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Who knows best what 'sound' will make a hit record - Record Producer or A&R manager?

A post by David Mellor
Sunday April 11, 2010
What makes a hit record? Sometimes it's the song, sometimes it's the sound. But who decides whether a certain 'sound' will sell?
Who knows best what 'sound' will make a hit record - Record Producer or A&R manager?

Question from a Audio Masterclass visitor...

Hi, I'm Enrico from Italy. I've heard that a great Record Producer know the right "Sound" for a song, so this song will be an HIT Single. Is it right? I mean, a song won't be great for the idea of the author, but for the SOUND the Record Producer know is the best to create an HIT Single. Is it true?

Thanks a lot.
Have a nice day.

Enrico

David Mellor replies...

You have hit the nail on the head here. Knowing what makes the 'sound' for a hit single is exactly the job of a Record Producer.

However there is someone for who this is even more important...

The record label's A&R Manager!

The A&R Manager's job is to find new talent and by whatever means get them to make a record that will sell.

Suppose that an act he or she has signed has just finished a recording. The A&R Manager listens to it. What they are thinking about above all else is whether the record will sell.

There are four possibilities...

  • The record will probably sell.
  • The record probably will not sell.
  • The record probably will sell, if remixed.
  • The A&R Manager doesn't really know and is only guessing.

Believe it or not, the last option is more common than you would think. However, the powerful marketing techniques of the record industry, coupled to the fact that pretty much the whole of the industry is owned by only four companies, means that the A&R Manager can get away with the occasional mistake, as long as they have a good track record of recent successes.

So the A&R Manager doesn't need any musical talent or production skills. He or she merely needs to know whether a record will sell.

However, to be successful, a Record Producer has to be able to create a record that will sell. And that is in addition to the song itself. The dividing line between the song and the sound has become blurred, but the deciding factor is whether or not the public will buy in sufficient quantity to pay back the marketing budget and make a profit.

Naturally that involves a knowledge of the sounds that are currently selling, and the instinct to be able to provide just the right amount of novelty in a record that will catch the public's attention.

How easy is it to become a successful Record Producer?

If you work in a musical style that uses samples, then often you can ride on the back of your samples and produce a sound that is marketable without actually having all that much of your own knowledge of how to create sounds that sell. It's then down to luck.

Outside of that however it is extremely difficult to become a successful Record Producer. So better get ready for the long haul and learn your trade from the ground up thoroughly.

It won't happen by accident!

A post by David Mellor
Sunday April 11, 2010 ARCHIVE
David Mellor has been creating music and recording in professional and home studios for more than 30 years. This website is all about learning how to improve and have more fun with music and recording. If you enjoy creating music and recording it, then you're definitely in the right place :-)
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