After I put out my latest single (and my first single as a solo artist – eek!), I realized I have learned quite a lot about working with music producers. The process can be daunting, and if you’re a new artist you have a lot to consider right from the start.
I have met and worked with a few producers now, and though I don’t know everything in this area, I hope what I have learned will help you.
Finding a producer can be tough. I lucked out in this area because I was able to work with one of my friends from college, Jordan Seah. It’s good to connect with other musicians and people with similar goals as you.
When you’re considering working with someone, or about to begin, here are some essential tips and lessons that I learned from my own experience.
1. Define the roles.
Just like with any job or partnership, there are different ideas about what a producer is supposed to be.
When I first began working with my producer, I typed up a short document of what I understood our roles in the process to be. We used this to guide a very productive conversation, and make sure we were on the same page. I think this is really important.
We also had a meeting before getting started where we discussed master/composition ownership and defined roles. This meeting can be intimidating, but it is necessary. There’s no one right way to split it up but I’ve found that it is helpful to have an agreement ahead of time.
2. Start with a song you’ve spent a lot of time on and already know really well.
There are different ways people record, of course. Some people might start with a beat, guitar lick, or full track. But for the purpose of this article, let’s assume that you wrote a song on your piano/guitar/ukulele, and want to record it. The more you’ve lived with the song, the better.
It can be a pain to mess with the structure of the song later on. It’s a good idea to have a pretty solid idea of the structure and chords you like before you start recording.
If you want to save time, and possibly money, I’d encourage you to do the demo on your own. It might even be good to mess with some of the other instruments and find the vibe you want, so you can communicate that to the producer. The more tools you have to communicate what’s in your head, the better.
3. Set clear expectations for what you’re envisioning the end result of your track might be. Send your producer examples of similar sounds.
Here’s the thing: when you are getting started, sometimes it’s hard to articulate and explain what you want the song to sound like. But even if you think you have no idea what you’re hoping for, I guarantee you do on some level.
When your producer starts trying things with your song, you’ll suddenly realize you have expectations. You’ll save everyone a headache if you can communicate that before a lot of work goes into the track.
I like to send music I like – i.e. “I like the way the vocals sound here, I like these backing harmonies, I like this kick-snare sound, I like the way they transition between the sections of the song, etc.” Start to really tune into songs you like and realize what you are drawn to.
“Good artists copy. Great artists steal.” – Pablo Picasso
4. As Aretha said, “All I’m askin’ is for a little respect.”
I happened to work with a really great producer who completely respected me and valued my vision. This, sadly, is not always the case.
Your ideas are important, and your vision is necessary.
If you feel like you are always having to fight to prove that with your producer, I’d say it’s time to consider a different partnership. Working with a producer can be intimidating at times because you each bring something unique to the table. They have skills that you don’t have and vice versa. Mutual respect is really necessary in creating a harmonious working environment in which the music can flourish.
5. Make sure your producer really values and appreciates your work.
I found it really important that the producer likes the music, like a lot. It might be good to ask the producer you’re considering what artists they like, and listen to see if they list any music that you’re into. Additionally, I would recommend noticing if they list any female artists.
It’s important that you will make a good team. A producer has to spend so much nitty-gritty time bringing the song to life, so it’s really necessary that they love the music. I think everyone is happier if you both love the song, the vibes, like working together, and believe it’s truly worth all the work you’re about to put in.
The first song Jordan and I worked on came out Feb, 28, 2020: li.sten.to/jesuscallin. It’s a story about my grandma’s life. It’s been really sweet to see how people have received it, and how it has meant something to them. Many people told me it touched them and even made them cry.
Those moments make all the work worth it! Music is a beautiful thing we get to share.
Follow me on social media @christypklotz to get more tips on putting out your music. I would also love to hear some of the things you’ve learned along your journey.
You can also check out my new single on Spotify below!