The record producer as nexus
: creative inspiration, technology and the recording industry

  • Michael Howlett

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    What is a record producer? There is a degree of mystery and uncertainty about just what goes on behind the studio door. Some producers are seen as Svengali-like figures manipulating artists into mass consumer product. Producers are sometimes seen as mere technicians whose job is simply to set up a few microphones and press the record button. Close examination of the recording process will show how far this is from a complete picture. Artists are special—they come with an inspiration, and a talent, but also with a variety of complications, and in many ways a recording studio can seem the least likely place for creative expression and for an affective performance to happen. The task of the record producer is to engage with these artists and their songs and turn these potentials into form through the technology of the recording studio. The purpose of the exercise is to disseminate this fixed form to an imagined audience—generally in the hope that this audience will prove to be real. Finding an audience is the role of the record company. A record producer must also engage with the commercial expectations of the interests that underwrite a recording.This dissertation considers three fields of interest in the recording process: the performer and the song; the technology of the recording context; and the commercial ambitions of the record company—and positions the record producer as a nexus at the interface of all three. The author reports his structured recollection of five recordings, with three different artists, that all achieved substantial commercial success. The processes are considered from the author‘s perspective as the record producer, and from inception of the project to completion of the recorded work. What were the processes of engagement? Do the actions reported conform to the template of nexus? This dissertation proposes that in all recordings the function of producer/nexus is present and necessary—it exists in the interaction of the artistry and the technology. The art of record production is to engage with these artists and the songs they bring and turn these potentials into form.
    Date of Award2009
    Original languageEnglish


    • Sound recording executives and producers

    Cite this