The Free Music Generation

As recently as a few days ago, I was having a conversation with my dude AZ, who owns and runs the production marketplace PMP Worldwide (if you’re not already signed up for a PMP account, I strongly suggest you hurry up and do so). We were just talking about this whole generation of new producers and artists who are coming up now, how they all having this hustler mentality, and don’t want to spend money anything. It’s an idea that is related to my mixtape post from a few days ago, how everyone wants you to do things for them on the arm, because their movement is strong and they’ve worked with this one and that one.

The general strategy in the minds of those “on the grind” is this: I’m going to talk everyone into doing free things for me. Then I’m going to press up a product (CD, DVD, whatever else you can think of), promote the hell out of myself, and then I’m going to walk into a major label and they’re going to fork over a few million dollars for me to record my project.

The problem is that major labels, while they still have some value, have seen their relevance and their ability to just pour out money to artists with a “buzz” dwindle in recent years. There isn’t just some big pile of money waiting to be handed over anymore. This isn’t the 90s. Dudes need to be realistic. Buzz does not equal record sales.

What we have now is a cornucopia of smaller companies, people who have start-up situations, and are looking to make a few bucks doing what they love. If you’re a producer, for example, you might rent some space somewhere, set up a small project studio, and look to make money selling studio time and tracks to people who need music. This is something I’ve done a few times in my life, set up studios and all. But for every new client my business would get, there would another potential client trying to get something for free out of me and my business partners. Being the guys we were, we didn’t want to pass up certain opportunities that we thought might be good for us, so we got in bed with certain folks, and let’s just say their movements didn’t move to far. At the time, I guess there were certain rewards, but nothing could have helped us more than these people just contributing to our bottom line. We had bills to pay, like any normal American.

I think that with producers especially, there’s almost a lack of respect for the time and money put in to creating music for people to rap to. Rappers don’t have to pay for shit except a notebook and a pen, and what’s more, dudes just type in their sidekicks now, which they have anyway, for hollering at random chicks and assorted bullshit that doesn’t make them any money (that might help them actually pay for a beat).

I think that people who work records to radio go through the same thing, having to deal with artists who just don’t have any idea of what type of bread it costs to pay for that type of service. Indie publicists suffer as well, having to deal with rappers who don’t know anything about the business, let alone what a publicist does, or how much the service costs. These people just want to waste time. But they’re going to get rich or die trying, so you should fuck with them, right?

Everyone’s got a company these days, but nobody wants to do business. Everyone’s an executive, but can’t execute even the simplest thing. And it’s because they think there’s some big bag of money that’s gonna fall out of the sky once they put out enough mixtapes, go to enough industry parties, kiss as many A&R asses as possible, and get on as many street DVDs with guns as they can before they get locked by the local cops (not the hip-hop cops, they’re not that important).

Put your money where your mouth is, and then maybe this business can work for you the same way you’re trying to work it over.

And you guys whoring out your beats for $10 on Myspace aren’t helping things. A plate of fried chicken wings and french fries from your neighborhood chinese spot costs about the same. Are you serious?

  • ApexPredator

    Producers providing cheap and sometimes free beats on the internet might make it more difficult for a producer to sell a beat, but like you said on your last post, to sell a beat you have to know the right people anyway, regardless if your track is hot or not. So are these producers just supposed to sit on their dope beats their whole life and have no one ever rock on them, or is it more advantageous to get your name out and maybe make a little bit of money while you are at it. From a musical and creative standpoint I think the latter, if you get into it for the money, I think you set yourself up for inevitable failure.

  • Neven

    I’m no pro. but i still like to make beats fof the simple fact of relaxation there is nothing more satisfying in making a beat and your friends or others at partys rapping over it. But I work hard at my Job to afford all that shit and the same boysandgirls at partys expect me to just hand them over a beat because they think they have the grind to make it and everytime they ask I say no or I go in and make a wack ass beat with high pitch backrounds to annoy the fuck out of them. producers should be giving themselves more respect and tell those lazy mc to step up and pay the high cost for high quallity.

