Props to Hip-Hop Is Read for a dope interview with Infamous, who along with Drew Correa, produced “Mr. Carter” for Lil Wayne. Now I know everyone on this side is sick of hearing about Lil Wayne (myself included), but there’s a portion of the interview that deals with the The Carter III leaking, and I think Infamous brings up a great point about other people who contribute to a project, particularly producers and engineers, that most people skim right over when addressing leaks.
“I think people fail to see how much damage leaking an album does to the industry and the economy as a whole. The most common thing I hear from people when an album leaks is: ‘So what?! They’re rich already!’ But people fail to see that there’s a bunch of producers that lose money. Some of these producers are broke and an album release could really be their big break. When an album leaks, it fucks them up big time. Also, you’ve got to take into account that there’s people working in factories manufacturing the CDs, artists making the art work, engineers mixing the records, and all these people need to get paid. It’s never just the artists that leaking records fucks over. When ‘Light Up My La La’ leaked, I was devastated ’cause that was my big break. Luckily, I landed ‘Mr. Carter’ thanks to Drew and Fabian and everyone else from Cash Money, so I got really lucky.”
Lucky is the ideal word, because what about the other producers who had songs leak who didn’t have tracks that made the album’s final cut? They’re shit out of luck on their bread, unless someone pushed an invoice through and at least got them the front end of their money. The upcoming producer, the guy who is on his grind making 5 tracks a day and who’s manager is sending them out to every single person who will take a listen, they have so much to benefit from an artist cutting vocals to their record and a song being completed and included on an album that actually makes it to see a proper release. It’s not always the producer’s “big break” per se, but the more work a producer has out there in the marketplace, the more leverage they have moving forward.
When songs get leaked, even though people may love the track, if the song doesn’t make the final cut of an album, that producer may never get credited and nobody knows they even did the song. I didn’t know Infamous produced the “Light Up My La La” record until I read this interview!
Sometimes the artists themselves play a role in tracks leaking, and you as a producer don’t want to jeopardize your relationship with the artist, so it’s kind of a tough position to be in. You basically gotta place multiple songs just to get 1 that makes the official release. Even then, there’s no guarantee it’ll make it. That’s frustrating.
Also, when an album like The Carter III leaks, even though it sold a million copies the first week out, it was a rare thing. Because most projects these days are leaking and then going on to not sell much. So if you’re placing tracks on albums that don’t sell a milli, you’re shit out of luck. Because you need that album to sell for you to earn mechanical and record royalties. Unless you’re song is a single, and then of course you’ll get that BMI, ASCAP, or SESAC performance royalty bread flowing in. But other than that, you’ve gotta hope and pray that album sells so you some money on the back end, because them front end checks sure haven’t kept up with the rate of inflation in this country (producers were getting paid on average 8-10k a track in 1996, back when 8-10k was a lot of bread. In 2008 they’re getting the same or less? How does that make sense?).
All in all, album leaks hurt the other people involved with an artist’s project way more than the artist. The artist benefits from having more material in the marketplace, more songs that people know, more opportunity to perform, bigger buzz, bigger catalog, more visibility. It’s not like the producer or engineer is going to go out there on stage and do a concert, so it’s really those folks who are affected the most. Because they’re putting in major grunt work behind the scenes and they have no opportunity to monetize their contributions.