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If you have a very successful producer, how much do you allow him to change your work

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Gabu, Dec 5, 2003.


  1. Yes, that is his job! I will do everything he says.

    1 vote(s)
    7.7%
  2. That is his job, I will do most of what he says.

    3 vote(s)
    23.1%
  3. He should only advise me. I will decide which items to do.

    9 vote(s)
    69.2%
  4. He should only do as I tell him.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  1. Gabu

    Gabu

    Jan 2, 2001
    Lake Elsinore, CA
    The producer I am working with has a lot of industry experience, and is listed in the credits of some big bands. He obviously has a great ear and connections in the industry. I just worry sometimes that as he works on my material that it becomes too processed, too radio friendly.

    I am wondering what you all think? On one hand, I do what to take advantage of his great knowledge and skill... But on the other hand I don't want to feel like I am not in control of my tunes... or even wind up with tunes that are so processed they don't sound like me anymore...

    Mannn... I just don't know what I want.
     
  2. Nails

    Nails

    Jun 4, 2000
    Austin, Tejas
    I have not worked with a producer, so take that into account when reading this. I think a producer should 1st and foremost get a good performance out of the artist, secondly shape the sound of the album (tones mainly) and then he should make suggestions about the songs. Would I give his suggestions a try? Sure. If I like it I'd keep it, if not it goes by the wayside (just like my ideas would.) I think the band/artist should write the songs, and the producer should help out along the way.
     
  3. Lackey

    Lackey

    May 10, 2002
    Los Angeles
    I've worked with a fairly "successful" producer - he won a Dove award. Problem was, is that I didn't respect any of the bands he worked with, and his production ideas were not good for our songs. IE, you can't chop an 8 minute song into 2.5 minutes for a "radio cut", it just doesnt work.

    Ultimately the drummer and I left the band over "artistic differences", although what it really was is that we cared more about keeping our music pure rather than selling out to try and make a buck.
     
  4. Gabu, Most likely the only way I'll ever get to hear any of your work on the radio is for you to get with someone that knows how to put it there. If you think this guy can do it, I say let him run with it, (unless you have a list of producers to pick from calling wanting your business). The world is full or writers and musicians and only a few ever get a chance to make it. Do what it takes to get your work heard and make millions, then do it your way if you want to. Good luck!!!
     
  5. I think this is the heart of the issue. What goals do you have for your music? Do you want to produce great art? Do you want to sell 7 million records? These are questions that have to be answered first before you can move forward and have some outside influence affect your output.

    Having said that, I feel that, assuming you have answered the above questions, you should definitely listen to what he has to say, but don't necessarily do everything he says. If he is a 'successful' producer, he's doing (or has done) something right. Get in there and be a sponge!! Soak up all his great ideas, but be true to yourself and your music when it gets down to brass tacks.
     
  6. CkB_Cowboy

    CkB_Cowboy

    Nov 30, 2003
    Boston, MA
    Just because you're working with a great producer doesn't necessarily mean that he's the right producer for you.

    Of course, if you're not established, you have to make a choice:

    a) Finish the album because "you gotta do what you gotta do" and you need to get yourselves out there.

    b) Take your chances.

    - Cowboy
     
  7. Gabu

    Gabu

    Jan 2, 2001
    Lake Elsinore, CA
    Thanks everyone for your advice. I believe that for now, I will do choice B. I will listen to what he says, and try to take some things on faith... And then a little later on when I am more comfortable with all this, I will assert myself more.

    Thanks again!! :D
     
  8. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Supporting Member

    Tough call. Do you like the work he's done for other bands?

    I fully understand your concerns, but because this producer has a successful track record I would give him the benefit of the doubt unless you had extremely strong feelings that he was compromising your work. Good luck!
     
  9. Gabu

    Gabu

    Jan 2, 2001
    Lake Elsinore, CA
    I do feel that he compromises my work at times... So I try to stand firm on some things. But I also really like his work. I am trying to find a balance, trust him some and trust me some.
     
  10. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    "I am trying to find a balance, trust him some and trust me some."

    That smells like trouble.

    Let me respond this way: "blessed are those who have few expectations, for they are unlikely to be disappointed".

    First of all, a gig's a gig. I'm kind of a "mercenary" when it comes to the commercialization of music, I'll work for whoever pays me the most. In saying that, and in operating that way, it's very important for me to divorce the "commercial" aspect of the music from the "artistic" aspect. Would I turn down a job that paid me 4 million dollars a year and got me a lot of air time? Hell no! Not unless I had something better going on.

    The flip side of that coin is, as an artist you have to search your soul and ask yourself what it is that you're really getting out of the music. It may resolve itself down to an ego thing, which is fine, but that means you'll probably never be happy being #2. Or it may be that you use your music as an emotional tonic, and you could care less who hears it. Which is fine too, and in that case a job's a job and it has nothing to with what happens when you go home at night. Or it may be that you're a complex person like me, and in that case there may be a lot of different factors in the mix.

    In the latter case, my advice would be, do the due diligence. Build the spreadsheet, and assign quantitative scores to each factor that you can identify. See how they add up. Kind of like a self-assessment exercise. Might sound a little pointless at first, but as you do this exercise you'll probably discover things about yourself that you didn't necessarily know before. For instance, I do a "punk" gig about once a month. I don't do it for money or because I love punk music, I do it because it's a great way to release anger and frustration. If I didn't have that outlet, I'd probably end up releasing that stuff in other places (which might or might not be a good thing). And yes, once in a while I have to do an "emergency gig" 'cause things have gotten that way. Some people do drugs, I do punk. Works for me. :)

    Let's use a more appropriate f'r instance. Let's say you want money and popularity and self respect. Which is most valuable to you? Are there compromises you'd be willing to make for one or the other? What if someone said they could make you a star if only you played Mozart (or rap, or whatever music you hate). How much money would it take for you to put up with that self image, and how long could you do that before things became unbearable?

