What is a music producer, anyway?
I’m Jonathan Essex, Music Producer London.
As a music producer, I’m often asked exactly what it is I do. It can be difficult to summarise since each project is different. With that said, there are some running themes. The modern music producer is probably somewhat different to the music producers of old. Technology has improved and the industry has changed massively, which inevitably has a knock-on effect to the roles of the folks who work within it. Many London music producers that I work with have different roles to me. So although we share the same job title, we don’t necessarily do exactly the same thing.
The phrase ‘music producer’ can mean various things to various people. A music producer can be a musician, an engineer or even a remixer. Something else to bear in mind is the style of music the producer is producing. Recording and producing a rock band will be quite different to recording and producing an EDM track.
In logical terms, a music producer oversees the recording and mixing process. They may even have an input into mastering. They have a vision. Every producer has different skills and a unique approach, which, as previously mentioned, can make it somewhat tricky to epitomise.
An Engineer is likely most people’s idea of a music producer, slouched in front of a mixing desk, discussing compression, eq and delay. They may typically record bands, who all play their own instruments. Some of the duties for this type of music producer may be to get the best performances from the band members, and take the music in a direction that they believe will have the best outcome and present the song in the best light possible. Although these producers still exist, with modern technology and computer music dominating the current music scene, I’d suggest the modern music producer takes on a slightly different role.
As a London music producer working in the industry today, I see the modern music producer as being both a musician and producer. That isn’t necessarily to say that producers of yesteryear weren’t musicians, but producers working within the industry today, in all probability, contribute to the songwriting, arrangement and performance. They will most likely play guitar or piano or drums on the song that they produce. They may sing backing vocals. Furthermore, using their chosen DAW, whether it be Logic Pro X, Pro Tools, Cubase or Ableton, to name but a few, they may programme the synths, the drums and the bass, and they will record any audio the features on the track. This can include the guitar, piano, drums or vocals. They will direct the vocalist. They will edit the vocals. Some even mix the song. This type of producer is involved in the whole process from start to finish.
When the aforementioned producers of yesteryear started their careers, becoming a producer meant finding work in a recording studio. Starting from the bottom and working their way up, one day they hoped to get their big break. Most of that has changed. Now, with a laptop and some software, anybody can be a music producer.
Having said that, my opinion is that it is harder to be a music producer in London today than it used to be. Because technology has made making music accessible to the masses, competition is rife. Up and coming producers need to be aware that the road is long, and there will be hills to climb. But, with the right work ethic and a lot of luck, nothing is impossible.