to record and how to find the perfect sound for each song. If a music producer has a strong reputation, he or she can often help an unsigned artist or band secure a record deal from a label.

When it comes to organizational skills, a producer can be an important asset. It is a producer's job to oversee the budget, hire musicians, negotiate wages, book a studio and hire an audio engineer. Many small, important details go into recording an album or a demo, so having a music producer to administrate everything can be a huge relief. Hiring a producer allows an artist or band to focus solely on the music instead of administrative tasks.

Although music producers can be very beneficial, they can also be costly. The rate for producers varies widely depending on their level of skill and previous work experience. Artists with a limited budget might want to reconsider hiring a music producer -- music producers are helpful, but not mandatory. Many artists choose to act as their own producers, overseeing the recording process themselves. This can be time-consuming and stressful, especially if an artist doesn't have previous experience as a producer.

Hiring a Music Producer

The process of finding and hiring a music producer varies from artist to artist. If an artist or band has already signed a recording contract with a record label, their label will handle the hiring process. Typically, the A&R (Artists & Repertoire) Department is responsible for selecting an appropriate music producer for its band or artist. The cost for producers can vary from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars per song, plus royalties. For signed artists, the record label will cover the expenses of a music producer up front with a contractual agreement stating the artist will be responsible for recouping the costs through album sales. If artists or bands are unsigned, they will be responsible for hiring and paying their own producer.

Producers are hired per project. A project may be an entire album or a demo, or just one song. Each project is unique and can take anywhere from a day to several weeks or months. Producers can be found in a number of ways. A music producer who is already established and successful is often represented by an agent or manager. Lesser-known producers may handle their own booking and scheduling. A number of online organizations feature detailed profiles and information on music producers for hire. Studioexpresso features detailed history and credit information for every producer listed on its site, so musicians can carefully select the music producer most qualified for their projects. The National Association of Record Industry Professionals (NARIP) also features detailed profile information on its members, many of whom are producers.

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