What is the role of a record producer?
Image of Adam Moseley, record producer and engineer (Beck, Rush, Nikka Costa/Lenny Kravitz, Wolfmother, Spike Jonze, U2)
When considering what a record producer is responsible for, it might make more sense to figure out what they don’t do. The producer has a hand in the arrangement, working with the artists, composing, and other aspects of a song or album while supervising the entire project. They may even empty the trash once in a while.
Simply put: A music producer’s objective is to make the best possible song in accord with the band or artist’s vision. Even the placement of microphones can play a part in how the album sounds, so a record producer needs to be well-versed in all facets of the equipment and even the studio itself.
This includes the hardware they work with on their side of the glass. Using digital audio workstations, or DAWs, a producer can record, manipulate, mix, and master music, whether they’re sitting in the control room of a recording studio or are halfway across the world from the artists they’re working with. While some producers still prefer using analog when producing music, DAWs are staples in professional music studios around the world.
But the job of a producer doesn’t end there. They must be able to work with up-and-comers and divas alike, coaxing the best out of their artists. Although audio engineers may sometimes work closely with the talent, it is the producer’s job to guide the session and make sure it stays on schedule and on budget. This can include hiring backing musicians, writing or arranging music, and acting as a bridge between the artists and the recording studio’s staff (studio manager, audio engineer, assistant engineers, etcetera).
As a record producer, you need to be able to step in at any moment to make sure the project is moving towards the fulfillment of the goal: the best possible song as set out by the artist or bands’ vision. Getting there may mean staying in the background observing as everyone does their job, or it could mean stepping in and making adjustments to ensure everything is on course for success.
A Short History of Record Producing
In the early days of recording albums, producers did anything but actually produce music. Instead of arranging, or re-arranging, music before or after the fact, the producer essentially recorded an artist or band in one shot. Of course, the technology wasn’t in place to do much more than that. In fact, the term producer wasn’t used all that much.
However, once advancements were made in the recording industry, the producer began taking on heavier workloads. The dawn of multitrack recording allowed producers the freedom to record like never before. Decades earlier, musicians and singers had to be gathered together at the same time to record a song. If any part of a song was missed, they’d start all over again.
With multitrack recording, singers could record their parts one day, do the rhythm on another, and background vocals on the third day. Instead of waiting for everyone to get it perfect, producers could concentrate on getting the best takes, then move on once those takes were recorded. This allowed them to assemble the best possible takes to go on to create the best possible song. By extension, repeating that same methodology on every song would then yield the best possible record.
The 60s and 70s saw the rise of electronic instruments and artists acting as their own producer. The ability to make new sounds, then alter those sounds later, unleashed a multitude of new music and new musical genres and changed how traditional music was produced. Creativity was no longer shackled by the technology.
Since the 80s a digital revolution has been taking place. Instruments, recorders, and even the mediums which determined how consumers listened to music became more and more digital over the past 4 decades. Vinyl albums were replaced by cassette tapes which were then replaced by compact discs or CDs.
With the advent of the new millennium, came MP3s and digital streaming services which now comprise the primary ways people listen to music. For the past two decades, producers have been using DAWs along with main mixers, recording devices, MIDI controllers, and other hardware to make the music we hear today.
The use of DAWs is even more prevalent when you think about the do-it-yourselfers and basement studio operators. Nowadays, you don’t need to be Dr. Dre to produce your own music. All you need is a love of music and the desire to learn the software.
Want to Make Record Producing a Career?
If the life of a producer is something that interests you, consider applying for admission into the Recording Connection Music Producing Program. From learning the physical principles of sound to mastering the final product, this program enables you to get the firm foundation you need to pursue a career in the music producing industry.
And you’ll do it all from a working studio, working one-on-one with a professional producer. Your mentor will lead you through the coursework, give you the opportunity to work in an established environment, and generally show you what it takes to produce music in the landscape of today.
Our most driven and determined students often find themselves fast-tracked to a career in the music industry. They may have gotten hired at the very same studios where they trained as externs, they could have opened their own studios, or starting their own business selling beats, samples, or sounds. Think you have what it takes to make this a career? Apply today.