Thursday, December 2, 2010

From The Basement To The Boardroom

Have you ever wondered how record producers got their start in the music business? Were they musicians or did they intern at a record label or at a recording studio? Who did they look up to and what kind of barriers did they face? I was always fascinated by this and over the course of 10 years the music industry changed course drastically. Producers are in demand more than ever and are sometimes expected to deviate from making music to suit the artist and his or her management. Record producers can end up as executives overseeing a label. What about A&R's? Can they be considered producers today? I mean they pick the songs that make a project so why not. I'm still debating as to how much an A&R contributes to an album. How can someone determine what's good for a seasoned artist without their approval? The bottom line is talent counts and you had to know what you were doing. This wasn't for the faint of heart.

Being that technology has made it easier to find talent on a larger scale, I feel part of the magic has disappeared from the music. Perhaps its because most of the scouting is done on line as opposed to having street teams. It seems that so much more was done with so much less. A while ago people who knew music knew their place. No one ever questioned the artist because the artist was the face behind the music, the team and maybe even the record label. Record producers understood music and conveyed that knowledge and skill throughout their craft. For the most part the producer's word was law. Can today's music producer and A&R have a similar  impact?

I grew up in an era where drum machines and outboard synthesizers were the norm. Not many people had them and the ones that did had to be talented or so you think. I feel not much credit is given to the producer of today partly because of today's tools. I don't think that is fair because many of the producers using MPCs and ASRs have graduated to using computers and DAWs. No one gives them grief for it. I think it can be said that if a veteran producer relied solely on computers to produce no one would really question his or her decision.

Do people find that talent comes from the individual or the machinery? I've owned a few outboard samplers and found them very difficult to use. I remember being at Sam Ash and the sales rep told me that I could sound like Dr. Dre within a week of using this gear. One thing he forgot to mention was that Dr. Dre had about 15 years of experience under his belt. Needless to say I wasn't Dr. Dre. I sold the gear shortly after buying it and quickly gravitated towards computers. I find them much easier to work with as do many people and quality music has been created with them. I do however have a profound respect for anyone that can do the same with an MPC. Do you think that if computers were readily available back then would popular music sound the same? Would not having the tactile control matter to them? Would there be as many producers?

Many old school record producers end up becoming record executives. Was this the natural progression for them? Is there hope for the bedroom beatmaker? I guess this is the sign of the times. Everything is changing, maybe for the better. Perhaps going independent to secure a brighter future is the way to go.

To be continued...

By F.J.

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