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Brand Recognition In The Music Business At A Time When Nobody Cares

I was having a conversation with a very well-known producer manager last night. It was over dinner, two old friends just chopping it up. The producer manager, who’s placed tracks on countless platinum-selling albums, obviously somewhat in a state of dejection considering what the music business is today, said he felt that right now it didn’t matter what his producers had done in the past. It really didn’t matter what records they produced or who they worked with. What mattered was just having the right tracks for the right artists at the right time. That got me to thinking, and it’s not something that hasn’t been on my mind for a while, but I haven’t written about it.

Particularly with freelance producers, in the past we’d always associate someone with their work. You think Just Blaze, you’re not thinking about that 2nd Killah Priest album, you’re thinking Jay-Z and Roc-A-Fella. You think Timbaland and you think Missy. Think Premier, you think Gangstarr and mad underground work. Think Dilla, you think Tribe… and so on and so forth. It’s this idea that the producer sort of contributes to an artist, a group, a camp’s success, to the point where you start really just putting two and two together. And then most artists latch onto a producer’s work and ask for similar-sounding shit. It’s a way of branding your sound.

But now we’re at this point where one could argue that there are few big stars left in hip-hop, and so everyone who’s associated with the current crop of artists gets leveraged. It’s not like we’re all sitting around analyzing the same albums anymore. The event album is done. There is no more Blueprint. The only people who were left gawking and intellectualizing over American Gangster were geeked-out Jay-Z stans AKA hip-hop music critics. A few months later, and I could give two fucks about that album, not that it wasn’t good or anything.

Point is that music right now, particularly if you’re consuming it through a new media outlet (itunes phone, youtube, etc), is very disposable. People’s attention is very much diverted, we’re not all listening to the same shit like back in the old days. Everything seems so segmented, which is fine. It’s just that the people who’re behind the artists and songs we’re fucking with, we can’t really identify them with anything, because our interests are all over the place. And the albums themselves, if we ever get around to actually listening to them, just sound like a hodge podge of material, seemingly thrown together at the last minute in an attempt to try to please every quantifiable fan base you can think of.

So if you’re a producer, and you can put together a selection of tracks that fit these themes- the party track, the pop track, the up-tempo Pussy Cat Dolls-ish track, the street but sort of club banger track, etc- you can get placements. And really doesn’t matter what you’ve done. You can be some no name dude, which is great for upcoming producers. But how long will that really last? Not long, because as soon as someone else comes with that type of joint, you won’t be around next year.

So what am I really saying? I’m saying focus your attention less on working with 8 gazillion different artists and touting that inflated discography like it means something. It does. But not as much as bringing your unique sound to the game and creating your own lane. Because right now people want to hear music again, they don’t care about the names. Most of the beatmakers behind your current crop of one hit wonders never sold a track in their life, but they got a hit with some artist from a region probably nobody has cared about since the Dust Bowl. What they do with their career from there is up to them.

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