It’s a curious and slightly painful moment when you hand over a finished record to the record company. As a producer, you control every aspect of how a record is made, from putting the budget together at the start, to deciding on every nuance and detail of the mix at the end, and every creative detail in between. How loud should the lead vocal be? How much reverb (echo) should the piano have? Should the whole mix be louder, softer or more or less dynamic? Does that guitar part work after all, or shall we leave it off?
In the studio, the producer is like a director on a film set. The buck stops with you. If the record turns out rubbish, it’s your fault. If it turns out well, you take a degree of credit (not all, but some). But throughout the process, you’re in control, central to the recording’s existence.
Once the record is finished, the master is delivered to the record company and everything changes. Your work is now done, and the focus shifts to those who are responsible for promotion and marketing.
This transition from a central role to a largely irrelevant bystander, represents a loss of control and involvement which can be quite a wrench. For me, this is especially so in cases where the record has been more emotionally significant than usual. Perhaps it’s been a long and drawn out creative process, or a labour of love, or perhaps just an artist I care deeply about.
This next phase in the process is sometimes referred to as Setting the record up. This means creating a public buzz about the record through newspapers, radio, TV and the internet. No matter how good a record is, if nobody knows about it, it wont sell.
A successful release needs (a) LOADS of exposure and (b) to be good (or at least to have something about it that people like and connect with).
Only with both of these boxes ticked (and a fair wind) can any record become a hit.
The producer’s role in setting the record up is usually minimal. Possibly I’ll be called on to prepare a shortened version for a TV appearance. Sometimes I’ll go along to the TV studio to consult on the sound mix or some technical aspect. Occasionally I’ll board a newly returned naval sub.
Then finally, the day of release comes.
The record is unleashed into the wild to survive or die, like a new bird leaving the nest.
At this point, nobody has any control over what happens. Everything has been done to ensure that the record sounds as good as possible. Everything has been done to ensure that it’s had the maximum possible exposure and promotion. The next stage is both decisive, and simple. Does the record connect with the public?
If not, then like the vast majority or releases, the record will have a brief life on the shelves before quietly disappearing.
This can be so heartbreaking after weeks or months of supreme effort and care.
But when it does connect, wonderful things can happen.
It’s the most exhilarating and incredible feeling to be involved with a hit record.
Knowing that you’ve played a part in creating something which moves people to want to own it, is like no other feeling.
It’s like riding a wave. You know it will eventually fade away, but those moments, held aloft by momentum are just amazing.
So, here we are.
The Military Wives single is in the shops from tomorrow. (It’s been available to download today and is currently no. 1 on iTunes, which is encouraging.)
This week will determine whether or not we secure the much coveted Christmas Number One spot.
It’s simply all about the numbers. If we sell enough, the number one is ours (to be announced on Christmas Day).
If not, then this year’s X- Factor winners (and current number one), Little Mix, will hold on for another week at the top to claim the prize.
I’m feeling quietly confident (William Hill just slashed the odds to 1/8), but we’re not there yet.
Every single copy of Wherever You Are sold, will make a difference to the lives of those helped by The Royal British Legion and SSAFA Forces Help
Think I’ll head to the shops tomorrow to buy some errrr.. nice sounding Xmas presents. : - )