Many criteria go into choosing a producer. Style, studio equipment, and even personality all play a role. It's tempting to put on blinders and just assume any producer is perfect for your music, but that's simply not the case. Here are four warning signs that the producer you're working with might not be a good fit.
1. Your producer forces ideas on you
Good producers will always take the artist into account. If they think they have a great idea, but the band doesn't go for it, they might argue their point of view, but they'll never shove it down their artists's throat.
I was in the studio once and a producer suggested adding sirens to a song in a cool way. I thought it was a really good idea. The artist came back with a very firm “no” and it was dropped – no big deal.
Ideally, working with a producer should be a meeting of the minds. Everyone is more or less on equal footing and there for the good of the music. Obviously, a producer is supposed to take the reins a bit, but if the process isn't collaborative to a great degree, there's an issue.
2. He or she doesn't seem that excited about you
You don't need someone fawning over you, but ideally, your producer should be excited to get you into the studio. If you're cutting take after take and he or she is giving you a dead-fish stare, then it's possible that that person is just after a paycheck.
Another warning sign is never being able to schedule a recording time. There are exceptions, of course. Many top producers can be booked months in advance, and you'll need to exercise some patience in that type of situation.
It's possible your producer really likes your stuff but is truly busy. If he or she is evasive about even giving you a time, constantly canceling, or it taking eons to move through your project, however, it might be time to look elsewhere.
3. You don't click
Whenever I hear stories of great producers, it seems like they fit right in like another member of the band.
If you and your producer don't get along right off the bat, that's a bad sign. You're going to be spending a lot of time in the studio together – hours upon hours – and if you don't gel from the beginning, it may only get worse.
On the flipside, it's always possible that first day is an off day for one of you. If you like this person and his or her work otherwise, it might be smart to revisit your partnership over coffee later and see how you can improve your in-studio relationship.
Many people I've met tend to work best when they're relaxed and having fun. That isn't always the case, though – sometimes people create their best when they're on edge or in emotional turmoil. (There are legendary bands and writing partners who couldn't stand each other and still made great music.) This might be you, and if that's the case, you might specifically want to work with someone you don't get along with. But for most, it probably isn't a good idea.
4. Your producer has no idea what he or she is doing
If your producer has a stellar resume and track record, it's a safe bet that he or she is more experienced and reliable than someone you found on Craigslist. If you go into his or her studio, however, and discover that he or she isn't familiar with his or her tools, takes forever to do something that should be quick, or constantly makes mistakes, it might be a sign that he or she is new.
I once recorded a great take with a new producer. but when we went back later, we discovered it was far too quiet to actually use. Another one peaked repeatedly causing distortion. Other takes weren't even recorded because he forgot to hit the button.
Although mistakes do happen, and technical glitches are always a thing, if they happen too much you may need to reassess.
Keep in mind, however, that working with a producer who's learning can be considerably cheaper. Consider fumbles and a high learning curve part of the price you're paying (although your producer should be putting in time learning his or her equipment and be prepared as much as possible). If it's something that bothers you, or it's just gotten too outrageous, it might be time to move on.
Finding a producer is easy – finding the right producer can be a challenge. Do your research and find the right fit. And if the relationship doesn't feel right, go with your gut. Don't be afraid to call things off and keep looking.