What are some bands that have gone in without a producer and still have been successful? What can a producer do songwriting wise that I can't? And how can I learn to be a producer inside my band?
What a producer does depends on the project, really, some producers will direct your band on how to layer parts so that they'll sound as good as they can when fully mixed, some will want to change peoples' parts or get rid of a certain part if they don't believe it'll work as well as the band think it will. Experienced and accomplished producers (one's who've worked with signed bands) will be able to guide the band so that their music will sell. Whether you can do that depends on how precious you are with your songs, at the end, they are a commodity to be sold, and if you're dead set on having your creative vision untouched, having a producer is almost pointless. To be a producer in your own band, you need knowledge on bands in your genre, both signed and unsigned, and you need to be able to pinpoint exactly why these unsigned bands are unsigned and why the signed bands are signed, why you like the bands in your genre that you like. When you can pinpoint that, you can write great songs and change songs that aren't commercially viable. You have to see your band like a business to be a producer, which some unsigned bands are unwilling to do.
Quote by hahaha15
What are some bands that have gone in without a producer and still have been successful? What can a producer do songwriting wise that I can't? And how can I learn to be a producer inside my band?

I'm friends with a guy who has engineered a tremendous amount of popular music over the past 10-15 years. A lot of stuff you've listened to. We were sitting around talking about music a while back and he made an important point:

Most of the songs you hear on the radio started with one person on a piano or a guitar.

Not all of them, sure. Some of them started from group jams, or whatever. But most of the songs you heard started with a piano or a guitar and a voice, and that's it.

A producer is a person who takes that one-person-piano-or-guitar-plus-vocal track and turns it into the song you hear on the radio.

Some bands produce themselves - The Rolling Stones, for example. Other bands bring in a new producer to help them find a new sound - eg, U2 bringing in Eno and Lanois for "The Unforgettable Fire." And sometimes a producer is just a guy who knows where to find a bassist, a drummer, and a studio.

Some producers do a lot of songwriting and arranging. Others serve more as an independent sounding board for the band, a way to get them outside their own heads and provide a perspective on how someone who isn't in the band is going to feel about the music. Other producers are very plugged into what radio will play and know how to steer songs towards that.

Do you need a producer? Well, do you know how to get a good recording, technically, or how to find/hire people who do? Do you know how to give your songs an interesting arrangement? Do you know how to make your band sound like more than just three or four guys wailing away in a room? Do you know how to see the forrest for the trees?
Like most of our sort of music there are no rules. The simplest sort of recording is just to record what you do, get someone else to run the tech and they are engineering, as soon as they start making artistic suggestions they are a producer. This can range from simply suggesting an over-dub or a changed instrument part through to booking in session musicians, writing parts and all the things Hotspur mentions.

We went in to record with a 'producer' for our cover band, we just wanted some simple mp3's for the website. It was just more efficient, we recorded 4 tracks in less than a day, he just made a few suggestions, responded to our ideas and the end result was a lot better than when we had previously worked with just an engineer. He's offered to do more on some of the songs if we want, bringing them up to to something we could release but at the moment we just want a clean version of what we do on stage, slightly supercharged.

There are people out there with decades of experience and who are fun to work with. You can get completely shaped by a producer or just helped to do what you want a little better. For us it was a great experience.
When producing an album, the producer often becomes a 4th/5th/6th member of the band (depending on the size of your band) and should offer a different prespective on your music - this works as its often hard to see where youre going wrong when looking from the inside. Bands like the Rolling Stones used this to great effect in their hayday, with Jimmy Miller hanging with the band and even filling in on other instuments. Many modern artists (Jake Bugg, Miles Kane etc) share co-writing credits with their producers
Like the other posters were saying it really depends on the producer. I kind of see the producers role kind of like the director is in a movie. They are there to guide the band to make the best recording possible. They are an outside ear who knows the business and knows what makes bands successful and what makes them sound good. Some producers like Rick Rubin take a very hands off approach and only come in the studio on occasion to give notes on the sound. Others like Bob Rock are in the studio more than the band are and will get in there and play an instrument and show musicians how a part might be played differently.

There are many bands who self produce their music. The thing with that is that for one it is a lot more work for that person, and secondly you need to be able to in a way distance yourself from the songs. You need to be able to give critical analysis of the songs and of your bandmates. You need to be objective and be able to tell the bass player that the bass line he thinks is the greatest thing ever, needs to be changed, or tell the guitar player that his favorite guitar isn't giving the right sound for the song, or that one of the lyrics needs to be changed. You also need to be there for the mixing and mastering because you will have a large role in determining how the final sound comes out. The producer is there to push the band to help them achieve a great song. Their the ones who don't settle, and need to tell the band that good isn't good enough.