Home > Drew Spence, Notes from the Desk, Producer's Edge > Want to be a producer? Better get to producing

Want to be a producer? Better get to producing

Want to be a producer? Better get to producing

Image of young Producer

Selling beats is not the path to being a Producer, only producing is.

Written by Drew Spence

I was sent a link on a rap producer’s forum and asked what I thought about the post. It was titled “Why you will NEVER make a living selling beats” Mostly it was meant as a rude awakening to all the hapless dreamers. Although others posted with additional ideas that sparked my reply, here is an excerpt from the original post that also caught my attention:

Most producers and musicians reach a stage where they become desperate because they are not making as much money / haven’t developed as many opportunities as they thought they would on the offset and they require these.

This, coupled with the general attitudes of other people, musicians, industry types etc. forces people to search for measures to reaffirm their belief that they are on the right path.

For example, its most likely you are reading this article not because you’ve realised you’re not selling enough beats and want to accept it, but that you can’t accept it and want to find an exception to the rule to prove to yourself that it can be done.

Think about it this way… in a regular non-creative profession such as a carpenter, surgeon or park-keeper, you will find it very hard to think of someone who is an exceptional, exemplary model of that job and lifestyle. It just doesn’t exist… all workers are pretty much on an even plain.

So why is it so difficult for musicians to justify their ambitions without resorting to the exceptional example? Why can’t producers explain their desires to hit the big time without quoting ‘Well Timbaland did it, he came from nowhere’, or ‘Eminem did it, and he was white! So there has to be a shot’….

you will be missing out on the real reason why you will never make a living off selling beats… something which, perhaps at an unconscious level is something you truly desire to know.

I’ve broken down the average producer. I didn’t mention he wasn’t talented or creative, that he didn’t love music or have a passion for it or that he didn’t have dreams or realistic ideas, etc. I simply said he was insecure, frustrated and lazy.

I liked the idea of trying to shake producers awake with some harsh words, except I don’t know many who idolize people that ‘sell beats for a living’. The Producer is the focus of our collective attention. Selling beats has nothing to do with producing records. I do find it strange that so many think like the author of this post. They think selling beats will magically make them a producer. I posted these ideas in return and combined them here.

I only see two angles here.
Dudes that want a placement.
Dudes that want a Place-that-Meant something.

You watch 8 million youtube videos and read 8 million interviews and still the big picture seems lost on everyone. A few “insiders” say it’s about RELATIONSHIPS and everyone takes that cliche phrase and runs with it.

The relationship isn’t calling the same A&R week after week to see if anything is poppin or emailing all your contacts once a week to see what’s hood.

All the producers with solid careers that have lasted built themselves off an artist(s) that started on their level and they GREW TOGETHER. Pete Rock, Preem, Heatmakerz, Collipark, Timbo, Neps-

Most cats are looking for a big $ale to make it all happen off one beat.
One sale with G-Unit and they good money.
One head nod from Juelz Santanna and they in for life.
Oh, if Rick Ross heard this…

A Placement is a single check. Not actually worth very much compared to how much time you invest in gear and time making beats and that’s compared to a straight nine-to-five [with college or without college].

It’s 2010 and the magic trick has been revealed. Hot beats are a dime a dozen. It takes a bit of work to find a good source, but still they’re out here in numbers.

A Producer is STILL hard to find. What do I get for working with you? Only the chance to rhyme over a nice track? I can get that anywhere. I don’t even NEED YOU- JUST YOUR BEATS. How about help with my hook? How about help with my image? How about free studio time while I grind away at a day job -just like you. You get free raps to promote your beats and I get free beats to promote my raps. Fair exchange.

We’re a team. If I make it, you make it. OUR RELATIONSHIP isn’t me buying a $20 dollar beat off your soundclick. It’s YOU Producing ME. It’s US as a group. Remember. “He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper”
Same thing in 2010.

