A record producer is an individual working within the music industry, whose job it is to oversee and manage the recording (i.e. "production") of an artist's music. A producer has many roles that may include, but are not limited to, gathering ideas for the project, selecting songs and/or musicians, coaching the artist and musicians in the studio, controlling the recording sessions, and supervising the entire process through mixing and mastering. Producers also often take on a wider entrepreneurial role, with responsibility for the budget, schedules, and negotiations.
Today, the recording industry has two kinds of producers: executive producer and music producer; they have different roles. While an executive producer oversees a project's finances, a music producer oversees the creation of the music.
A music producer can, in some cases, be compared to a film director, with noted practitioner Phil Ek himself describing his role as "the person who creatively guides or directs the process of making a record, like a director would a movie. The engineer would be more the cameraman of the movie." The music producer's job is to create, shape, and mold a piece of music. The scope of responsibility may be one or two songs or an artist's entire album – in which case the producer will typically develop an overall vision for the album and how the various songs may interrelate.
In the UK, before the rise of the record producer, someone from A&R would oversee the recording session(s), assuming responsibility for creative decisions relating to the recording.
Early record producers
During the 1890s, Fred Gaisberg ran the first recording studio and provided the closest approximation of production by guiding an opera singer closer or further away from a gramophone's horn to match the dynamics in the score. (Citation: Gronow and Saunio 1998, p. 8; Moorefield 2005, p. 1).
However in the first part of the 20th century the record producer's role was similar to the role of a film producer in that the record producer organized and supervised recording sessions, paid technicians, musicians and arrangers, and sometimes chose material for the artist. In the mid-1950s a new category emerged, that of the independent record producer. Among the most famous early independent producers are the famed songwriting-production duo Leiber & Stoller, "Wall of Sound" creator Phil Spector and British studio pioneer Joe Meek.
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