7 Fatal Mistakes Artists Make When Getting Their Songs Produced

Artist Emma Marie recording a song for production with ItyDity. Photo by Ben Fields for ItyDity

If you’re a songwriter and you’re thinking about taking the leap to finally get your songs professionally produced, first off, congratulations! This means that you’ve already spent some time working on your craft and now you feel confident that you have one or maybe even a handful of songs that represent your best work. While an acoustic recording of your song can easily be done at home using just your voice and maybe also one or two instruments like your guitar or piano, this acoustic recording (usually regarded as a “demo” version) won’t likely be something that you can use to promote your career. Demos are great for showing to friends and family and for getting your ideas down as you continue to hash out new material, but once you believe you have one song or a handful of songs that are better than the rest and if you are looking to get those songs played on the radio, Spotify or Apple playlists, licensed to TV or Film, or shopped to record labels, generally you’ll need something more serious than just a demo version. If you’re looking to promote yourself more seriously as an artist and/or advance your career, what you’ll need is a market ready, fully produced and professionally mixed and mastered version of your song. And to do that, you’ll need a music producer. The term “producer” is a term we’ll be using a lot in this article so before we jump in, let’s begin by defining exactly what a producer is.

A producer is someone who is able to add additional instrumentation, sounds, and effects to your song in order to “fill it in” and enhance the overall sound and feel of your song. A producer is someone who can either “do it all” themselves or who can orchestrate a team of professionals on your behalf to get it all done — adding multiple instruments as needed, mixing the tracks by adding effects like reverb, delay, and compression to your vocals and instrumentation, and mastering your song (balancing and optimizing the final mix for playback across any format).

As you’ll see in this article not all music producers are alike. In fact, producers vary greatly in their abilities, skills, musical tastes and styles and each producer has their own little secret sauce that sets them apart from the pack. That secret sauce might be certain instruments that they play distinctly well or more often it is a unique way of using sound or mixing techniques that add a certain feeling to an otherwise bare bones track. Either way, a producer’s secret sauce and their ability to stand out and enhance an artist’s vision is usually the result of honing their skills and building up a personal library of sounds and techniques over time. In other words, a producer is able to lend his or her own artistry to an artist’s song due to the many years of practice making creative decisions derived from their own personal tastes in combination with the songwriter or artist’s musical style.

So all this then begs the question: If the level of professionalism and uniqueness of style can vary so greatly from one producer versus the next, how can a songwriter possibly know who is going to be the best fit for their particular song? How can they avoid picking the wrong producer and furthermore, what can a songwriter do to protect themselves, their wallet, their safety and security, and to avoid winding up worse than where they started — deflated with poor quality results? Simple. They can avoid making just a few common fatal mistakes.

Here are the 7 Fatal Mistakes Artists Make When Getting Their Songs Produced

Mistake #1: Working with an amateur and getting amateur results

When you embark on your journey of getting your songs produced, you’re likely going to be solicited by producers with little or no experience whose biggest selling point is “I’ll do it for pennies.” These producers are trying to climb the ladder just like everyone else; but, if you’re serious about your art, then you need to work with people who are serious about what they do too. Let the hobbyist producer hone their skills on the hobbyist songwriter. If you want to be a professional artist, your team needs to be made up of people who are also professionals.

An amateur producer may be super-creative or a good musician but, well, you already have those skills. If you’re only looking for someone to just bounce ideas off of, then ask a creative friend. A producer should not simply assist you in making your music but should instead take you to the next level and provide the things you lack (otherwise, why do you need them?). Two of the most important assets a producer can bring to the table is knowledge and experience. They know what works and what doesn’t work because they’ve tried and tested it in countless situations — with different artists, in different genres, and in different songs. The reason you hire a producer is to not only to do the things you can’t do but to make your art the best it can be.