There are many discussions in the music industry regarding Spotify’s impact, on whether it is making it harder or easier for music artists to make a good living from their craft. So the questions are, is it possible as an independent artist/acts, to make a decent income from Spotify and if so, how?

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With today’s tight budgets or with the domestic productions, we have to cover more tasks in the recording process. A traditional high end budget music production will enlist a team of highly specialised studio professional, working towards the same goal of producing that great song. As we all try to cover other roles, its important to know what those roles are. Author, lecturer, recording engineer and music producer Carlos Lellis Ferreira lists out these people and overviews their roles.

A recording team may have some or all of the following elements:

  • Musicians
  • Programmers
  • Runners
  • Tape operator
  • DAW operator/Editor
  • Assistant engineer
  • Main engineer
  • Producer
  • Others.

It is not always easy to delineate the roles and responsibilities of those involved in music production. This is particularly true in the case of modest budget projects, where individuals are commonly required to operate in multiple capacities and the labeling of roles and responsibilities may seem pointless. Still, in traditional recording environments a clear outline of functions often leads to a better distribution of labour and the more efficient use of time.

The following is a brief description of the members of conventional recording teams and their roles:


Musicians are defined here as the individuals that generate sound during the recording stage of a production. This applies to those that utilise both traditional and non-traditional instruments, e.g. turntables, etc.


Programmers may contribute to music production by selecting or creating electronic instrument ‘patches’, programming drumbeats, generating sequences, etc., which may occur during the pre-production, recording or the mixing stages.


Runners (or ‘tea boys’) are commonly the youngest members of the recording team. The tasks can be varied and commonly include peripheral or indirectly related activities that help sessions flow smoothly, e.g. purchasing of media, catering, etc.

The Tape Operator

The ‘tape op’ is responsible for the basic maintenance and the operation of tape recorders. This position is no longer common in music production.

The DAW Operator/Editor

A DAW operator should know audio software programs and their corresponding hardware in great detail, being able to work with them during the recording, editing and mixing stages of production.

The Assistant Engineer

This role requires the most flexibility, as the duties of the assistant engineer may span from those of a ‘runner’ to those of a main recording engineer. It is presently not uncommon for assistant engineers to also be responsible for tasks that were normally assigned to tape or DAW operators.

The Main Engineer

The main recording engineer is the person who is ultimately accountable for the successful recording of audio onto the chosen medium, although this does not imply he or she is responsible for the aesthetic-related attributes of the recorded material.

The Producer

This role varies according to context. In classical music, the producer is commonly the decision-maker regarding performance while in pop/rock he or she traditionally acts as a general manager, being ultimately responsible for the successful completion of a project. It is also important to note that in electronic/dance circles, composers/programmers are frequently referred to as ‘producers’.


  • Composer/Arranger
  • A&R/Record company representatives
  • Artist managers
  • Investors.

A number of other professionals may be indirectly involved in the recording stage of a project. Some of them may appear somewhat disconnected from the artistic process, although anyone involved in production should be aware that investors of time and/or money are likely to expect the right to an opinion on the product they help generate.

This article is an extract from Music Production: Recording: A Guide for Producers, Engineers, and Musicians”.

The book is organized around real-world scenarios, with details about roles and responsibilities that help you navigate through key stages of production. Carlos walks you through the recording process, bringing aesthetic considerations into each discussion. Learn visually with detailed diagrams and clear explanations of best practices.

This extract has re-published on Music Producers Forum, courtesy of Focal Press.