A music producer is the creative and technical person overseeing the music production process. Traditionally, they are in charge of forming an artist’s raw music and talent into a recording that can be marketed to a specific audience. Often, they are hierarchically situated between the record label and the artist and give creative guidance based on the musical vision of the label.
A record producer can take on several roles during the production of a record.
They will often choose which microphones and which preamps to use, where to set up instruments in a room, and which methods are used to capture the sounds.
Producers often get creative during album production with approaches such as recording drums to analogue tape, using unconventional methods for producing reverb and recording in unusual spaces to achieve a unique sound.
A music producer also has the financial responsibility over the music production process. They must not only ensure that the creative goals of the label are met, but also achieve them on budget.
A producer chooses which accompanying musicians will perform on a record, at which recording studio or location the record is to be produced, and also where and from whom it is to be mixed and mastered.
In the modern music industry, with the DIY and niche approaches that have emerged over the past 20 or so years, the definition of a music producer as become more ambiguous.
Anyone involved in music production, yet not directly creating the music can call themselves a producer. In the genres of pop and hip-hop, the producers are the ones composing and performing the music for singers and rappers.
However, in the indie and rock segments, a producer is usually someone who is directly involved in shaping the music performed by the artists. They could be a musician who helps shape the music by coaching the band and changing the initial song structures. They could also guide the artists during recording in order to produce better performances.
A music producer also will often act as an audio engineer, taking over the complete audio production process from start to finish. They can get involved during the pre-production process, guide the recording stage and then go on to mix the entire album.
The main advantage of having a music producer on board for the production of a record is to have a new set of insights coming from outside the band for guidance. With the creativity of an experienced producer it is possible for bands and musicians to lift their performances to the next level. Having a mentor overseeing the process of creating an album from start to finish can help make artistic decisions that increase the musical value of a record.
Rick Rubin is known as one of the godfathers of modern hip-hop. As producer, president and co-founder of record companies Columbia and Def Jam Records, he played a central role in popularising hip-hop music and sending it into the mainstream.
As a producer, he worked with a variety of artists from different genres such as metal, alternative and hard rock, country as well as his traditional niche of rap and hip-hop.
Also check out this fabulous interview with Rick on the Tim Ferriss Show