What is a Record Producer?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A record producer is a music industry professional who works with artists to produce records. Much like film producers, record producers play a role in shaping the artistic direction of the projects they work on, while also controlling quality and generating a project which will be successful. Producers are a very important part of the team which gets an album from the minds of the musicians to the shelves of retail stores. Some noted record producers include Phil Spector, George Martin, and Brian Eno.

Many record producers start out working for record studios.
Many record producers start out working for record studios.

In some cases, a record producer owns a recording studio, and artists specifically seek out that studio so that they get an opportunity to work with that producer. Other record producers are hired by recording studios as part of the house staff, in which case artists can make a point of booking time with them. Producers can also work independently or for a particular record label, going into the recording studio with the musicians who hire them. Some producers are also musicians, working in the studio with their band to record their albums.

A record producer may decide where to position microphones in a recording studio.
A record producer may decide where to position microphones in a recording studio.

Record producers play a key role in recording sessions, controlling the schedule and working with the sound engineer to get the desired sound. They also deal with the recording budget, offer artistic assistance to the musicians, and organize the tracks on the album. Some record producers are also sound engineers, and they may write songs and contribute in other ways to the album. The record producer can be involved in the promotion of an album as well, using connections and industry experience to promote artists and albums.

The role of a record producer can vary, depending on the type of music being recorded and the preference of the musicians. In hip-hop, record producers are often more famous than the musicians they work with, and they can make or break the success of an album. Conversely, record producers working with classical musicians may be much less involved artistically, focused on getting a good, clean recording.

Someone who wants to become a record producer can approach the career from the perspective of a musician, a record company employee, a production assistant, or a sound engineer. Most record producers start out working for recording studios or record companies to gain experience and start networking with people in the industry, and they gradually take on more work. Rates of pay for record producers vary, with some taking flat fees for their work while others take fees and “points” which consist of a percentage of album sales.

Record producers typically work with vocal artists.
Record producers typically work with vocal artists.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@allenJo - Yes, I think that if you want to know how to become a record producer, you have to learn to recognize raw talent and even raw music. Then work to transform that music into melodies that people want to listen to.

The tunes that become big hits are catchy in my opinion; a real producer has to have an ear for the taste of the listening public. He can then give the public what they want to hear. That ability is not just about musical ability or even technical ability.

It’s about tapping into the tastes of consumers – and even anticipating future tastes and trends (that person would be a genius). You can think of people like Simon Cowell, for example. Whether you like him or hate him, he knows how to find the real talent and sell millions of albums.


I don’t believe that technology will “make” the producer. It’s exactly like you said. You need an instinct to seek out and search the right talent. Once you get a few big names under your belt, then artists will come looking for you.

I remember watching the televised funeral of Whitney Houston. Many stars came out to pay their respects. One of the speakers was the legendary record label producer Clive Davis, who had launched the careers of many famous artists.

He spoke about how he would search far and wide to find that one musician who had the star potential he was looking for (in this case of course it was Whitney Houston). The point is that Clive Davis was successful, and stars sought out his services. Of course only a select few were signed up.


Technology has changed a lot of things. You can become an independent record producer with a lot less capital than you needed to before, thanks to advances in audio equipment and computers. Record producer software can assist you too.

I have a friend who used to mix his own records and burn them on CDs. Of course he wasn’t a professional record producer by any means but the point is that the technology was accessible to him, so a startup producer would be able to get off the ground and running quickly. The real key is in acquiring the talent, not so much how you produce the album.


I put more trust in record producers who are musicians themselves than in those who simply appreciate music. Someone who knows notes, keys, and chords seems better prepared to offer me musical advice.

I went with my band to a recording studio and worked with a producer who also happened to be a very good guitarist. He had some good pointers for us, and he had a good understanding of music theory. I believe he even had a degree in music.

I think that his advice improved our album. We thought we had it all worked out ourselves, but we found out that what he had to say enhanced our songs, and we were grateful for that.


It does seem like everyone in the hip-hop industry wants to work with the same producer around the same time. The article is right about rap record producers being famous and sought after to help jumpstart or revive someone's career.

Sometimes, pop and hip-hop artists share the popular record producer of the moment. The music ends up sounding very similar, even though the lyrics and melody differ greatly. I think it is all about getting a catchy beat.

I've heard several songs from different artist who used the same record producer, and they usually share a synthesizer sound and a driving beat or a thick bass line. I don't mind this, because it is usually very danceable.


@lighth0se33 – It is good that he is willing to keep his advice to himself when it isn't wanted. I went into a studio to record my own music, and I got into some arguments with the music producer.

I knew exactly how I wanted my songs to sound, yet he kept telling me I should change up the melody in certain spots. I didn't like what he was suggesting, but I gently disagreed for awhile. Finally, I had to tell him that these were my songs, and if he wasn't willing to record them as is, then I should go elsewhere.

Producers are responsible for getting a good sound, but I think that if a musician has already got her heart set on doing a song a certain way, the producer should back off. Ultimately, he is being paid to record and arrange the record, not rewrite the songs.


I know a record producer who lives about 50 miles from my home. He owns his own studio and record label, so he is in charge of everything.

He handles just about every aspect of recording music for whatever musicians come through his studio. He charges an hourly fee, so it is best for musicians to already have their parts worked out before they arrive.

He makes a ton of money doing this. He produces high quality music, so people travel from all around to come record at his studio.

He has a good ear for music, so he is great at telling people what works and what doesn't. If bands want him to back off and just do the recording, he will comply with that, too.

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