No matter where a listener lands on the consumer spectrum, whether they identify as casual listeners or the most die-hard of connoisseurs, there is no doubt that a certain level of sonic comprehension exists within their minds every single time they choose to play a song. Consciously or sub-consciously, we as listeners are always subject to our intrinsic levels of awareness when listening to any piece of music, and this factor plays an immense role in our overall enjoyment and/or analysis of said piece as a whole.

Because this level of comprehension is indeed on a spectrum, exactly which aspects of a particular piece are identified, taken into account, and extensively analyzed differ greatly based on both the unique aspects of the piece and the listener themselves. 

But even still, when it comes to appreciating what makes a song what it is, no intense analysis is truly necessary when you are simply considering two of the most common facets that make up a majority of the world’s music as a whole: vocals and instrumentals.  

These two facets define a seemingly endless amount of music as a whole, and certainly the majority of what the underground has to offer today. But even as we take both of these aspects for granted nearly every time we stream our favorite tracks on every single occasion, a certain dichotomy has made itself apparent in the actions (or rather lack of actions) made by the scene’s most common audiences.

To put it simply, it is beginning to seem as if we as listeners are more inclined to express our awareness and admiration of a song’s vocal aspects far more than its facets related to production. Why is this the case? Perhaps there are numerous reasons. 

Before jumping directly into these reasons, a particular distinction needs to be addressed. The key word in the aforementioned assertion is “expressed” — meaning that we are only considering the fact that audiences are far more likely to talk about and publically appreciate vocals rather than instrumentals. This is important to note due to a further discussion that will take place later in this consideration.

For now however, the different reasons as to why this the case must be formally listed, and it can only start with noting the obvious fact that those who are performing the vocals on a track are 99% of the time the “stars” of the show. Producers, whether intentionally or not, tend to take a backseat to these performers and are thus less inclined or able to stand out on their own. 

This, in turn, creates what can only be described as a completely separated producer-audience relationship compared to the more intimate vocalist-audience one that exists far more commonly. 

Another telling factor that stems from this statement is the fact that audiences are far more likely to relate to and/or derive shared feelings from a set of lyrics rather than a bare instrumental. This is not to say that certain feelings cannot arise from an instrumental on its own; this cannot be further from the truth, to be blunt. But because of how our minds are broadly wired when listening to a piece of music, we are increasingly more susceptible to highly obvious emotional sentiments like those found in aspects of language rather than just the sonics alone. 

Both of these reasons sit atop a plethora of smaller, niche components that would make this discussion last longer than it truly needs to. So the question now follows as such: if we are so naturally inclined to appreciate the frontperson in a song, then why even make a big deal about mentioning the producer?

Well, aside from the obvious fact that most songs would simply not be anywhere near the same quality without the immaculate work that those who work in production put in, we actually might rely on them for our musical stimulations a bit more than we would like to think. 

Take the state of hip-hop and its overall sound in the past few years, or really any period of time that could decisively be known as an “era.” This genre sees its most popular sonic aspects dominated by a distinct style of production and composition depending on whatever period it falls into, and it is because of the work put in by the producers themselves that these styles are so solidified within the public conscious at that particular time. Put more simply, producers are arguably the catalyst for how a certain style of hip-hop appeals to the masses. 

If that is not enough to convince you that these people are underrated and underappreciated, then I have no idea what will. 

And in considering this, we can now return to the idea of “explicit expression” that I had mentioned earlier. We may not think we rely on producers as much as we do, but the fact that what we listen to often comes in waves based on what kind of stylistic choice our minds are feeling at that time says otherwise. If we can all come to this realization, then perhaps our producers will feel a better and wholly deserved sense of appreciation. 

We can achieve this by publically expressing our admiration for their work as a whole. The concept itself is really not that complicated; they deserve a heightened spotlight for what they contribute to a song, so it should not be a problem to just give it to them. Talk more about them in your articles, make sure that they are substantially bestowed of their worth. The littlest actions can all add up to what we can only hope to be an overall heightened sense of gratitude toward those who make up half of what we comprehend as listeners. 

It is not enough to just say “that beat was fire” anymore. We, especially those who work in music media, have the responsibility to give credit where credit is due. And as far as underground music is concerned, no one lacks credit in quite the same capacity as producers do.