“Music producer” is a term that is widely widely used to refer to many different types of roles a person that wears that hat would play…
For this reason, there are many who, though they have a vague conception of what a music producer is, have a hard time pinning down the various roles of a music producer. Sometimes it looks like beat making, sometimes it likes like a businessperson, other times, an engineer in the studio.
But knowing which one you are can help you a lot with determining how you should navigate your career, and design it around your own needs and wants.
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Types of Music Producers
There are several type of music producers in the music business. Many times, you will find that a music producer either fills one of these roles, or a variety of these all altogether. Let’s take a look at the main distinguishing factors of what separates one “type” of music producer from another.
We’re not living in the 18th century, feather-inking by candlelight. The paradigm of music making has changed. We can compose and produce orchestral scores on a computer, turning our laptop into the New York Metropolitan Opera with a single orchestra plugin.
There are sample libraries like ProjectSAM Orchestral Essentials that will turn you into Beethoven or Bruckner, without looking at a score. Famous examples of composer producers are Hans Zimmerman and Danny Elfman.
That being said, composer producers are not necessarily the type you expect trying to recreate Beethoven’s 5th. Much of them, as the exampled above alluded to, are producers of as grand a scale as epic film score music, to advertising jingles.
Generally speaking, these producers are much more interested in making complex music that doesn’t fit into mainstay musical genres. These are producers that tend to be commissioned for creating original film scores because they are able to capture ideas and weave sound to express it.
Beat makers are probably what everyone in recent years thinks about when we think of a “music producer”. They are the same, in essence, as the Composer type, and in some cases, the lines are blurred. There is a subtle difference between the two, the essential difference comes down mainly to the genre and musical style.
Beat Makers are found in hip hop, dancehall, and certain kinds of pop music. Composers are found in film scores, classical, and experimental music. A Beat Maker’s focus is on, well, the “beat” – it is simple and catchy, designed for the club or for parties, and generally for an artist – the singer – to record vocal tracks on. The Composer’s focus is often more complex and intricate, conveying a concept or an idea that doesn’t necessary adhere to the mass market value.
Where the lines blur somewhat is when we speak of certain EDM genres like future bass or dubstep, and even some trap. Much of the music made in especially the first two genres by producers such as Flume or Skrillex are more “compositions” than beats, due to their originality and complexity.
Additionally, a beat maker’s clients are vocalists who purchase their “beats” to record on in a studio. But there are those who are very famous and whose music is recorded by high-level artists. Examples of these producers and Mike Will Made It and Dre Skull.
The Singer-Songwriter is more interested in writing and composing her music. The singer-songwriter producer type is different from the above mentioned in the sense that the only equipment really needed is a music recording software and recording equipment like a vocal microphone and some headphones, and a musical instrument (singer-songwriters normally have one to help composer their music, whether it is a keyboard/piano or a guitar).
Often times, as singer-songwriter, their priority may be to simply make pilot recordings of songs they want to be produced, and then coordinate with a Beat Maker or Composer type producer to get their ideas properly fleshed out and created.
Other times, the singer-songwriter is themselves the music producer in the capacity of Beat Maker or Composer, and hence are complete self-reliant musicians at that point.
These I call Directors because they simply operate like a conductor in an orchestra.
They may not have written or composed any of the material, nor touch an instrument or piece of equipment. But they know what sounds good and what is wanted by either their recording company or the market.
They are the most result oriented of the music producers mentioned because the focus of this music producer is on the final product. This is achieved by coordinating with vocalists, instrumentalists, producers, and engineers, to create an entirely new song or album concept, directing the process along the way. The Director type needs no equipment, as the ones mentioned above, but they do need to know how to work with people.
The Engineer isn’t really a musician. He doesn’t even need to know how to play a musical instrument or identify the pitch C sharp. The only thing The Engineer needs to know how to do is to identify what sounds good and makes musically, and logical, sense.
That is why they are Engineers. Their ears are more tuned to the frequencies of an equalizer and the amplitude levels of a kick drum than to the notes in a scale. But they can be very artistic and creative, utilizing the various tools to manipulate and edit sound recordings to essentially change it into something else.
An engineer may even record musicians in a studio by getting them to play something, then manipulate what they have recorded into artistic greatness. A very good example of a producer like this is Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry.
All the various types of producers mentioned above have something in common, they arrange the making, recording, and distribution of the music they manage.
If they are a Beat Maker or Composer, that simply means the Producer is his own production team. In the case of the Director or Singer-Songwriter, her duties involve more people in the process of the actual music being made and distributed.
If you find that you are more a business type, The Director is for you. If you find you are more creative, the other types are for you.
Just keep in mind whether you are the type that like writing new and complex works (The Composer), catchy and popular pieces (The Beat Maker), expressing your songs (The Singer-Songwriter), or simply an engineer with a flair for creativity (The Engineer).