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Producer- an ambiguous concept

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Producer- an ambiguous concept

Postby Panda » Mon Nov 02, 2020 1:59 pm

Hi!

I'll try to ask my question in the most straightforward way I can: what are the minimum requirements for someone to be the "producer" of a record?

The situation is: the guy that recorded and mixed a record of my music is claiming that title, whereas I have the feeling he did just that: record and mix (and did a great job at both of those by the way).

So is there a way to draw the line?

Thanks for your feedback to a question which has probably been asked thousands of times :-)

And please ask me questions if information is failing.
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Re: Producer- an ambiguous concept

Postby desmond » Mon Nov 02, 2020 2:21 pm

Did he make production decisions, or did he just make engineering ones?

Production decisions including thing like deciding on tempos, arrangements, instrument choices, telling you to play parts differently, trying and find other parts and sounds to work with the track, getting in different players and so on - or was he just setting up mics and pressing record while you did your thing?

There is no hard line really, as people contribute in many ways. If you hired the guy as a producer, to a certain extend you've agreed the roles beforehand - same as if you hired the guy as an engineer to record/mix your track. If those roles ween't clearly defined, or they changed up while in the room, then it's up to you to work them out - it's not uncommon for different people to have different ideas of their contributions to a track - especially once some time goes by...
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Re: Producer- an ambiguous concept

Postby Panda » Mon Nov 02, 2020 2:36 pm

desmond wrote:Did he make production decisions, or did he just make engineering ones?

Production decisions including thing like deciding on tempos, arrangements, instrument choices, telling you to play parts differently, trying and find other parts and sounds to work with the track, getting in different players and so on - or was he just setting up mics and pressing record while you did your thing?

There is no hard line really, as people contribute in many ways. If you hired the guy as a producer, to a certain extend you've agreed the roles beforehand - same as if you hired the guy as an engineer to record/mix your track. If those roles ween't clearly defined, or they changed up while in the room, then it's up to you to work them out - it's not uncommon for different people to have different ideas of their contributions to a track - especially once some time goes by...

Thanks, that is already some valuable input. So no, he didn't make any of the examples you call "production decisions". Those were all mine. He operated the equipment (and very competentely so), but with my guidance (ad one other band member) at each and every step.

He put the mics, recorded, mixed (with A LOT of feedback and revisions from me). He was not hired as a producer for sure. Maybe it's a problem that I was assuming that that meant he was hired as an engineer- I take this lesson to my next recording project.
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Re: Producer- an ambiguous concept

Postby Sam Spoons » Mon Nov 02, 2020 2:43 pm

Why is he asking for recognition as the producer? Is it because there is money or points at stake (he wants an extra fee or points for producing) or is it just a vanity thing (he want's his name on the CD next to the words 'produced by')?

Was he good enough that you'd use him for the next album? If so then would "produced by Panda & A N Engineer" satisfy both you and him?
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Re: Producer- an ambiguous concept

Postby desmond » Mon Nov 02, 2020 2:44 pm

So in the traditional lingo, those are engineering decisions really, not production ones.

However, there's a modern, almost meaningless use of the term "Producer" which basically equates to "anyone who makes a piece of music", I think partly because it originates from more beat-based/hiphop/EDM type music where there isn't as such "song writing" or "playing" involved, so this other term was co-opted to describe someone who makes a track, probably has the studio, but doesn't actually write a song, or perform on the track.
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Re: Producer- an ambiguous concept

Postby zenguitar » Mon Nov 02, 2020 2:52 pm

It's your project. You are the one who decides who gets a credit and what that credit is for.

Andy :beamup:
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Re: Producer- an ambiguous concept

Postby Luke W » Mon Nov 02, 2020 3:05 pm

desmond wrote:However, there's a modern, almost meaningless use of the term "Producer" which basically equates to "anyone who makes a piece of music"

I think this probably has a lot to do with it, it's a term that now gets used a lot where it probably shouldn't. Or maybe things have indeed moved on and I'm letting it bother me more than I should, that's been known to happen...
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Re: Producer- an ambiguous concept

Postby Panda » Mon Nov 02, 2020 3:20 pm

Sam Spoons wrote:Why is he asking for recognition as the producer? Is it because there is money or points at stake (he wants an extra fee or points for producing) or is it just a vanity thing (he want's his name on the CD next to the words 'produced by')?

