Let’s face it, everyone and their dog calls themselves a music producer these days. So how do we sort out the men from the boys?
Perhaps you’ve been pointed by someone you already know towards a producer they know or know of. How do you decide if this producer is the right one for your project? Here are some pointers to help you in your decision.
1) Biography. Many people used to approach me on a daily basis to work with the singer and recording artist I represented. My first port of call was to look up their biog, because I wanted to know that the person I’m talking to was good enough to have been hired by people that I respect. This may have been someone I knew personally who I could ask, or it may have been a well known artist. If that person didn’t have some kind of track record that I could relate to, then the answer could be a polite ‘thanks, but no thanks’.
2) Listen! Is the potential producer of your music putting out work that’s compatible with the world around you? Many people in our business rest on the laurels of work they did maybe 10 or 20 years ago, so listen to her/his work next to that of your favourite artists and judge for yourself.
3) Research. If at all possible ask around amongst colleagues in the business. I’ve avoided some sticky situations down the line with some very prominent producers because I took the time to research them and didn’t like the reports from people they had previously worked with.
4) Meet them! If you’re ‘old school’ like me and are going to be in the studio with a producer for a period of time, it’s really important to have a meeting and get a flavour of what that person will be like to work with. There are plenty of nightmare stories, even about some famous albums, where the band/artist had a terrible time with the producer picked by the record label. The world we now live in offers far more choices than previously, so there’s never any need to work with someone who ‘doesn’t fit’. Tell-tale signs that you may be barking up the wrong tree include the way a producer speaks to their assistant, or how they are on the phone with a friend or partner.
If you’re planning a remote (via internet) session with your material, it could be a good idea to have a skype session or similar with your potential working partner. Emails can sort out a lot of the fine details, but ultimately it helps to eyeball the human being who you’re trusting to interpret your ideas.
5) Instinct. Yes, do your research, meet the producer, if budget is a consideration then weigh up the pros and cons and make sure you know your own mind when making decisions about production styles and values. At the end of the day, trust your instinct, because that’s the only way you’ll produce your best work.