6 Tips Before You Work With a Music Producer

Updated: Oct 22, 2021

Finding producers is becoming more accessible than ever, but finding the right music producer for your tunes is a special kind of challenge. Here are a few tips to help any artist streamline the process of finding the right producer fit:

1. Know What Type of Producer You're Looking For

Not all music producers do and make the same stuff. Some might play and record instruments; some might specialize in programming, while others specialize in coordinating musicians. Pairing up with the right talent or team will improve your outcome. Then again, music has no set rules, and an R&B song mixed and produced by a heavy-metal producer could turn out to as the most fantastic collab of the year.

If you’re looking for an in-sound with your crowd, it's entirely possible to find more success with an indie-studio or a talented bedroom producer rather than a larger label-affiliated studio. There's a lot of talent out there, and you have to know how to look for it. This viewpoint doesn't rule out the few existing studios that have stood the test of time, who'v pushed boundaries, and whose legacy of engineers and producers precedes them. For the ones still around, they exist with excellent reason and should be preserved.

2. Not All Producers Go by the Same Rules

There are two common viewpoints on music producer contracts and it's essential to know the difference and they favor two sides of the same coin. Who gets what percentage of the credits to a piece of music comes down to who the main creator is and what you see as valuable to your music. A producer putting out the same amount of work on one track as they did on another may yield entirely different monetary results between the two projects. Again, this could depend not only on their creation but how important their work is viewed overall and the kind of people behind it.

Some artists will give equal writing credit to studio musicians and music programmers. Still, some will discriminate, depending not precisely on how important their work is to the overall sound, but according to what is seen as having value. Lyrics and lead-instruments hold the most value, but in terms of sharing, some would say it's more about who is involved overall. If your producer is pro, they may only work on your music if they can obtain a certain share of the publishing to a final product. If you're a pro musician and/or singer, you may sing on a producer's work for the price you request. Who working for who depends on what’s happening in the moment, that’s why it’s advantageous to form close knit creator circles where there can be humility and trust.

Try to understand how your producer works and how they work with others to help you create your finished works. Understand how much they expect, and if they're relaxed and open, respect them, they're artists just the same. If everyone understands each other from the beginning, they can focus on adding their best effort to the music.

In our humble opinion, anyone writing on your music, or designing the sonics in such a way where the "mix engineer" actually becomes a "producer", should get credit on your track, especially if you are lucky enough to be surrounded by a potential team. Teamwork makes the dreamwork.

3. Know Critical Information About Your Tracks

Come in prepared with everything the producer needs to begin working on your music, which includes knowing the:

  • BPM

  • Key of the song/s

  • Time signature

  • The sample-rate of your audio files

Having these on-hand is the easiest way to start saving time and money. Even if you don't know your theory, you will appear more professional having taken the time to prepare that information for your producer, eliminating time between your producer receiving your music, and beginning to work with you creatively.

4. Have an Idea of What You Want to Sound Like

Come in with goals, no matter what. Try not to leave it to the producer to decide what your music should sound like. Instead, use as many references and sound-alikes as possible to help your producer understand you. While supporting your sound or invoking your spirit, your producer will often need to know where you wish to be placed along the musical spectrum, unless your eclectic-ness is otherwise specified (aka FKA twigs, Bjork, Miley Cyrus, Mariah Carey, and many more. Sometimes, providing your producer with the aesthetics you enjoy can be helpful in achieving a desired, yet experimental sound, depending on who you're working with.

5. Have Clear Goals and Schedule Your Plan

In some cases, production is done on a collaboration basis like work for trade, a share of rights to the music, a combination, or something more relaxed altogether. If you’re paying your way, don’t neglect to offer a retainer, which is a payment system where a more considerable sum of money is taken upfront to book the producer's time. Deductions are taken from this retainer by the producer at a set rate, whenever they work on your projects. Retainer payments can get you priority over your producer's time and focus. Naturally, you will be seen as a priority client; furthermore, how your producer charges you has a significant impact on how you can plan to maximize your time.

If your producer takes payments by the project (lump sum) this may imply your music producer is invested in creating an excellent final product. Being charged by a music producer’s hourly rate can cost you a lot more if the producer takes their time to perfect and/or explore. Before making either decision, you should always discover the level of quality work a producer is providing ahead of time, and should be able to request a portfolio.

6. Be a Well-Rounded Thinker

Know yourself. Do not let anyone else influence you or your music in any direction unless it is authentic to you. It is essential as an artist to hold a circle of motherly protection along your boundaries and have confidence in yourself to hold those boundaries, which requires you love and accept yourself completely as you are.

Be open to new experiences. Don't be too rigid and allow yourself to improve by being open to what thoughts others share about your music. You don't have to agree, but seeing from another’s point of view in a creative process such as mixing, is precious to you as an artist, and you should thank those who show the care to share.

Sometimes artists have their own list for different sounds they like from various producers in their network. Your producer's job is to facilitate your artistic and sometime professional success to the level at which you need assistance. In some cases, your producer may play the most significant role in your music since you first created it. From this perspective, approach music producers as you would yourself, not just as service-people but artists who specialize in taking artistic energy farther. They have a special kind of magick, and you have a special kind of magick.