A quick Google search for “How many producers does it take to change a light bulb?” returns the following:
- One, but if you don’t like it, we can always change it later, when we remix.
- Two, one to tell the engineer to do it, the other to say “I don’t know, what do you think?”
- They are waiting for you to change the light bulb so they can tell everyone that you couldn’t have done it without them.
Next question: How many producers does it take to win a Grammy? The answer: “How much money you got?”
Making music for a mass audience is riskier than ever. Every song has to be a potential hit, which means you need to bring in the best to help create them. There’s the main producer, the beats-makers, the writers of chord-changers, the hookmeisters, the vocalizers and the lyricists. They all put in work before the artist even sets foot in the studio.
Macleans has this article on the growth of the producer industry.
Last week the Grammy Awards named Taylor Swift’s 1989 the Album of the Year. That particular award goes to the producer of the album—or, as is increasingly the case, producers, plural: 1989 boasted no fewer than 11 people taking credit for its success. That may seem like a lot of cooks in the kitchen, but some of Swift’s fellow nominees would disagree: Kendrick Lamar had 17 people credited as producers on critical favourite To Pimp a Butterfly, and Toronto’s The Weeknd had 15 on his breakthrough,Beauty Behind the Madness.
Those numbers are not an anomaly for a modern pop album, which often appear to be made by committee: just look at the most recent records by Rihanna (21 producers) and Justin Bieber (19 producers). Twenty years ago, blockbuster albums regardless of genre usually had no more than three producers: in 1995-96, bestselling records by Hootie and the Blowfish and Alanis Morissette—even the Waiting to Exhalesoundtrack—all had only one producer. The one hip-hop album to ever win Album of the Year, in 1999, was credited solely to one producer: the artist herself, Lauryn Hill. In 2010, Taylor Swift only needed four producers to shepherd her album Fearless to a Grammy. Likewise, the first two times Eminem was up for Album of the Year, in 2001 and 2003, he had only five producers; in 2011 he had 16.