Do you know the differences between a Music Producer and a Sound Engineer?

Hi everybody!

Today I’d like to bring some clarity on a topic which often brings confusion to most and also the people that operate in the music production industry. Let me talk about the differences between a Music Producer and a Sound Engineer.

A lot has changed since 1925, when the first electrical recording was made. We can say that from that moment, a new profession was born: The Producer.

Generally, we can think of a Producer like a clerk of a record label, going around and make the recording possible. Despite the simplification I just made, we could associate a Producer to a Director in the film industry. He’s more of a coordinator with a strong technical and musical background. He is the acting lead of the entire team which is making the album possible, taking out the following duties:

  • From a musical point of view he is in charge of:
    – The music arrangements of the band/artist, reviewing, approving or changing them, also with the help of other professionals, if are needed;
    – The lyrics, by directing the band in the song writing or by hiring professional writers if he feel the need of extra lyrics;
    – The rehearsal, a good producer tries as much as he can to attend for the rehearsal sessions of the band/artist, to guide thm and also to better overview the content of the future recordings;
    – Arranging any possible collabo between the band/artist and any other musician; From a technical point of view;
    – He is the responsible of the hiring of the recording studio and of any other facility required by the band, providing the best solution for that specific project;
    – A good Producer is also in charge of over-viewing and directing the work of the different Sound Engineers involved in the process, also by suggesting which specific kind of gear to use where;
    – Sometimes the Producer is also able to perform the Mix of a song. Yes, he is cool like that!
    – He generally reviews any draft produced by the studio and the band, making decisions on them.
  • From a logistical side, he also takes care of:
    – The Budget! He is the guy who knows how much is possible to spend for that project.
    – Coordinating all the teams involved in the project: A&R, Marketing, Sales & Distribution, Studio Facilities, Accounts and any other amenity.
    – Looking for additional funds, mainly from the Recording Label.
    – But there could not have been any music recording without a Sound Engineer! For decades, these individuals were considered the sacred monsters of the studio, always surrounded by urban legends and myths.

In part is still like that, but let’s see together what a Sound Engineer does exactly:

  • He is the technical person in charge of all the technical needs of the session;
  • He perfectly knows how the studio is wired, where every input and output leads, which button to push and when;
  • The Sound Engineer is responsible for the comfort of the musicians;
  • In a Mixing environment usually he is the one performing the sound mix;
  • In a Mastering environment he is the one to direct the Producer and the band on the final sonic outcome.

But as time passed by, the industry evolved. In the ’80s, with the digital revolution and the depreciation of audio equipment, some of the musician of the digital generation started to take some shortcuts, and apply a holistic approach to their crafts. Not only musicians then, but also Sound Engineers, Producers, Marketers, Distributors, Graphic Designers, Accountants, Booking Agents and, lately, Web-designers & Social Media Managers.

What I call a Modern Music Producer, is in fact a jack-of-all-trades, which following the proverb… is a master of none. Mastering all the aspects behind the production of an album does not allow one to perfect any of those aspects, nor focus on the product, the music! This approach can save a lot of money, but at which price? As a proof of that, we can attest to a general decadence in the quality of the modern productions, especially on the musical side. Of course, this is valid mostly for the upcoming market, where resources and talents aren’t available. Nowadays we have access to gears that the generations before us could not even dream about, and despite that there is a huge lack of talent.

I’d like to close this post with a quote from Edward R. Murrow, who said “The speed of communications is wondrous to behold. It is also true that speed can multiply the distribution of information that we know to be untrue.”

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