Record producer
A record producer is an individual working within the music industry, whose job is to oversee and manage the recording (i.e. "production") of an artist's music
Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch , rhythm , dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture...

. A producer has many roles that may include, but are not limited to, gathering ideas for the project, selecting songs and/or musicians, coaching the artist and musicians in the studio, controlling the recording sessions, and supervising the entire process through mixing
Audio mixing (recorded music)
In audio recording, audio mixing is the process by which multiple recorded sounds are combined into one or more channels, most commonly two-channel stereo. In the process, the source signals' level, frequency content, dynamics, and panoramic position are manipulated and effects such as reverb may...

 and mastering
Audio mastering
Mastering, a form of audio post-production, is the process of preparing and transferring recorded audio from a source containing the final mix to a data storage device ; the source from which all copies will be produced...

. Producers also often take on a wider entrepreneurial role, with responsibility for the budget, schedules, and negotiations.

Today, the recording industry has two kinds of producers: executive producer
Music executive
A music executive or record executive is person within a record label who works in senior management, making executive decisions over the label's artists...

and music producer; they have different roles. While an executive producer oversees a project's finances, a music producer oversees the creation of the music.

A music producer can, in some cases, be compared to a film director, with noted practitioner Phil Ek
Phil Ek
Phil Ek is an American record producer, engineer and mixer. Ek began his career in Seattle, Washington, in the early 1990s recording live sound in clubs. He then moved into studio recording, recording small projects and demos for local bands. Around this time, Ek was frequently working with...

 himself describing his role as "the person who creatively guides or directs the process of making a record, like a director would a movie. The engineer
Audio engineering
An audio engineer, also called audio technician, audio technologist or sound technician, is a specialist in a skilled trade that deals with the use of machinery and equipment for the recording, mixing and reproduction of sounds. The field draws on many artistic and vocational areas, including...

 would be more the cameraman of the movie." The music producer's job is to create, shape, and mold a piece of music. The scope of responsibility may be one or two songs or an artist's entire album – in which case the producer will typically develop an overall vision for the album and how the various songs may interrelate.

In the US, before the rise of the record producer, someone from A&R would oversee the recording session(s), assuming responsibility for creative decisions relating to the recording.

With today's relatively easy access to technology, an alternative to the record producer just mentioned, is the so called 'bedroom producer'. With today's technological advances, it is very easy for a producer to achieve high quality tracks without the use of a single instrument. Many established artists take this approach.

In most cases the music producer is also a competent arranger, composer or songwriter who can bring fresh ideas to a project.
As well as making any songwriting and arrangement adjustments, the producer is also in charge of the creative mix. He or she will liase with the sound engineer who concentrates on the technical aspects of recording, whereas the music producer keeps an eye on the overall projects marketability.

Early record producers

During the 1890s, Fred Gaisberg
Fred Gaisberg
Frederick William Gaisberg was an American-born musician, recording engineer and one of the earliest classical music producers for the gramophone. He himself did not use the term 'producer' and was not an impresario like his protégé Walter Legge of EMI or an innovator like John Culshaw of Decca...

 ran the first recording studio and provided the closest approximation of production by guiding an opera singer closer or further away from a gramophone
The phonograph record player, or gramophone is a device introduced in 1877 that has had continued common use for reproducing sound recordings, although when first developed, the phonograph was used to both record and reproduce sounds...

's horn to match the dynamics in the score. (Citation: Gronow and Saunio 1998, p. 8; Moorefield 2005, p. 1).

However in the first part of the 20th century the record producer's role was similar to the role of a film producer in that the record producer organized and supervised recording sessions, paid technicians, musicians and arranger
In investment banking, an arranger is a provider of funds in the syndication of a debt. They are entitled to syndicate the loan or bond issue, and may be referred to as the "lead underwriter". This is because this entity bears the risk of being able to sell the underlying securities/debt or the...

s, and sometimes chose material for the artist. In the mid-1950s a new category emerged, that of the independent record producer. Among the most famous early independent producers are the famed songwriting-production duo Leiber & Stoller, "Wall of Sound
Wall of Sound
The Wall of Sound is a music production technique for pop and rock music recordings developed by record producer Phil Spector at Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles, California, during the early 1960s...

