THE PRODUCER'S ART
music • 13.09.11
It seems something has happened down the years for producer types to have lost credibility. They seem to have been sucked into the trashed reputation of the corporate record business and become tarnished by it’s excesses. After all, the successful ones did share in the vast spoils, able to take a percentage chunk of an artist’s income. All the while they are barely considered to be artists themselves. At best they’re catalysts, at worst knob-twiddling parasites who ProTools the life out of otherwise sparky and talented performers.
Of course producers are invariably as much artists as anyone else worthy of the name. A well crafted production is a high value thing. Producers have often been virtual band members whose contribution to a work is essential, sometimes definitive. Some write songs, do arrangements and perform on tracks. Others are in at the inception of a project with a hand at every stage the same way a film director might be.
The exemplary work of greats like Quincy Jones, Trevor Horn and Brian Eno puts them in a category of creative artists as outstanding as in any field. Contrast their production values to those on most contemporary records and the current crop doesn’t come close. Many modern works sound almost amateurish by comparison, like demos. They are so devoid of production that being that way is almost considered a virtue. Obviously I’m not suggesting that high production is a requirement for good work, just that it shouldn’t be disparaged.
I think that the devaluing of the producer’s art has been compounded by the availability of cheap software tools for music, making it seem as if production is no longer necessary, no longer valid, no longer artful. Surely that’s a nonsense. The assumption that production is easy and irrelevant because the kit is cheap is ignorant. It makes about as much sense as saying that because guitars are affordable anyone can be Hendrix. Plainly ridiculous.
Those who comment on these things and who shape the zeitgeist need to be better informed. They have a responsibility I’d say to be initiated and not allow their lack of knowledge and experience to dictate a prejudice especially when that prejudice is detrimental to the craft. Until then perhaps they might comment less. The producer’s art in its myriad forms is a precious thing and one very much worth preserving.
the assumption that production is easy
because the kit is cheap is ignorant