The Language of Electronic Music

Continuing the discussion from “Do you produce your music?” and other questions performers who are not cis males get asked:

Splitting the thread to talk specifically about language, in this case “producer.”

I’ve been a musician since i was 9, playing guitar as my primary instrument. When I get into electronic music in the early 90’s people started asking me if I was a dj or “producer”, and it took a while to realize that they were asking if I was playing other people’s music or making my own. I’ve aways thought of this as musicianship, or composing, not “producing.” … partly because producing in a studio context is more about orchestrating the recording, helping the musicians get their best performances, and making artistic decisions about how to put the whole thing together.

I might produce my own music, but in a performance context I’m definitely the musician…


Thanks for this. It’s all I was trying to say.


I’ve always disliked the term “producer” to mean composer-musician-who-creates-tracks-of-music because it makes it sound like a factory activity, not an artistic one! “I produced 13.4 metric tons of music this year…”


yeah on this point specifically - I would describe myself as a musician - just because I use electronics and software doesn’t take away from that


the different tasks that are often attributed to a producer are interesting, because I think they often are generalized when we’re talking about ‘bedroom producers,’ but seem to be considered in a much more specific way when you get into ‘pro-level’ production.

there is an interesting interview in the recent Tape Op with Luke Temple where he speaks a bit about the different roles, and at least I found it helpful to gain some understanding of what different commonly used terms might mean (at least to him, in reference to him producing for other artists):

I’m more in the producer role than an engineer. For example, Nigel Godrich is really an engineer, and he also has really good suggestions in terms of how to deal with the economics of songs. My strong suit is more of a musical contribution; being able to offer perspective to an artist. If something needs to be shook up and viewed from a completely different angle, or if the artist is stuck on something, that’s the standard producer role – to give perspective

I don’t personally see the term “producer” in a negative light - though I can see the commodity correlation which leads to that. I think many people use the term to refer to those folks who are basically using the studio itself as a tool rather than completely separate from songwriting. that applies quite often to electronic musicians of various types, but goes all the way back to and beyond bands like The Beatles. their recordings would have been a lot different without George Martin producing them, for example.


I understand and agree with what you are saying in general but this bit just squicks me out hard.

maybe it’s from growing up listening to R&B, hip-hop and their influence on pop, but I am totally fine with the word producer being ascribed to aspects of my musical output! (even though it’s a hat I haven’t put on a lot lately.) being in the company of ingenious and prolific folks like Timbaland, DJ Mustard or Max Martin? sign me up ^-^


It feels like in the pop/r&b/hip-hop etc camp the term is often ascribed to people who orchestrate, write, and create music mainly for other artists. i.e. Timabland put out a couple things under his own name, but mainly he created the music for other people’s records and songs.

The term has definitely escaped that meaning and I’ve often heard it used for anything that isn’t a traditional way of playing music.

I don’t see it as derogatory in the same way as @jasonw22, but I do feel like it gets thrown around in electronic/dance music to basically mean creator/artist/composer … and I see them as different.

Edit to add: Even “DJ” is a strange one… it can mean someone who plays records at a party, or someone who is extremely creative and using samples/records as raw material. Those are really different things, and I would call the second example musician… but culture has a way with language.


There is a certain type of brosephus clout chasing 'grammer that loves the term and is not likely to have earned it. That’s the context of meaning in which I would anticipate is the mindset of a clueless “do you produce your own music?” question.

its a “get money” mindset that completely misses the art.

yes! I think this cultural association is a huge part of it!

I’ve been borderline obsessed with a handful of mainstream pop and pop-ish albums over the past few years (both albums by Lorde, A Seat at the Table by Solange come to mind) and “producer” in those contexts is such a critical role that goes beyond just setting up the recording equipment and mixing, and you can see just from looking at the credits for each track how the term is used to basically give credit to everyone involved in the track without getting into specifics that might work for other genres better.

How do you credit someone who comes to a studio for a session and mixes, taps out a beat, plays guitar for 10 seconds during the bridge of a song, and holds some pad chords? Listing them as a “producer” seems like a fine way to describe that to me.

Similarly, when bands are heavily involved in their own recording/production and list themselves as sole producers or with whomever they worked with, I think that makes sense to communicate that they were involved in not only creating the songs themselves but also how they are recorded. To go back to the Lorde/Solange examples, both of those artists are listed as a producer for each track, which I think speaks to their direct involvement and imprint on how their music is portrayed.

TL;DR edit: some music made by “producers” is bad or at least boring music that exists essentially just to extract money, and some of it is good music. I don’t think the term itself has much of anything to do with that.

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Cool thread. I like the term producer; I’ve a highly romanticised view of stuff that I don’t really remember/wasn’t part of; but for me it’s linked to the removal of veneration for individual art objects and artists, and the annonymous creation of club tools for DJs. Tunes exist in a moment, in a location, and then on to the next one.

Part of this is the ‘DIY’ ethos of electronic music production as well. You had (other than mastering which would happen when you cut the master vinyl thing (sorry, forgot what it was called, the acetate)) pretty much total control over what something would sound like. Although it might not actually sound like what you had intended originally…

The terms artist, musican, composer, etc had whole sets of languages and expectations that really weren’t relevant to what was being done.


… a revolutionary potential even among its most capitalistic aspects …

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(Thank you for splitting this… It’s both an interesting conversation in its own right and was distracting from the thread it came from. <3)


I’m still stuck on how silly the verb “produce” is in a live context. It’s a studio term for assembly line factory made music. People who are DJs calling themselves producers… Ah whatever, I’m clearly not even in the audience at these shows. Ugh.


Veni Vidi Vici is now…

I came, I saw, I produced … :slight_smile:

I am spartacus

I think the overuse of “produce” just points to the fact that music-making has gone beyond the traditional roles and the language used to describe them.

We have this hybrid activity that is partially composing, engineering, programming, playing instruments, recording… organizing and manipulating sound, or signals and data that will become sound. Some of that is basically magic to the layperson. And there’s not really a great term for that beyond “making music.”

People think of music as a product, so we “produce” it.


This is a bit of a tangent from the original thread purpose, so maybe it’s worth a separate thread for talking about language like this? It’s a good topic, and one that’s frustrated me since I started doing this in the 90’s.

I just created a new topic, split off from @jasonw22’s post above.

edit: adding easy link - The Language of Electronic Music


…it’s a studio term for all sorts of music.

@emenel is right, and I am not going to continue debating this here, I just don’t see the point in trying to lump everyone who uses the term “producer” into what reads as a derogatory blanket term.


(mod edit: at member request, some posts have been migrated in from “Do you produce your music?” and other questions performers who are not cis males get asked)

I agree with this one million percent and more!