Nothing quite captures the myth of the vinyl-era music industry as a benevolent autocracy like the narrative of the career-making audition. A scruffy young unknown hitchhikes from the mine country of Minnesota to midtown Manhattan, where a white-haired and golden-eared man in a suit hears something in the boy that no one else has noticed and signs him to a record contract, through which fame and glory ensue.
ON THE SEATING CHART of the creative fraternity, record producers occupy one of the rows behind film directors and in front of book editors. In recording, it is the performers who are the "artists," as the music press and the people who run the Grammys like to remind us. Producers, as a rule, are hired by record companies to produce in a fundamentally commercial sense: to supply product. The task involves extraction (from the artists), organization and supervision (of those artists and their work), and collaboration (with the artists), in varying measures; the producer's job is essentially sus