IT’S YOUR TRUE CALLING
Think you’re the next Rick Rubin? Is Phil Spector your childhood hero? Want to get on Timbaland’s level? If you answered yes to any of these questions, there’s a good chance you have the intentions to become the world’s next elite music producer.
Good news is, everyone has what it takes to be a world class music producer. The bad news is…well, get in line. There are a thousand others just like you who are willing to do whatever it takes to “make it” in the industry. But you already knew that.
So if you’re thinking of walking down the path of a music producer, listen up, because it’s not all just about an ear for music or sheer talent. There are several key qualities that any good producer worth their salt has.
Take note to the following, and if you match these qualities, you were born to be a music producer.
This may be an obvious place to start, but confidence is one of those key qualities that is imperative when it comes to this role. The job of music producer is very often a one man show, and that means having to defend your ideas to a stubborn, diva-like artist. You need to be confident that you are making the right decision and be able to backup your ideas. At the same time, you need to know where the line is when it comes to decision making. Even if you are sure you are in the right, you may have to appease artists when they draw a hard line. After all, they are your client, and you need to exercise a bit of customer service.
Few jobs will test just how flexible you are like being a music producer. Running a studio will push the limits on just how forgiving you can be because you are dealing with artists, who can be extremely demanding and careless with your time. There’s a reason artists are known to be massive divas from time to time. If you’re lucky enough to get a big artist in your studio you will run into this issue for certain.
One of my colleagues works at a studio that a certain famous rapper had once booked for the day to lay down some vocal tracks. Like any business, the studio typically had clients arrive in the morning between 8 and 10 am. However, after a couple hours of waiting, this engineer started to think that the rapper was a no-show. Near the end of the day when he was about to pack it in, up rolls a massive tour bus with a bunch of classic cars behind it. The artist had shown up at the end of the day with his entire posse. To make things even more ridiculous, he wouldn’t enter the studio unless there was a bucket of KFC readily available in the studio, along with (as he describes it) “jars of weed”. Even though the studio had a strict no-smoking policy indoors, he had to make an exception. After a couple hours of painful waiting, the artist finally entered the studio late at night. The catch? He laid down the track in one perfect take and was immediately out the door.
Being flexible means making compromises for the sake of the business, and drawing the line when you can afford to.
However, being flexible also means wearing many different hats. On any given day, you might be a audio engineer, a receptionist, vocal coach, technician, accountant or personal assistant. It’s a multi-faceted job that will test your patience.
Nighthawk / Early Bird
A good music producer is a nighthawk. A good music producer is an early bird. A great producer is both.
It’s extremely likely that recording sessions start early in the morning or go very late into the night. Either way, you will still be expected not only to stay awake and be focused, but to think just as clearly, and as innovatively as any well-rested individual.
Trust me, there’s nothing that pushes your limits like an artists trying to stretch their recording dollars by sticking within the day rate (that’s why you should always change hourly). Always remember, there is a point of diminishing returns, and spending too much time on a given track will result in worsening performances.
Please remember that you are running a business just like any other service industry job. That means staying on top of your life, and being organized. You know what’s the worst mistake you can make as a producer? Double booking the studio. Nothing looks worse on you.
If you have a habit of messing up dates, showing up late or forgetting the details, you better smarten up or else this job isn’t for you.
Just because you do this every day, doesn’t mean you can treat every artist the same. It should be said, that if you aren’t creatively inspired to try new things and innovate, you simply aren’t cut out for this job.
You need to approach every artists with fresh ears, an open mind and a good attitude. Nothing is more obvious than an uninspired or bored audio engineer.
Willingness To Learn
The best audio engineers are educated engineers. Now for all of the home-schooled engineers about to @ me on Twitter, let me finish: I mean either through an educational institution or otherwise. The key is that you are actively learning and adapting new methods. This could of course mean going to an audio engineering school, or it could be reading books, taking online classes, listening to podcasts, masterclasses and so on.
If you were born for this job then you are the kind of person who is in the endless pursuit of learning. Audio professionals have to adapt to emerging genres and musical styles. Do you think steel drums will be the next big thing in EDM? Is tropical house dead and gone? Only someone who has their finger on the pulse of the industry can answer these questions.
Audio professionals are like sharks, the moment you stop moving is when you die.