The term music producer means different things to different people. When many people think of music producers, especially in hip-hop or the electronic dance music (EDM) scenes, they often think of the likes of Calvin Harris, Diplo, Scott Storch, Timberland and more.
More recently, it’s not uncommon for them to also be considered music artists too. With the lines between music artists and music producers so hazy, what does it really mean to be a music producer?
Architects of the music world
Looking back, producers were usually hired by either record labels to work with an artist, or bands, artists or groups would come in to create a record with the producer. In these scenarios, the producer would wear a few hats: they acted as the go-between, endeavoring to keep both the artist and the label happy.
Many in this role were not necessarily very hands-on but rather acted as facilitators. They would hire a sound engineer, book the studios, handle everything during the recording process and have a vision for the overall sound of the song or record. The best way to describe this role is to think of them as architects of the music world.
Fast forward to 2020: the age of computers and laptops. Suddenly producers are realizing that they can do a lot of the work themselves. They don’t need to hire musicians and if they have a good understanding of how audio works well, they could probably do away with sound engineers too.
As cool as this may sound, very often this can result in the producer neglecting the most important factor. Now they’re wearing way too many hats! Behaving like a one-man-band (or trying to balance six hats on one head) leads to neglect.
Serving the song
The producer’s focus should be to serve the song. But when the focus can potentially shift from trying to produce the best beat or drop, making the mix and master sound amazing and forgetting to ensure that the song is still strong.
I’m talking, lyrics, melody, arrangements, sonic direction and much more. After all, if your song is weak, no amount of clever production beats can polish a weak song into a hit.
There’s no ‘I’ in team
As producers, serving the song might mean we need to have a team of people to rely on. For example, if writing a song is not your strength, bring in someone who can. If your mixing is not up to scratch, then hire someone to mix your song and give it the high standard it deserves.
Similarly, know if you need help mastering. I’m not suggesting that you should never try to release the music that you’ve created all by yourself. After all, we learn from solo work and this can help us grow. Ask yourself, you would rather release a brilliant song with a group of people who have each contributed in their area of expertise, or release a song that’s not quite as good because you tried to do it all alone?
At the end of the day, music shouldn’t be about egos. If you want your music to stand out among some of the big hits out there, learn to serve the song and give it the best it needs.