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Production Magic: Revealing Tricks & Conjuring Business

11th November 2006 @ 6:30 pm - 9:00 pm

Venue: The Magic Circle

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This event is in association with the Music Producers’ Guild

focusrite
Focusrite are giving the chance for one delegate to win Liquid Mix, worth £500!  Visit their stand and enter the draw. Liquid Mix retails for £500, from November ’06.
robertsontaylor
Robertson Taylor are giving the chance for one delegate to win a bottle of champagne! Visit their stand and enter the draw.

INTRODUCTION

“I wanted to create a picture in music of what could be up there in outer space”

– Joe Meek –

The producer is so often a mercurial, enigmatic figure – the particulars of the art remaining to some extent indefinable; what makes a great producer, ultimately intangible…

“He didn’t want to float on the surface. He didn’t even want to swim. He wanted to jump in and go deep. He wanted to marry a mermaid”

– Bob Dylan on Daniel Lanois –

“I look at what I like and I look at what I do, and I’m just striving to get the two together. I just react to people performing good songs well”

– Nigel Godrich – 

But there can be little doubt, even in this iPod age, that these intangible skills remain invaluable, if under-valued, to industry, fans and artists alike.

“I always have a producer to the side of me, and I never want to do a record by myself”

– Wyclef Jean –

With this in mind, MusicTank in conjuction with the MPG has drawn together iconic producers and emerging pioneers in the field to assess the ongoing role, the current challenges, the future options and the enduring truths of production, and in so-doing puts the producer centre-stage.

Taking place at the award-winning Magic Circle, this unique, humorous and quirky venue lends itself perfectly to what will be a highly memorable and enjoyable event.

The day will be moderated by MusicTank Chairman, Keith Harris, and production journalist, Dan Daley from the US.

ALAKAZAAM! – NILE RODGERS

As a founding member of Chic he almost single-handedly defined the disco era with timeless multi-platinum selling singles such as “Good Times and “Le Freak”: global hits which are sampled to this day.

As a producer Nile Rodger’s influence is arguably even more pervasive. His evergreen productions include Sister Sledge (“We Are Family”, “Lost In Music”), Diana Ross (“Upside Down”, “I’m Coming Out”), Madonna (the “Like A Virgin” album), David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” (which remains Bowie’s all-time best-selling album), INXS (“Original Sin”) and Duran Duran (“The Reflex”, “Wild Boys”). He’ll be telling Production Magic the secrets behind a hit, and the ways to find that new, era-defining sound…

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Nile Rodgers’ appearance is supported by Focusrite.

 

SORCERER AND APPRENTICE: ARTIST AND PRODUCER EXPECTATIONS

How do producers negotiate with artists and labels, in order to be given the time and space to develop a talent to its full potential?

At the recording of ‘Low’:

David Bowie, looking at the Eventide Harmonizer: “What does that do?”

 

Tony Visconti: “It f***s with the fabric of time!”

It has traditionally been the role of the producer to push the artist’s perceptions of the possibilities of sound, develop their capabilities, nurture their talent. This is still relevant to the modern 3-minute-popsong market with “name” producers, from the Neptunes to Xenomania, Richard X and William Orbit, in constant demand.

But with major labels demanding a quicker turnaround on new artists (from Pop Idol winners to “the next Keane”), a new breed of producer has emerged with the technical wizardry to act as a musical incubator – eking out multi-tracked pitch-perfect recordings from pub performers in two sessions flat.

The focus of A&R has accordingly shifted, to producers with their own studios and equipment, who won’t hound them for studio budgets. The need to make a profit means the further narrowing of A&R sights to that of commercial music. Cultivating eccentric artists via sympathetic producers is a luxury for the wealthy.

Also, with US playlisting in particular ever more dependent on high-profile, attention grabbing remixes, what is the role of the DJ / remixer in this process – especially with former DJs such as Norman Cook and Danger Mouse becoming the leading modern producers?

How can artists be sure what type of producer and producer-relationship they are getting? What is the changing role of the label and artist-manager in determining the best producer for the artist? Does the producer still have an active role to play in an artist’s career path? Or is there a new hierarchy emerging whereby the more established the artist, the more creative input they receive from producers, with start-up artists expected to accept a quick-fire production approach which primarily serves the labels’ needs?

