What’s that you say? The producer ultimately has a bigger impact on a record’s listenability than the artist in question? Well, you’re dead on the nose with that one, dear reader. Seriously though, is it so bold to claim that professionals, who can charge up to hundreds-of-thousands of dollars for their musical expertise, are more responsible for an album’s success than the artist in question?
The case for further recognition of music producers is one that has been gaining momentum in recent decades. With artists now using a producer’s “clout” (or popularity) to hype up releases and hopefully win over the latter’s niche. Some examples of unlikely or smart collaborations come to mind: Tame Impala producing Travis Scott, The National writing for and producing Taylor Swift, or even someone like Rick Rubin who has taken on projects ranging from Black Sabbath to Shakira. So this begs the question: “What does a music producer even do?” The answer isn’t simple, and the implications of a producer keep changing as technology advances. I would, however, say that their job is to direct, in any way, shape or form, the recording, editing, and mixing process. Although artists traditionally bring their talent and written work to the table, a producer will do everything from rework compositions, completely change instrumentations and ultimately have control over a project’s final sound to deliver the best product possible.
While there are many cases of artists “not using producers”, or of music “not being produced”, I would argue that as soon as you so much as change the loudness of a single track on your recording, you’re producing. In fact, with DIY becoming the norm in indie music, many artists choose to produce their own work to save money and have more creative control. So then why do the overwhelming majority of professional artists still choose to hire costly producers? Simply put, they have skills that take an enormous amount of time and experience to master, skills that musicians may not have been able to develop while concentrating on their own craft of performing and composing. I sometimes wonder if The Beatles would have amounted to anything without the recording techniques pioneered by George Martin, or if Nevermind would have been nearly as successful without the bombastic production of Butch Vig.
So if you’ve ever fallen in love with a particular album, but have found that similar work from other artists just didn’t quite hit the same way, then maybe it’d be interesting to look into other work from the producer of that album. Producers typically work within the same niche, and their signature sound can be heard on most of their work. Unfortunately, this information is hardly ever used for consumer-grade products, and I think that’s just a crying shame.
This leads me to declare that the real problem is, when will Spotify realize that all I want are artist profiles for producers, so that I can discover even for music to suit my despicable, picky and difficult tastes? This first-world problem and blaming of a streaming service is pretty much just where I wanted this rant to go, so thanks for reading and I hope you learned a bunch!
PS: Help me out and write an angry letter to Spotify!
Written by Davide Spinato
*Edited by Dominic Abate