" creator Phil Spector
Phil Spector
Phillip Harvey "Phil" Spector is an American record producer and songwriter, later known for his conviction in the murder of actress Lana Clarkson....

 and British studio pioneer Joe Meek
Joe Meek
Robert George "Joe" Meek was a pioneering English record producer and songwriter....


Magnetic tape enabled the establishment of independent recording studios in major recording centres such as London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, Los Angeles
Los Ángeles
Los Ángeles is the capital of the province of Biobío, in the commune of the same name, in Region VIII , in the center-south of Chile. It is located between the Laja and Biobío rivers. The population is 123,445 inhabitants...

 and New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

. Unlike the old record company studios, which were effectively a "closed shop", these new studios could be hired by the hour by anyone who could afford to do so.

The biggest and best commercial studios were typically established and operated by leading recording engineers. They were carefully constructed to create optimum recording conditions, and were equipped with the latest and best recording equipment and top-quality microphone
A microphone is an acoustic-to-electric transducer or sensor that converts sound into an electrical signal. In 1877, Emile Berliner invented the first microphone used as a telephone voice transmitter...

s, as well as electronic amplification gear and musical instruments.

Top-line studios such as Olympic Studios
Olympic Studios
Olympic Studios was a renowned independent commercial recording studio located at 117 Church Road, Barnes, South West London, England. The studio is best known for the huge number of famous rock and pop recordings made there from the late 1960s onward....

 in London, Fine Recording in New York City, United Western Recorders
United Western Recorders
United Western Recorders, often abbreviated to UWR, was a renowned recording studio complex in Hollywood, California, which became one of the most successful independent recording studios in the world in the late 1950s and 1960s....

, and Musart
Musart Records
Musart Records is the name of several different record labels that have issued records at various times in the 20th century.#The name is also known as Discos Musart in Mexico and is a Mexican label. It is known for releasing traditional Mexican folk music as well as international releases licensed...

 in Los Angeles quickly became among the most sought-after recording facilities in the world, and both these studios became veritable "hit factories" that produced many of the most successful pop recordings of the latter 20th century.

Evolution of the role of the producer

Prior to the 1950s, the various stages of the recording and marketing process had been carried out by different professionals within the industry – A&R managers found potential new artists and signed them to their labels; professional songwriters created new material; publishing agents sold these songs to the A&R people; staff engineers carried out the task of making the recordings in company-owned studios.

Freed from this traditional system by the advent of independent commercial studios, the new generation of entrepreneurial producers – many of whom were former record company employees themselves – were able to create and occupy a new stratum in the industry, taking on a more direct and complex role in the musical process. This development in music was mirrored in the TV industry by the concurrent development of videotape
A videotape is a recording of images and sounds on to magnetic tape as opposed to film stock or random access digital media. Videotapes are also used for storing scientific or medical data, such as the data produced by an electrocardiogram...

 recording and the consequent emergence of independent TV production companies like Desilu
Desilu Productions
Desilu Productions was a Los Angeles, California-based company jointly owned by actors Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, who were married to each other from 1940 to 1960....


These producers now typically carried out most or all of these various tasks themselves, including selecting and arranging songs, overseeing sessions (and often engineering the recordings) and even writing
A songwriter is an individual who writes both the lyrics and music to a song. Someone who solely writes lyrics may be called a lyricist, and someone who only writes music may be called a composer...

 the material . Independent music production companies rapidly gained a significant foothold in popular music and soon became the main intermediary between artist and record label, signing new artists to production contracts, producing the recordings and then licensing the finished product to record labels for pressing, promotion and sale. (This was a novel innovation in the popular music field, although a broadly similar system had long been in place in many countries for the production of content for broadcast radio
Radio is the transmission of signals through free space by modulation of electromagnetic waves with frequencies below those of visible light. Electromagnetic radiation travels by means of oscillating electromagnetic fields that pass through the air and the vacuum of space...

