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A record producer or music producer, unlike an audio engineer, who simply operates the technology employed in a music recording's creation and refinement, is the recording project's creative and technical leader, commanding studio time and coaching artists, and in popular genres typically creates the song's very sound and structure. The record producer, or simply the producer, is likened to a film director. The executive producer, on the other hand, enables the recording project through entrepreneurship. Varying by project, the producer may also choose all of the artists, or openly perform vocals with them. If employing only synthesized or sampled instrumentation, the producer may be the sole artist. Conversely, some artists do their own production. And some producers are their own engineers, operating the technology across the project: preproduction, recording, mixing, and mastering. Record producers' precursors were "A&R men," who likewise could blend entrepreneurial, creative, and technical roles, but often exercised scant creative influence, as record production still focused, into the 1950s, on simply improving the record's sonic match to the artists' own live performance.Advances in recording technology, especially the 1940s advent of tape recording—which Les Paul promptly innovated further to develop multitrack recording—and the 1950s rise of electronic instruments, turned record production into a specialty. In popular music, then, producers like Phil Spector, George Martin, and Brian Eno led its evolution into its present use of elaborate techniques and unrealistic sounds, creating songs impossible to originate live. After the 1980s, production's move from analog to digital further expanded possibilities. By now, DAWS, or digital audio workstations, like Logic Pro and Pro Tools, turn an ordinary computer into a production console, whereby a solitary novice can become a skilled producer in a thrifty home studio. In the 2010s, efforts began to increase the prevalence of producers and engineers who are women, heavily outnumbered by men and prominently accoladed only in classical music.

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