Producers Take Center Stage In The Digital Age
    • WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 28, 2015

    • Posted by: Josh Ramos

    The digital age has made everything easier. Since the rise of the Internet an influx of resources are now readily available to anyone with a connection. Instantaneous access to vast amounts of information, people, and cultures are now at the tips of our fingertips. One of the main industries affected by the digital age, for better or worse, is the music business.

    Every year controversies and lawsuits amass because of the inability to come to an agreement with how these technological advances should fit into the music industry. Sampling issues, studio clearances, and streaming services frequently make it difficult for record labels to control what music is released and how people are hearing or using it. Not everyone, however, has an issue with using these newfound digital technologies to their benefit. The rise of the digital age has certainly led to the rise of the producers era.

    Recently, producers have resumed the practice of curating their own albums with specific sounds and featured artists. Not since the days of Dr. Dre in the 90s has a producer had so much control over his or her music. Currently the number one hit in the country is Mark Ronson's "Uptown Funk" featuring Bruno Mars. Ronson, known more for his production talents than his own music, proves that all talent can be sold as long as the public accepts their image. The digital age is key to reconciling how many artists typically find their influences and sounds. In the past, record stores and collecting vinyl was imperative to discovering new music and artists. Today YouTube, Soundcloud, and Spotify lead the way in music discovery and sharing. These ideas help producers find new sounds, production techniques, beat packages, and artists they want to work with. Social media and emails act as a direct way to connect with other artists, or vocalists, a producer may find interesting. Famously in 2010, Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill connected with Miami rapper Rick Ross through Twitter. Meek Mill ended up being selected to feature on a remix with Ross after asking his Twitter followers which MC he should work with. Recently after years of not working together, Kid Cudi reached out to the original producers of his Man On The Moon series on Twitter to ask them to reunite for the final album in the trilogy.

    In the past year alone, producers have begun to become as commercially viable as the artists themselves. Cover stories and interviews of different producers are just as important to document as the artist themselves. Stepping into the limelight like P. Diddy so famously did in the 90s, DJ Mustard and Mike-Will-Made-It are now two easily identifiable faces in the music community. Recently releasing their own albums, these projects are cohesive packages of the producers' sounds paired with the vocalists they've chosen specifically for the songs.

    One would have to look back to the late 1960's and early 1970's to find a time when the producer held such a key role in the songwriting process and artistic image. The instrumental direction of Don Kirshner lead to many songwriters' big breaks, including the cultivation of animated bands The Monkees and and The Archies. Producers like Kirshner allowed other artists to fulfill their musical ideas while still retaining as much credit as possible. A shift back to the producer as the main songwriter has begun again.

    From the retro sounding funk and R&B of Ronson, the synths of hip-hop titans DJ Mustard and Mike-Will-Made-It, and the dream pop meets electronics of Jamie xx, no genre is off limits from being affected by this phenomenon. This year, Jamie xx (of The xx) and Hudson Mohawke (known for TNGHT and working with Kanye West) will release long awaited albums that are expected to feature many different vocalists, but focus on the connected sound they are crafting. Whether involved in dance music, hip-hop, or even rock music, artists today want to touch a broader audience. Through collaboration with other artists, the fans of both are now linked together.

    Producers are working together now more than ever. The digital age has given them a platform to easily connect with like-minded individuals and present their art on a much easier basis than in past decades. The more the audience is clued into what is going on behind the scenes, the more they will continue to pay attention. As technology continues to advance, expect producers to continue to be as important as the artists of the song.

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