What’s The Difference Between a Producer and an Engineer

Audio engineer sitting at recording console

Interested in learning about the difference between an audio producer and an audio engineer? The titles of audio producer and audio engineer are used a lot in the music industry. When you’re just starting out in the recording industry, it can be hard to understand who’s responsible for what in the studio. And sometimes people are just too busy to answer questions.

With that in mind, here is our brief introduction to two important positions, engineering vs producing, so you’ll have a better idea of what’s going on, and maybe some ideas of which path you want to take in the business.

What is the Difference Between an Audio Producer and Audio Engineer?

Some people mix and match the words producer and engineer in the context of recording music. While they are both essential in the process, they actually have different responsibilities. An audio producer could be described as a manager, as they manage the aspects of the recording and the individuals involved. Audio engineers on the other hand are technicians and manage the studio equipment to achieve a specific sound for the artist.

The audio producer and audio engineer work together to create a song or album. However, the audio producers are the one’s in charge of the sound of a track, while the audio engineer runs the sound board. Audio producers have more leadership and managerial responsibility. They tend to work alongside the musicians and audio engineers. Whereas, the audio engineer operates the technical aspect of the recording, focused on music equipment and less on the music crew.

The Music Producer

The producer supervises or manages the entire process. He or she will help choose songs and session musicians, write or suggest changes to the arrangements, and coach singers and musicians through their parts. They work behind the scenes and manage the recording of a song or album. They will select the song, decide how it should be recorded, and work to achieve a specific sound.

The goal is to bring out the best in the artist. According to a British producer, “a record producer’s job is to realize the full potential of an artist or band.”

He continues:

“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.”

Interested in Becoming an Audio Producer?

For more information about the role of the audio producer, check out the website of the Association of Music Producers. And here is an audio producer’s guide to producing a viral song, what DJ Khaled has to say about producing, this video on what top producers do in the studio.

Finally, if you’re thinking of going into audio producing, you’ll need answers to this very important question: how producers get paid.

The Audio Engineer

You may expect to see some overlap between audio producers and engineers — in fact, many producers started out as engineers and in today’s recording world they are often the same person!  But overall the engineer has the more technical role. They are the ones that have their fingers on the controls, literally.

Preparing the Recording Session

It’s up to the audio engineer to create the best possible environment for recording. That includes making sure that the equipment is in order and setting up the microphones for the singers and the instruments. Studio time is expensive, so it’s crucial when the artists and audio producer arrive that everything is ready to go.

During the recording process, the audio engineer will tweak the sound, working with tools like EQ and compression to help the producer and the artists realize their vision for the music.

Post-Recording Session Duties for Audio Engineers

And after recording, the engineer then has to work with the audio producer to create the mix: which instruments should be louder or softer, and when? Does the song need any other effects? Are different mixes necessary for streaming or downloads ad the radio?

As you can see, there are thousands of decisions involved with recording, and the engineer needs the technical know-how to help make those decisions. That’s why a good engineer knows his or her way around the soundboard and can operate recording software like ProTools. A good engineer also understands the science of acoustics and will have a background in music.

Interested in Becoming an Audio Engineer?

For more information, check out the website of the Audio Engineering Society. And before you get into the studio, take note of the Top Six Mistakes New Engineers Make in the Studio and also How to not Completely S*ck at Audio Engineering.

Final Thoughts

Just because the positions of audio producer and audio engineer are two different jobs, it doesn’t mean that they don’t work together to achieve the same vision. Also, as music becomes easier to make, the lines are beginning to blur between what a producer does and what an engineer does. Many producers also manage the engineering side of the music, especially in smaller recording studios.

Want to Learn More?

The Audio Production and Engineering Program  at the Institute of Production and Recording is an occupational degree program designed to train producer engineers who are entrepreneurs, musically and technically creative, and proficient in modern recording technology and technique. Throughout the program, students are involved in hands-on exercises and real-world studio projects that enable them to apply their knowledge and refine their skills.

At the end of the audio production and engineering program, each student presents a portfolio — a selection of his or her best work to date. This serves as a demo reel for potential employers and clients — an audio resume with professional content that highlights the graduate’s talent and skill.

Located in the heart of Minneapolis’ arts and entertainment district, the Institute of Production and Recording provides hands-on training in media, video, sound, music and live show production.  Contact us today to learn more about the audio production programs and starting a rewarding career.