What is a “Modern Producer”?

Hello everyone. My name is Kern Ramsdell. I am an all round audio nut. I have been involved with music, in one fashion or another, since I can remember.

I was asked to contribute to “The Modern Producer Magazine”, by the way of submitting articles. Before I even got bust writing articles, I asked myself, “Hey, what the heck is a modern producer?”.

If I had to define what a “Modern Producer” is, I would say things like this…..

A modern producer is someone that is tasked with leading people (friends or clients) through a project, or a list of projects, that all lead up to a well defined “end goal”.

In the exciting time in audio that we currently living and working in, the term “Projects” can be many things. Projects can be the act of recording a song, or maybe a whole CD, finding musicians to help on an exsisting project like an online collaboration. I think it can also be making artist “press packs”, getting an artist or a band gigs, and lots of similar activities.

So, the term “Modern Producer” can mean a lot of things to a lot of folks.

If you were to ask me what being a “successful” modern producer means, I would tell you that to be “successful” you must finish projects in a timely fashion, and conclude the project with positive results. That can also mean many things.

You must have a clear “end goal” in mind. You can not leave things open ended. Failing to define when one goal ends and another begins will make for a never ending sense of gloom. Things can become tedious and clients will loose confidence in you as a producer.

Being “successful”, as a producer, in defining your “end goals”, means that you must consider things like appropriate time frames. The more realistic a goal is, the better your chances are of reaching that goal on time, and with success. I like to “pad” or add time to a goal for a couple of reasons. First, things will go wrong. They always do. Leaving some time for things to go wrong is a great idea. Next, if you tell the clients that their work ethic is so good that they reached the goal quicker than you had planned for, they might have an over all good feeling about the project, and about working with you.

Being successful also means things like keeping clients excited, charged up, and happy as you go through a project together. What is a successful production of a project?  Reaching goals that you set, (either by yourself or as a group) reinforces the idea that you are making progress, and that you are making positive movement towards the end goal that you set.

Being a Modern Producer means that you will need to be many things. You will be the endless source of answers. You will be the person that solves problems. You will be the person responsible for “putting the fires out”. Thinking of every detail, details that will make up a project, in advance, is not easy. But as you perform repeat projects with other clients, thinking of the little things, in advance will become easier and easier.

Being a Modern Producer requires that you wear many hats. For example, when working with new clients, you must have a good understanding of what it is that they want as an end goal, and what you want as the end goal. Getting clients to jump on board with your ideas is not always easy. Everyone has their own ideas about how it is that they will reach stardom, and most people will not like the idea of exchanging their way of doing things for yours.

When you first meet with a new client to discuss a project, you must rely on your understanding of “all things music” to make quick, yet solid decisions. Most clients will have great ideas, wild dreams, and everything in between. Remember that most wild dreams are actually many smaller projects mashed into one great big dream. Breaking the dream down into manageable projects is the job of the modern producer.

For example, new clients might tell you that they have 40 songs ready to record so that they can make a double CD to sell while on tour.

You must “reign in” their ambitious ideas and politely suggest “reachable goals” instead. This can be tough for both parties involved. Please concentrate on your language. Instead of using phrases like “that is ambitious” or “no, that is not what you should do”, try phrases like, “I really like your enthusiasm, it is contagious” and then hit them with, “have you thought about setting reachable goals?”, and “Doing so will keep things heading in the direction of success”. Once they are eating every word you are saying, hit them with the sales pitch: “I have a plan, a plan that we can all agree with, and the end goals look exactly like your vision”. You now have a new client.

Recently this very sort of thing happened to me. I met a group of four guys that sound very good together as a band. So good in fact, that I actually approached them. Long story short, they let me know that have 40 songs that they are ready to record. I suggested that they whittle it down to five of their absolute best songs. The look on their faces went from excitement to disappointment. Without missing a beat I told them that I like to set reachable goals. I like to measure progress because it keeps things like recording an EP exciting. Setting reachable goals also helps to deter failure to complete a project. Step by step, in a timely fashion, we can all get there.

Align there vision with your vision or it will never work. It helped that I reinforced my vision with things they had already related to me. I told them that I want to use the EP (containing five of their best songs) as a way to help the band get future gigs. Then, I went on to say, we can hopefully gather a fan base from those gigs. I went on to say, “If things continue to work for the band, then we can consider sources like crowd funding for that CD full of songs”. Vision sold.

If you think about this situation that I just detailed, then as the “Modern Producer”, I am the one that is leading the charge. I must aim the momentum of the group into a direction that best fits their ideas and our goals. I must try to “reverse engineer” their dreams, and then make a realistic game plan that allows for any unforeseen problems, well in advance. Both the artists and the producer must be on the same page, and totally committed to the plan.

My advice to those wanting to become successful “Modern Producers”? Take a breath and then take that first step. You can do this.