And no, 20 million followers on twitter or facebook or soundick or whatever isn’t the answer. It’s a few partners that are reliable that will build your future. So yes to the OP, a lot of cats are dreaming way past their reality. And many of us who dream won’t be the next [insert whoever you wish you were].

Better to see reality as is.
You’re a cat who works a nine-to-five with dreams of making it big.
Rewind and repeat.

That doesn’t make you a loser.

You’d be a loser if you believed in your dreams in place of reality and really thought “This year is it!, Drake is gonna buy some of my beats and I’ll be Livin Large in no time!”

Or had some wacky mathematics…X beats sold a week at X dollars = livin la Vida loca.

The market isn’t saturated.
The world isn’t looking for beatmakers or just hot beats.
The world is STILL looking for producers.

You can’t be a Super-Producer until you’re a producer first. You can’t be a producer until you produce somebody first.

You can always claim any beat you sold as a production credit. That still won’t make you a producer.

Trying to make a living off selling beats (especially on the internet) is a wild adventure.

If you want to make a living off being a producer then you’d better start producing somebody. Anybody. There isn’t a profession or industry that you just start off at the top end on your first day. You’d better expect to work for free for a minute.

Your value isn’t what your talent is worth.
Your value isn’t what your talent is worth.
Your value isn’t what your talent is worth.

Your value is what you can make somebody el$e.

When your beats can make money for somebody else, then you’ll know what to charge for your talent/time and you’ll actually know what your worth is to the industry and demand exactly that.

So the fantasy stops when you realize that you think you’re a producer and you haven’t produced anybody. When you think a placement/beat-sold makes you a producer. When you think being a salesman of something (beats) with low value and a million similar products on the market is a good longshot to bank on.

Stop selling beats. Nobody wants them. Start selling yourself. You could be unique and special, but as long as a “hot beat” is all you present, we’ll never know if there’s more behind the head nod.

If there’s anything to take away from this, it’s like this music bug is a journey. If you truly feel it like that, then making music and the pursuit of your dreams has to be your real reward. If you enjoy making beats – with your heart- then you’ll never regret a day spent hunched over something with blinking lights.

You will enjoy your gear/studio and feel pride over what you’ve accomplished. It all has meaning. In the end, you’ll only regret What You Didn’t Do. And that will be giving it a 100% when you could have or should have.

Use iStandard

Use 30/30 Submissions

Use Conferences

Use Twitter…facebook, soundclick, SoundCloud, CDbaby…even myspace…

Just don’t expect that to be enough because it’s not.

If shopping your beats is clicking the send/Upload button, you’re not trying to be a producer. If making a thread to get hits on your site is your hustle, you’re not a hustler.

When you say “You should come like this..” or “Remember how you cracked them with [name hit record of the artist], we can come like that but really update your sound. Here, listen to this…” When you ask why cats are hanging out back smoking instead of getting their delivery right, you are producing. When everyone has gone home and you’re looking at the session notes (sheet) and double checking the credits…

Now I know the thought is, Man I live at home home with my moms and no famous rapper….will…ever….you do this FIRST with the rapper up the block. If you can make a hit record with an untrained, unschooled fool who wants to smoke and chase byches more than rap, you can look any industry cat in the face and be confident because you have worked with worse.

I would rather be 65 years old and play a bunch of records that never made me any real money then be 65 and play a bunch of beats that ‘could have been a record’ that never made me any money.

The choice is yours.

The sum of your time making beats is based on how far you took it.

If you produced, we cannot say you are not a producer.

You may not be rich or famous, but you will be a producer.

A beatmaker has to display his talents himself.

Others will remember what you produced

-Drew Spence, Editor in Chief Producer’s Edge Digital Magazine

  1. August 12, 2010 at 11:24 pm

    this is some of the realest ish i’ve read in a long time and i shall take the time to send this to a few of my “beatmaking” associates who really dont understand much about producing records that translate fiscally and who worry more about how many traccs they can crank out a day!

  1. August 25, 2010 at 3:52 am

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