Step In The Minds of Producers Leasing & Shopping Beats
If you assume being a rap artist is hard, attempt being a producer. It’s all the same troubles as being a musician, other than your livelihood is often handcuffed to very difficult musicians with those same problems. Think if each month you needed to invest 40 hours a week (or a lot more) at your work and then needed to encourage your boss you was entitled to an income. Oh, and rather than one boss you had 20 bosses who changed frequently, and they all attempted to tell you that working for cost-free would be a “good look.” Now put yourself through that month after month after month, with the same bills and expenses building up – that’s what it’s like being a producer.
Even when a producer manages to get a beat to a musician and they like it adequate to record to it, and even IF that musician really has some funds budgeted to pay them (likely because they’re signed to a major), a substantial pay day is nevertheless far from certain. A sample could not be cleared and then the chance evaporates. Some A&R at the label could not like the song and the business opportunity evaporates. The musician themselves could get shelved, or get caught or just never put out the album or one of the hundreds of other aspects that could fail goes wrong, none of which have anything to do with you and are absolutely out of your management, and the chance evaporates.
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And afterwards, let’s say by some chance, that you manage to get a beat on an album that’s actually released and becomes reasonably famous. Upfront fees (the flat fee a producer might get paid once the beat is solely acquired) are so small now that all the funds’s down the road in royalties and publishing, and those very first checks might not come for a year until after the album’s released. Thinking of for how long it can take a musician to put out an album, it’s common for a few years to pass on between the beat’s authentic creation and that first royalty check, which implies it’s also common for a newer beatmaker to have a big hit song on the radio and yet be completely broke. The musician can go hit stages and redeem immediately on a viral song while the producer is back in the studio or the lab some people like to call it, making additional beats that maybe, just maybe, they can get checks for another couple years.
The simply way for a producer to establish a constant career is to have grabbed adequate placements (either with musicians or in commercials/TV etc.) over a length of time that the royalty checks add up to a stable enough stream to rely on, and that just takes time. So it’s no wonder that numerous producers rely seriously on leasing beats – there might not be much prestige or long-term cash in it, but the property owner needs to get paid right now and if the option is between leasing beats to at least keep your head over water and returning to working at Starbucks, I say lease the shit out of those beats my friend.
By the same reason, producers just need to shop instrumentals – give the same beat to multiple musicians at the same time – if they plan to build a stable career. Rappers may always say, “Yo, let me hold that trap beat!” and so sure, you set that hip hop beat or trap beat apart for them and don’t give it to anyone else, despite the fact that another person loves it and is in a much spot to pay you. And then a couple months later, it becomes clear that the prospects of that rapper actually putting the song out with some real cash attached is shadier than standing under an umbrella in a rain forest, and that bigger musician you said no to the very first time has moved on. Congratulations, you’re fucked.
Without a doubt musicians all want producers to sit down and spend days making beats especially for them, and then they’ll then decide if they’re going to purchase the instrumentals, but that’s a pragmatically hopeless position to put most producers in. Musicians, if you like it then you need to put a ring on it. And if you’re not willing to pay the beat maker a flat fee to assign themselves to making music with you, then you need to expect the beat maker to show you the exact same amount of allegiance.
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That doesn’t mean producers can just go around lying, offering exclusivity when they know they are marketing a beat around. Effectively this is a partnership business, and in the rare case that two musicians are willing to pay for the exact same beat concurrently, that’s a good problem to have, and one that needs to be taken care of. But those kinds of difficulties are how a producer learns they just might have a proffesion in the music industry. This is a cold hearted business, and no one’s got the knife pressed to their jugular extra than producers (and songwriters). Professionals in music aren’t just about creation, they’re about survival of the fittest, and if a producer wants to make it through the industry’s forest, it’s going to require a lot additional than some trendy beats. They’re going to need to pack a machete of their own.