Finding the perfect producer for your project can be anything short of simple. This is a very important task and is not to be looked upon lightly. This is part 1 of a list of 6 things that you must absolutely consider when hiring a producer. A miss on any of these things could lead to disaster on the most important musical project of your career.
6. Does the Producer “get” what you’re doing?
One incredibly important strength of working with a producer, as opposed to self producing, is that you have another professional and unbiased (at least regarding your music) perspective. What can often be missed is knowing why YOUR music is different. Every band has their strengths and potentially a key niche, but if your producer lumps you in with every other band of a certain genre, he won’t be able to really see the unique strengths that can come from your music.
Here is a real life example.
A modern, hard rock band with classic rock roots, we’ll call ‘em “Z-Rock”, hires a rock producer to finish up their up and coming debut album. Z-Rock is a 3 piece band with a very melodic bass player who has a crucial role in the feeling and melody of the music. The producer knows modern rock, but doesn’t understand that Z-Rock isn’t the standard “guitar centric” rock band and so the bass guitar isn’t embellished. The bass is treated as *only* being a foundation for whatever the guitar is playing, but not as a strong melody instrument. This results in the producer guiding the mix engineer to cutting high tones from the bass, reducing bass melody clarity, but leaving plenty of room for the guitars to shine. At the end of the day, you may have a great sounding “rock” album, but do you have the best Z-Rock album? Far from it. And having an amazing Z-Rock album is what the band needs to shine among the myriads of other generic rock bands out there.
This leads into our next question…
5. What is the producer’s vision for the music?
Even if your producer-to-be understands your niche and strengths, do they have a grandiose vision for you? And better yet, does their vision match your vision?
Preferably you should have a demo recording available for the producer to hear, prior to signing them up for the job. Most producer interviews will be done over the phone and internet, but if at all possible it’s ideal to have a face to face meeting with your producer when you present the demo songs. This way you can talk about the producer’s vision while it’s fresh in the air. You and your producer don’t have to think exactly alike, in fact it’s best that you have your own opinions and viewpoints, but at the end of your first meeting, you and your producer should feel a sense of unity regarding where to bring the music.
Be leery of a producer with no opinion at all. I can’t speak for all producers, but being impartial is the sign of a producer who really doesn’t have a direction in mind. A lack of direciton could lead to problems in the future.
In the end, listen to your inner feelings. If you don’t feel that your producer has the right vision, don’t force it. You’ll find the right producer.
4. How much say or control does the Producer want over your music?
This is really going to be vastly different from producer to producer. There is no “right” answer to this. The right answer is the answer that you and your band want to hear.
Some producers require 100% veto power and control. This means that if there is something they don’t like, they expect you to follow their lead and change it. This is more common for major label producers who you are hiring because they have their own strong style. This makes complete sense. If you are hiring a producer to gain their “signature sound”, of course they are going to want complete control. That’s why you hired them.
The flip side to this are producers who provide quality feedback and allow the artists to make the core decisions and hold the creative power.
Again, there is nothing wrong with either of these methods of producing, but you need to make sure you’re on the same page. In either case, a producer always holds the right to remove their name from your recordings. If you have a disagreement regarding a song where you really want it one way, but the producer strongly feels this will be the death of the song (believe me, it’ll happen). The producer has the right (it’s in the agreement you sign) to remove their name from being recognized in the producer credits. This allows you to have your creative way and at the same time allows the producer to not be recognized for it, since it is also their career on the line.
Hopefully, this article will help you in your journey to find the best producer for you! Look for part 2 of this article next week!
|About the Author:
Josh Wolfer is the founder and executive producer of Big Dumb Monkey Productions. When he’s not writing articles or teaching bass guitar lessons, you can typically find him in his studio writing or recording music. You can follow him @bigdumbmonkeyp