Tech Tip:FAQ: Production/Mixing


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What does a producer do?

A producer is probably the most important factor in the making of an album, with the exception of the artist and the songs. A producer is responsible for making sure that the recording session runs smoothly, and that all parties involved (artists, manager and label) are happy with the outcome. The producer is responsible for the record to be delivered on time and within the pre-agreed budget. They are usually involved in the following also: - Choosing the studio - Selecting an engineer - Working with the band during the pre-production phase - Working on song structure and arrangements - Advising the band on studio techniques - Choosing and hiring side musicians - Creative studio techniques to improve the sound and make the recording as compelling as possible - Focus on a potential single if one is identified early

 

Who pays for a producer?

The artist will almost always be responsible for the producer payment, but the money is usually paid by the record label as part of the artist's advance. This money is always 100% recoupable from the artist's royalties. If the artist only has a publishing deal, occasionally the publisher will pay the producer fees, and recoup it against future artist earnings. The record company will pay the producer any points that he has negotiated (see below).

 

How much does a producer earn?

This varies widely and will obviously depend on how successful the producer is. The range is from free (but probably with some back-end earning) to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Some producers will ask to be paid by the track, and others will request a flat fee for the entire project. You will probably be expected to pay a percentage of the fee in advance and further payments in the middle and at the end of recording.

 

What are "points", and how much do producers get?

"Points" are a royalty that the producer will earn from the album, but this will only be payable once the fee paid to the producer has been recouped by sales of the recorded material. A "point" is equal to 1%. The producers "points" are paid out of the royalty that the artist is paid by the record label. For example, if the artist has a royalty rate of 14%, and the producer is earning 3 "points" the artist royalty will be reduced to 11%. As with the fee structure, the amount of "points" payable varies depending on the success of the producer. The common range is from zero to 4 or 5 points. If a producer believes in a project, but knows that the artist has a limited recording fund, they may charge a reduced fee for the recording, but ask for higher than usual points in return.

 

At what point does a producer earn royalties?

This is negotiable, but the producer can start receiving a royalty once the fee for production has been recouped, or (depending on the wording of the producer contract) the entire recording fund (sometimes including mastering expenses). Therefore, it is likely that the producer will start getting royalties before the artist, as they will not be charged with recouping other costs such as touring and video costs.

 

Do producers usually mix the albums they record?

This varies from project to project, and from producer to producer. There are producers who always like to mix their own productions and will make this a criteria of their production agreement.

 

There are many specialist mixing engineers who you may want to use to mix your album. If this is the case, make sure that this is discussed early with the producer, and the extra expense is accounted for in your recording budget.

 

How do I find and choose the right producer?

You should listen to the records you like and see who has produced them. Producers are usually represented by management companies, and resource books are available which list the managers and the rosters that they represent.

 

The best producers are always in demand and are usually booked many months in advance, so plan as far ahead as possible to avoid disappointment and have 2 or 3 other choices ready in case your first choice is unavailable.

 

If your ideal producers are out of your price range, it may be worth trying to approach the engineers that have worked on your favorite albums. Good engineers often become good producers and you should be able to negotiate a good fee in return for helping an engineer get some production credits.

 

Why do producers like to work in the same studio?

Familiarity with the surroundings, the equipment and the sound a particular studio makes are very important to a producer. This knowledge will also make the recording process go faster which will have an impact on the budget. It is also likely that the producer will live locally and be able to spend time with their family. This will be of benefit to you as you will be working with a happy producer.

 

What does a Mixer do?

After all the tracks (music and vocals) are satisfactorily recorded, the entire album will need to be mixed. This will ensure that the instrumentation within each track is balanced in a correct and aurally pleasing way and that the tracks all fit together sonically.

Sometimes a mixer may be brought in to mix or remix one or two tracks on an album, usually the tracks that have been chosen as singles. The job here will often be to make the songs sound better on radio.

 

How is a mixer paid?

The fees and points charged by the mixing engineer follow the same principles as outlined for a producer.

If you work with a successful producer and a mixing engineer, you should be prepared to give up 5 or 6 points of your royalty. This may seem high, but the skills that a producer and mixer bring to a project could be the difference between success and disappointment.