Finding and choosing a producer can be a confusing and sometimes intimidating process, but it is one of the most important decisions you will make for your career. One of the main pieces of advice I give to anyone interested in recording with a producer is this: give yourself options. It's become a popular mantra for artists to say, "Never sign the first record deal you're offered" and in the same way, you never want to sign on with a producer just because they're the first person that offers to record with you. They may not be the right person for the job. Just because they like your music, it doesn't mean they'll be able to capture the heart of what you are about as an artist. Most importantly, you need to make sure that the person you're working with has experience working with bands of a similar sound and genre.
There are of course, exceptions to every rule. For instance, I recently worked with a band that has a very unique sound - a mix between the Rolling Stones and the White Stripes. Being in Nashville, I typically work with Country and CCM artists and bands. Wanting to expand my resume a bit, I was really excited to work with this band so I gave them a highly discounted rate for the work. They were willing to take a bit of a risk and let me try to capture their sound, and in return I made sure that I was able to work within their limited budget. In that way, the independent music industry offers all sorts of opportunities for up and comers to make their mark in the world of music. The ability to bargain and barter is, in my opinion, part of what makes our industry so great.
So how do you find the right producer for you? There is no easy answer, even if you live in the heart of L.A., Nashville, New York, Atlanta, etc.; it can still be a mystery. Because there isn't any reliable directory for "Music Producer", I’d start by going to local shows where the bands have CD's to sell. Find bands that have great sounding discs and ask who they worked with. Call local studios (but for better rates, try studios located in a city with a big entertainment scene, you have more negotiating power there). If the prices are still too steep, inquire about their assistant engineers or even interns with experience, lots of times you can find a great producer that maybe has less experience, but a lot of talent. You can also contact music schools (SAE, Fullsail, etc.). Their students are always looking for bands to record for projects... although I will warn you that the end result from a school project recording will very often sound like a school project recording.
These are just a few tips on how to get started with your search for a producer. Next time I'll discuss how to qualify your Producer and make sure you're working with the right one before you sign any paperwork.
CONGRATULATIONS! To "Red Letter" for winning the contest for a free consultation and free recording time with yours truly. Thank you for all of your submissions, it was a hard decision but in the end I had to pick only one. Keep your eyes peeled for more competitions in the very near future and as always, you can send any questions to: email@example.com.
Dustin is a Producer / Audio Engineer / Touring Musician. For a free consultation with Dustin you can email him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.