The social network
There is a perceived value both musically for the artist and in terms of marketing to everyone else in the inclusion of a music producer in the creation process. Having a producer essentially represents a vested interest in an artist’s work by an external body, and signals a certain added value to the work they have and plan to create. Whether they state it or not, artists nowadays work with producers because they are perceived as a legitimate and effective way of bringing their careers to the next level, which includes a significant step towards getting signed.
So what does this mean for a producer? It means that the process of networking as a practitioner has never been more important. The old phrase “it’s not what you know it’s who you know” is unfortunately very real in the commercial music industry. While there is obviously a requirement for viable musical content and competency from an artist, the industry relies hugely upon recommendations and endorsements from already established practitioners to ultimately select the next act to sign. The best way to meet people is to do your research. Attend events organised by music collectives and societies, get your business cards out and talk to people. Market yourself like an artist, because the reality is a producer needs to be as prolific as one to get the executive attention required to be able to legitimately vouch for new artists looking to get signed.
Demise of the demo
So for producers who are not necessarily big A&R executives, how do you position yourself to get the initial attention of someone relevant? Step one is to make sure that the record you are promoting is as good as it can possibly be, because modern labels have next to no interest in demo quality works anymore.
The reason for this is simple. When an artist does an elevator pitch to a label to get signed, they are essentially asking them for a loan to fund their music making process, and for the label to take the result and market it for them…and also pay the artist for their work. If someone went looking for money to invest in a product on something like Dragon’s Den, unless they could vehemently defend their work to date, they will be shown the door. Having a finished product ready to show is not only good for having something tangible ready to go, but it also demonstrates to a label that the parties involved were willing to go the extra mile to get their music to the expected standard themselves and are motivated enough to pursue this.
In today’s industry commercial sensibilities are required to get in the front door, regardless of genre. This is why a business savvy producer is valuable. Producers have the unique opportunity to mold the music of an artist into a digestible and appealing package that makes a labels decision as simple as possible.
Objectivity is essential too. When I say objectivity, I mean that aside from your own musical or production input, do you know if the record is suited to the market you are trying to get your artist into? And if it is slightly different to the norm, are you capable of defending the decisions you have made in regards to why the track is the way it is? Is the package you are presenting a comprehensive elevator pitch?
The long and short of it
When you begin to work with an artist, do you ever think about when you will stop? What is the end goal? When will you expect a return, especially if you are involved beyond the music?
It is a funny thought for sure, and probably not one considered by many new producers who are mostly focusing on learning the tricks of the trade as they go and are taking any work they can get.
But the bottom line is that being a producer is a business. A job. A career. All sturdy businesses should have short, medium and long-term goals to provide focus. Our generation of producers needs to recognise the importance of nurturing good artists now, as the approach we adopt now will fundamentally influence our future decisions and the industries impression of us. We are defined by the choices we make, so we need to pay as much attention to finding and developing good artists as staying away from bad ones.
As I said already, a lot of famous production practitioners made their name by finding and developing a particular artist. Their very reputation exists now because of the decisions they made along the way.