As music producers, it's important to understand the overarching goal that drives us forward with our work.
The simple goal of music production is, as the name would suggest, to produce a piece of music (to record it and store it for later playback). Having a music “product” is having something that can be listened to via playback, whether through digital streaming, vinyl records spinning on a record player, or any other means of reproduction.
Music production is about creating a bridge from an artist's vision and performance to a polished sound that resonates through our speakers. It's about ensuring the songwriting and composition have the maximum impact on the end listener upon consumption of the music “product” being played back.
I emphasize the word “product” here, which is taken directly from the term “music production”. This product, again, can be any storage medium from which music can be reproduced through playback.
In this article, we'll dive deeper into the goals of music production and why it's so important.
The Overarching Goal Of Music Production
Think about your favourite records. What emotions do they evoke in you? What memories are attached to them? What drew you to them in the first place, causing you to listen to them on repeat?
There are many records that are near and dear to my heart.
- Some demand a deep appreciation of the technical prowess.
- Some evoke strong memories of certain phase of life and certain relationships.
- Some get me amped up, others bring me calmness, and others are so deep and inspiring they bring a tear to my eye.
And the best part? I can return to these records at any time because they've been produced.
I don't have to go see the orchestra to hear Stravinsky's The Rite Of Spring. I don't have to get sweaty in the mosh pit to enjoy Job For A Cowboy's Doom EP. I don't have to have a Time Machine to hear Led Zeppelin's catalogue (it's impossible for me to choose a favourite Zeppelin album). I can bump Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly in my vehicle on my way home from work without knowing the man.
It's in these questions that the overarching goal of music production is to be found.
The overarching goal of music production is to create a music product for playback that gives the music itself the maximum impact on the maximum number of listeners.
The entire process of music production (pre-production, recording, editing, mixing, mastering and distribution) is important and indeed critical to this goal.
There are other goals as well, but this is the ultimate music production goal worth striving for. Speaking of the smaller goals, let's break them down further.
The Multifaceted Goals Of Music Production
Music production is not a one-dimensional craft; it's a complex blend of objectives that cater to both the artist's aspirations and the audience's expectations.
Thus, we must incorporate the following goals into our music production endeavours:
Let's explore these multifaceted goals worth aiming at.
Artistic Expression: Crafting A Sound That Represents The Artist’s Vision
Music, at its core, is almost entirely about artistic expression. That's true whether we're writing our own music or practicing the same passage from Frédéric Chopin's Études Op. 10 for the thousandth time.
This core part of music translates directly to music production.
A main goal of music production, then, is translating the artist's thoughts, stories, and emotions into a sonic form that others can experience.
A music producer (whether it's the songwriter himself or a third party) serves as a counsellor for this expression, helping to carefully select the tools and manage the performance to craft a final product that embodies the artist's original intent.
This process is akin to a painter choosing the right canvas and brushes (the tools), but also the right blend of colours and techniques (the performance) to bring their visual creation to life.
It doesn't have to be polished and “perfect”. Rather, it needs to represent the artistic vision to the fullest extent.
Technical Excellence: Achieving The Best Possible Sound Quality
The pursuit of technical excellence is a cornerstone of professional music production. Indeed, to compete in today's pop music climate demands such polish and excellence.
I know, this sounds in direct contrast to what I just mentioned — “It doesn't have to be polished and “perfect”. Rather, it needs to represent the artistic vision to the fullest extent.” Hear me out.
It's my opinion that technical excellence doesn't necessarily mean the meticulous attention to detail that ensures every frequency and decibel is sculpted to perfection.
Rather, “technical excellence” in music production is having the ability to troubleshoot issues and get the precise sound to match the artistic vision — even if that sound is “unpolished”.
Having the skills to produce high-fidelity masters from crystal-clear mixes made from super-clean recordings is, of course, a goal worth striving for in music production. They are hallmarks of a great producer who holds technical excellence and dedication to the craft.
