What is “Artist Development and Production”?

Brian Vibberts (l.) and Alex Houton (r.) at United Recording in Los Angeles (Formerly Ocean Way Recording).

When I tell people that I’m a music producer and that I do artist development and music production for a living, their reaction is usually something like “Wow! That’s so cool!….Um…What exactly is that?”

Like so many other things about finding information about the music industry, there seems to be a great deal of confusion about what roles people play.

The term music producer has taken on a different tone in the past ten or twenty years. A music producer used to be the person that would oversee the entire recording process; managing the recording sessions; helping with creative decisions about songwriting, instrumentation, and arrangements; writing additional parts; overseeing the mixing process. More recently, with new technology, it seems like anybody with a laptop that strings a few audio samples together, typically referred to as “beats”, is calling themselves a producer. This can be confusing for a new artist looking for help recording their songs. Still, producers of varying levels and styles are basically the next person in line of the creative process after the artist themselves. They will contribute to creating the music- from making hip hop beats for a rapper, to contributing so much creatively that they’re jokingly referred to as an additional band member (as was the case with the Beatles producer, George Martin). A great producer can make your career. And a bad producer can wind up wasting your time and money.

The term artist development has also evolved over the past decade or so. Artist development can be typically referred to in regards of “developing an artist’s fanbase”, and was connected primarily to marketing and promotion.

In the last decade or so, the term has evolved to be associated with developing the artist’s music, persona, and image. My companies, AHM Media and Spotlight 87 Entertainment, deal mostly with artist development as it relates to the music, persona, and image, as we’re more focused on music production and the creation of the music product itself.  However we’ve developed great third party associates and partnerships that allow us to offer fanbase development.

In recent years, more companies, including my own AHM Media and Spotlight 87,  have emerged providing this last definition of “artist development” because the major record labels have backed away from this task to focus more on marketing and promotion. However, after an artist’s music is developed, the focus then shifts to the other definition of the term, developing the artist’s fanbase. So both definitions are still current and relevant to an artist’s success.

Artist Development and Production are really the first steps for any artist that’s serious about a career as a successful recording artist. Creating a product that is competitive with the top artists, and meets the creative and technical expectations of music industry professionals, takes partnering with a team of professionals themselves. And every successful artist I’ve worked with has owed their success, in part, to the team that helped them create and develop their music. No one gets there alone.