Musical production requires a fine blend of taste, skill and knowhow in order to achieve the desired output.
Like the work of a master chef, the difference between magnificent and mediocre is in that delicate balance of sweet, savoury and spice.
The producer needs to conjure up a recipe that will entice and excite, delight and satisfy for every track served to the listening public. It is a critical duty and failure to succeed can (to complete the analogy) ruin the dish, regardless of the dexterity of the song writing or the virtuosity of the instrumental performances.
Throughout music history, great producers have somehow managed to define the sound of their time. Consider Phil Spector and his ‘Wall of Sound’, George Martin with the entire Beatles catalogue, Quincy Jones and the lexicon of soul music, Tony Visconti and the glam rock scene, Trevor Horn and his lush, orchestral tomes, and Dr Dre with his incisive hip-hop beats.
The role is considered so vital that artists and bands most often hire a proven individual, into whose welcomed arms they happily entrust their entire production process. That detached, critical view is essential in reaching the most precious and elusive of goals – a beautiful sounding track and album.
Indeed, in an industry increasingly monopolised by huge multinationals, record companies prefer to have ‘their man’ at the helm, so to speak, in order to nurture, protect, guide and control their investment.
A handful of artistes — Stevie Wonder, Prince and Kanye West, to name but a few — retain the necessary detachment required to produce their own material. It is a rare gift indeed to successfully carry your own music throughout the entire creation process.
In order to perform this vital function on her (or his) own, a contemporary artist will need to harness all their discipline, restraint, composure and technical ability in order to arrive at the best possible production of their work.
They will need to adhere to and have a command of the guidelines and principles laid down by the masters of their trade throughout the history of the music business. As Sir Isaac Newton famously said, when describing his lifetime of scientific discovery, “If I have seen further, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.”