.) The classic example of this transition is renowned British producer George Martin
George Martin
Sir George Henry Martin CBE is an English record producer, arranger, composer and musician. He is sometimes referred to as "the Fifth Beatle"— a title that he often describes as "nonsense," but the fact remains that he served as producer on all but one of The Beatles' original albums...

, who worked as a staff producer and A&R manager at EMI for many years, before branching out on his own and becoming a highly successful independent producer.

As a result of these changes, record producers began to exert a strong influence, not only on individual careers, but on the course of popular music. A key example of this is Phil Spector
Phil Spector
Phillip Harvey "Phil" Spector is an American record producer and songwriter, later known for his conviction in the murder of actress Lana Clarkson....

, who defined the gap between early rock and roll
Rock and roll
Rock and roll is a genre of popular music that originated and evolved in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s, primarily from a combination of African American blues, country, jazz, and gospel music...

 and the Beatles (1959–1964) with such acts as the Ronettes
The Ronettes
The Ronettes were a 1960s girl group from New York City, best known for their work with producer Phil Spector. The group consisted of lead singer Veronica Bennett ; her older sister, Estelle Bennett; and their cousin Nedra Talley...

, the Crystals
The Crystals
The Crystals are an American vocal group based in New York, considered one of the defining acts of the girl group era of the first half of the 1960s. Their 1961–1964 chart hits, including "Uptown", "He's a Rebel", "Da Doo Ron Ron " and "Then He Kissed Me", featured three successive female lead...

, Darlene Love
Darlene Love
Darlene Love is an American popular music singer and actress. She gained prominence in the 1960s for the song "He's a Rebel," a #1 American single in 1962, and was part of the Phil Spector stable that produced a celebrated Christmas album in 1963....

, the Righteous Brothers
The Righteous Brothers
The Righteous Brothers were the musical duo of Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield. They recorded from 1963 through 1975, and continued to perform until Hatfield's death in 2003...

 and the Paris Sisters
The Paris Sisters
The Paris Sisters were a 1960s girl group from San Francisco, best known for their work with producer Phil Spector. The group consisted of lead singer Priscilla Paris; her older sister, Albeth Paris; and their middle sister Sherrell Paris...

. Spector's Wall of Sound
Wall of Sound
The Wall of Sound is a music production technique for pop and rock music recordings developed by record producer Phil Spector at Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles, California, during the early 1960s...

 production technique also persisted after that time with his select recordings of the Beatles
The Beatles
The Beatles were an English rock band, active throughout the 1960s and one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music. Formed in Liverpool, by 1962 the group consisted of John Lennon , Paul McCartney , George Harrison and Ringo Starr...

, the Ramones, Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen
Leonard Norman Cohen, is a Canadian singer-songwriter, musician, poet and novelist. Cohen published his first book of poetry in Montreal in 1956 and his first novel in 1963. His work often explores religion, isolation, sexuality and interpersonal relationships...

, George Harrison
George Harrison
George Harrison, MBE was an English musician, guitarist, singer-songwriter, actor and film producer who achieved international fame as lead guitarist of The Beatles. Often referred to as "the quiet Beatle", Harrison became over time an admirer of Indian mysticism, and introduced it to the other...

, Dion
Dion DiMucci
Dion Francis DiMucci , better known as Dion, is an American singer-songwriter whose work has incorporated elements of doo-wop, pop oldies music, rock and R&B styles....

 and Ike and Tina Turner.

Some producers also became ipso facto recording artists, often creating records themselves or with anonymous studio musicians and releasing them under a pseudonym. Examples of this phenomenon include the records by fictional groups the Archies
The Archies
The Archies are a garage band founded by Archie Andrews, Reggie Mantle, and Jughead Jones, a group of adolescent fictional characters of the Archie universe, in the context of the animated TV series, The Archie Show...

 and Josie & the Pussycats
Josie and the Pussycats (album)
Josie and the Pussycats, besides being both an Archie comic book and a Saturday morning cartoon series, is also the name of a bubblegum pop singing group from the early 1970s, which was designed to be the real-life incarnation of the musical girl group featured in both the comic and the cartoon...

