Essential Quotes From Legendary Music Producers

I started working on a blog a couple weeks ago to explore what similarities and differences exist across the spectrum of great music producers.

By comparing production styles and musical approaches from a variety of producers, I hope to find some trends that help show what it means to be the best producer you can be.

As I gathered more and more quotes, I realized the idea I was diving into was a little bit bigger than I’d initially expected.

SO… While I’m knocking out the big blog, I want to go ahead and share some of my favorite quotes with you today.


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Quincy Jones

Producer - Multi-instrumentalist - Composer - Arranger - Conductor

Why you might know Q: His career spans six decades in the entertainment industry, a record 79 Grammy Award nominations, 27 Grammys, and a Grammy Legend Award in 1992. Quincy is also the mastermind behind many of Mike Jackson’s hit records, including production credits on Thriller, Bad, and Off The Wall. Fun fact: Quincy’s nickname for Michael was “Smelly” because when Michael heard a groove he liked he’d say “man, that’s some smelly jelly!” Read more about Quincy Jones on Wikipedia.

Some artists he’s worked with: Michael Jackson, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Count Basie, Aretha Franklin, Dizzy Gillespie, & maaaany more.

I like all music. The only music I don’t like is bad music.
— Quincy Jones
I tell my kids and I tell proteges, always have humility when you create and grace when you succeed, because it’s not about you. You are a terminal for a higher power. As soon as you accept that, you can do it forever.
— Quincy Jones

Nile Rodgers

Musician - Producer - Composer - Arranger - Songwriter - Guitarist

Why you might know Nile: “The co-founder of Chic, he has written, produced, and performed on records that have cumulatively sold more than 500 million albums and 75 million singles worldwide.” Read more about Nile Rodgers on Wikipedia.

Albums that Nile has touched as a producer include:

  • Like A Virgin (Madonna)

  • Random Access Memories (Daft Punk)

  • Let’s Dance (David Bowie)

  • She’s The Boss (Mick Jagger)

I don’t believe in the philosophy of stumbling across hit records.
— Nile Rodgers
It feels like my job is to support people. I support great artists. When I worked with a symphony, I sat in the third chair, not the first chair.
— Nile Rodgers
My responsibility is to the artist first. There’s something that artists intrinsically know about their music and their fanbase that neither the record company nor the producer really knows.
— Nile Rodgers
Art, well good art at least, takes you to a place you go during the experience of it, and then after you experience it you are different.
— Nile Rodgers
Almost all the producers I know and dig, like Quincy Jones or Brian Eno, are really musicians first. I’m a composer, an orchestrator, an arranger and a musician first. I know how to write and rewrite songs, and the genius is really in the rewriting.
— Nile Rodgers

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Rick Rubin

Producer - Beatmaker

Why you might know Rick: “Along with Russell Simmons, he is the co-founder of Def Jam Recordings and also established American Recordings. With the Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Geto Boys, and Run-DMC, Rubin helped popularize hip hop music.” Read more about Rick Rubin on Wikipedia.

Artists he’s worked with: Run-DMC, Beastie Boys, Slayer, Adele, Public Enemy, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Justin Timberlake… I mean COME ON, this list is absurdly gigantic.

I don’t even know what a traditional producer is or does. I feel like the job is like being a coach, building good work habits and building trust. You want to get to a point where you can say anything and talk about anything. There needs to be a real connection.
— Rick Rubin
I played more of an advisory role with Public Enemy. I really trusted them to make the music that they wanted to make, and…they created their whole own world of music.
— Rick Rubin
I never made beats to make beats; I only made them when there was a record to make them for. That’s one of the things that has changed in hip-hop that’s made me like it less. It feels much more like it’s a producer-driven medium, where there are all these tracks that are completely interchangeable.
— Rick Rubin

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Brian Eno

Producer - Musician - Songwriter - Sound Designer - Painter

Why you might know Brian: “He is best known for his pioneering work in ambient music and contributions to rock, pop, electronic, and generative music.” Plus, he is the composer of The Microsoft Sound. Read more about Brian Eno on Wikipedia.

Artists he’s worked with include: U2, Talking Heads, David Bowie, Genesis, Coldplay, and more.

Honor thy error as a hidden intention.
— Brian Eno
I started coming to the studio with less worked-out pieces, and eventually with nothing at all. I would just start working with that thing, “the studio,” as the instrument.
— Brian Eno
My kind of composing is more like the work of a gardener. The gardener takes his seeds and scatters them, knowing what he is planting but not quite what will grow where and when - and he won’t necessarily be able to reproduce it again afterwards either.
— Brian Eno
I’m fascinated by musicians who don’t completely understand their territory; that’s when you do your best work.
— Brian Eno
I have a definite talent for convincing people to try something new. I am a good salesman. When I’m on form, I can sell anything.
— Brian Eno
People in the arts often want to aim for the biggest, most obvious target, and hit it smack in the bull’s eye. Of course with everybody else aiming there as well that makes it very hard and expensive to hit. I prefer to shoot the arrow, then paint the target around it. You make the niches in which you finally reside.
— Brian Eno

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Phil Spector

Producer - Musician - Songwriter

Why you might know Phil: “An American record producer, musician, and songwriter who developed the Wall of Sound, a music production formula he described as a Wagnerian approach to rock and roll.” Also noted as being the first auteur among musical artists (read full hybrid producer / control freak). Also, he’s a murderer (sad trombone).

Artists he worked with: George Harrison, John Lennon, The Ronettes, The Righteous Brothers and more.

I could tell you I’m the greatest fuckin’ record producer that ever lived and that I’ll eat up all these cats in the studio if they want to put their mouths right there and their money right there.
— Phil Spector

Excerpt from a 1969 Rolling Stone interview with Phil Spector (who obviously thought very highly of himself at the time):

Q: What artist do you really feel has not been recorded right that you’d like to record?

A: Bob Dylan.

Q: How would you record him?
A: I’d do a Dylan opera with him. I’d produce him. You see he’s never been produced. He’s always gone into the studio on the strength of his lyrics, and they have sold enough records to cover up everything – all the honesty of his records. But he’s never really made a production. He doesn’t really have to.

When I went into the studio I created a sound that I wanted to hear.
— Phil Spector
I felt obligated to change music to art, the same way that Galileo proved the Earth was round to the world and that the Sun did not stand still.
— Phil Spector

Keep an eye out for the big version of this blog, coming soon!