What is a music producer?
How does a person ‘produce’ music?
Does a music producer make a salary?
These are all questions that I’m sure many up and coming producers and artists have asked.
I think most people are unaware of what a music producer actually does, and why does a musician need one?
Or perhaps you’re a young musician trying to find his or her place in the music business, and you’re wondering if music production is something you might enjoy.
So…I’ve assembled a list of the TOP 5 qualities to look for in a Music Producer.
My goal is to educate you, and perhaps give a window into what a music producer does and why you may (or may not) need one to take your career to the next level.
1. Music producer excels at creating the ‘sound’ that you’re looking for.
Let’s face it. There are a ton of music producers in the world. How do you know which one is right for you?
The best way is to see who is producing the albums or songs you like to listen to.
If you’re a Taylor Swift fan, you should definitely know the name Max Martin. If you like Ke$ha, you should definitely know the name Dr. Luke. If you like Adele, you should know the name Greg Wells.
These are examples of A list producers. These guys are getting paid by the big record labels to crank out the next hit. They can make anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000 for ONE SONG!
These A list music producers, may be way out of your financial means, but what about the producers that help create the music for independent musicians you listen to? This information is available as well by a simple google search, and these guys are much easier to get ahold of and much easier to afford. For a working producer at the B or C level, you can expect to pay anywhere from $1000 to $10,000 for a single song, depending on their experience and expertise.
Ultimately, you want to find a producer who excels in the type of music you want to make. Heck, it doesn’t hurt to reach out and see if a producer wants to collaborate on a song for a licensing deal (these can be lucrative for both parties). Which leads me to my next point…
2. Music Producer is willing to work with your budget
I’ll be honest, we’re all trying to survive and make money. So a music producer who does this full time as a career is definitely interested in being compensated for his time.
However, there are multiple ways for him to do this.
There are two aspects of a song/recording, and both of these has the potential to make money. There is the song, which is owned by the writer/publisher and the recording (master) which is owned by the producer (the creator of the master) until he or she is compensated for it (by the artist or record label).
If the producer is paid a rate that is satisfactory, he or she will then give ownership of the master to the artist or label and they stand to make a financial gain on the product they’ve hired the producer to create.
If the the artist or label only has $1000 and the producer wants $2000, the artist or label can offer retention of 50% (or a percentage they agree upon) ownership of the master or publishing. This benefits the producer because down the road, if the song gets licensed (chosen to be used for film or tv placement) the owners of the master or publishing both get paid a fee. So this may be lucrative for the producer if he or she feels like the song has great licensing potential.
The artists ability to write a great song, social media presence, or general charisma have the power to negotiate a deal that works for both the artist and the producer and can be lucrative for both parties.
3. Music Producer is willing to push you to new heights
Hopefully if you’re seeking out a music producer, you’ve recognized that you can only take your sound so far.
A willingness to allow the music producer the ability to push you beyond what you may believe you are capable, will help you take your music to new heights.
Sometimes as humans we don’t know our true capabilities. A coach or teacher or music producer can help identify and bring to the surface your best qualities. These could be vocal tone or delivery, guitar timing or approach, drum groove or dynamics.
A great producer has the ability to identify a strength and amplify it, so the world can enjoy the unique fingerprint of an artist.
If you are willing, a music producer can help take you AND your sound to the next level. Often a music producer is someone who has navigated the music industry for a while and has learned ways to accomplish artists’ musical goals. They can also help you avoid certain pitfalls and mistakes that other artists have made.
This is based on your willingness, and the producer’s trustworthiness.
4. Music Producer helps accomplish your goals NOT theirs.
Ultimately it is you, the artist (or the label), that is hiring the producer. You definitely should make sure you’re getting the sound you want.
If the producer thinks you should take a song in a certain direction, make sure that is the same direction you’re willing to go. If you get to the end, and decide you don’t like it, the music producer is going to want to be paid for his or her time whether you like the end result.
So it is important to make sure you are on the same page.
There is nothing wrong with trusting a producer to take your music in a direction that is more commercially viable or towards a different sound, as long as that direction is decided and agreed upon by both of you. Also, make sure you trust the ability of the producer to make those decisions based on his track record. If Max Martin or Greg Wells tells you to he thinks a song should lean in this direction or that, they probably are saying so for a reason. If Johnny-No-Name-Producer, thinks you should try rapping on a section and you’re a jazz singer, you should probably question their judgment.
At the end of the day the best producer-artist relationship is one that is mutual and in which both musical opinions are valued and welcomed, in order to create the best sounding recording or song.
5. Music Producer makes you feel safe and comfortable being vulnerable with him or her.
This should probably be number one in overall importance.
It is imperative that a producer makes you feel safe. Not only physically but intellectually and creatively. You must be free to try new ideas, reach for high notes, and pen lyrics that are out of the box if you want to grow. A producer who is overly negative or critical without aim to improve a song or make an artist better can be very detrimental to an artist’s creative space.
A producer’s job is not to shoot down ideas or hold his ideas as superior to yours. Rather a music producer should help steer your ideas towards their greatest potential. He or she should encourage an artist to reach outside of the comfort zone. That is where the gems of genius lie.
If you need help with songwriting, there is nothing wrong with letting an experienced music producer who is a great writer help you write the best version of YOUR song. If you don’t feel comfortable with the direction a song is going, speak up and retain you artistry.
A great producer will strive to be the mouthpiece for the artist. He or she should desire not to steer the ship, but to help the artist direct it towards the best course.
I hope these help give you an idea of what to look for in a music producer and what a great music producer is capable of doing for your career.
If you have questions you can post them in the comments below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also check out my podcast for interviews with working artists and music producers, that go into greater detail on this topic.
Thanks for reading! I hope you’ve learned a little better how to DIY!