Why Unsigned Artists Need to Work With A Great Producer
The music industry is in unchartered waters. One thing holds true however; that labels are taking less risks on artists and artists now have more power than ever to take control of their careers. The advent of the internet, YouTube and cover videos, MP3s, reality TV shows, games and media consumption in general have changed the business model dramatically. Although every situation, label or artist is different, one truthful generalisation is that labels want to jump on a moving train; they want some action or artist-created-buzz before they commit to signing an artist.
Ideally, record labels want millions of viewers and the media (magazines, blogs, newspapers, YouTubeosphere) to already be aware of the artist to some extent. There is no one-way to get a deal. The music industry is, in many respects, like the wild west;- high risk, high return. Ultimately what this means is that your music has to be stand-out and finished. There should be no difference in quality, either technically or artistically, between your music and that on Radio 1’s A list and the good news is that it is more than affordable. Unlike making a Hollywood blockbuster (try making Avatar on your laptop!), it is possible to use the same plug-ins, sounds and software as the big boys. The difference is your talent and the talent of your team.
Enter the producer….a good, experienced record producer can bring the following to the table:
1. A great song
It all starts with a great song. Many artists have the ability to write great songs, either just toplines or complete songs - chords and toplines, while some singers have the voice but can’t write to save their lives. Whitney Houston is one household name that didn’t write but her vocal prowess was undeniable. Leona Lewis didn’t write on her first album but that didn’t stop her from shattering several sales and download records.
I find that the majority of artists who come to me with poor material have poor material because their backing tracks are awful and so the song on top is not great. I say to people, “if the backing track makes sense, then the song will make sense”. Fortunately, coming up with great backing tracks is something a good producer will be able to help you with, making it easy for artists to be able to write ear-catching songs. A talented producer will also have a team of writers that he can call on to write for the artist if he/she doesn’t write or their writing skills still need work.
In some cases, the artist may have several songs to choose from and a good producer should have the “ear” to be able to choose potential hits from a selection of songs.
2. A polished radio-ready master
Although technically the studio master of your track will need to be mastered professionally before it goes to radio, there shouldn't be much difference between the studio master and the output from the mastering house if the producer or whoever has mixed your track has done a good job. Some producers do not possess the special skills that it takes to execute a great mix and only act as producers.
But before that, it should go without saying that a talented producer should be able to coax a great vocal performance from any level of singer. As a producer it’s our job to make the singer sound good whilst making the track commercially viable. I’ve worked with some very fine singers over the years including Leona Lewis, Emile Sande, Lifford, Rachel McFarlane Daley, as well as some artists who rely on autotune. It’s a funny industry - you wouldn't sign a footballer who couldn't kick a ball, yet singers who can’t sing in tune are sometimes signed, but a producers job is to deliver the record regardless - and not kill dreams.
3. Advice and contacts
When starting out many artists can find it difficult to make meaningful contacts that can help to move their career forward. The truth, as stated earlier, is that there is no one-way to make it. Your producer may be able to put you in touch with helpful contacts and provide you with advice but don’t expect this information until after you’ve worked with that producer! My services as a producer extend a little further, and I have submitted especially good tracks to my contacts for possible inclusion for TV, film and game sync opportunities and had them placed on several occasions in international films and network shows. This is obviously great on several levels for the artist - it generates revenue, creates awareness and a story.
To summarise, although no producer can guarantee to take you from zero to hero, an experienced producer may be able to use his knowledge, skills and contacts to help elevate you to the next level of your career. Where you go from there will ultimately be determined by your talent, determination and lady luck.
Producer / Writer / Mixer
Producer/songwriter/remixer/mixer OD Hunte (signed to Levels/EMI, home to Emile Sande, Wretch 32, Leona Lewis, Daley, Unkle Jam, and many more) is an Urban Pop Producer specialising in Electronic R&B, Pop, Urban, Soul and Hip-Hop. OD has previously had a European No. 1 and platinum certification with Natalia Druyts (SongBMG), as well as placed tracks in many US films including American Pie 6 and Farce Of The Penguins featuring Samuel L Jackson, and had game placements in EA Sports NBA Live07 and Fight Night Round 3, plus scores of US network shows such as The Hills, The Kardashians and Hey Paula! He has also written for Extreme Music/Sony ATV, Megatrax LA, PigFactory LA and KPMH Music House/EMI in London. Contact OD Hunte for production, writing and mixing enquiries. www.odhunte.com