How To Choose a Music Producer

SoundBetter_imageWriting a guest post for us this week is Shachar Gilad, Founder and CEO of SoundBetter, a curated marketplace for music production talent. Shachar is also a touring musician, an audio engineer and producer and before SoundBetter, he helped design and market tools for musicians and sound engineers at Waves Audio and Apple Inc. We’re excited to welcome him to The Daily Rind to share his knowledge. 

Choosing a music producer to work on your music is no less important than choosing a director for your screenplay. A producer can make or break a record’s sound and your experience of the production process. At SoundBetter, we help musicians find and hire vetted producers as well as professional mixing & mastering engineers, pro singers and drummers. Having helped thousands of musicians hire and work with professional producers, we’ve learned a lot. Here are 5 things to consider when choosing a producer for your project.

1. Music producer types

The term music producer is used loosely for a spectrum of different roles. Traditionally, producers were arrangers, studio performance-coaches and in some cases instrumentalists or engineers. Some producers still fill these roles today. In the 90s and early 2000s, Hip Hop and EDM beat-makers were credited as producers, and this carried over to mainstream music. The distinction between these different producer types used to be genre dependent, but as the lines between genres blurred, so did the lines between producers and beat-makers.

When choosing a record producer, it’s important to clarify what type of producer they are and what role they will play. Will they create a beat or full track for you? Will they handhold you through the writing process? Will they arrange your songs and help you choose instrumentation? Will they guide you through getting the best performance in the studio? Will they choose and work with the mixing engineer? There are no rules, just make sure your expectations are aligned.

2. Sound Quality

First rule of the production world: trust your ears. Always listen to samples the producer is credited for as producer. Do the songs sound like a finished product? Does the production complement the song and performer? These are key. While the source material affects the final result greatly, with all things being equal, the level of polish you hear in the sound samples is what you can expect from your project.

3. Style

Many producers have a style — a sonic signature. Sometimes their style matches exactly why they were hired for a specific project, just like movie directors, and sometimes, it doesn’t. Make sure you connect with a producer’s style. Being a good Jazz producer doesn’t necessarily mean he/she can produce an EDM record and vice versa. That one might seem obvious, but the same might hold true in the case of genres that seem closer and yet are sonically notably different, such as polished Pop-Rock versus Lo-Fi Indie Rock productions.

4. Engagement

The relationship with a producer is one of a client and professional service provider, but it’s also about art and vision. Working with a producer that connects with what you do makes a difference. If you are on the fence between several producers, don’t discount the importance of their engagement. One easy way to know is, have they asked to hear your music? What was their reaction after they heard it? Did they offer ideas for where to take your song?

5. Professionalism and customer service

When choosing a producer to collaborate with, you want someone who is a people-person, someone who is sensitive to your needs as an artist and your expectations as a client, and someone who knows to check their ego at the door. The most successful producers and engineers I’ve known are incredibly charming and emotionally intelligent. People feel comfortable around them and refer to them as true professionals. They know their reputation is everything and won’t rest until you are happy. To get an indication of a producer’s professionalism and character, you can ask artists about experiences they’ve had with various producers they’ve worked with on SoundBetter, or read verifiable reviews written by previous clients.

A good producer is your ally, coach and rainmaker. Don’t forget to give them credit where due and good luck with your next record.

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