At least once a week I get a CD of an aspiring artist handed to me. I’m convinced Starbucks is the music and business hub of Nashville. I really try to make an effort to listen to everything that I receive. After all, I know first hand from the last fifteen years how hard being an independent musician can be. You never know, that blank disc with the band name scribbled in mint green marker just might be the next Coldplay.
Ninety-nine percent of the time the CD is sonically not up to par (this is my nice way of saying absolutely freaking terrible!) and there are always basic song writing mistakes spread through out. Now if you had stopped reading here you would walk away thinking there is no hope and that Blake guy is a total jerk. But wait, there is hope! This is the point where we all sit back, take a deep breath, take a sip of our favorite coffee, and address the issue of why working with a producer is so important.
A friend of mine once told me about when he fell into an opportunity to work at a small boutique ad agency in the late sixties. He had just gotten back from being on a two month long tour with his band. To land a job that wasn’t bagging groceries was a huge stroke of luck. As the agencies youngest employee, he soon found himself marketing everything from toilet paper to Swiss cheese. Once a week they would all gather in the conference room set the product for whatever new account they had just landed in the center of the table and they would start brainstorming. “What’s different about this product than its competition? What are the products uses? What are the benefits? What are the negatives? How do we hide or spin the negatives?” It wasn’t long before my friend realized how much his new work at the ad agency was a perfect image of artists in the music industry. The point is, when you are “the product” it is near to impossible to be blatantly, terribly, and ruthlessly honest with yourself about the quality of your product.
I think the job description of a producer is this:
A person that helps you do what you do better, or as my mentor Lynn Nichols say’s “Let’s figure out who you wanna be when you grow up”.
We live in an amazing time where every ten year old kid has a pro tools setup in their bedroom. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of every artist spitting in the eye of the cigar smoking, music biz fat cat! The fact is, in order to compete in today’s music business you need great songs and a great recording. Yes, I know there are, of course, exceptions to the rule. We’ve all read articles about the guy who recorded his whole Grammy winning album in his bedroom in Iceland or whatever. That’s great for him, but for the rest of us mortals we need to seek outside input to reach our potential. Don’t let pride or even fear be the reason why you release sub par music. Find yourself a producer!
Blake Easter is an accomplished songwriter and music business professional based out of Nashville, TN.