Twenty five years in the music industry have given me the opportunity to work in various roles including music marketing, sales, audio engineer, musician and artist manager. One thing I’ve noticed is the value artists put on their producer versus the others involved in building their career. Producers are involved in the creative process giving them a kindred spirit with the artist. Most artists don’t blink an eye at paying a producer as they place value on the producer and I agree they should. Ironically, once the producer finishes a project, the producer moves onto the next paying client. Artists sometimes fail to recognize recorded music does nothing until the others in the process move the music from the studio to the consumer. Sales teams, marketers, publicists, artist managers and booking agents work day in and day out on artists’ behalf. Unfortunately, those roles are often taken for granted. When I hear artists complain about paying others involved in the process of growing their career and audience, it is obvious they don’t place value of the other pieces of the music puzzle. Have you ever seen a puzzle with missing pieces? I would argue it’s not a puzzle.
Who do you value? Who works on your behalf daily to move your career forward? Have you told them how much you value them?
One might be inclined to ask “why would a new recording studio in the Nashville area be big news?” Owners Mark Lange and Chris Brush would respond by describing their new PlethoraTonestudio as a giant candy store for those in search of that special tone. The new studio is loaded with a plethora of unique vintage guitar amps, guitars, bass guitars, keyboards and drums which promise to bring extreme joy to those in search of that special tone. There are even a few unexpected instruments for those looking to explore something unique.
Mark Lange has spent his career in Atlanta, Seattle and Nashville producing, engineering and pioneering one of the first Midi/tech stores in America in the early 80s, Micro Music.
Chris Brush, a Dallas Texas native moved to Nashville in 1999 to tour with various artists in Christian, rock, pop and country genres. Brush now spends his time as an in-town session drummer, mix engineer and producer.
PlethoraTone was designed for tone and acoustic excellence while offering a private, comfortable and creative environment as top priority. Producers, engineers and musicians will experience an incredibly unique and friendly environment amongst a plethora of possibilities for tone.
One of the things I love about being an artist manager, is watching the music come to life in the studio. Our artist, Ryan Corn, is currently working on his new record with Paul Mabury producing. Paul is an amazingly talented Australian producer who has worked with Hillsong, Brooke Fraser and All Sons & Daughters to name a few. He is most known for his incredibly talented drumming which can be heard on records by Hillsong United, Brooke Fraser, Brandon Heath, All Sons & Daughters, Jason Gray, Dave Barnes, Bebo Norman, Steven Curtis Chapman, Tobymac, Kari Jobe, Josh Wilson, Darlene Zschech, Leigh Nash and others. Paul is also a member of One Sonic Society with Jason Ingram and Stu G. In my college days, I was a drummer so I am particularly drawn to those who lay down magical grooves and Paul is one of those guys. Below is a video of Paul laying down the drum track for one of Ryan’s tunes. Enjoy!
Artist Development is a process that was originally created by record labels to groom young artists for the big leagues. Many young artists have raw talent that needs refinement and that process takes time. Unfortunately, the new music business economy left record labels with a lack of resources to fund artist development. Record labels now want “fully baked” artists who are ready to release music immediately. So who fills the role of artist development?
Artist Management companies are the new “Artist Development Departments”. As an artist manager, I find myself in the process daily. While it requires patience, it can be quite rewarding when you find an artist willing to listen, learn and work hard.
5 Key Steps To Artist Development
– Songwriting – The most important element of artist development! Without great songs, everything else is meaningless. The first thing we do with new artists is set up co-writes with great writers in an effort to grow them into great songwriters.
– Vocal Coaching – Some artists may only need to learn how to protect & take care of their voice but most artists will take huge performance leaps with the right vocal coach.
– Performance Coaching – While we do a great deal of this ourselves, we also bring in performance coach professionals as needed. Fortunately, we have an artist roster to pull from who offer some of the best coaching.
– Live Producer – This involves bringing in a producer to help with instrumentation & arrangement of songs. What the audience hears out front can differ greatly from what the artist hears on stage or in a rehearsal room.
– Image Consulting – Many new artists think they have a great look. “Think” is the key word in that phrase. Artists need a look that is memorable & sets them apart. Fortunately, my wife & business partner, Diana Stancil, has a great eye and talent for this. The tough part in image consulting is convincing the artists to stick with the new look and resist falling back into old comfortable habits.