    To follow up on the original quote, I would say only "trust" your producer as far as he gives you reason to. Blind faith is stupid faith. Don't wanna die like a lemming. Remember that the relationship is a business relationship as well as an artistic relationship, and my 2c worth would be (speaking for myself now) that I'd be a lot happier if I kept those two things as separate as possible. And if that's not possible, go into it with eyes wide open. Don't "trust" your producer in business matters, always have an iron clad contract. Don't "trust" your producer in artistic matters, trust YOURSELF 'cause beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Kinda relates to my tag line, "the emperor has no clothes", remember that story?

    Bottom line, there are many MANY bitter artists out there, who think they got screwed by someone in a business or artistic sense (and some of them may in fact have been screwed, but that's not the point). It's amazing how much of the screwing happened "after the fact", like they didn't really care about the song till the cover version went platinum, at which point they start yelling and screaming about how screwed they were 'cause they signed away all their rights (and they didn't have enough foresight or the wherewithal to have an attorney representing them in the contract negotiations).

    The most important thing is, be honest with YOURSELF. Many other blessings flow from that one fountain.
     
  11. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    Hi Gabu, in thinking more about your situation, I'd like to respond from a completely different angle as well. One that relates to the "technology" of being an artist.

    For instance, painters have their easels and their palettes, writers have their typewriters and computers, and musicians have their instruments and whatever technology they end up using live and in the studio (amps, stomp boxes, etc etc).

    There is no technology I know of (today) that can reproduce "exactly" the music I'm hearing in my head. There's always a level of "translation" through the technology. It could be something as simple as "my EQ doesn't have the right frequency I need", or it could be something considerably more complicated like "my engineer can't seem to retain the original simplicity of the song once the background vocals are added in".

    It's kind of like the Bible (or whatever book or teachings you may believe in), it may be the "word of God", but it's "as translated by man", and not only that, but in all likelihood it involves hundreds of generations and thousands of miles (not to mention several languages).

    So the reason I'm saying this is, that a producer is just another in the long series of compromises you have to make to get the music from "in your head" to "on tape" (or wherever it ends up). So in that sense, it's just like a piece of technology. If it ain't working, either get it fixed, or toss it and get something else. I've done "many" songs four or five times in the studio, the repeated attempts being necessary because I was unhappy (for whatever reason) about the results of the previous efforts. Sometimes it takes iterations like that. If one producer can't do it for you, maybe another one can.

    From a purely selfish standpoint, a producer with connections in the industry can be very helpful (if that's the path you want to take). Here is an opportunity to use this person to fulfill your goals and desires. Realizing full well, at the same time, that this person will also be using you to fulfill his/her goals and desires. If that turns out to be a symbiotic and mutually beneficial relationship, great. If it turns out to be problematic and dysfunctional, well, the length of therapy is usually directly related to the length of the relationship. :)

    A person like that can also be very helpful from the standpoint of knowledge acquisition. If I had a subject matter expert like that at my disposal, I'd be doing my best to pick his/her brain, so if I ever needed to use some of those skills when that person's not around, I'd have at least a ghost of a chance of succeeding.

    And finally, in the course of communicating with this person, I might find out some things about myself that I didn't know before. For instance, maybe I'm really particular about my production and I like to micro-manage the results. Maybe I'm hearing a particularly sweet note that my producer wants to eliminate in favor of a sax solo. Well, what does that note matter? Is it important for me that people actually hear that note? Is that note "really" that beautiful? Are you telling me that no other artist in the world could create that note? There's no other note like it in any other recording anywhere else on the planet? And so it goes, maybe I'm discovering an ego in a place where I mighta thunk there wasn't one. Or, maybe it just an honest appreciation of the music and the desire to share the joy with others. Producers are kinda wierd that way sometimes, they have a different "ear" than musicians do (at least that's been my experience, to be a good producer you're having to think at a more abstract level, to see the possibilites behind the note, and not just the note itself). So the relationship and the communication become really important, hopefully you and this person have a wide open communication so you can both explore each others' tastes and preferences (and ears and opinions).

    I agree that it's a bit of a tricky situation. You want to develop the relationship as much as possible without becoming dependent. My guess is, you'll get a sense fairly quickly of what the parameters and boundaries of the relationship might be.

    In music as in life, I try to count my blessings and not burn too many bridges. :)
     
  12. Gabu

    Gabu

    Jan 2, 2001
    Lake Elsinore, CA
    Thanks everyone for your advice!

    Wow, nonsqtr... Thanks very much for your thought on this. I really appreciate the extra effort. :) I am going to turn it over in my head for a while. I know that this guy has good ideas. I am also not completely stuck on having everything that I write represented exactly as it was concieved. To me, it is more of a question of "Do the proposed changes change the meaning, intent, or both, of the song?". If the answer is yes, then I can't accept it. On the other hand if the answer is no, then I can probably deal with it. In some cases, I have liked his way better than my own.

    There have been two main songs that I have found questionable:

    One was where a 6:15 song was widdled down to 4:05, primarily for radio friendliness and I felt that it did not deliver the emotional impact of the other one.

    In the other example, there was some poor drumming that could be fixed by using a loop. Although, it did fix the timing... I did not like the loop because when the song loses the live interaction between the drums and other instruments, it just sounds fake to me.

    The first issue is being debated. On the second issue, I was the only one in the band who felt that way, so I guess its a moot point.