Deciding who will serve as producer for your recording is one of the most critical decisions you’ll make in terms of your project’s outcome. If you are experienced at recording projects you may already have someone who really gets who you are and works well with you. If not, make sure you’ve given this decision a lot of thought before you commit. Here are some factors to consider:
While you may want to produce the recording yourself, if you’re not experienced at it, you could be doing yourself a huge disservice. Experienced producers can help you stay on budget and enhance your sound. They can offer arrangement suggestions and help you tweak your music to bring out its full potential.
Another option is to utilize a talented recording engineer as a co-producer with you or your band. The objectivity and knowledge they could bring and their ability to create the right soundscape are critical advantages that come from having someone other than yourself involved in producing.
If you don’t have a producer in mind, then go shopping. Check around locally and find out who other artists or bands have used that they liked.
Listen to what they’ve produced in the past and ask yourself if those recordings are suitable for you; do they demonstrate an ability to be versatile, or do they all sound alike?
If you have the ability to pull someone in from a broader region or with a national track record, do your homework with others who’ve used them.
Play your rough recordings for your prospective producers.
Choose someone who really gets you and digs your music—a person you can work with (they may have ideas, suggestions, or constructive feedback for you and they should be excited to work with you on your project—jaded people will only bring your session down).
Make sure that whomever you consider describes back to you a vision of a recording and a sound that you feel good about (they might also play you other artist's songs that have a feel or sounds that they have in mind).
If possible, do rough pre-production sessions with your producer before you start the clock and start recording in the studio. This will give you a good feel of what it's like to work with them and what you might create together.
Check their schedule as to availability and make sure it lines up with your schedule (sounds basic, but I've seen scheduling mishaps that end up putting projects on hold).
What’s their price and can you afford them or will they eat up too much of your recording budget?
Do they want points (a percentage of your record royalties)? Almost without exception, a producer’s points will come out of your share. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go with a producer who wants points, but just make sure you’ve chosen someone who’s going to plus what you do and that the points they’re asking for are reasonable (the range is typically anywhere 2 to 3 percentage points depending upon the prominence and experience of the producer).
If a producer feels that it's essential to co-write or re-write some of your songs with you, make sure you delineate exactly if and when this would be appropriate and how that process would work in terms of songwriting credit, publishing rights and royalties. How much of the song did they write? What percentage of the song do you both agree they should get of the songwriter royalties for that song—33%, 50%, 10%? Create a signed memo between you that details your mutual understanding for each song.
Get your overall deal with the producer in writing and, if at all possible, get some legal advice about the deal you’re signing (I can’t emphasize this one enough and it doesn't have to cost a lot to get some basic advice). Agreeing to multiple record deals, giving away rights to your material, granting them exclusive rights to shop your music are all things that you should be very careful about before saying “yes” to, especially if you’re being asked to make these decisions, before you’ve had the chance to work with them (remember everything always seems awesome upfront—the real test is what happens when you begin to work together).
Do you have a reasonable performance clause or an “out” in the producer agreement? In other words, if they don’t perform or you’re having creative differences that you just can’t resolve or they are impossible to work with, you should be able to fire them and retain the rights to the music you’ve recorded and paid for (in such cases, you will still have to give them credit or acknowledgement if you release the music they helped you record).
Have you had any experience with finding a good producer? Who’s your favourite producer around? Remember, you can do all the things above using Music Gateway, your tool to find the producer that you want, from anywhere across the globe, and not just music producers, vocalists, instrumentalists, remixers, anything your musical heart desires, so come over and have a look! It might be the start of something special!
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