The Redefinition of the Record Producer

The role of the record producer has evolved in today's dramatically changing music industry.
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Do you have all that it takes to be a record producer? If the answer is “yes,” than this has been the shortest article you have ever read. Done!

But if you are like most musicians or engineers, and the answer is “no” (or even “maybe”), here are two surefire, instant ways to become one:

[1] Have cards printed that give your name and list “Music Producer” as your occupation.

[2] And/or follow this series of columns, and study the A to Zs of what a producer really needs to do in today’s world.

Perhaps there is no better place to start than determining what industry you are in as a music producer. The music industry, you say? Well, that industry is forever changing so dramatically, that I may argue what was once an industry is now dust—or, at best, a highly abbreviated version of what once was. The new, developing ecosystem is no longer the traditional model. It is a transitional model that will continue to take shape with new tech advancements and less business as usual. Yes, it is “business as unusual,” and, as creators, we should embrace that fact. We are not rigidly aligned to an old standard. We are very much alive today to express where music can go next. After all, music rules and producers lead.

Why do producers lead? Having been blessed with a long-term, successful run as a producer, I have a clear picture that I am in the “solutions” business. The solutions I tend to concern myself with are mostly musical in nature, but because music is found in more places around the world, I am finding solutions that put the music within the gigantic media world. As a result, business has never been better for music—ever! Oh, you may not see “the charts” selling anywhere near what they used to, but the vast world of media embraces several outlets, networks, and uses—all of which can be monetized greatly and with transparency in ways the old music-industry paradigm was strictly opposed to.

And do you think anybody needs a record contract to hit all these sweet spots the media offers? No! It’s hard to find a well-informed musician anymore that has a record deal at the top of their “need” list. Of course, at a certain level, labels can be helpful partners, and, in a few, very select cases, they will still be the key component to the top .005 percent of fame and fortune.

But is the star system— and its “all-or-nothing” brutality— your ticket as a creator of music and a budding producer? If so, go get ’em. But you too will want to read the next few columns, as we dissect the essential ingredients of music production in today’s world. Fasten your seat belts, folks—this is a wild ride that entails a lot more than music. Producers are people with extreme abilities in music and in business. Leading the music is only part of our role. Leading in business is critical to the music’s success in today’s multiple monetary streams. If your music is extraordinary, those streams can flow, but you’ve got to know how to find them.

Scott Mathews is a record producer, composer, vocalist, and multi–instrumentalist whose music has sold in excess of 20 million units, and has generated more than 30 RIAA Gold and Platinum Awards in the pop, alternative rock, R&B, country, blues, and dance genres.