Making Music and Chicken Salad

Opinions, Public Relations Posted Jun 25, 2014 by chenpr

When I’m not here at CHEN PR it’s a pretty safe bet that I’m working on my musical endeavors—recording, producing, and writing songs with my band Bonfire Blue. I’ve been playing music nearly my entire life and while I’m relatively new to the PR game by comparison, I‘ve noticed a number of similarities between what I do here at CHEN and what I do with music—especially when it comes to my role as a producer.

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Before I get too far into this it might be helpful if I explain what exactly the role of a record producer is. A record producer’s job is to direct the musicians through the recording process much like a film director directs actors and a film crew. The producer helps make creative decisions about songs and how they will be recorded. Different producers are known for their particular approaches, but they need to be flexible too. Here are four ways that flexibility manifests itself in the creative process:

1. One size does not fit all

Every song and musician is different. There is no modus operandi for recording a great song, just like there is no one way to pitch a story. You need to identify what the most compelling parts of a song or story are and then try to figure out the best way to convey that to an audience.

2. Recognizing potential

You can’t figure out the best way to convey a song or a story without being able to first recognize what makes it compelling. Whether you work in PR or in a recording studio, being able to recognize what your audience will find most stimulating is an important skill and one that is not always as simple as it seems.

3. Control the exchange

A producer generally does not write the songs, in the same way a PR professional does not create the news. What both the producer and the PR pro do is to shape how the song or story is presented to the public. A producer will use his or her judgment and skill to record a song in a way that they believe the audience will find most compelling, while the PR professional will try to control the conversation in a way that will paint their client in the most positive light.

4. It all starts at the source

A great song, just like a great story, starts at the source; but sometimes the source doesn’t give you a lot to work with. When I was in college I had a recording professor who subscribed to the axiom that, “You can’t turn chicken shit into chicken salad” (with the caveat, “…but at some point you are going to have to try”). Whether this means trying to record a lousy group of musicians or pitching an extraordinarily dull piece of “news,” sometimes you’re going to have to try and make do with what you’ve got. That is where recognizing potential gets difficult.

A good producer like a good PR person needs to learn how to find what’s compelling out of even the worst material. You might not come out with a masterpiece, but you might wind up with chicken salad.