Is this an inversion of the sensible “Creative-Producer + Raw-Talent = Art” equation (think The Beatles and George Martin, The Libertines and Mick Jones) or a natural progression from the days of Phil Spector and Motown when early conveyor-belt productions paved the way for later creative blossoming (think Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye)?

 

MAGIC OR ILLUSION? LOOKING AFTER THE PRODUCER

How has the producer-manager relationship altered, what is the producer’s desired role in an artist’s career and who is keeping tabs on this?

Sonny Bono:

“What is qualified? What have I been qualified for in my life? I haven’t been qualified to be a mayor. I’m not qualified to be a songwriter. I’m not qualified to be a…producer. I’m not qualified to be a successful businessman. And so, I don’t know what qualified means.”

Can the producer-manager help to differentiate the varying interests of producers – on a one-to-one basis and overall – to ensure that all skill-sets are fully appreciated and the bounds of the role are properly defined?

If labels and A&R are increasingly susceptible to commercial pressures when choosing producers then must your average producer become a businessman first and the creative force only when the luxury allows? Are the producer-managers doing enough to shoulder the burden of these concerns?

Ten years ago producers were arguably creative people who were looked after by their managers but now the producer is developing the artist, sometimes managing the artist, often promoting the artist to labels etc. – who is looking after the producer’s interests? Who exactly is the manager and of whom?

The role of the producer-manager has changed considerably over the last 20 years. Has it now morphed from an entrepreneurial, risk-taking activity akin to artist management, into one of low-risk, project management? What constitutes good producer management? Do producers need managers, and is representation an increasing necessity or an overplayed luxury?

 

THE REVEAL – PHIL RAMONE

This legendary producer will reflect upon his unparalleled knowledge and experience of production from his earliest work as an engineer on legendary sessions for John Coltrane, Stan Getz, through to his major pop productions which brought eight Grammy awards for the likes of Paul Simon’s “Still Crazy After All These Years”, Billy Joel’s breakthrough albums and Frank Sinatra’s technically complex comeback albums, Duets and Duets II.

Along the way Phil has also collaborated with a who’s who of modern music including Barbara Streisand, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, George Michael, Elton John, Rod Stewart, Burt Bacharach and Quincy Jones. 

 

RABBIT OUT OF A HAT: SHOW ME THE MONEY

Producers have not always shown the greatest foresight when it comes to determining the most profitable future revenue streams:

Joe Meek on The Beatles:

“Just another bunch of noise, copying other people’s music”

Phil Spector on the album, as a viable commercial form:

“Two hits and ten pieces of junk”

This needs to change? This panel will consist of a mixture of established successes and entrepreneurial new names, record producers, royalty experts and music consultants for TV and film.

The panel will examine the challenges the producer now faces, in marrying artistic desires & considerations with increasingly tougher commercial demands – how are traditional revenue streams being affected by the shift to online music and what alternative sources of income are out there? And, following on from the pre-lunch discussion, are such concerns better left to producer management?

Producers are concerned about the dilution of their revenue streams. There are significant implications when having a point or two on a £15 CD suddenly becomes a point or two on a £0.79 download. And with per-track budgets falling, the first question on a producer’s mind is typically “How am I going to be able to make any money out of this?”

Where does the funding come from to set up as a producer, to entice new projects? And what are the options for producers looking to diversify – to produce music for film, TV, advertising and beyond?

Ongoing developments in both user-friendly digital technology and the online options for consuming music are also forcing producers to re-evaluate their place in the music value chain.

The U-Myx format, for example, gives consumers more control over the mixing of tracks (by providing constituent parts as “stems”) but also requires more from the original producers who have to mix-down and prepare the “stems”. But consumers pay a premium for the added-value. With U-Myx now chart-eligible, is this mix-it-at-home approach a threat to the producer / remixer mystique or a valuable future revenue stream?

Meanwhile, the likes of Myspace can publicise the work of a producer, but have done little to monetise the art. Do new initiatives like www.sellaband.com offer an answer, publicising band demos for public investment and then, when a target investment is reached, hooking the artists up with producers who are guaranteed to make ten percent of publishing on the resulting recording? Are there other viable options to turn social networking / sharing of music to the producer’s advantage?

With so much to consider in an ever-competitive market, how can (and do) producers maximise the moolah?

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