THE ROLE OF A PRODUCER
Here at Cosher Recording Studios in Cape Town, we have many clients, especially up and coming artists, who don’t fully understand the role of a music producer.
As the music industry evolves, so too does the role of the music producer. The title of producer has, up until recent times, been synonymous with mystery. This mystery could have been a product of watching producers relentlessly tinker about with their toys, often taking mass amounts of time to make inaudible changes to the music or maybe it was a conscious result to achieve a level of anonymity, useful in keeping quiet the dirty deeds committed during sessions.
Not many people are aware of what the producer actually does in the recording studio and it is often thought that the producer is there to make artists sound better, but this is only half-right.
It is a modern misconception that the producer is simply there to make beats, auto-tune vocals and push the big red button, when in actual fact they are responsible for so much more. The traditional role of a producer is to guide the artist through their process to ultimately reach their musical end-goal, but modern advances in technology have exponentially broadened the sonic horizons for both artist and producer. The traditional role of a producer still applies, except now, they have the ability to dissect the music at its most basic fractions.
The studio is the producer’s environment so it IS up to them to translate the artist’s idea into a tangible product, but the quality of the end product does not rely solely on the producer’s abilities.
In a recording studio, there is a very intimate relationship between the artist and the producer. The creative process is a fragile and personal journey, immediately altered and affected by those present. This is where the producer plays the most pivotal part. Nurturing the artist and understanding the creative environment is key. It is not just about applying the technical know-how to secure a decent take of the music, it is about balance and harmony.
The producer needs to hear the song the same way the artist does, the only difference is that the producer needs to be able to separate the individual elements and have the ability to synthesise every sound in the artist’s head. In this way, you could say the producer acts as the vessel for the music, allowing the song to move through themselves in order to bring structure to chaos. Of course, there is always trial and error, but through the jungle of emotions that comes with artistic expression, it is useful to have a knowledgeable tour guide.
The producer and artist must develop this equilibrium for the process of creation to be successful.
For example, The Beatles’ producer, George Martin, was actually considered as the 5th member of the band, often referred to as the “5th Beatle”. Albums such as The White Album and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band are believed to have been direct results of the relationship between the band and their producer. Martin’s true strength was in allowing the band to be completely free to experiment sonically, resulting in numerous new recording techniques that have now become standard practice. This is a perfect example of the impact the relationship between producer and artist can have.
“As a producer I have to infer what they really really want.”
– Matt Wallace, Record Producer