The word “producer” gets used a lot in conversation and I often wonder if the person using the word to describe themselves understands the weight of the word.

In the most basic definition, if you create any art on any level, then you are a producer. This means if you write a song, you could call yourself a producer. If you created a beat for a song, you could also call yourself a producer. But for me, there is much more work required before you can call yourself a producer.

In the late 80s through the mid 90s I worked with a good friend, David Ozab on a number of albums. We were recording to analog systems in school studios. This meant that studio time was precious, and we had to work fast to complete a song. Within a four-to-six-hour time block, we would finish an entire song. I would arrive with an idea and we started sequencing immediately. Often, we would track the main keyboard part, then add parts with each pass. Sometimes I would ask David to add a guitar part and he would create one as we were recording. It was fun and rushed but at the end of the block, I had a song written, recorded, and mixed. I would go home with a cassette copy of the song and say, “look what I recorded and mixed.”

I never used the label “producer” because the process was not thought out and planned. I relied on spontaneity and the rush of inspiration to create the song. Nothing was ever though out or planned. Yes, I had ideas and sounds that I wanted to get across, but I never took the time to really question every note, word, and inflection. I just needed to get the song done.

Production is a process that requires time and effort. Production is looking at each word in the lyric, each note in the melody and progression, and even the form of the song. Production is examining every element of the song and refining them until the song achieves its full potential. Production is assembling the best songs into an album and ordering them in a way that takes the listener on a journey. Production is taking the idea of a song and turning it into a complete work that best represents the artist’s intent and vision.

I could go on and on about this, but I will stop for now. But I will leave you with one thought to contemplate…

If you continuously ask yourself and others “how do I know if the song is done,” then you really have not produced a song yet.

A producer knows when a song is done.