The music production on your next single or album can make or break your career. Sure, you may have a collection of amazing songs with great melodies and chords, but you need someone to transform those ideas into a masterpiece: a music producer. It’s important not to throw your wallet at any budding producer who jumps at the chance.
Choosing the right music producer is no easy task. Your music needs to represent you as an artist. They should fit in with your timeline, budget, and especially, be a pleasure to work with and create. Failing to take the time to select the right producer can land you in a world of hurt with a bad product, money wasted, and a bad foot to step off with.
A music producer needs to understand your music
When you’re in contact with various producers, be sure to note which ones seem to “care” more about you. They should have passion in their tone.
A great producer not only will create a solid foundation for your music, but will also research your past material, take into consideration other artists you are inspired by, and ask questions about your music to gauge the sound you are looking for.
This is arguably the most important step in choosing a producer.
Ask your potential producer to send you links to various artists they have worked with in the past that are like your sound. Another thing to do is send voice memos or demos of potential songs and pick their brain about ideas and direction.
Does the producer have a signature “sound” that you want your music to be infused with?
Some producers (like Alex da Kid) have an iconic sound that seems to resonate with all the artists they work with. Whether or not it’s your intention to work with someone based off their sound, it’s important to take note of.
I believe that this is a positive, as it’s like having an additional member to your group. You know the talent they are bringing to the table on day one of pre-production.
Some producers are very vocal about their “creative input”
A highly contentious debate in bands always is the topic of producers putting their own spin on an artist or band’s music. How “hands-on” you allow the producer to be is completely up to you, though some may insist to help further your career.
To bring back the point of the “another member of the group,” the producer should act as another set of ears and is completely objective since they are new to your music most likely. This is not a bad thing and can help push your music and career to the next level.
The phone call “interview” stage
During the process of selecting a music producer, it’s important to get on the phone and chat with them. Don’t rely on emails and text messages alone to get a feel for the producer (a video call would be even better).
Schedule a half hour or so and take a call, along with your band, to the producer. They will be happy to talk to you and the band about the album.
Topics discussed will include sonic direction, production, songwriting credit, timeline, the studio space, and getting to know you. From this phone call, you should be able to determine if the producer is the right fit for you. Chemistry is very important when working on a creative project.
In most cases for younger bands and artists, the producer you work with will also be the engineer for a local studio. Be sure to do a little research on the studio. Check out photos online and reach out to other bands or artists who have worked at the studio. See how their experience was and make your decision from there.
“Dude, they don’t have the xyz mastering compressor! We can’t record here!”
Another highly contentious topic among bands is gear. As it turns out, gear really doesn’t matter anymore. Sure, a great studio with amazing gear is great if you can afford it, but these days, a lot of home studios are making excellent sounding records that compete with major label releases.
Do yourself a favor and listen to the products recorded and produced by your candidates before judging the gear they may use. Even though he’s speaking of live music, Glenn Fricker puts it best:
Be sure to establish a solid time frame for pre-production, production, mixing, and mastering. If you’re unfamiliar with these terms, allow me to explain:
- Pre-production – This is the “demo” form of your songs. This is the stage where your songs are tracked, and critical decisions are made about arrangement and songwriting (many of our song’s pre-production drum parts were made using a drum machine on our last album prior to recording). Pre-production can take place in the studio with the producer or can be done by you at home if you record your own music.
- Production – This is the stage where the music begins to Things like extra keyboards, synths, guitars, effects, and more are added to the music based on your creative direction. For some bands and artists, there isn’t too much to be done in this stage as the music is simple and doesn’t require a lot of polish.
- Mixing – Your music is now balanced to sound evenly across the board. Think of mixing as the stage where volumes are handled between the instruments.
- Mastering – This is the final stage of production where your song is fixed dynamically to sound great on all speakers (if that didn’t occur during mixing already).
Establishing a recording timeline helps you, as an artist or band, plan your release and line everything up so it can go smoothly. The last thing you want to have happen is a delayed release because your producer is still mixing the album months later.
Be open to all kinds of recording techniques
If you’re the audio snob of the band, leave that at the door when it’s studio time. Unless you have credits backing your name up, you should keep your mouth shut (or at least be nice about it) and listen to the engineer or producer.
Besides, if you have all this experience and knowledge, why aren’t you the one sitting behind the console? Here’s a shot of a technique called Recorderman, that we tried when we recorded our second studio album. Unfortunately, we never used any takes from this room. I think it was the drums and the dampening, not the technique.
Prepare and prepare some more
Now that you have selected a music producer to work on your next release, it’s time to get ready for the studio. You must practice. Get great at singing or playing these songs. You are the one to make it happen, so don’t waste anyone’s time and money hacking away in the studio. It’s your money, remember.
Have you worked with a music producer? If so, how was your experience? Feel free to leave a comment down below. Thanks for reading.