The Role of Today’s Music Producer

Jeremy G. Koeries

In the ever-changing landscape of the modern-day music industry, is there still a need for a music producer? Has the role of the record producer been redefined by the remixer and the DJ? Has the digital audio workstation turned the beat-maker into the new producer? Is there any difference between the music director of a live band and a music producer in studio? What is a music producer?

Traditionally, a record producer is the person who carries and casts the sonic vision of a music recording. The producer also oversees the production process of a piece of music. Producers are responsible for the quality control of the whole recording. Their role is critical in taking a piece of music from the songwriting stage to the final master recording. Their role is somewhat like that of a sports coach or manager, recruiting the best team players and employing the best skills to achieve the highest possible result for the recording artist. The players may include songwriters, session musicians, background vocalists, arrangers and engineers. The skills may range from relational and musical to technical and professional. The result is a well performed, recorded, mixed and mastered finished product.

In the case of an executive producer, they oversee the production process of an entire album, including the business and financial administration aspects of the project. Traditionally, executive producers have been the interface between the artist and the record company. In the case of independent record companies, executive producers sometimes function as the financial investors behind a music project.

Today, the recording industry is remarkably different from what it was 20 years ago. However, the role of the music producer remains vital and essentially unchanged. Ultimately, the record producer’s aim is to help the recording artist actualise a sonic vision. The artist may or may not have a clear mental picture of this desired end, but it is the producer who has the team, skills and/or resources to achieve the vision.

In the second part of this article we’ll consider different types of music producers and how their unique contributions sometimes make the traditional role of a music producer somewhat unclear.

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