As an artist, your art is all you have; so protecting it should be priority number one. The interview process, the contract you sign, and the producer you choose, are all key factors when it comes to protecting your art and learning how to interview producer’s effectively will go a long way to help keep the integrity of your music intact.
So what should you be asking the producers you interview? There are, of course the obvious questions: “How long have you been doing this?” “What experience do you have?” And, “Can I hear samples of your work?”
However, there are still questions that are important to help reveal a bit more about the individual to whom you are about to commit time, money and your art. Here are some examples of questions you might not think to ask, but always should:
1) What else do you bring to the table besides being able to record and produce? (i.e. What connections do you have in the industry? Who do you know?)
2) Do you work solely as producer or do you engineer as well?
3) Do you have any Publishing, A & R or T.V/Film relationships?
4) Where have you worked in the past (studios) and can you provide references from other clients?
5) Can I see a preliminary copy of your contract?
6) Can your fees be paid as work for hire or, do you receive any points or payment on the back-end? Are those terms negotiable?
7) What can you offer in the way of promotion for the record once it's done? Can I see that in writing?
8) Do you have any radio contacts and if so, in which markets are they located?
These questions are a good place to start, but what should the answers be? In short, there are no right or wrong answers. The producer/artist relationship is just that – a relationship; and regardless of their answers, you ultimately need to feel comfortable working with them. You should feel as if you can trust their vision for your sound, collaborate well and have a good time together.
Outside of that, the most important thing to consider when hiring a producer for your project is to make sure that the producer you choose can guarantee an industry standard product. The main thing I come across in my field is poor quality product, where the artist spent his or her money on something that makes them sound unpolished and amateur. The average listener doesn't have the ear to hear a recording and immediately know whether it is of excellent or mediocre quality - radio ready. Believe me, when it comes to getting your single on any radio station, generating interest from a label, or hiring a manager - QUALITY MATTERS!
Gone are the days when you could turn in a scratchy audio tape you made in your bedroom, send it to a label and get a development deal. So, you need to make sure you’re spending your money on quality. Even if it's just turning out a couple of song demos, it has to be a certain standard or it will be thrown out. My rule for this is: Compare, compare, compare…Get samples of the producers work and compare it side by side with your favorite albums and artists. If you don't have a great stereo system, invest in a good pair of studio quality headphones and use them to demo the material. It will be well worth the investment. If at the end of the day you don't feel confident in your judgment, get a few different opinions before you close the deal. This can be the deciding factor about whether or not your music gets listened to for a few seconds or a few minutes… that's a VERY big deal!
Next time, we will go into how a producer gets paid, how to prepare for negotiations and how to make sure you aren't getting ripped off. Remember, this is about protecting yourself and your art.