Why Unsigned Artists Need A Great Producer
24/10/2010 14:47 Filed in: music, production, business
The Music Industry is in unchartered waters. One thing holds true however; that labels are taking less risks on artists and artists now have more power than ever to take control of their careers. The advent of the internet, mp3s, reality TV shows, games and media consumption in general have changed the business model dramatically. Although every situation - label, artist is different, one truthful generalisation is that labels want to jump on a moving train; they want some action or artist-created-buzz before they commit to signing an artist.
|The Music Industry is in unchartered waters. One thing holds true however; that labels are taking less risks on artists and artists now have more power than ever to take control of their careers. The advent of the internet, mp3s, reality TV shows, games and media consumption in general have changed the business model dramatically. Although every situation - label, artist is different, one truthful generalisation is that labels want to jump on a moving train; they want some action or artist-created-buzz before they commit to signing an artist.|
The artist must have a 'story' whether that's being on a reality TV show such as the X-factor, Britain's Got Talent or other similar show where the marketing is built into the show. Labels want millions of viewers and the media (magazines, blogs, newspapers, youtubeosphere) already aware of the artist. Another scenario is if the artist has self-promoted a track that's been hammered by Radio 1, Capital, Kiss or one of the other major radio stations or perhaps a major motion picture synch. There is no “one-way” to get a deal, like for example when pursuing a career in Law where there is a set path to follow to become qualified. The music industry is in many respects the wild west;- high risk, high return. Ultimately what this means is that your music has to be standout and finished. There should be no difference in quality either technically or artistically between your music and Lady Gaga's latest hit.
Enter the Producer.
A good, experienced Record Producer brings the following to the table:
1. A Great Song
It all starts with a great song. Many artists have the ability to write great songs, either just toplines or complete songs:- chords and toplines, while some singers have the voice but can’t write to save their lives. Whitney Houston is one household name that doesn’t write but her vocal prowess is undeniable. Leona Lewis, who I had the pleasure of working with before she was signed, didn’t write on her first album but that didn’t stop her from shattering several sales and download records.
I find that the majority of artists that come to me with poor material have poor material because their backing tracks are awful and so the song on top is not great. I say to people, “if the backing track makes sense, then the song will make sense”. Fortunately coming up with great backing tracks is one of the things I do, making it easy for artists to be be able to write ear-catching songs to. Over the years I’ve produced hundreds of backing tracks, some of which have been used in hundreds of TV shows internationally. See OD Hunte TV and Film credits at odhunte.com. A good producer will also have a team of writers that he can call on to write for the artist if the artist either doesn’t write or their writing skills still need work. I have such a team in place.
The artist may also have several songs to choose from. A good producer should have the “ear” to be able to choose potential hits from a selection of songs.
2. A polished radio-ready master.
Well technically the studio master will need to be mastered professionally before it goes to radio but there shouldn't be much difference between the studio master and the output from the mastering house if the producer or who ever has mixed the track has done a good job. Some producers have not got the special skills that it takes to execute a great mix and are only producers. Over the years I have mixed close to 99% of all the tracks I have produced for clients as well as producing the tracks and mixing tracks from bedroom producers.
But before that, it should go without saying that a great producer should be able to coax a great vocal performance from any level of singer. As a producer it’s our job to make the singer look good while making the track commercially viable. I’ve worked with some very fine singers over the years from the afore mentioned Leona Lewis, Lifford, Rachel Mc Farlane and recently Gift down to some dreadful “autotune-only” artists. It’s a funny industry - you wouldn't sign a footballer who couldn't kick a ball yet singers who cant sing in tune are signed - anyway our job is to deliver the record regardless - and not kill dreams.
3. Route to a Deal advice and Contacts
Many artists when starting out don't have any idea where to look to obtain meaningful contacts that may help to move their career forward. The truth as stated earlier is that there is no "one way" to make it. There are several. These include the "reality route", the "management route", the "promo and create a buzz route", the "synch route", the "myspace or youtube.com phenomenon route" etc. The list goes one. In terms of management companies, where do you find lists of management companies that may take on an artist at your level? Where can you find lists of independent labels, publishers. Who are the best pluggers in town for specialist, pirates and community radio? These are all questions that your producer should be able to help you with but don’t expect this information until after you’ve worked with that producer!
4. Get Your tracks into TV, Film and Games
One of the most effective forms of promotion, which can be free unlike most other forms of information services and music services in general in the UK is getting your tracks into TV and Film internationally. There have been stories of unsigned artists seeing 100,000+ download sales from placements in the O.C. and other high profile US shows. This is obviously great on several levels - it generates revenue, creates awareness and a story. A good pro-active producer should have these contacts and be able to submit your tracks to his contacts for possible inclusion. I make it a policy to only submit tracks that I’ve worked on because my contacts expect a consistently high level of track from me in-keeping with the placements that I’ve had in the past. This is something you should ask your potential producer if he can provide. And obviously research this for yourself.
To summarize, although no producer can guarantee to take you from zero to hero, a great producer should be able to use his experience, skills and contacts to elevate you to the next level of your career. Where you go from there will ultimately be determined by your talent, determination and lady luck.
Producer / Writer