What is the role of a record producer?

Image of Adam Moseley, record producer and engineer (Beck, Rush, Nikka Costa/Lenny Kravitz, Wolfmother, Spike Jonze, U2)

Adam Moseley
Adam Moseley. Photo credit: Mr. Bonsai

When considering what a record producer is responsible for, it might make more sense to figure out what they don’t do. The producer has a hand in the arrangement, working with the artists, composing, and other aspects of a song or album while supervising the entire project. They may even empty the trash once in a while.

Simply put: A music producer’s objective is to make the best possible song in accord with the band or artist’s vision. Even the placement of microphones can play a part in how the album sounds, so a record producer needs to be well-versed in all facets of the equipment and even the studio itself.

This includes the hardware they work with on their side of the glass. Using digital audio workstations, or DAWs, a producer can record, manipulate, mix, and master music, whether they’re sitting in the control room of a recording studio or are halfway across the world from the artists they’re working with. While some producers still prefer using analog when producing music, DAWs are staples in professional music studios around the world.

But the job of a producer doesn’t end there. They must be able to work with up-and-comers and divas alike, coaxing the best out of their artists. Although audio engineers may sometimes work closely with the talent, it is the producer’s job to guide the session and make sure it stays on-schedule and on-budget. This can include hiring backing musicians, writing or arranging music, and acting as a bridge between the artists and the recording studio’s staff (studio manager, audio engineer, assistant engineers, etcetera).

As a record producer, you need to be able to step in at any moment to make sure the project is moving towards the fulfillment of the goal: the best possible song as set out by the artist or bands’ vision. Getting there may mean you need to stay in the background, observing as everyone does their job. Or it could mean stepping in and making adjustments to ensure everything is on course for being as good a product as it can be.

A Short History of Record Producing

In the early days of recording albums, producers did anything but actually produce music. Instead of arranging, or re-arranging, music before or after the fact, the producer essentially recorded an artist or band in one shot. Of course, the technology wasn’t in place to do much more than that. In fact, the term producer wasn’t even used all that much back then.

However, once advancements were made in the recording industry, the producer began taking on a more proactive role. The dawn of multitrack recording allowed producers the freedom to record like never before. Decades earlier, musicians and singers had to be gathered together at the same time to record a song. If any part of a song was missed, they’d start all over again.

With multitrack recording, singers could record their parts one day, do the rhythm on another, and background vocals on the third day. Instead of waiting for everyone to get it perfect, producers could concentrate on getting the best takes and then move on once those takes were recorded. Hence, producers set their energies on assembling the best possible takes order to hopefully ultimately create the best possible song.

The 60s and 70s saw the rise of electronic instruments as well as more and more artists choosing to self-produce. The ability to make new sounds, then alter those sounds later, unleashed a multitude of new music and new musical genres flourished.

Since the 80s, a digital revolution has been taking place. Instruments, recorders, and new technological formats for listening to and storing music have developed during the past four decades. From the four track to the cassette tape, to the compact disc, the changes kept on coming and listeners were largely happy to go along with the changes. With the advent of the new millennium came MP3s and digital streaming services which now comprise the primary ways people listen to music. For more than three decades, producers have been using DAWs along with main mixers, recording devices, MIDI controllers, and other hardware to record, mix, and master the music we hear today.

And those who are both artists and producers or artist/producers, they’ve moved into the forefront of culture in the 2000s. Nowadays making music is open to everyone and anyone who has the passion to learn. You don’t need to be Dr. Dre to produce your own music. Technological advances and better development have yielded amazing products. Now, during the second decade of the new milennium this is where we’re at: If you want to make music all you need is to learn how to use the software. All the other stuff you can fill in later, if you want to.

Want to Make Record Producing a Career?

If the life of a producer interests you, consider applying for admission into the Recording Connection Music Producing Program. From learning about the physical principles of sound to mastering the final product, this program enables you to get the firm foundation you need to pursue a career in the music producing industry.

And you’ll do it all from a working studio, working one-on-one with a professional producer, or ask about our 100% online option. Your mentor will lead you through the coursework and show you what it takes to produce music today.

Many of our most driven and determined students have fast-tracked themselves into careers in the music industry. They’ve hired at the very same studios where they had trained as externs, they’ve opened their own studios, or even started their own businesses selling beats, samples, or sounds. Think you have what it takes to make music your career? Apply today.

Get your music production certification and build your music production and audio engineering skills by learning with an industry professional near you.