INTERVIEW: Producer Michael Beinhorn Offers Affordable Pre-Production Services to Developing Artists
Record producer Michael Beinhorn has worked with some of the biggest names in the music industry over the years, overseeing the production of landmark albums from the likes of Soundgarden, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Korn, Marilyn Manson and Ozzy Osbourne just to name a few. His recordings have achieved combined worldwide sales of more than 45 million albums, and he is one of only a handful of producers to have two separate recordings debut in Billboard’s Top Ten in the same week alongside a Grammy nomination for Producer of the Year.
Now, Beinhorn is turning his attention to a new venture in hopes of giving smaller artists guidance as they navigate the treacherous world of writing, recording and releasing music. Currently, he is offering pre-production assistance to musicians and bands - services that, for some smaller and developing artists, might normally be out of reach. Rather than having a set cost, the pre-production services are set on a sliding scale, adjusted mainly by the artist’s recording budget in order to make it affordable for anyone who may need it.
We recently caught up with Beinhorn to chat about his latest venture and gather some insight for developing artists. Read the full interview below and learn even more about his pre-production services HERE.
Interview by Shannon Shumaker
First and foremost, can you tell us a little bit about yourself for anyone who might not be familiar? What first drew you to the music industry?
For over 37 years, I’ve produced a wide variety of recordings. I started a band in 1978 and, in 1983, co-wrote and co-produced a song for Herbie Hancock called “Rockit”. The rest, as they say, is history and I believe you’ve mentioned a few other artists I’ve produced in the next question below. I was never really drawn to the music industry- it was incidental. I just enjoyed music, sound and working with artists- I’ve always mainly been a fan and everything just extrapolated from there. One could say that I didn’t pick the job- it picked me.
Over the years, you’ve worked with iconic artists such as Soundgarden, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Korn, Marilyn Manson andmany more. What have been some of the most rewarding moments of working with these artists? Are there any important lessons you’ve personally learned over the years?
There have been so many of those moments and they have all been quite significant and wonderful. My favorite moments are generally the ones where there is a distinct sense among everyone involved in the production that we’ve all just passed through some kind of weird portal and gone into a realm of creative exploration that is beyond any words or description. Happily, this has happened many times on quite a few records. As far as lessons, there have also been so many of those. One of my favorites has been the realization that the path to a truly great record is paved by a group of extraordinarily talented people who are working together to surpass their own expectations of what they’re capable of. There are many people who let their egos dictate their actions on a recording, but that ultimately doesn’t yield anything valuable.
You recently began offering pre-production services for musicians. What inspired you to first start this new venture?
My services revolve around the concept that pre-production is a cornerstone to record making but it is increasingly being left out of the record making process. This came about from two observations- first, more and more artists have no idea what pre-production is and second, more and more artists have no idea what a producer is supposed to be doing for them. In the former case, artists often go straight into recording their music without getting spending any time hashing it out or getting any serious input from objective outsiders regarding how to improve it. In the latter case, many artists are looking at their producer as if he’s glorified engineer who gets the sounds they want but doesn’t contribute in any other way and whose creative opinion is pretty much moot. Since my own experience has repeatedly demonstrated that pre-production vastly improves the quality of recordings, I felt that things were heading in the wrong direction and wanted to do something positive about it.
What do you feel artists have to gain by having access to affordable pre-production?
I can tell you from experience that artists gain immensely from having any kind of pre-production at all, whether it’s affordable or otherwise. It’s a dire necessity and in my opinion, one of the most important parts of a recording, certainly, as important as the recording itself. Pre-production gives you the power to (among other things) put all your music under the microscope- to examine it really carefully and decide whether or not it’s expressing what you want it to express, whether or not it’s structurally well-integrated- and if it’s even something you feel comfortable with recording at all in context with the rest of the music you’ll be recording. And all with someone who can provide you with insight and perspectives you’d never have on your own. I can’t overemphasize just how valuable that is- especially at a time when people are willing to record literally anything they’ve written without giving it any consideration. This is a process that has been employed for decades and with good reason. And I feel that making that process available to any artist who needs it is incredibly exciting.
What can artists expect from these pre-production services, from cost to process and outcome?
The cost is determined on a sliding scale - mainly by the artist’s recording budget. The process is pretty straightforward- the artist sends demos, the music gets assessed and the artist gets an in depth, detailed descriptions of the music, regarding what is working (in specific terms of arrangement, structure, orchestration, dynamics, performance, etc), what isn't working (and why) and different ways to fix what isn't working. The music is also addressed from an overview perspective- how it all functions together as a single body of work.
From there, there’s a lot of back and forth online communication (and in some cases, even being physically present for rehearsals) until the artist and I feel confident that the music- and project- is working optimally and it's ready to be recorded. It’s all under-the-hood work rolled up into a single process that takes the artist to the next level in terms of creativity and evolution.
What would you like artists to take away from these pre-production sessions when they’re done with them?
Apart from having an entire project that is record-ready and turn-key, they will walk away from the process with a completely new set of tools that they didn’t possess before. They will have had the opportunity to see their own work from an entirely different and objective perspective and they will have a greater ability to be able to assess their own work in ways they were never able to in the past. That is not wishful thinking because it is what happens every time I apply the process to virtually any recording.
What is the biggest misconception most artists have when they step into the studio to record?
That they should rush right in and start recording because they’re all pumped and believe so strongly that they’re completely ready to go- especially when they’ve prepped minimally. I’ve had to talk many artists down from rushing into a recording studio when it’s so obvious that the act of doing so could be akin to committing career suicide. This has happened so many times on projects- especially with artists who’ve had success very early and believed that repeating or bettering their initial efforts would be a piece of cake- and this is yet another reason why I’m big believer in an insurance policy like pre-production. Early success as a musician is both a blessing and a curse- only a select few people have learned how to navigate it with care.
I’m sure there’s quite a bit, but if you could give any advice to a musician or band who is just dipping their toes into the writing and recording process, what would you tell them? What would you want every band to know?
Be prepared to work harder at this than you’ve ever worked at anything in your entire life. There are so may other people in the world who are trying to do the same thing as you and the ones who are truly driven might actually succeed- providing they have something to back up their drive and enthusiasm. The only way you will make any kind of a demo at all is to be the very best iteration of you that you are capable of being. If you are unwilling- or unable- to do this, you may as well give up now.
Do you have any other big plans or goals for the end of 2018 and new year?
I do- to enjoy my family as much, if not more than I already am and to keep working. I love what I do and it is still incredibly stimulating work.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Nothing, except thank you and Happy Holidays!