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.

  • http://www.myspace.com/bangonthetableproductions Alpha-bet

    Co-sign on all of this , been saying this for a minute now..The playing field for producers is more even, and the way technology is, there really is no excuse to have a bad sounding beat (sound quality wise).

    Plus if you look at alot of the top hits the last couple years, they have been produced by unknowns. We Fly High, I Get Money, Low,..ect

  • CHUN

    Shows a lack of innovation. What about the Timbaland sound that had people going crazy 18 months ago.. But really, there is a serious lack of creativity in rap beats at the moment. Most producers can’t even program their drums well now. Check someone like Jay Dee or RJD2 who had some crazy drums that carried some weak tracks.

    The playing field is more even because everyone is doing the same shit; fuck, the roots are now innovative because they dropped the rhodes for rising down… All these people knocking beats out in an hour or a day need to spend some more time earning their money. Weak.

  • daesonesb

    I think that people these days hear a sound they like, and then they just dickride it till everyone is tired of it. Think.. before the timbo fad last year, there was the Collipark copy cats. After Timbo, it went to T Pain dickriding. And pretty soon now, that sound wont be a hit on radio or in the club, and people will move on to some other shit…

    If you can adapt to the new sound fast enough as a producer, then you can stay making money. Thats how I see it.

  • Mr. Rogers

    I don’t think the kids these days even associate Swizz Beatz of Ruff Ryders fame…

    but there are some out there who are still polishing a sound…The Runners, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League….they just have a whole region to attach themselves to and not a label

  • http://myspace.com/1takeentertainment CEEOHH

    I THINK THERE IS A LACK OF RESPECT FOR THE CULTURE AND THAT HIP HOP AS AN ART FORM IS BEING INFILTRATED BY AN ENTITY THAT HAS NO REAL UNDERSTANDING OF WHERE THE MUSIC STARTED OR WHAT IT IS ALL ABOUT.HIP HOP IS FROM THE STREETS AND BY PEOPLE WHO HAVE A STORY TO TELL.WHEN THE AUTHENTICITY IS TAKEN AWAY FROM THIS FORM OF EXPRESSION THEN YOU HAVE A CLUSTER FUCK OF MUSIC THAT HAS NO REAL MEANING.GRANTED IT IS A FORM OF ENTERTAINMENT AND THE BUSINESS OF SELLING MUSIC IS BRUTAL.HOWEVER, WHEN THERE IS NO REAL SUBSTANCE TO THE MUSIC BEING PLAYED OR THERE IS AN INFILTRATION OF MATERIAL THAT ALL SOUNDS ALIKE,THEN WE HAVE LOST SIGHT OF THE TRUE MEANING OF HIP HOP AS A FORM OF EXPRESSION.

  • http://myspace.com/bentrill j coop

    i agree but sometimes adapting AND making your own sound thats FIRE and will actually catch on will get you farther than style biting. BIM BIM BIM!!!

  • ri067953

    Wow, what a concept! A producer creating a “sound” that he can market to a recording artist. That is what a great producer should be doing in the first place. This is what has been going on in other generes of music for quite some time now. Think of Phil Spector and his wall of sound or even the countless Motown producers that created some of the greatest music ever. Nobody wants a beat maker anymore, you got to be able to produce a great record and know how to mix your records. You can’t just submit a beat and have someone lay a track to it and expect it to be the shit because you have had hits in the past. Now is the time for musicians to focus on the artistry and not just making money and becoming a star

  • http://PMPWORLDWIDE.COM AZ

    Good post Gooch, online technology has provided an opportunity for producers promote and market their sound without having to be so dependent on major placements/track record making or breaking them. As a producer you can develop your own fan base, many who would rather have fun rapping and singing over your instrumentals than paying $15.00 to hear someone else do it. This is the “do me” era and the smart producer will definitely look to use the Internet to BRAND himself through his sound rather than through his track record.

  • http://www.myspace.com/alsween AlSween

    can’t eat off branding yourself. so building an internet buzz means very little. unless you just looking for something to add to your press kit to show labels.