Aesthetics aside, it's this dedication to quality that ensures the music stands the test of time, remaining as impactful on the hundredth listen as it was on the first by offering the optimal listening experience.
Emotional Connection: Creating Music That Resonates With Listeners
Music is the universal language of emotion.
Well-produced music does more than just sound good—it feels good. It has the power to move people, to evoke memories, and to stir emotions.
The producer's role is to enhance the raw emotion of the music, ensuring that it connects with the listener on a deeper level. Whether it's the warmth of a vinyl crackle or the raw energy of a distorted guitar, a special effect or well-crafted performance conditions, the producer leverages these elements to create a music product that speaks directly to the soul.
Commercial Success: Producing Music That Performs Well In The Market
I hesitate to get too far into this subject, but while artistic integrity is paramount, commercial success is also a significant goal in music production.
There is often tension between fulfilling the artistic vision of a musical composition and commercial success. Many musical genres do not have the same potential reach as others.
For example, we might hate pop music, but our favourite breakcore album (shout out to Igorrr's Hallelujah) probably won't go over well at the local gym, bar, dance club, etc.
I'm of the opinion that the primary use of music is artistic expression and, in turn, my own music production work isn't necessarily about commercial success.
- I don't promote the music I produce or mix for other artists.
- The music I write is written as a way to express myself and not for any specific audience.
- When I was working professionally as a composer for media, I learned plenty about composition but eventually became drained about re-hashing the same old “cookie-cutter” music (it was largely for advertising purposes).
Of course, the last thing I'd want to do is discourage you from making money by producing commercially-successful music if that's your ambition! I simply wanted to share my own experience and insights.
Moving on, while “commercial success” may not be the goal of a given project, a producer should at least be cognizant of the market trends, audience preferences, and the business aspects of music.
Producing a hit record that climbs the charts and resonates with a broad audience is a balancing act between maintaining artistic vision and crafting a commercially viable product.
Maybe that's why Beyoncé's Run The World (Girls) has 4 producers (and 6 writers) — or maybe that's just the way the music industry plays at the top level to get people paid. Either way, these producers produced a commercially-successful song.
Ultimately, it's not just about selling records; it's about creating a piece of art that can sustain an artist's career and ensure their music is heard by as many ears as possible. In this way, commercial success will mean different things to different artists and their teams.
For example, a small-scale new metal band's first full-length may be considered a success if it's able to reach a very niche portion of the market and drive ticket sales to upcoming tours.
Conversely, a pop star will likely have a much greater overhead to cover (with a much larger team of people working to manage the project). A hit song, then, will likely demand more insight and energy to reach that specific standard of “commercial success”.
It's important for music producers to have these goals in their periphery.
Call To Action
Pick 5 of your favourite records (songs or albums) and listen to them with the discussed goals of music production in mind. Ask yourself the following, and write down your answers:
- What is the overall impact this music has on me?
- What specific elements of the music, be it songwriting, instruments, effects, performance, mix aesthetic or something else, that give this sense of impact?
- Does the production style match the music itself? What would you change, if anything?
- Where does the production fit on the “raw-to-polished” scale?
- How commercially-successful was the record?
Next, take those same questions and keep them in mind as you engage in music production with your next song.
What is the goal of mixing? The goal of mixing is to achieve the optimal balance of a recorded song that maximizes that song’s impact on the end listener. In other words, our job as mixers is to understand the song from an emotional level and to have the technical abilities to enhance that emotion for the listener.
For more information: What Is The Goal Of Mixing Music?
What is the goal of mastering? The goal of mastering is to optimize music for playback across all platforms, ensuring the highest-quality and consistency possible (especially in albums having multiple songs). Mastering is where loudness is achieved and the final format(s) are prepared for distribution.
Have any thoughts, questions or concerns? I invite you to add them to the comment section below! I'd love to hear your insights and inquiries and will do my best to add to the conversation. Thanks!
This article has been approved in accordance with the My New Microphone Editorial Policy.