Compose and Produce Music
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The other two answers are good ones, but having done all three, I’ll toss in some words of my own.
A song starts with a composer. The song has to be conceived and written. In fact, a “music composer” would traditionally be the person who creates the music only. they will probably work with a lyricist to make the typical pop song. Some examples: in much of his better work, Elton John was a music composer, who wrote the music, but worked with lyricist Bernie Taupin. Another was the Grateful Dead.. Jerry, Phil, Bob, and the others often co-wrote the music, but Robert Hunter wrote the lyrics for a large number of Dead tunes. While he never recorded or performed with the Dead, he’s in the Rock and Roll hall of fame as a member of the Dead, the only non-performer so far to have that honor.
So… the song’s written, music and lyrics. There’s absolutely no reason the band itself can’t be part of all of that process… it’s kind of expected in rock music, but optional in pop music. In fact, you’ll rarely find a younger pop star or “Boy Band” writing or even playing their own instruments. That’s not to say there’s no room for “crooners” Elvis, Sinatra, lots of the most successful and well regarded singers didn’t write their own material.
So the next step… the musicians lean the songs, wherever they came from. Maybe they have band practices, maybe the work the out in concerts, whatever. At some point, they need to be recorded and released in some way. That’s where the producer comes in.
The producer is the guy hired to run that whole process of getting music into final product. These days, that’s about all you can say. In the case of that pop star, she may have some idea of what she wants, or perhaps a handler making these decisions. Many of the more popular pop acts, including boy bands of today but going back to the Monkees and before the dawn of rock and roll, they were “The Talent” only. They had handlers: managers, producers, money people, whoever, that planned their careers out in detail: choosing songs, deciding the “sound” of the group or individual, the way they’d look in public, etc. So in many cases, if that person isn’t the producer, the producer is hired by that manager, not by the artist.
In other cases, the band runs everything but they still bring in a producer… maybe several. They producer’s job is the same thing: deliver the sound the client (artist or manager or whatever) is after. Some of today’s producers are also artists in their own right. And of course, lots of music is self-produced.
There are other people involved. Studio engineering (controlling the recording session and ensuring things get onto your HDD or tape correctly), mixing (most projects are recorded piece by piece, or at least via a multitrack recorder to get each instrument or voice on at least one independent microphone… the mixing engineer is the person who takes all that stuff and outputs a stereo (usually) track, the mastering engineer (the person who takes the final mix and tweaks it for the radio, for CD, for LP, for Blu-ray, etc… optimizing the final output based on media and the goals of the production team). All these people can be hired by the producer… all these jobs can be done by a talented-enough producer.. who could also be a band member, and also a lyricist or composer. But not always.