Isaque Criscuolo
Isaque Criscuolo
@isaque.criscuolo
Music & audio

What Is Music Production and What Does a Music Producer Do?

  • by Isaque Criscuolo @isaque.criscuolo

Learn more about the world of music production and the creative tasks of a top producer

Music production, as we know it today, has grown into a discipline closely linked to the advancement of sound recording and reproduction technologies. The evolution of these areas has changed the production process, turning it into an essential element for creating good music and sound projects.

During the first half of the twentieth century, music production was similar to the work of film production, in which the producer was responsible for overseeing all the processes related to a project.

This involved supervising the recording and payment of artists, musicians, technicians, and professionals engaged in creating a song. In some cases, the producer was even responsible for curating the material.

Music production is closely related to the advancement of sound recording and reproduction technologies.
Music production is closely related to the advancement of sound recording and reproduction technologies.

By the 1960s, the figure of the producer began to assume a more involved role in the compositional process, such as the creation of arrangements, engineering processes, and even songwriting.

As a result, the profession gained enormous relevance—not only in the creative process but also in the development of the recording industry as we know it.

Since then, music production has taken on a managerial role, similar to that of the film industry. In addition, the ability to create home studios has facilitated the creative process for thousands of people by reducing the costs previously involved in professional production.

Today, most music producers learn about production by experimenting with various software and equipment that’s becoming more and more accessible.

Music production is the process of pre-production, creation and refinement of a recorded song or sound piece.
Music production is the process of pre-production, creation and refinement of a recorded song or sound piece.

So, what is music production?

Music production is the process of pre-producing, creating, and perfecting a recorded song or sound piece for public release. This work ranges from writing and composing to recording, sound design, mixing, and mastering.

As music researcher Frederico Alberto Barbosa Macedo writes, there are very specific phases within the process:

"Today, studio production is carried out through five well-defined phases: pre-production, recording, editing, mixing, and mastering, performed through the joint work of a team of professionals—producers, singers, instrumentalists, arrangers, technicians, and sound engineers. These five phases may undergo some variations, especially when recording classical and jazz music."
Software and equipment facilitate the creative process within music production.
Software and equipment facilitate the creative process within music production.

What does a music producer do?

In the article cited above, Barbosa Macedo explains that "The producer defines the musical conception of the project and coordinates its realization. When a record company hires them, they work as an intermediary between the latter and the artist. When they are professional freelancers, they mediate in the relationship between the artist and the market, or between the latter and the record labels that may be interested in signing the artist."

The music producer may also be known as a record producer or executive producer, being responsible for refining a song, choosing harmonies, and looking for exciting solutions with a commercial or stylistic sense for the artist they collaborate with.

Refining a song or finding solutions that make sense within an artist's style are functions of a producer.
Refining a song or finding solutions that make sense within an artist's style are functions of a producer.

This figure also guides musicians artistically by providing creative ideas, coordinating recording sessions and rehearsals, and directing the sound engineer.

Such responsibilities may change according to the musical genre. In R&B and hip-hop, for example, the producer creates the base beat for the artists to lay their lyrics. In EDM (electronic dance music), the producer is often the artist themself.

Some songwriters produce, and producers write songs, making hybrid and authorial work that, nowadays, is quite common.

Famous music producers

In the music industry (just as in the film industry) it's quite common for famous and iconic music producers to emerge, raising the profile of production and composition work.

Producers like Quincy Jones—responsible for the production of classic albums such as Michael Jackson's Off The Wall, Thriller, and Bad—and Nile Rodgers—famous for collaborating with Mick Jagger, Madonna, Diana Ross, and Daft Punk—add technical weight and a seal of quality to a song and are lauded within the music market, especially at award season.

The music industry is always changing and keeping up with advances in audio technologies.
The music industry is always changing and keeping up with advances in audio technologies.

Explaining the emergence of high-profile producers along with the singers themselves, in an article Barbosa Macedo writes:

The multiplication of the various agents involved in music production meant a change in the traditional notions of authorship. Depending on the influence of each of these agents in the production process, many claim recognition of their participation as authorship. This explains that within the recording industry, the status of various individuals—producers, performers, arrangers, musicians, sound engineers, and, more recently, DJs—is similar to the status previously attributed only to composers or major performers.

Without music production and, consequently, producers, the recording industry as we know it today would not exist, and it is in constant evolution thanks to the advances in audio technologies.

If you want to learn more about getting started in music, check out all of Domestika's music and audio-related courses.

English version by @acesarato.

You may also like:

- 4 Online Courses to Get Started in Music Production
- Meet Singer and Music Producer Alejo Stivel in this Domestika Diary
- How To Perfect Your At-home Sound Recording Booth

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