There are a lot of jobs out there that are pretty vague. What does an actuary do? What does an accountant do outside of April? Why do attorneys charge so much money? Perhaps there is no bigger question in any industry than what is a producer?
Typically, a producer is an unemployed actor in Hollywood. Sometimes, however, a producer actually has a living. There are different types of producers for different industries. This post focuses on music producers, a/k/a record producers, a/k/a managers, a/k/a you get the point. There is little standard terminology in the music or cinema industry. What you consider a producer could be a manager in another context or an accountant in another industry.
A typical record producer is someone who oversees the recording of music. This job may entail sound engineering and adjusting audio for a recording, assisting ideas for songs, working with the artists to create concepts for albums, or selecting songs for studio recording. This kind of producer has a heavy hand in actually producing the music itself. These producers are oftentimes gifted artists themselves. Say what you want about the man, Kanye West was an excellent producer before he struck out on his own.
Another kind of producer is the executive producer. This person manages the project’s finances, and sometimes takes on the role of booking the talent, managing contracts, negotiating deals, and arbitrating disputes. Many of these roles are the same that you’ll find with other individuals. For example, a booking agent’s whole job is to get gigs for talent. Then again, so does a manager. The difference here is really one of time and energy investment assisting the talent. A more involved booking agent is more like a manager than an agent. A manager who also handles negotiations, creative direction of the talent, and financial matters may also be a producer. In most other industries, an accountant or a lawyer handles these types of activities. Again, we see a blurring of talents in the artistic industry.
Ultimately, titles are meaningless. Artists need to get paid. That’s the real job of a producer/manager/booking agent/etc. Some bands act as their own booking agents, managers, and producers. Most farm out these services because running a band is like running a small business. There are a lot of moving parts and it takes a high degree of specialization to make each part operate smoothly.