  • mr.martin

    That article was obviously spoken from a producer’s perspective,but the reality is that everything rests on the emcee. Until he “makes” it, an emcee will spend thousands of dollars trying to make his dream come true. How many times have you had studio time and the producer forgets the file with the track, has some technical problem that drains your studio time tryna fix it or is late (if he even shows up), all on your dime. the reality is that most up and coming producers are, maybe due to the expertise required to work their machines, very egotistical from the onset of their careers, because every emcee needs a track but not every producer needs an emcee. How about paying for a beat and having producers sell the same beat to someone else. The reality is that the emcee deals with producers, publicists, managers, mixtape djs and radio programmers who all request a fee to look at him, talented or otherwise and give him the runaround just to flatter their ego. You can see it in the underground and the mainstream. Publicists and managers charge you a monthly fee and then send you to open mics you could have gone to for free. the emcee is the mother, with the baby for the long run, while the producer is the dead beat dad, dropping the seed and only reemerging if it blows up. Trust me most emcees are the one getting screwed, paying money for beats that others will download if it blows up or will never come out, and being told to do it for the love.

    • http://www.myspace.com/sogentllc LowEndofDaChi

      Yo, since you’re running into problems like that when recording, I strongly suggest you invest in a portable hard drive as a backup for your own files. Just make sure you know the version of Protools used to record in case you take the files to a different studio to work off of.

  • http://gooddoctorzeus.blogspot.com DocZeusX

    Perhaps, this would better be solved if there was more rap groups with a producer/emcee like their used to be. Just a thought.

  • boi-dan

    Good points

  • gooch

    “How about paying for a beat and having producers sell the same beat to someone else.”

    You expect someone to give you tracks exclusively? Unless someone drops more than a G, that’s not gonna happen.

    “Publicists and managers charge you a monthly fee and then send you to open mics you could have gone to for free.”

    If you could have gone for free, then why them? I guess you learn the hard way. And real talk, if someone charged you up front for shit like that, then you got hustled. A manager makes money on what they make for the artist- commission. Anything else is a hustle.

    “The reality is that the emcee deals with producers, publicists, managers, mixtape djs and radio programmers who all request a fee to look at him, talented or otherwise and give him the runaround just to flatter their ego.”

    Again, a hustle. You should never be paying a fee to anyone just to look at you.

  • mr.martin

    Good looks on the advice Gooch but think about how many younguns don’t know. I guess you learn how as you go. What i meant by open mics is that what you get offered is stuff you could get on your own, and their connects are overblown but I digress. All and all real recognize real and there are viper emcess and viper producers but honorable in both areas. Hope those out there unite before they get jaded from one too many bad encounters. Good article man

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  • wesman

    yo there needs to be something like a writers guild but for producers and we should just go on strike because without us none of todays rappers could last 1 minute accapella on the radio or as a free download. we make hip hop hot and sha money xl,the runners,and Toomp prove it every time they make a sweet ass beat and give it to a wack ass rapper whos only talent is writing hooks and calling themselves a real ass nigga,talking about imaginary bitches they aint never fucked until they got money and talk about the gram of weight they’ve moved but have exaggerated it into bricks for 16 bars straight…..*sigh* sorry I just needed to vent.
    P.S. FAT JOE…. STOP MAKING MUSIC you have never had a good album and will never have a good album! you are only good for summer anthemes. And no im not hating im just stating the truth.

  • DirtDogggy

    You have to be a MC and a producer these days, get on it. Typically MC’s are creative people and making beats is the same shit just takes time to get the fundamentals down then the creativity is there, but you have to be an MC first because we all know how wack producers turned rappers are (swiss beats comes to mind off the top, Timberland ect..).

    This is the only way motherfuckers can eat considering the games overpopulated and nowone’s buying records, I’d hate to say it but you need to crank that soldier bitch style and do it all by yourself.

