The Production Process
The normal sequence of events in the production process can be summarized as follows:
- Writing: Tracks may be written by the artist or supplied by external writers
- Demoing: This is sometimes useful for development of the track
- Pre-production: Preparation for recording, including finalizing the arrangement / instrumentation and rehearsal
- Editing: Including “comping” the vocals if necessary (compiling a single version of the vocals from a number of separate takes). This may be carried out during recording
So what does each person in the production process do, to create a record?
The people typically involved would be:
In the studio
- Either a solo artist or a band.
- This may include the artist and/or the producer.
- The Producer oversees the whole process and uses their knowledge, experience and skill to transform a rough sketch of a song into a well-arranged, professional recording.
Typically the management of the budget and the time frame is down to the producer, with assistance from their management company and the record company. If circumstances change during the project so that the budget or delivery date are affected the producer (or their management company) will need to liaise with the record company to get approval for the new budget / timescale. Key factors to ensuring a project is delivered on time and on budget are creating a realistic budget and timescale from the start, closely monitoring progress and costs during the project and making changes where necessary and working quickly.
- Recording Engineer
- A recording engineer sets up the equipment necessary for recording and operates it during recording. This is a highly technical role. Often producers will carry out this role themselves rather than bringing someone else in specially.
- Mix Engineer / Mixer
- The mix engineer or mixer mixes the track, balancing different instruments and elements, applying equalization, compression and effects. They also set up the equipment necessary for mixing and operate it. This can be quite a creative role, often transforming the song completely.
- Pro-Tools/DAW Editor
- It is quite common to have an assistant to carry out editing and other tasks within Pro-Tools/DAW or any other digital recording software being used. This task may well be carried out by the programmer or the assistant engineer.
- A programmer creates backing tracks, beats and loops using samples, synths and computers. Programming can be an integral part of the writing process, or programmers can be brought in at a later stage to improve or add to the basic instrumentation. Often writers or producers do their own programming.
- Assistant Engineer / Tape Op
- Provides basic assistance with setting up, wiring and operating equipment (and makes the tea).
- Session Musicians
- These may include the artist’s regular band, or musicians recruited specially for the session and / or string sections or orchestras.
- Arranger / Conductor
- Necessary if strings or an orchestra are involved.
Some producers will be more hands-on than others, recording and then mixing the whole record themselves, even physically setting up the equipment and doing the “knob-twiddling”. On the other hand, they may use engineers or specialist mixers to carry out parts of the process (as outlined above) and in that case the producer will have an overseeing role, directing the other people involved. The producer will generally have a big creative input in the whole record – the instrumentation, arrangement, overall sound and mixing. In essence a record producer’s role is similar to that of a film or theatre director.
Other people involved in the studio production process include:
- Studio Manager
- Amongst other duties a studio manager will liaise with record companies and management companies, organizes the booking of the studio and oversees sessions in the studio to make sure everything runs smoothly.
- Mastering Engineer
At the record company:
- A&R Person
- A&R (Artist & Repertoire) personnel are first and foremost responsible for signing the artist. They should have close involvement in the recording process providing artistic input / feedback and monitoring progress of the tracks to ensure they will meet the record companies’ expectations and that they are commercially suitable. The A&R person will often have input into the choice of producer / mixer / studio / musicians and so on.
They will usually negotiate the key terms of engagement for a producer or mixer and approve the budget. There are obviously a lot of other tasks outside the recording process which the A&R person is also involved in such as promotion, live performances, record releases and so on.
- Production Coordinator
- The production coordinator oversees the logistical side of the process, liaising between all parties and ensuring that everything is organized and runs smoothly. They may also create / manage the budget. This entire role may be carried out by the producer management company.
- Business Affairs Person
- The Business Affairs department will deal with negotiation of the contract between the record company and artists / producers / mixers, sometimes in conjunction with an external lawyer.
- Finance / Accounts
- Process all payments.
At the management companies:
- Artist Manager
- The Artist Manager organizes everything on the artist’s side and represents the artist’s interests in the whole process. They will liaise with all other parties and usually approve the recording budget, choice of producer / mixer and terms for engaging the producer / mixer. They may be involved in the recording process to ensure that the artist is satisfied with the outcome since the record company and the artist’s interests can often be different.
- Producer Manager / Project Manager
- The Producer Manager will actively seek work for producers and manage the development of their career. They will liaise with all other parties and negotiate the producer’s / mixer’s terms of engagement. They will often oversee the organization of the project.
- Production Coordinators
- Often the production co-ordination is partly or wholly carried out by the producer management company rather than the record company.
- Finance / Accounts
- Invoice the record company for fees due and look after finances for the artist / producer.
Other relevant parties include:
- Artist’s Lawyer
- The Artist’s lawyer will negotiate contracts for the artist.
- Record Company’s Lawyer
- Sometimes a record company will use an external lawyer to negotiate contracts on its behalf.
- Producer’s Lawyer
- They will negotiate the producer’s contract on the producer’s behalf.
- Session Fixer
- A session fixer will supply and organize session musicians / string sections / orchestras.
- Accountants (Artist’s / Producer’s)
- Sometimes an artist or producer or their management company will use an external accountant to oversee their finances.