Do you need a producer?

It’s said that a man that represents himself in a court of law has a fool for a client. The same can be said of the self produced artist in the studio. This doesn’t necessarily hold true if all you’re looking for is a demo CD for club gigs, but if your intent is to have a professional product ready for commercial release, hire a producer.

Whether it is a knowledgeable friend familiar with your music and vision, a professional producer, or the engineer at the studio who will arrange to come to practices, hire a producer! The studio engineer is hearing it for the first time and has no idea what your capabilities are or how the song is supposed to go. (Unless they have attended practices and discussed your project with you.) You’ll want them to know your songs well, to have heard you perform them at their best, and to have an intimate understanding of your vision. You want someone who can tell you, “That’s a no go, do it again!” Or “That it was the best you’ve ever done”. This will also save you time (read: “money”) in the studio as the producer can say “we’ve got it, let’s go on to the next one.” Without the band having to break and listen through for errors and such. On longer projects, this alone may well cover the expense and relieves the artist of nerve-racking judgment calls that erode artistic flow!

Criteria for choosing a producer are:
1) knowledgeable in the genre, both technically and subjectively.
2) Someone with whom you communicate easily and effectively.
3) Demonstrates a genuine interest in your vision, otherwise they’ll produce theirs.
4) Is willing to spend the time in pre-production. By that, I mean listening to practices, taking notes, making suggestions, and yes, having arguments …… er ….. discussions. Disagreements are healthy and should not be cause for discontent. They are signs that people are doing their job, hopefully with the right mix of passion, love, logic and self control.!

Make sure your expectations of the producer are detailed and made clear. What’s just as important: make sure you know their expectations of you. All compensation should also be in writing once a good fit is determined.

On that note, don’t be afraid to say no. It’s tempting to settle for the available, because finding someone else is going to be hard work. Life is hard. Success is damn near impossible! Music is a business that requires work in pleasant and unpleasant tasks alike. Run an ad in craigs-list requesting a list of production credits, or recruit the leader of a band in your genre that you respect. Look at commercially successful CDs in your genre that reflect your taste in sound, arrangement, and integrity. Who produced them? Look until you’re convinced that you’ve found your musical soul-mate, but with even better taste!

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