  • yow

    What’s wack is you’re talking about it as if you were selling Yogurt or something. It’s all about business, hustling, blah blah blah. Don’t forget it’s music, it might sound naive but do it for the art, if you can make a few buck while you’re at it fine, but it shouldn’t be the priority in the first place.

  • kb

    I think the term “music business” is an oxy moron itself. Music is a pleasure, and business and pleasure don’t mix. The music industry should go the route of television and offer music for free, but charge advertising fees to compensate. Nobody buys music today anyways with the internet offering it for free. Record companies should give in already and stop trying to charge money for products people can get for free. We never hear the television industry complaining that nobody’s watching television anymore.

  • Gooch

    Very few artists approach me and ask for tracks or want to work for the sake of the art. Perhaps that’s just me though. When someone does do that, and I can tell they aren’t bullshitting completely, then it’s definitely something I consider doing.

  • Gooch

    Also, even “Art” has business behind it. You think The Roots play for free?

  • http://www.picturemedia.co.za I RUN THIS..

    I feel you man, people just dont want to do business.
    Im fortunate enough to have done it all from working singles on radio to doing retail strategies for albums and people just dont understand, like how you put it “the type of bread it costs” to make certain thing work.

    Eg..Id get a call from some stupid artist asking me why certain retailors dont have his album? And id be like “maybe if you had completed your album when you where suposed to, the sales team wouldv presentd it to the retailors on time..instead you wanted yo man Cheeze 2 mix it who took a month, who’s gonna cut you in when he sends the invoice, when i couldve just sent it to Sony Studios to be mixd and got it back in a week or 2″.. My point is people want money but they just dont want to do business..They just wanna “hustle”..in other words cut corners.

    Great Post man..i fully agree

  • Da Bizness

    As a successful artist/producer manager, I have to say that everyone’s situation is different. I represent 3 producers and they all look at it differently. If it’s something they really want to work on, they will do it for free..but with an agreement in place. In this case, usually its for an act that has the potential of getting a deal or some sort of funding in the future. The flipside of that is I require all my producers to have the acts sign lease agreements..period! One thing I never read in posts like this is the discussion of publishing!!! All producers, good and bad, need to know about the pub game.

    • FLY

      Da Bizness made the best point besides the great post about the state of mind. “Executives that can’t execute the simplest thing” wow.

      Since we live in a world where we want to immediately get paid when we deliver something it’s common sense that producers that haven’t ‘made it’ yet focus on getting paid – also because they work hard on their craft and have spent money on they gear. But in all actuality the money’s in the publishing. I’m glad to see Da Biznez making the comment that even when his producers do a ‘free job’ there’s still an agreement. I’d bet my gear that there’s something about publishing in there :o)

      Publishing is money over and over and over and over again for each time a song’s on the radio, TV (music video), is performed or used in a movie, commercial or as a theme song. In the case of a hit song this means incredible revenue opportunity.

      Never be the fool that’s breakdancing for the 500 bucks for a track and not mentioning publishing. It’s the music BUSINESS… as weird as it is to do music AND do business all producers should be on theirs. For those that are like ‘I wanna focus on music’ get a manager, find somebody who believes in you. Heck a friend or your girl who REALLY believes in you who’s read a book on the music business will always be better than you saying ‘yo what about the money tho’ and them saying ‘yo son we bout to blow.. roll with us now.. we won’t forget you but we ain’t got the cake to pay for you NOW.. but we meeting with next week’.

      Get your publishing. Oh and cuz they said ‘yeah man drop the beat over there’ does NOT get them producer credits or a part of your publishing.