, produced by Don Kirshner and Danny Jansen respectively, who were contracted by TV production companies to produce these records to promote the animated children's TV series of the same name. Similarly, Jeff Barry
Jeff Barry
Jeff Barry is an American pop music songwriter, singer, and record producer.-Early career:...

 and Andy Kim
Andy Kim
Andrew Youakim, performing as Andy Kim, is a Lebanese Canadian pop rock singer and songwriter. He grew up in Montreal, Quebec in Canada. Kim is known for a number of hit singles that he released in the late 1960s and early 1970s such as "Rock Me Gently", which topped the US singles charts. In 1968,...

 recorded as the Archies
The Archies
The Archies are a garage band founded by Archie Andrews, Reggie Mantle, and Jughead Jones, a group of adolescent fictional characters of the Archie universe, in the context of the animated TV series, The Archie Show...

. The same producer-as-artist phenomenon can be found with many modern-day pop-oriented street- and electronic-music artists.

Another change that occurred for the role of producers occurred progressively over the 50’s and 60’s. Popularization of new technology such as synthesizers, electric guitars, amplifiers, and better microphones led to a fundamental switch. The goal of recording no longer was simply accurately capturing and documenting live performance. Instead producers could manipulate sounds. Producers became creative figures in the studio were no longer reserved to role of functional engineer. Examples of such engineers includes George Martin, Joe Meek
Joe Meek
Robert George "Joe" Meek was a pioneering English record producer and songwriter....

, Teo Macero
Teo Macero
Teo Macero , born Attilio Joseph Macero, was an American jazz saxophonist, composer, and record producer...

, Phil Spector, Brian Wilson
Brian Wilson
Brian Douglas Wilson is an American musician, best known as the leader and chief songwriter of the group The Beach Boys. Within the band, Wilson played bass and keyboards, also providing part-time lead vocals and, more often, backing vocals, harmonizing in falsetto with the group...

, and Biddu
Biddu or Biddu Appaiah is an Indian-British music producer, composer, song-writer and singer who produced and composed many hit records worldwide during a career spanning five decades...

. These producers became known as creative producers who turned the studio into a creative space.

Equipment and technology

There are numerous different technologies utilized by the producer. In modern day recordings, recording and mixing tasks are centralized within computers. However, there is also the main mixer, outboard effects gear, and the recording device itself.

Further reading

  • Gibson, David and Maestro Curtis
    Maestro Curtis
    Maestro Curtis, also known as Maestro Brian, is an American musician, composer, arranger, educator, author, and sound alchemist .-Biography:Maestro Curtis a.k.a. Maestro Brian a.k.a. Brian Curtis a.k.a...

    . "The Art of Producing". 1st. Ed. USA. ArtistPro Publishing, 2004. ISBN 1931140448
  • Burgess, Richard James.
    Richard James Burgess
    Richard James Burgess is a studio drummer, music-computer programmer, recording artist, record producer, composer, author, manager, marketer and inventor. He was the producer for Spandau Ballet's first two albums.-Education:...

    The Art of Music Production. 3rd Ed. UK. Music Sales, 2005. ISBN 1-84449-432-4
  • Hewitt, Michael. Music Theory for Computer Musicians. 1st Ed. USA. Cengage Learning, 2008. ISBN 13-978-1-59863-503-4
  • Gronow, Pekka and Ilpo Saunio (1998). An International History of the Recording Industry. ISBN-X. Cited in Moorefield (2005).
  • Moorefield, Virgil (2005). The Producer as Composer: Shaping the Sounds of Popular Music. ISBN. 123
  • Olsen, Eric et al. (1999). The Encyclopedia of Record Producers. ISBN 0823076075 9780823076079
  • Zak, Albin. The Poetics of Rock: Cutting Tracks, Making Records. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001.
  • List of the Producers of the Current Top 100 Songs, Top 100 – Album Credits

External links

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