As an Artist Manager, I find myself more involved in artist development and the production side of the business than ever before. Something I have learned to value is the art of finding the right producer for an artist. Producers come in all shapes, sizes and flavors but “one size fits all” is definitely a bad formula to follow. Just because a producer has experienced success with another artist doesn’t make him/her the right fit for you. If a producer is more concerned about letting you know their accolades than they are about giving you a recording that you are happy with then I would encourage you to keep looking. I found myself dealing with a “rock star producer” this past year and every conversation started with “I produced the #2 song of the decade.” The sad reality is that decade is over and all I wanted was a great recording for my artist.
Great communication is an extremely valuable characteristic of a producer. I am currently working on a artist project with Chris Stevens, one of the top producers in Nashville (Tobymac, Mandisa, Carrie Underwood, Jamie Grace, Blake Shelton), and his communication is spectacular. Not once has he mentioned his accolades (and he has a lot of them) and he returns emails/phone calls within a couple of hours. The experience has been on a level so much greater than others I have dealt with. His communication plays a big role in his success.
5 key elements for Picking the Right Producer
1) Has the producer recorded music with a similar sound/direction that you are looking for?
2) Is the producer more concerned about his deal points than he is about making great music? If so, keep looking.
3) Is the producer willing to do what it takes to make you happy no matter how much time it takes?
4) Is the producer willing to commit to an “all in” price that fits your budget? This will save you a large surprise bill at the end.
5) Is the producer willing to commit to a deadline?
And lastly, I am a firm believer that producers should get paid a fair price for their work. You may not be able to afford the top producers but there are plenty of young talented producers looking to make their mark and willing to work within your budget. A word of caution though, NEVER pay a producer the full amount until he/her has delivered the final product. Paying them 50% up front and 50% upon delivery is an industry standard. Producers need incentive to deliver so keep the incentive in your favor.
Who are some of the great producers you have worked with?
I am so thrilled to announce that the Music Gardener’sPick of The Month for April is Brandon Bee! This week Brandon is celebrating the release of his sophomore record, Inside These Walls. The record is being released on Save The City Records and distributed through Sony/Provident. I had the privilege of experiencing this record from it’s infant stages. One of the songs was even birthed in our home on our piano while Brandon was visiting Nashville. This record shows the depth of Brandon as a songwriter and showcases his creative innovative production. I truly believe that Inside These Walls has the potential to be a Grammy contender. Do yourself a favor and buy this record. You won’t be disappointed! Please visit the Pick Of The Month page to here more about Brandon and sample some of the music.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I am the President of Artist Garden Entertainment, an artist management and marketing company that manages this artist. Regardless of that fact, I only recommend music that I personally believe is exceptional and would be enjoyed by my readers. I am not compensated directly for reviewing this record or for the “Pick of The Month” with the exception of receiving free music for review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
As an artist manager, the task of finding the right producer presents itself on a regular basis. Pairing up an artist with a producer should take more thought than just shopping for the best price. The best price could result in a crappy sounding recording and wasted money. My advice is to put serious thought and research into your choice. I thinks it better to do a few songs with the right producer as opposed to ten songs with a producer you are settling for.
The economics of hiring a producer have changed drastically over the last few years. Due to the drop in music sales and a drop in the cost of recording technology, record labels have slashed their recording budgets forcing producers to work for lower wages. The positive thing about the economical change is that it puts great producers closer in reach for independent artists. The downside is that technology has become cheap enough that anyone can jump in the game and call himself a producer. There is a major difference in a demo producer and a record producer so make sure you are hiring the right person for the job. Many demos sound great but they are not produced well enough sonically to ever get a shot at radio. During the producer shopping process, keep in mind that producers have to eat, pay mortgages and many have families to take care of. When you find the right producer, you should be willing to pay him a decent wage for his art.
Five important questions that an artist should think about when shopping for a producer.
1) Have you heard any of the producer’s work?
2) If you have heard the producer’s work, do you love it?
3) Will the producer be writing with you to help take your songs to an even higher level?
4) Does your producer play instruments which saves you money on hiring players?
5) Is your producer more interested in the money or does he really believe in you as an artist?
The right combination of artist and producer creates beautiful records!