With YouTube and Vimeo, more and more people get at the hang of producing, but the question stays: how do you make sure you pick the right one to work with? Let’s take a look now at the 10 questions you should be asking a music producer before paying them.
10. What genre do you specialize in?
After the 2008 collapse, people generally have lowered their standards. That goes for producers as well. Someone who probably used to do only pop music, now agrees to produce hip hop too because bills need to get paid. And we got an issue here. You see, if you’re going to pay for a track, you better make sure it is someone who LOVES producing the genre you’ve picked: if you are a rock band, you need a rock music producer. If you are a pop singer, you need a pop music producer, so on and so forth.
9. For how long you’ve been composing X type of music?
Experience is so vital to success. The more experience one has in a particular genre, the more they can meet your needs musically and the more they’re able to guide you even afterwards, like telling you what key the song is in, and what’s the best mic to record the vocals with. You DO NOT want to hire a kid who writes music from his virtual keyboard and has no idea about chords or keys or anything that is actually required of a professional to know. The more years they have under the belt, the better.
8. How do you approach composing a new instrumental?
You need to know if this guy/girl writes stuff from scratch or if they use commercially free loops, or worse, unlicensed samples. When asking such a question, the most satisfying answer would be something along the lines of ”I try to understand the artist’s preference and personality, and compose accordingly”. On the other hand, if you’re choosing to work with someone who writes randomly only when the so-called inspiration strikes, you might get yourself a very flat-sounding beat. You’re gonna have to wait until they feel inspired enough and you don’t know when that’s gonna happen for sure.
7. What are the biggest artists you’ve worked with so far?
Again, if you’ve saved enough to afford a good producer, make sure you get your money’s worth by hiring someone who actually has a track record. Get a list of the names the producer has already worked with and google them. Did any of them ever make it to the radio? Did any of them ever get into lawsuits? Did they put out quality content or only home-made videos? Did any of them have a fallout with so-called producer? If your producer only worked with amateurs, he’ll give you amateur-level instrumentals. Also, if you got doubts, contact these artists personally and ask for their opinions on X producer. You will be surprised at how honest and useful their feedback is. Better than any Google search.
6. Do you only take care of the production part of the song or the post-production as well?
Not everybody is mega talented, but there are some amazing producers that are also sound-engineers, and they can edit your vocals, mix and master the whole thing, and have your song radio-ready. And usually you get to save a lot of money if the same person can do all 3 jobs. Otherwise, you might have to pay 3 different people to get a song professionally done. If you’re independent and on a budget, get a producer that can start and finish a song.
5. What’s the turnaround time?
You want to know how much time the whole process is gonna take, as you need to plan for the release of the single (or EP, album, or whatever you got going on) in advance and build the hype. Not one producer can give you an exact time and hour, as it is art after all, and it is subject to change, but… an approximate amount of time, give or take 2 extra days, should definitely be in discussion.
4. If I shall need you to take or add an instrument, do you do it for free or at an extra cost?
Some producers, as part of the contract, will agree to make modifications within reasonable limits. Others will just drop you the beat and be on their way out. Others may make changes but at an extra price. So make sure you discuss this in advance, as most likely, unless you’re a complete newbie, YOU WILL want changes to be made before the whole instrumental is considered complete.
3. Do you take 50% upfront and 50% once the work is completed?
If the answer is ”I get paid 100% before I start working”, GET OUT NOW. Think about it, if you had to work a month to get 3 grand, but somebody just hands you that money, would you still feel compelled to go to work? NO, you wouldn’t care. You already got what you want so why should you bother, right? All artists that I know, that have paid fully in advance, ended up with unreleased tracks, incomplete beats, poor sounding demos, and huge resentment. DO NOT PAY ALL THERE HAS TO BE PAID UNLESS WORK IS FINISHED AND YOU’RE HAPPY WITH THE RESULTS. Fairest policy: 50% before, 50% after.
2. When can I give you a definite answer?
”Whenever you make up your mind” is THE only answer there should be. If there’s ANY pressure, RUN. For one, a good producer is always booked and doesn’t worry about you not agreeing to work with him/her. 2dly, a professional understands you need time to make up your mind and do your research, and might even encourage you to sleep on it before you decide. 3rdly, a good producer cares about his reputation more than the money he might make off you. A real producer cares that you think highly of him/her, regardless of working with them or not.
1. Do you mind signing a contract that specifies all working conditions and terms we’ve agreed on?
Again, there’s only one acceptable answer here: ”No, not at all”. If on the other hand you get hit with ”I’ve worked with artists that broke the Top 100 and not even 1 asked me to put it down in writing” or something along the lines, here’s what you do in the following order: screenshot, block, delete. That is a toxic person with an ego bigger than life itself and 9 times out of 10, a scammer. A real producer won’t cause you any emotional or legal discomfort. They’re there to work and they are perfectly fine with signing a piece of paper, if that is what it takes for you to trust them. Experienced people know and are fine with it.
Cheers to the professional producers who do their job right!