Was he good enough that you'd use him for the next album? If so then would "produced by Panda & A N Engineer" satisfy both you and him?

Very practical questions that I also thought about. Well I don't know really, we've talked it through and apparently he's convinced that finding the right compressor settings and reverb parameters is producing. And somehow it's hard for me to argue against it, even though it feels wrong because this genre of music is totally out of his realm and if it became anything it is because I was there to coach him (at least that my side of the story).

EDIT: So it's probably partly a vanity thing, not at all financial, there's no money connected to how he is credited at all. [\EDIT]

Then, he was good and the studio is perfect for the type of band I'm writing for at the moment. But this little story kind of broke the magic I'm afraid.

In any case, the compromise will be that we will both be mentioned as producer instead of not mentioning a producer at all. I know that in the end I make the decision but I feel that we need to find a compromise here.
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Re: Producer- an ambiguous concept

Postby Luke W » Mon Nov 02, 2020 3:28 pm

Panda wrote:Well I don't know really, we've talked it through and apparently he's convinced that finding the right compressor settings and reverb parameters is producing.

That sounds a lot like mixing to me, and not at all like producing. What I find strange, is that if it were me in his position then I'd be wanting the credit for exactly that and nothing else! The lines between jobs and roles in the studio definitely get blurred these days and roles can (and do) cross over for lots of reasons, but this doesn't sound like one of those cases at all to me.
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Re: Producer- an ambiguous concept

Postby Panda » Mon Nov 02, 2020 3:37 pm

Luke W wrote:
Panda wrote:Well I don't know really, we've talked it through and apparently he's convinced that finding the right compressor settings and reverb parameters is producing.

That sounds a lot like mixing to me, and not at all like producing. What I find strange, is that if it were me in his position then I'd be wanting the credit for exactly that and nothing else! The lines between jobs and roles in the studio definitely get blurred these days and roles can (and do) cross over for lots of reasons, but this doesn't sound like one of those cases at all to me.

That is my impression too, although of course to be fair the other side should be heard as well.

It feels a little weird that this is happening anyway. This is not the first time I'm recording my music in a studio, but never before has anyone asked me to be mentioned as producer for doing essentially the same job...

And yes, to me the description of what he did sounds like exactly the description of what recording and mixing are. Somehow, these terms for him appear to sound like he had no valuable or creative input- which is of course not true.
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Re: Producer- an ambiguous concept

Postby Sam Spoons » Mon Nov 02, 2020 3:57 pm

I agree with Luke but if you're prepared to credit him as co-producer and he is happy with that it sounds like a good solution. It seems to me that making that compromise does you no harm and if it makes somebody who, by your own admission has done an excellent job, happy then I can't see a downside.

When you have moved on from this issue you may find the 'magic' returns and you do feel able to use him and his studio again, after all you did say :-

he was good and the studio is perfect for the type of band I'm writing for at the moment.
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Re: Producer- an ambiguous concept

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon Nov 02, 2020 4:03 pm

Panda wrote: ...apparently he's convinced that finding the right compressor settings and reverb parameters is producing.

If he was left entirely to his own devices to choose those settings, then it could be argued (rather tenuously) that he had a production input.

On the other hand, if he sought your approval of his choices either as individual events during the mix process, or within the draft mixes, then he was technically engineering and you were technically producing.

So it sounds to me that he should be credited as 'engineered and mixed by...'

But if there's no money involved, and he did a good job that's worth recognising (and he's someone you might want to work with again) , where's the harm in pandering to his ego and agreeing co-production credits?

It's usually a much better idea to leave the bridges intact...
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Re: Producer- an ambiguous concept

Postby CS70 » Mon Nov 02, 2020 4:07 pm

Panda wrote:Hi!

Hi!

I'll try to ask my question in the most straightforward way I can: what are the minimum requirements for someone to be the "producer" of a record?

That he/she decides to call themselves "producer".

