Discussion of options for crediting electronic music producers

Continuing the discussion from Relationship for modern electronic (DAW) artists:

I didn’t want to necro the whole thread, but this question is coming up for me, too, because I’m dealing with a lot of electronic music right now. For example: https://beautyqueenautopsy.bandcamp.com

Matt Fanale is credit with “music/lyrics”. Obviously he gets composer/lyricist credit on the works. But he didn’t just compose the music, he created it… somehow. I would guess using some software, but I don’t know that for sure. It seems like he should get a performer credit, but there’s not really one.

About some of the previous suggestions: Producer, maybe I misunderstand this role but it doesn’t say to me “person who made the sound happen”. Programmer, I could get behind this but seemed like it was discouraged in the past (even though we’re pretty confident that’s what happened). Instruments: maybe, although it would be nice to be more specific.

I like programmer, but seems like programmer should be treated more as a performer based on the description. I mean, they are creating sounds that are part of the recording, even if it’s apart from the other musicians (and not like the instruments are always all played at the same time anyway).

[I’m still rambling on…] Part of my frustration is that it’s easy to credit Tom Shear as mixer (for instance), but not easy to credit Matt Fanale as the musician/creator. And then it seems like the mixer is getting more credit than the performer, which doesn’t really make sense.

I would put “performer” or “performer:instruments” as MB is really not good for modern music creation in this form.

To me a Producer does a different job to the Musician. And Programmer is a bit vague in the MB terms. It is usually a programmer of something (drums, synth, etc).

Maybe there needs to be an instrument added for Computer? To make it clearer that this music is created on a computer emulating so many other instruments.

This is definitely a hole in the MB instruments.

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As for the strictly electronic music (be it club/dance music or experimental), the word producer equates the creator and this is as common knowledge as DJ being the performer on a club night (concert).

The one-man-orchestras who solely create electronic music (compose it, record it through DAW and/or additional instrumentation, and usually perform it as well on their live sets) are simply called producers.


I mean, I do think that there’s a difference between “instruments” in the sense of a device that’s used to create sounds in real time (even if there is an electronic component to it) and “programmer” in the sense of putting input into a computer that is separate from creating the sounds that are in the final piece. So I feel like programmer fits, they’re just programming everything. It’s definitely a gap right now.

Sometimes in live shows you’ll get live keyboard or drums, but even then most of the music ends up being the programmed part. Honestly, I feel like programmer could just be a separate category from instruments, under performer, with more subcategories [edited because I see there already are some sub categories].

That’s a good point. I wonder if there could be a distinction made between producer in the more traditional sense and producer-as-creator, then.

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Even in my old Pink Floyd there will be bits that were pre-programmed and a button press repeated it in a gig.

For years we have had electronic music of many form creating more complex pieces in keyboards, drums and computers that needed creating at a desk. “Programming” is a complex task that is far more than just popping in some preset into an electronic drum kit.

Creating music for many is now done at a desk and never touching a “classic” instrument. It is pure programming. At a far more complex level than what Floyd did, but a clear line traces back.

These are clearly becoming different abilities. A creator-producer is very different to the classic meaning of producer that is listed now in MB.

A better focus needs to be given to Electronic Music Creation at many levels. Currently we are trying to force other terms to fit.

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Yeah, that. And while I agree that tagging isn’t the main purpose of the database, at least going about it in such a way that the relationships are still useful for tagging seems important. For instance, I can’t just ask Picard to treat “producer” as a performer and get the results I want. Not as things stand right now.

It’s sort of parallel to the whole drums/drumset issue (leaving aside the membranophones part), in the sense that the same credit is being used to indicate substantially different things.

I feel like “instruments” is an adequate relationship. Going into more specifics would likely require a lot more information than is usually available, and e.g. tracking the specific DAW software they used does not feel useful (and even further, if something is produced electronically you usually can’t tell if they didn’t e.g. record a certain component outside the DAW and just sampled it).

My impression of the role of “producer” seems to be primarily about who the “primary” artist is in relation to the people who did the work, e.g. for many pop musicians they are the primary artist and get e.g. the track credit, but the creative process of melody, lyrics, singing, music, etc. is split among multiple different people, among them the producer (whom I would understand as producing the non-lyrical aspects of a song). That certain electronic musicians have taken to calling themselves producers feels like a historic nod to their origins, but isn’t necessarily evidence that our relationship applies. For example in Drum & Bass, it’s common for artists to refer to themselves as DJs, but in the context of a track or release under their name they aren’t DJs in the Musicbrainz sense of the word.


@elomatreb - your description of “producer” is why there needs to be a much better way of separating the Creator-Producer from “Overseeing the production-Producer”. The Electronic Producer actually makes the music. That’s why it would be good to get a clearer instrument in their hands.


I agree with this, which is exactly why I think we need a better way to say “they made the whole thing.” Instruments doesn’t feel accurate for the reason I stated above.

I don’t follow what you’re saying about producers. Historically a producer role has not translated to a primary artist credit. You’re right that there’s often more that goes into in creating music than the people credited, but producer doesn’t imply any specific contribution to composition or performance, unlike electronic music producers.

For the record, here is the current artist-recording definition of producer: “This indicates an artist who is responsible for the creative and practical day-to-day aspects involved with making a musical recording.”

On the other hand, programming says: “This links a recording to the artist who did the programming for electronic instruments used on the recording. In the most cases, the ‘electronic instrument’ is either a synthesizer or a drum machine.”

Add in an option for overall music production and not just specific instruments, and programming nails it. Which is why I say promote programming to another “performer” category alongside instruments. Maybe call it electronic production to be more generic. It represents a fundamentally different way of creating music from instruments or vocals.

Japanese booklets often credit this as “all (other) instruments & programming”, and that’s how I and others have been entering it into MusicBrainz. Nobody has ever raised objections to this as far as I’m aware.

That would be pretty clear. Can you link to an example?

The objection was in the previous discussion (linked above) over using “programming” when that’s not the language used on the release.

I did a quick search and found this example:

as a track which specifically credits “All Other Instruments and Programming” in the album art.

Producers ‘creating’ the music is not limited to electronic music, it it is very common in rap music too, and likely common in more modern genres. The problem with creating a new kind of credit for use on MusicBrainz is that these people are usually just credited as producer, or a track ‘produced by’ on the release. So if we did that we would deviate from the standard usage of the term producer. I think that would just create confusion.

Another problem is that there is a fine line between the more technical production aspects of producing and the actual making of music. Of the many people credited for producing a track, some may do just the technical aspects, some the creative ones and some both, and there may be no way for an editor to know which one it is.