As a music producer, it's exciting to work with artists that fall within our creative circle-those that share our genre or match our ability. As we branch out, opportunities may arise that allow us to work with a wider range of creative individuals. While we embrace these new situations, it's important to keep the artist and their sound front and center, while adding our "signature". Here are 4 quick tips to help you successfully produce music for other artists:
This may seem obvious, but before opening Logic, Pro Tools or your other favorite production software, have a conversation with the artist. Not just about music, but about life. Is this project a hobby or are they striving for a professional career? How have any recent life changes affected them? What are their thoughts on current event issues? Now, I realize this is not an episode of Fix My Life, but it will help you in your production approach if you get to know the person that is trusting you with their personal music concepts.
I always ask artists who they're listening to right now on iTunes, Spotify or SoundCloud and why. It's then a good idea as a producer to go listen to those artists and find a commonality that leads back to your artist. Do they sound like who they're listening to? Is the orchestration similar? Do they share the same lyric/subject matter? As you enter the production stage, you now can offer the artist educated ideas and opinions based on their likes, abilities and budget.
To get an overall feel for the artist, I like to do a short demo track (1-2 minute) that I can reference for range and style. After a production plan is established, it's a good idea to set up templates within your software that are exclusive to the artist. This prevents having to re-invent the wheel before each session.
Shine a Light
As producers, our job is not to shine OUR light on the artist; our job is to position the artist properly, so that they can best shine in THEIR light. If you think a certain drum loop won't work, or that a live guitar will work better than a software guitar, explain your reasoning and work with the artist to come up with an agreeable solution, while maintaining creative integrity. Always remember your role as a producer is to offer the tools and expertise needed to create great memorable music.
Marvin is a musician, recording artist and blogger. Follow him on Twitter/Instagram @mthompsonjr.