That may not be very helpful, but it's the reality of the situation - it's not a protected/licensed title and there's not even a widespread consensus of its meaning.

The situation is: the guy that recorded and mixed a record of my music is claiming that title, whereas I have the feeling he did just that: record and mix (and did a great job at both of those by the way).

So is there a way to draw the line?

Not really. My best understanding of the word in general terms is that "producer" is anyone who leads the work in getting from an idea to actual finished, packaged product. That implies a lot of things and depending on the organization and the team the producer may be doing the work him/herself or simply coordinate, organize and lead. These tasks can go from the menial to the huge and from the business to the artistic. The world implies a degree of independence and decision-making authority ("executive" producer) but beyond that things become fuzzy.

In music there's a more specific meaning as someone who takes a raw, skeletal idea and creates the arrangement, finds the right sounds, ensures they are recorded and mixed in properly and so on, and overall shares or even defines a vision for the final product together with the artist - sonically and even image-wise sometimes. It's simply a subset of the role above - since all the rest of the stuff needs doing anyways.

Examples:

- is there a studio to find where to record? Find it! (and make sure it works with the budget!)
- is there a song to mix? Ensure it gets mixed!
- is there a recording to do ? Ensure the recording happens!
- is the song not up to par! Improve it - add parts, change the mix, decide the sound
- add/remake a bass part because there's need of it.

In practice most independent artist are executive producers of themselves. They may sometimes find a producer in the "musical" sense if they feel that their ideas can benefit from someone else's vision (or, more commonly, if the label which is funding the job does).

But really, it may mean all and nothing.

In your case, unless the guy has done somethign with the song to make it substantially different, I'd say it's just recorded and mixed - but then again, he may have chosen ways of recording, selected how the flow of the song goes etc so he may be entitled to the "title".

The flip side is that it doesn't matter much at all - other than for building a reputation.
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Re: Producer- an ambiguous concept

Postby Panda » Mon Nov 02, 2020 7:55 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
Panda wrote: ...apparently he's convinced that finding the right compressor settings and reverb parameters is producing.

If he was left entirely to his own devices to choose those settings, then it could be argued (rather tenuously) that he had a production input.

On the other hand, if he sought your approval of his choices either as individual events during the mix process, or within the draft mixes, then he was technically engineering and you were technically producing.

So it sounds to me that he should be credited as 'engineered and mixed by...'

But if there's no money involved, and he did a good job that's worth recognising (and he's someone you might want to work with again) , where's the harm in pandering to his ego and agreeing co-production credits?

It's usually a much better idea to leave the bridges intact...

Thanks for the thought!

The way it came across for me was that I directed the mix. I actually helped deciding the compressor settings, the reverb, the EQ in the individual tracks and so on. I did the editing myself and during the preparation for the finetuning of the mix, I was available all day to give my feedback on draft mixes.

And of course yes, you are absolutely right about not freaking out and getting angry and burn the bridge and ruin a nice contact with a nice person. And I will avoid that.

But I have to admit that it feels a bit frustrating. My project was the first he did in this genre and though I didn't interfere much with how he recorded because I had other things to manage, in the mix he really needed the coaching to get a feeling for the esthetic of the style, which I loved to provide of course. Except then at some point the "cool, I'm learning a lot" disappeared and he wanted to be the producer. And somehow that just doesn't feel right.

But so yes, we'll go for the compromise because indeed, it doesn't make any practical difference for me.

My initial question was if I was right having this strange feeling that what he was doing was a good job but not producing.

Thanks to everyone who contributed, I think it's clear to me now.

I'll leave this up for a while and then probably go back and edit the details to protect this person's identity once the record is out.

Have a good evening!
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Re: Producer- an ambiguous concept

Postby BJG145 » Mon Nov 02, 2020 9:35 pm

desmond wrote:...however, there's a modern, almost meaningless use of the term "Producer" which basically equates to "anyone who makes a piece of music", I think partly because it originates from more beat-based/hiphop/EDM type music...

I think this probably has a lot to do with it. It doesn't sound like the guy has acted as a producer in the traditional sense, more an engineer, but it seems fashionable for everyone to want to be called a producer nowadays.
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