There is no shortage of hopefuls who aspire to become successful beat producers, but far fewer actually understand the work of this individual in today’s popular music industry. The beat producer performs a greater function than pulling together synthesized drum hits, he or she is a composer who crafts the original music, an alchemist that mixes sampled material with original content, over which rap and hip-hop artists lay their lyrics.
A recording artist or other producer can contract the services of a beat producer to compose music, or the beat producer may offer original material to an artist as work-for-hire. Under the former arrangement, the beat producer reaches an agreement concerning copyright and licenses that may give the producer partial or full ownership of the composition. Under those circumstances, the producer retains rights concerning compensation for sales of the track on an album, and future use of the track when licensed for separate purposes, such as radio play, use in a film or television show, or performance. As work-for-hire, the beat producer generally solicits an artist to use the track and receives a one-time fee for the full ownership of the composition. That means that the producer is not entitled to any further compensation for the use of the material, unless contractually stipulated.
The process of composing musical tracks varies for each beat producer but entails the recording of live instruments or synthesized sounds. There are a number of software applications commercially available that allow a producer to compose such tracks on a personal computer. This requires the addition of a compatible synthesizer, keyboard, and one or more pieces of outboard gear. If the beat producer creates original music for an artist under contract, he or she may work closely with that musician and producer to compose a tune that is distinct to that artist’s style. He or she will work cooperatively in a recording studio to compose the track, refine the song, and finally record the single or multiple tunes. As work-for-hire, the producer may choose to work independently to compose one or more beat tracks that he or she shops around to entice a buyer. Another process of the beat producer is to create by digging through previously recorded tracks to sample beats and melodies from a wide variety of musical genres. In such cases, the beat producer creates an original track through the modification and manipulation of an existing tune. There are also digital libraries that are commercially available and widely used by professionals. The license typically requires only a one-time fee, like purchasing a computer program.
Skills & Education
An aspiring beat producer would greatly benefit from a formal education in music, with an emphasis on composition and musicianship. A degree in recording arts, coupled with study in musical composition is also applicable. This career demands an individual who is familiar with digital recording software, as well as the basic operation of studio recording consoles. Knowledge of Pro Tools and similar applications such as Logic, Sonar, and Live is necessary. As the practice of a beat producer relates to rap and hip-hop, this person should be especially familiar with these genres and their musical qualities. Of course, an appreciation for multiple styles of music will enrich your work and further train your artistic ear. What marks a great producer is the ability to be not only innovative but also diverse.
What to Expect
Beat producers trying to make a career tend to proliferate their material in nightclubs and small concert venues as the primary means of building a reputation. There, these individuals court local DJs and MCs to listen to their tracks and consider their material for use on original songs. You must know who the artists are, where they play, and be plugged in to the scene in order to gather clients. It is generally wise to start small and then work your way up to start scouting major talent. Expect to receive very little money in the early days of your career, as few are willing to take a risk on an unproven talent. However, once your portfolio boasts several successful tracks sourced by recording artists, you may reevaluate your fee accordingly. In considering representation for copyright licensing of your work through a performing rights organization like BMI or publishing through a company like Harry Fox, beat producers would be considered composers or songwriters, depending on their level of work on the creation of original songs.
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