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Music Producers

History

The job of the contemporary music producer as we know it began in the late 1940s with the development of magnetic tape as a recording medium. Tape provided a new and flexible method for producers to enhance the outcome of the recording session. Before tape, records were cut on warm wax blanks that allowed only minimal manipulation of sound quality. Generally, whatever the musicians played in the recording studio is what came out on the record, and the degree of quality rested almost entirely in the hands of the studio engineer.

The innovation of tape and the introduction of long-playing (LP) records brought significant improvements to the recording industry, which had previously been restricted to the five-minute playback time of 78 rpm records. Tape could be edited, enhanced, played at different speeds, and most importantly, it allowed for multiple recording tracks to be adjusted individually.

By the 1950s, producers were the key people in the record industry. They sought the talent to make hit recordings and often picked the material to be recorded. Until the mid-1950s producers were generally producing seven-inch, single records, often hiring arrangers to write the musical arrangement. In the mid-1950s, with the beginning of rock and roll, emphasis switched to full-length 12-inch records with multiple songs from the same artist. In the late 1950s, a relatively new factor appeared in the music business: the independent music producer. Until this time producers worked mostly for the record companies. The independents, however, hired their talents out to the studios by claiming they had the connections and vision to produce the next hit. They took over all elements necessary to produce the recording. Soon producers began to make their own contracts with the artists, produce the records independently, and then sell them to the record companies for distribution.

The producer's job description remained pretty much the same until the early 1980s when the importance of music videos to the commercial success of a record became apparent. Music videos drastically changed the rules some producers lived by. Now they not only had to worry about hiring talent, audio recording engineers, and sound technicians, but also set and costume designers, video technicians, film directors, choreographers, and other skilled workers who worked for visual effects. They had to learn the basics of film production in order to help direct video production, just as they do for recording. Today there are some producers who work exclusively with video.

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