Why Hire a Producer
When someone agrees to work with you in the music industry they are putting their name with yours. Your success will be a reflection of them in a way. This typically means that a Producer will only work with artists that they believe in and will work their hardest to make sure your record is a great one.
There are three major components to the producer’s role. The first and arguably most important is “preproduction.” The term is most often used to describe the process of selecting and improving songs that will be recorded. And for that, a good producer should have deft arranging and orchestration skills, as well as a strong knowledge of song structure and lyric intelligence. But preproduction is also the stage where a producer may assist with finding a studio and, if necessary, an engineer that fits a project’s budget, as well as help with the selection of players who’ll appear on the sessions, much like a film director chooses his cast Ideally the producer can discover the strengths and weaknesses of the musicians during this stage, and plan on taking appropriate action to get the best studio performance based on those.
The “production” stage involves the actual recording of the album. Here, the producer takes on the role of director, guru, muse, psychologist, cheerleader, negotiator and whatever else may be required to get the job done and manage the people who are doing it. Not all producers are engineers, even in the low-budget world, but many are. And for bands who’re driven by a particular trait (e.g., guitars, keyboards or vocal groups) it’s good to hire a producer who is savvy inside that particular element and will know how to help you get the best and correct sounds out of the particular strength of your group. Hiring a producer or studio with a great collection of your particular ingredient is certainly a plus.
One of the requirements of a good producer is to have a vision of what the album or song will be like when it is finished before the tape — analog or digital — starts running, and to make sure the artist is on the same page. Ideally, a producer should make an album that is true to the artist’s creative core, even if this requires helping the artist discover exactly what that core is during preproduction. The producer should also be flexible. Sometimes going off script in the studio, leaving room for inspiration, can lead to capturing essential performances. Countless great records and performances have been captured because the producer had the foresight to hit the ‘record’ button…
After the album is recorded, there’s “mixing.” That’s where an educated set of ears with knowledge of outboard gear really comes in handy. Bands and artists who mix themselves tend to sabotage hooks and other interesting events in songs by mixing certain parts too loudly, or failing to delete elements that have been recorded in the interest of helping the best parts of songs. They also tend to bury the vocals if they’re rock bands and place them too high in the mix if they are singer-songwriters. Most studio newbies also tend to underutilize the spectrum of sound. For stereo, envision the vocals and instruments arrayed across a 180-degree field. For Dolby, the world is your playground. If you’re not experienced at mixing, it’s best to sit back, watch, listen and make occasional suggestions while the producer and/or engineer brings the recording to life in this essential stage.
The final stage of album making is “mastering,” where various EQ and compression parameters are applied to the finished mix. This requires yet another specialized set of ears. Chances are your producer can suggest a good, efficient mastering engineer based on experience. It’s good to have the producer at the mastering session to ensure that the project comes back as it was envisioned. Poor mastering can take the life out of an excellent recording and mix. On the other hand, it’s best to leave the kibitzing to the qualified. Some producers will go the extra mile and help an artist or band with various aspects of an album’s post-production life, like market planning or shopping for labels or distributors, but that’s well above the requirements of the job title.
In summary, it’s a good idea to recognize these 3 reasons why you should hire a Producer:
1. A Producer can be impartial and objective about your music
You know that killer riff you just rocked, or that verse that you just killed? It can probably be better. That’s what a Producer does. Takes your sound and makes it better. By cutting, shaping, adding, suggesting, a world of ideas that you don’t have. A good Producer will be someone who is impartial and objective about your music. You all (Producer + band) have ONE JOB. Make GREAT MUSIC. This is your only goal. Since a producer isn’t married to your material as much as you are, they are able to step back and say “this sucks” and “this is fantastic.” These are things you THINK you know about but a Producer will offer a new view on your material.
2. A Producer brings a new flavor and approach to your music
You have one approach to music. A Producer has an entirely different one and this will only add to the creativity. Or the frustration, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The point is that your approach can get stale. It can even become Cancerous when it stops you from innovating and pushing your artistry. Use a Producers suggestions and approach to invigorate your music.
3. A Producer will educate you and you will learn new tools
You should be learning something new every day when you’re in the studio with a great Producer. How do they approach songwriting? What’s their workflow like? What tricks are they using on the DAW? Observe and learn as much as you can. These are things that you can bring to your own solo recordings and demos.