Do You Really Want a Producer?

Are you are truly stoked to hand over the reigns, and let someone else steer your recording project?

Are you are truly stoked to hand over the reigns, and let someone else steer your recording project? Are you fully capable of trusting and following the advice of an outside influence on your precious work?

Please circle back to the title of this article to make sure you understand the key word is “want” as opposed to “need.” Some artists need production help (whether or not they know it), but resist it for various reasons. It can be an ego issue, a control situation, lack of funds, insecurity, fear, or just plain ignorance of what production roles and responsibilities are. Indeed, many artists may need a producer in the most desperate of ways, but still feel they don’t want one!

Over the years I have been producing, I have worked with artists that fit every range of what you can imagine. There are those who seemingly want production assistance more than anything in their lives, all the way to those who are only putting up with the idea because the record label won’t let them into a studio without a producer. I am happy to report that most artists fall closer to the former than the latter, as there is nothing more frustrating and futile than trying to collaborate with a non-collaborator.

In my quest to help you come up with the right answer to this question, I’ll say that you are likely to be an artist who wants a producer if you find yourself agreeing with the following statements.

[1] You believe the theory that two heads are better than one, and that your strong suit is mainly one of a performer, whereas the producer is a director, pursuing all things that inspire, shape, structure, and finalize the collective vision to equal much more than the sum of the parts.

[2] You have a history of struggling to express yourself with great demos or finished projects that showcase the best performances imaginable, while maintaining a sonic value that matches the music perfectly.

[3] You have come to realize that the “one person does it all” style of multitasking is overwhelming, and actually brings less reward to the overall artistic pursuit.

[4] You feel that the input, energy, and focus of another creative force dedicated to getting the best out of you pushes you to higher levels of excellence, and does not threaten you simply because the ideas are coming from someone besides yourself.

[5] You admit to having “demoitis”—a tragic state of mental blockage that makes one believe a song cannot change from the original demo—and you can’t shake it alone. Demos can be a blessing or a curse, so you’ve got to be honest about whether or not recording them helps or hinders the process of creating your final master recordings.

So now, you may be thinking that bringing on a producer is a good idea. But how do you know the chemistry will be there to make greatness together? If you want to test the waters by doing a single track or so before committing to a whole project, that should be acceptable to most producers, as long as it is a fair arrangement for both parties. Frankly, you testdrive the car before you buy it, right? Also consider that co-production can be a good approach for those who have great production chops, but who want to share the creative load with another producer.

The bottom line in any and all producer/artist relations is mutual respect, and the trust that both can bring the best out of each other. So do yourself—and everyone else—a favor, and don’t hire a producer you don’t have 100-percent faith in. In order for them to do their job, you have to let them do it.

I’ll leave you with this well-worn joke among producers: If the recording goes multi-platinum, the artist is a genius and gets all the credit. Conversely, if the project tanks and sinks into the great unknown, it is clearly 100-percent the producer’s fault!

So, do you really want a producer?