There are many record producers out there but only a few who can be considered geniuses at their art. Any artiste who wants to have their recording produced well should first of all listen to word of mouth – as with most things in the music industry, this will rarely let you down. Also, listen to some tracks by any producer you are thinking of working with – the finished product is after all the main thing, but you also need to take into account the studio experience, and so you should make sure that your producer has the kind of approach you can work with. Watch out for words such as ‘eccentric’ and ‘zany’. This may well mean totally bonkers with the shortest fuse in the world, and that’s no way to get your work produced, no matter how great the finished tracks!
A people person with a great ear
Most performers will use the above phrase (in words the same or very similar) to describe what makes a producer a genius. He or she will be able to massage fragile egos, get people to arrive on time and keep working until it is right – a really genius producer will actually be able to make that moment happen without too many dramas and stoppages too. A real knowledge of the band’s music is obviously a given, because in the end the music has to sound how they want it, otherwise everything by one producer will sound the same. That said, a real expert can usually identify a producer from listening to a few tracks – they have their style which melds with the song and becomes a signature, whilst leaving the individuality of the band intact.
They are not all musicians
If you find a producer who can organise and schmooze and is also a virtuoso musician, you really have found yourself a prize. Most are very competent musicians but don’t feel that they are natural performers, so have taken the production route but it is handy if they can explain by example if things aren’t sounding quite right. It is important as a performer that you find a producer who is not too set in their ways because this can result in a sausage factory effect, where everything begins to sound the same. This happened a lot in the Sixties though it isn’t so common nowadays, but in a crowded market, individuality is more important than ever. The real geniuses in the production field are those who can make a song marketable by making it accessible, but will also keep the fresh sound that will make it stand out from the crowd.
As well as being a great producer musically, the real geniuses have a business sense where marketing a band is concerned. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they will spend days in meetings or even that they have big flash offices and an all-singing, all-dancing website. Remember word of mouth? That is often all it needs. The real geniuses at the production game know what to say and more importantly, who to say it to – having a website and umpteen social media sites won’t do the business if the content is rubbish. A producer who is constantly talking about themselves and who never gives credit to others will soon alienate the important players in a marketplace that contains some very big – and fragile – egos, so knowing when not to put the foot in the mouth is as important as innate musicality.
How to know you’ve hired a genius?
To skip to the end of the process – your music will sound great. But aside from that, you will come out of the recording studio non-stressed, on time, on budget and with a sense of a job well done. Your music will still have everything about it that makes it yours, plus an undefinable something that makes it stand above the crowd – the mark of genius! When you have found this genius producer, hang on to him or her – their kind is a rare and beautiful thing.