It is extemely difficult to describe, to those not directly involved in the production of recorded music, just how much of a valuable contribution the record producer makes to the final outcome of a recording project.
Even many of those professionaly employed in recording and publishing companies and management, allowing for their appreciation of its value, would be hard pressed to come up with a short, concise description of such a varied and multi-skilled activity.
A record producer's job is to realise the full potential of an artist or band, by supervising their work in the recording studio, often to an extent that the artists themselves had not previously imagined, and which they sometimes will be unable to appreciate until the producer's work is done.
During the course of this work, both in preparation before the actual recording, and during the recording process, the producer must be supportive, challenging inspiring, demanding, and do whatever it takes to bring out the best in the artist, and capture the highest level of performance at that particular time. A lot of artists are understandably nervous when recording new works, and lack the confidence which possible subsequent success later brings. The producer must display his confidence in their material and transmit that confidence to the artist so that they can deliver performances worthy of the songs.
Confidence, leadership, diplomacy, and of course, creative musical talent, are all qualities which a producer must possess. A thorough knowledge and familiarity with all of the technology used in contemporary and classic recording is essential.
Some producers develop from roots in musical composition and live performance while others arrive via the studio route, having spent time as recording engineers, and studying, by association, the work of the talented producers with whom they have collaborated. No matter which path the producer follows, he or she must develop facility in a number of areas, which include musical analysis, song arrangement, technical fluency, familiarity with the latest studio techniques, and the skill to combine these factors in a skilful and creative fashion.
When it comes to studio techniques and style, no two producers work in the same way. Some are very "hands on", in that they involve themselves in every minute detail of the musical arrangement of the artists' songs, in effect becoming an extra member of the band. Whereas others take more of a back seat, subtlely guiding the artist through the maze of multitudinous options available when making contemporary records. Some producers move between the two roles, depending on the needs of the artist and the music.