      FLY LACOSTE
      xtrafly@hotmail.com

  • RIOTLIFE

    Shit really gets tougher out here. In times where basically anyone with a computer and internet access can become a somewhat quality producer (if some talent is there)off course the prices go down. Therefore im calling for a producers union. Anyone who sells or buys their joints for under, let´s say at least 500$, is to be boycotted (or maybe smacked) by the ones in the Union… At the end of the day, what doesnt cost money ain´t shit anyways. Yall never get respect through this. And for the publishing. There aint no pub money in mixtapes and free downloads… But rappers do well paid shows with our beats and we don´t see shit. No freebees from me unless u my homie for life or a bad ass broad willing to pay in naturals…

  • FLY

    Da Bizness made the best point besides the great post about the state of mind. “Executives that can’t execute the simplest thing” wow.

    Since we live in a world where we want to immediately get paid when we deliver something it’s common sense that producers that haven’t ‘made it’ yet focus on getting paid – also because they work hard on their craft and have spent money on they gear. But in all actuality the money’s in the publishing. I’m glad to see Da Biznez making the comment that even when his producers do a ‘free job’ there’s still an agreement. I’d bet my gear that there’s something about publishing in there :o)

    Publishing is money over and over and over and over again for each time a song’s on the radio, TV (music video), is performed or used in a movie, commercial or as a theme song. In the case of a hit song this means incredible revenue opportunity.

    Never be the fool that’s breakdancing for the 500 bucks for a track and not mentioning publishing. It’s the music BUSINESS… as weird as it is to do music AND do business all producers should be on theirs. For those that are like ‘I wanna focus on music’ get a manager, find somebody who believes in you. Heck a friend or your girl who REALLY believes in you who’s read a book on the music business will always be better than you saying ‘yo what about the money tho’ and them saying ‘yo son we bout to blow.. roll with us now.. we won’t forget you but we ain’t got the cake to pay for you NOW.. but we meeting with next week’.

    Get your publishing. Oh and cuz they said ‘yeah man drop the beat over there’ does NOT get them producer credits or a part of your publishing.

  • 2Gutta

    And you guys whoring out your beats for $10 on Myspace aren’t helping things. A plate of fried chicken wings and french fries from your neighborhood chinese spot costs about the same. Are you serious?

    ^ if it nessecary YES sell ur beats for 10$ there is nuthin wrong wit it.

  • http://www.myspace.com/relavantbeats Relavant Beats

    my problem with the free beat thing is that just like fruity loops and other free vst programs gave everybody the ability to produce…even worse is, like someone said b4 all a rapper needs is a pen and a pad. So if u think everyone tries to produce…nah homie…everyone tries to rap…..prolly even more so than produce. than they all feed u this unrealistic dream that they are about to blow up because they know so and so at this and that label (as if its just that easy) or their cousin knows timbaland or some shit. than comes the….”i’ll hit u off as soon as i get on” line =/. now…it’s ok to have goals and dreams. But respect mine as a producer too!! what u are basically saying to me by asking for a free beat is “fuck ur time, mines more important”. Because not only does it take money for the equipment….but than i spent time collecting drums for all sorts of places…..diggin for samples which can take days and weeks if u want something unique instead of sampling the jackson 5 or barry white….the ability to know what sounds work well together if im making a keyboard joint, knowledge of how to work the equipment…..and than once i gained all those skills…i have to sit there and make a beat…and for me…a person who is a perfectionist this sometimes takes anywhere from a few hours to a week just because im making sure everything fits together. than u get the beat to the rapper and what do they do? sit there and write 3 verses in 15 minutes about some nonsense?!?! its like givin the keys to ur new car to ur 16yr old son. u worked hard…saved up for it….and they drive the shit wrecklessly. i like what my dude said…”ask a rapper to give u a hot 16 he just wrote and see where that conversation goes” lol. If your studio time isnt being managed correctly or u lose ur sessions disks thats not my fault. I’m providing a service. i’ll track it out…and give u a back up disk as well but i deserve to be paid for the work i put in…and not no 10 dollars…i can’t even buy a shirt with 10 dollars. anyone givin out their beats for 10bucks is sellin themselves short…unless it sounds like a 10 dollar beat lol…and even that laffy taffy beat was worth more than 10 dollars.