The Formula for Producing a “Hit Record”
by Douglas Romanow, Producer/Engineer
Someone once told me that the formula for producing a ‘hit record’ was easy: record a hit artist singing a hit song. And really, it’s not any harder than that. [Except that finding a "hit artist" with a "hit song" is perhaps not as easy as stated]. But I’d like to begin this blog by stating that after producing records for twenty years, I’ve discovered a textbook truth for myself: no one really cares who the producer is, who the engineer is, who the drummer / bass player /guitar players are, where the track was recorded or who mixed / mastered it. The record-buying public cares about one thing only: that they feel something. If one can bottle emotional impact, one can bottle the potential for hits.
Emotional impact is best conveyed through two primary elements: composition and delivery. Songs and Singers. The rest of us are involved in facilitating the presentation of these elements to the world. This Truth [that the song still rules, delivered by an emotionally empowered artist] has focused my approach to record production, where I push for clear emotional delivery, moving artists into their peak performance state. Should we care about snare drums? Yes. Should we care about mix detailing? Most definitely. What about time-locked tremolos and reverse samples and vintage instruments? You bet! But how much should we care? Personally, if I had to weight these production elements, I’d give them [a significant] 30%. The other 70% belongs to melody, text/subtext and vocal delivery. This is where music producers can really shine, bringing out the best in each artist and connecting the emotional truth of each song to the listener. I’ll spend the next few posts looking at “finding truth” for recording artists, from the perspective of composition and performance.