Can you be artist, engineer and producer all at the same time?

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of

Thursday August 22, 2019

So many home recording studio owners try to be artist, engineer and producer. Can you really compete with the professionals by trying to do everything yourself?

John Lennon, George Martin, Geoff Emerick

Recording is a very competitive industry. Only the very best can succeed and sell enough records to make a living.

It's tough to be an artist or band. There are so many artists and bands and every one is busting a gut to succeed, both in writing and performance.

It's tough to become a recording engineer. You have to start as an assistant and spend years working your way up to full engineer. Don't forget the 14-hours days either.

To become a producer you need expert musical knowledge, an understanding of the requirements of the market (which is both the record label and the public), and the ability to link musical and technical creativities and considerations in both directions.

At the top of the professional industry, each of these roles is fulfilled by someone who has devoted his or her whole life to their craft.

So let's see... you're going to compete by doing it all yourself in your home recording studio.

Wow, you must be some kind of genius!

So you need to get real and give up. You're never going to succeed.



Once you have realized how truly immense the degree of difficulty is, you can start to look for ways to work around the problems.

Firstly, you cannot compete with the big boys and girls head on. They will steamroller you into a bloody pulp. The longer you go on trying, the more of your life you will waste.

So here's a plan. In fact, here are two plans...

Plan 1: Specialize

There are lots of people out there who are interested in home recording. It stands to reason that some of them must be great artists and performers, some must have engineering talent, and some must have the overview to be able to put it all together.

So which are you? Artist, engineer or producer? Pick your best talent and work on it.

Seek out other potential team members to work with and collaborate. Yes, collaboration isn't easy, but that's why the best recordings have come out of collaboration.

Plan 2: Choose your genre

There are certain genres of music where the roles of artist, engineer and producer naturally converge. I could give several examples, but here is just one - experimental electronic music.

If you wanted to create original music using electronic and digital sounds in new ways and new combinations, there wouldn't be much point in having a separate engineer and producer. The recording process would be part of the compositional process, so it's best for one person to handle all of the roles in parallel. The same could be said of EDM (electronic dance music), although some producers would benefit from using a mix engineer and most would benefit from specialized mastering.

There are also genres where the roles of engineer and producer converge. It is fairly common for producers who work with bands also to engineer. This is because bands can often supply nearly all of the musical creativity themselves, without requiring a producer's guidance, other than for sounding out opinion.

Also, some producers fulfill a similar role to a musical arranger, but instead of writing the musical dots, they play with musical 'building bricks' on the landscape of a sequencer's edit window. It would be pointless telling an engineer what to do.

In summary, anyone who wants to achieve success in music should realize the incredible difficulty involved. You are competing with people working at the very top of the industry, and for most musical styles it would be sheer folly to try and do everything yourself.

But if you can seek areas of opportunity where it is practical to go it alone, you will be much more capable of producing work that the public, and record labels, will want to listen to.

P.S. The image combines songwriter and musician John Lennon, engineer Geoff Emerick, and producer George Martin, who collectively created the sound of The Beatles, with help of course from Paul, George and Ringo. That's the level of skills you are competing with.

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