Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Music Producers (Part 1): Who are they... Jack-offs of all musical trades?

I've been in the music business, here in Canada, for over 30 years. I ran my professional vocal school, which is now a division of 4 A.M. Talent Development & Artist Management Group Inc., as well as, our own independent label, Royans Universe Records for over 27 years. 

Over all this time, I've been vocally training people (estimated over 18,000 students) and also recording a lot of demos (first tapes and then CDs).  From time to time I was attempting to do the full productions with some of my prominent and talented clients, where I had to engage the services of a Music Producer, while myself, I was trying to play the role of Vocal Producer. "Vocal Producer?!!!" You may exclaim, "What's that?".

For years, I was trying to answer this question to the best of my abilities and especially to convince and persuade those music producers who I have been (or potentially would be) working with. Some of them had no concept of it, outright; others had difficulties understanding my role; and some of them pretended that they understood, but only for the sake of gaining my well paying clients for themselves. However, when I was attempting a session abroad recently with some so-called "music producers" who were immediately getting into competition with me and screaming that they know all about the vocals, as well as everything else and then were trying to eliminate me out of my session, in spite of all the terms that were negotiated and pre-paid much in advance by my client for services to be provided by both the music producer and myself.

Needless to say, by my experience, not too many music producers know much about vocal production. To the credit of some of them, at best they know what they want to hear, but most of the time they don't have the slightest idea of how to arrive to the point of their own satisfaction and a resemblance of some "professional standards" through natural performance (i.e., without the excessive use of any studio gadgets). It is presumed that in general, the producer is the "Jack of all trades" -vocals included.

Let's, for a minute, imagine that somebody just had a car accident and was admitted to the emergency room, where it was detected that the patient had a neurological trauma, gynecological trauma, and orthopedic challenges. What would be your guess as to who would operate on this patient? Would it be a) a general practitioner or b) three different specialists who are specializing in each of their particular fields? My wild guess would be that it probably would be a neurologist working on the head trauma, a gynecologist working on the female organs trauma, and lastly, it would be a doctor of orthopedics fixing the limbs. Logical, isn't it? However, this type of logic evidently does not apply to the music producers as such. They think and "play" the specialists of every aspect of the studio performance, when in reality they are just "general practitioners" who know hardly enough, in detail that is, to get by and produce (at best) a mediocre performance, especially vocally.

A lot of them, to cover their inadequacy, are trying to use the technology in excess (jacking off with autotune and melodyne), as well as putting lots of "sauce and cheese" (a colloquial studio expression for when someone is trying to cover up a singer's imperfections with lots of effects, double tracking, excessive reverb, loud backing vocals and what have you). To take it even further, some of them are denying the vocal performance as a class. They're trying to convey the message that the hit song and the perfect instrumental production, with the faked autotuned and melodyned (full of sauce and cheese) vocal tracks), will do a perfect job, for today's evidently "deaf" (and not very alert, to put it mildly) society.

I have noticed that people are getting more "deaf" by the minute, as apparently off key, out of tune, out of tone and (mainly) off time, is a "fresh and young vibe", according to one so-called "prominent" producer that I recently worked with. How so, I was trying to intervene, at least remotely in the session with my poor client who was completely confused and did not know anymore what was right and what was wrong. Every time I was trying to advise my client on how to make her performance at least remotely resemble something what was once called "pitch" in music, the producer was screaming into the intercom "brilliant!" and "wicked!", confusing my client to the tee. The client definitely knew better. She has recorded at least 4 demo songs with me and now was thoroughly messed up and did not know who to listen to or believe, as the producer was posing for the "Be All & End All" Jack of all trades (and, apparently, a big specialist in vocals ... go figure!!!)

When I inquired as to why he was misleading the client, his response was that he didn't want to frustrate my client and tried to keep everything positive, however, to my standards completely and utterly sung wrong, out of pitch, time, and character.

At the end of the project, he advised my client that everything he recorded with "my help" (what little he let me do) was unacceptable since the tracks I was actually able to intervene in were actually sounding quite in tune and somewhat in time. That remote resemblance of what music standards once were was a little bit too overwhelming for the "prominent" know-it-all producer...

Unfortunately, this experience isn't exclusive to today's music industry, as it began long ago in my home land. For years I have been desperately trying to prove the need of a Vocal Producer/Mentor in the studio for the greater and up-to-standards vocal production. When this particular producer was approached by my manager with the proposition of working with my clients as Music Producer, with my participation as Vocal Producer in the studio, he agreed on every level that my services were needed and expressed excitement after thoroughly examining my website and articles, which I have been writing for a number of years for many reputable publications. I thought, "Bingo! I have finally found an open minded producer who is welcoming my services for the sake of a quality vocal production that is deserving of obtaining a major record deal for my client". Little did I know ....

What are your experiences in working with music producers? Please feel free to leave your comments below (if you have any) and stay tuned for Part 2 ... if you will...

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