If you got past the title of this post without already kicking off on a rage then well done, I'm glad you are prepared to read the arguments before commenting. As I talked with Mike, the Editor of Pro Tools Expert, about putting this one out we felt sure it would polarise opinion, but there is a debate to be had about the idea that everyone is a producer.
I know we could get caught up on semantics and definition of the word producer, but I want to be clear what a producer is and isn't for this discussion.
Modern tech has made it possible for anyone with a modestly powered computer and even free software to be able to produce their tracks at home. Some pretty big hits started life like this, so I want to be clear that I'm not talking about THIS definition of being a producer. Can anyone make their music at home and have success with it? YES, I'll repeat it, YES, so this is not a cheap attempt to belittle either the technology or the talent that has achieved it.
BUT can that same person then work with other talent to nurture creativity into a great recording? Not always, because being able to produce your own track does not necessarily make you a producer - which is someone who helps other artists to realise their creative visions.
Are you still with me or are you now pissed and already typing so hard on your keyboard in response that it's likely to push through the desk? If you are, please don't hurt your keyboard, it's done nothing to you,
The Gift Of The Producer
Being a capable (and dare I say successful) producer requires many skills that go way beyond merely being able to write, record and mix your own tracks, they include;
- Nurturing talent
- Analysis and development of material
- Project management
- Handling budgets
- Dealing with AR and record labels
- Obtaining talent to work on projects
- Securing recording locations
- Musical arrangement
- Songwriting with others
And of course, it may also include (but not always) being able to play an instrument, record and mix. The bottom line is that being a producer is far more about dealing with people than it is about gear.
MPG Executive Board member and a Producer with over 35 years experience Mick Glossop also underlines perhaps the most crucial role of a producer and that is objectivity;
Anyone can buy a laptop and a microphone, but not everyone can produce their own music. Most people need help from an outside and experienced pair of ears. Producer is such an overused term adopted by anyone who has recorded anything that it has the potential to undermine the skills and talents of those who excel at it.
If there was a fire in my kitchen, I might be able to reach for the fire extinguisher and put it out, but that one act does not make me a firefighter. If I have more than one fire in my house, I may get lucky and put the second fire out, but that still does not make me a firefighter, although perhaps careless or living in a death trap. However I might then consider a career as a firefighter with the training that is required, I may ultimately qualify and excel at it to such a degree that I can genuinely describe myself as a firefighter until that point I'm merely a lucky guy who managed to invest in a fire extinguisher.
Why Does All This Matter?
It matters because despite there being an almost unlimited supply of equipment to make music and the ability for anyone to self-release and promote their material, one could argue that the craft and art of making albums have diminished rather than improved.
Paul Rodgers (Editor, BBC 6 Music) is convinced of the need for the role of professional producers;
I think the MPG makes a very valuable statement about the primacy of the producer’s craft and its benefits at any stage in an artist’s development.
Yes there are a lot of great recordings produced today, I don't happen to buy into the whole 'the music business is doomed' scenario, but I do think we have to reclaim both the art and the skill of producing music for the next generation. You don't do that by suggesting everyone is record producer - no more than you save English football by claiming everyone who can kick a ball is David Beckham!
What About You?
This article is not an attempt to discourage those who are passionate about being music producers, on the contrary, it's a call to arms.
If you are determined to be the next generation of great music producers, then commit to being one who works hard to nurture your craft. Find other experienced producers who can help you on the journey, who can help you develop the skills required. There are plenty of places to do this with organisations like the MPG who exist partly so that like-minded people can share their experiences and ideas.