Around my work in the studio I teach production classes at a national music institute and one of my classes is for a Music Business degree (the darker side of the industry, ay?!). One lesson in particular stood out to me as it raised a pretty important question - ''what exactly is a producer?''. It very quickly became apparent that the terms 'producer' and 'engineer' (recording engineer) have almost no difference to people who do not identify with either role in the industry (and out of the industry), so how do I explain to people who have no experience in (nor do they care about) the ins & outs of these crucial roles?
The first thing I had to do was create a very simple expectation of each role. I had already explained the difference between those that primarily see colours (artists/creatives) and those that primarily see numbers (mastering engineers, labels etc) in a previous lesson, so I had a good head start. I expanded on this analogy so that I wasn't feeding them brand new information, they were merely adding to what they already knew. If you're an artist or are in a band this will give you a good insight into how to communicate with your studio of choice and those left in charge of capturing your 'audible vision'.
Producer - A project manager. They will tell you where/how you can improve your project and will be in charge of making creative choices on your behalf (don't get precious, it's their job!).
Engineer - Those who are in charge of capturing the creative choices, adhering to the brief and making sure that what is captured is artefact free.
And that's literally as simple as I can make it!
Although these roles do have cross-over points in what they do they are often left separate for higher budget projects. My favourite combo is Dave Cobb (producer) & Vance Powell (engineer) on some of the Rival Sons discography, or almost anything they collaboratively work on. I'm by no means the biggest Rival Sons fan (quite the opposite for the majority) but the work that went in to it all is absolutely amazing. However, most studios are ran as a solo operation where 1 person will take on more than just the 1 role. My biggest bit of advice here isn't to avoid these studios (that would be virtually impossible on the average budget) but to communicate effectively (before, during and after the project), follow your producer/engineer's advice (especially if you're on a strict time schedule/budget) and stay on track for what you originally intended for the project (don't decide to completely change your mind about the what you envision on the producer/engineers time and budget.... make sure you have the additional funds/time to do so).
Anyway, that's my first blog over with! I'll expand on all of this in the near future. Comment and let me know what you think,