4 Tips for Finding the Right Producer for Your Band

Photo via  Flickr Creative Commons.
Photo via Flickr Creative Commons.

On December 10th and 11th, Jesse Cannon will teach a creativeLIVE course in DIY Mastering for recording artists. But mastering skills are just the beginning of what Jesse has to offer. Over his decades-long career, Jesse has worked with everyone from Saves the Day to Animal Collective as a promoter, producer, engineer, and beyond. Taking on so many different industry roles has helped him develop a strong sense of how to pick the producer that’s right for your band — here are four of his key insights.

Don’t rely on word-of-mouth.
It’s become second nature to crowdsource decisions, and bands are no exception to this rule. There’s nothing wrong with asking other artists what their favorite tour venues are or which merch company has the fastest turnaround, but it’s not a good idea to pick a producer solely based on your friends’ recommendation.

In conversation with Tape Op, Jesse points out that he sees bands that, “…roll into the studio, hoping you can do the same for you [as you did for their friends]. I think there’s a much smarter way to make this decision.” Planning to make sure you get the result you want is far wiser than hoping.

Check your record collection.
You might not have to go any further than your record collection (or, probably more accurately, your iTunes library) to find the right fit for your band. Chances are, there are artists and records you return to over and over again, either for inspiration or simply because they’re the ones you never get tired of listening to.

Photo courtesy Property of Zack.
Photo courtesy Property of Zack.

Jesse advises, “Do some research on who’s made some great records, and whose name comes up in your record collection often, and then seek them out. Don’t just settle for the person that’s within 25 miles of your home.”

Clarify your own expectations.
A lot of bands go into the recording process knowing that they want to work with a great producer, but not knowing what, exactly, that should look like for their band. It’s pivotal to think about this in detail before you agree to work with a producer.

For example, you might be desperate for help rewriting some of your album’s key lyrics, or you might be adamant that every word makes it onto the record as needed. Being upfront with producers about preferences like this will help you determine whether you’re a good fit — and will ultimately help you make the record you want.

Know your weaknesses.
A key aspect of understanding your expectations for your producer is understanding your band’s weaknesses. (It’s okay! Every band has them!) What are the gaps you’re hoping a producer can fill in? Which band member could use additional coaching and support in-studio?

Jesse stresses this by saying, “You have to find someone who is a good fit for your weaknesses in order to make a record that presents your songs in a compelling way.” Articulating your weaknesses and making sure your producer can compensate for them allows you to focus on playing to your strengths.

Source: Tape Op


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Lauren Hoffman lives and writes in Seattle, Washington. By day, she's a freelance writer and editor; by night, she's at work completing a book-length non-fiction project, Up High Down Low.