What Does an Audio Producer Do?
By Shawn Leonhardt for Guitar Tricks and 30 Day Singer
Whether you want to be an audio producer or will be working with one, it is important to know some of the details of the job. In reality, your skills will have to be broad and your duties will vary. In this article, we will look at what an audio producer does and what it’s like working with a producer, from the artist’s perspective.
How Music and Audio are Produced
These days an audio producer can work at a traditional studio or even at home. Either way, the song, background audio, or voice over production follows the same general process:
- The Idea
First, an artist, client, or producer has a creative idea (preferably one that is reasonably fleshed out). If the idea does not have enough guitar chords, lyrics, or words written and figured out, the project can be too broad. The client or the producer needs to have a full outline and plan before proceeding with real money. If you are working for another client, make sure they have put funds in escrow or at least have a simple contract drawn up.
- The Recording
It is essential to have some dedicated space that is made or adjusted for recording audio. Obviously budget will greatly dictate your supplies, gear, and the clients you will be able to take on. By the time you record, the idea better be almost fully refined and the artist needs to have practiced singing or voicing it thoroughly. Recording gear and time are not cheap, be prepared when going into the studio.
- The Mixing and Mastering
After we record the best we can, it is time to edit the voice or instrument. This job can be given to an engineer or even done by the producer if they have a great set of ears. Mixing and mastering can be different than the creative writing and recording part, so you may want to approach it in another manner. At the end of the day, it’s all about good listening skills.
- Sales and Marketing
Once you have a song, audio, or voice over produced it either needs to be given to the waiting client or sold on a stock audio, streaming site or on Voices’ new Project Marketplace. Having clients that need specific projects is a lot easier than trying to shop the audio later. Especially when you first start as an audioproducer, you want to know what you are getting paid so you can budget. Royalties and other forms of passive income do not help initially.
What Does an Audio Producer Do?
If you are working alone, you will have to fulfill all the duties below, of course, some can be shared by the artist. Often the musician, singer, or voice over artist has a stake in this project as well, so it is imperative they collaborate and participate as much as possible when it comes to music producer duties:
- Music Composition
A good audio producer knows their theory. And even the ones who may not have the best grasp on theoretical knowledge at least have a deep well of audio experience to draw from. Audio producers should always strive to improve their arrangements and audio skills, simple things like learning a new instrument, like learning how to play guitar, or especially learning how to sing, can lead to new ideas.
- Recording Techniques
You must know your way around the hardware, software, interfaces, microphones, amps, monitors, Digital audio workstations (DAWS), and so much more. Along with knowing your gear, you need to know how to get the best sound possible when recording. The audio that goes in always determines what comes out! If you cannot record the artist or instrument properly, no amount of time in post recording can fix that. An audio producer gets it right before moving along.
- Audio Engineering
Besides editing, mixing, and mastering, it is also important to learn how to tweak the artist the best you can. Know how to really make their voice stand out, the best mic positions, and other methods of fixing the audio that has been recorded. This is often an experience learned as you work and begin to understand each artist, as each recording is unique and needs whatever approach sounds best.
- Time Management
A music producer must schedule their working day and budget accordingly. Your hours and schedule may vary depending on if you have local or online clients; some producers keep normal business hours, while others have a more erratic work-life balance. It is a job that requires you to work when the best money and clients are available, so manage your time wisely.
You are the producer of it all and ultimately responsible for the budget of the audio. This can be tough for those who are better at the creative aspect, yet struggle with business. Artists must be paid and taxes need to be done! So even if accounting and money management are not fun, they are essential skills for a music producer.
The Artist and Producer Dynamic
There are likely to be issues and power struggles in any artist and audio producer relationship. That already happens in most businesses and adding in the fact that you are working in a creative field just amplifies potential conflict. There are a few approaches to make sure the artist and producer work as well as possible.
- Be Professional
Act like you are at a “regular job” and adhere to standard guidelines. Which means abstaining from behavior like substance abuse, tardiness, and condescending talk. To have the best working artist and audio producer relationship, make sure to treat the job as if you want to do it again and again.
- Stay Open-Minded
Whether you are an artist or producer, collaborating can be tough. If you have a very rigid vision of the final product, there is a greater chance there will be a clash of personalities. Know when to listen and stay open-minded to other ideas, even if you are only recording some easy guitar songs. If tensions and creative differences are great, then you may not want to continue working in the partnership.
- Look For New Work
Don’t just let work come to you, actively seek it out. Even if you find yourself in a position of good luck with clients, it helps to work alongside new artists and even other audio producers. Collaborating with another producer can often lead to some great audio, so always keep an eye out for new projects.
- You Can’t Do it All
While we say audio production is a job of many hats, be careful not to wear too many. Avoid taking on projects that are not suitable for you and be careful of any financial risk. Make sure the voice, music, or audio you produce will have a return, after all the goal of being a music producer is to get paid. Otherwise, what you are doing is a hobby and doesn’t need to be treated so seriously.
Make certain artists know what they are getting and what you can do as an audio producer. Be clear about budgets, skills, goals, and the realities of them all going to plan. If you like recording songs or working with voice over artists, you may be able to make a decent living as an audio producer.
Just make sure you have a variety of musical, listening, and business skills, and most of all be prepared for new challenges as you will face them daily.
Wondering what a creative producer does? Read our recent blog about the ins and outs of this also-important role in the creative voice over process.
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