It is the aspect of a song that is hit or miss. You know within moments of listening to a song whether or not it is dope or whether it is wack just by the first four bars before the lyrics! My intention in this blog is to go over a few things to look out for when looking for beats and to also give anyone looking for great production a few links to producers and websites that specialize in trafficking hot tracks!
It is difficult to talk about Hip-hop and beats without going over the topic of sample clearance. In 1991 the first ruling on sampling occured when Biz Markie was sued for sampling Gilbert O'Sullivan's hit song "Alone Again, Naturally". His album was barred from any further sale and this set the precedent by which business was to be conducted in regards to digital sampling. If you are looking to sample (legally) keep in mind that in order to clear a sample you will need to go through at least two copyright holders; the owners of the sound recording (the record label) and the owner of the composition (the publishing company). What they ask for in compensation for using the sample can vary from a simple flat fee to a more complicated royalty based agreement or a combination of both.
Due to the high cost and complicated nature of dealing with samples, many of todays most note worthy Hip-hop producers such as Timbaland, The Neptunes, and Scott Storch now produce principally by using synthesizers, drum machines, and libraries of royalty free loops.
Thanks to the popularity of Hip-hop and other genres of digital music there are now litteraly hundreds of royalty free loop products that can be purchased at relatively low prices. Two of the better and more extensive loop libraries are the Sony Acid library and the Apple Loop library each offering thousands of royalty free samples.
If you're not interested in dabbling with production but would rather connect with producers who earn there bread and butter from making head nodders then I have a site for you! PMP Worldwide Entertaintenment offers an online service that allows you to connect with A-List producers such as Clinton Sparks, Buckwild, and Domingo. Through this service you can also connect with lesser known producers who still pack a big punch. Another great resource for finding producers who take their craft seriously is the Connex List. This is a quarterly published Hip-hop version of the yellow pages, which includes a few pages of producers who have submitted their information (email, phone numbers, websites) so that you can hit them up for beats!
When negotiating terms for purchasing tracks there are two primary agreement types to keep in mind which are exclusive and non-exclusive ownership of the production. Exclusive ownership generally means that the producer agrees to no longer sell that particular track to anyone else again and may go as far as releasing the copyright to the buyer. A non-exclusive agreement generally means that the producer gives you permission to use the track but retains the right to continue to use the track for commercial purposes. When you begin to deal with major labels or major indies you may begin to also negotiate points on your album as partial compensation for a musical composition. Contractual agreement can quickly become complicated and it is always wise to get the opinion of a lawyer. I feel that it's important to note that these few sentences are nothing more than a brief overview of the primary 2 types of production agreements. For more extensive information on this topic I recommend that you reference the music industry book; All You Need to Know About the Music Business by Donald Passman.
Once you have found your track and negotiated the terms of agreement you get to one of the potentially slippery slopes of doing business, which is do you pay first or wait till you receive your track? This really depends and should be dealt with on a case by case basis. I personally like to receive the tracks first, so that in the case that I want adjustments in the arrangement of the track or the quality of the sound files I still have the leverage of the producers compensation. But if the producer has a track that you really want, or a name that you really want to be associated with then you may just be willing to shell out payment before receiving the files. This is just one of those gray areas that depends on how you want to do business. A compromise that you may find effective is to pay half up front and the second half of the payment once you have received all of the files of the track.
How do I get my beat?! When receiving your beat try to get it as seperated tracks in .wav file format. Now I'm not referring to the beat that you burn on CD to write your song too, that can be an MP3 or any other format. Instead I'm referring to the actual seperated files that the engineer will be manipulating when you are mixing it down. This is important because engineering and mixing songs is an art in and of itself, and the more you give the engineer to work with the better end product you'll get back. Tracks can be sent to you by the good old postal service on a CD or you can also use websites such as yousendit.com and megaupload.com. These websites are quite convenient because the producer will simply upload each file and you will receive a url that you can use to access the file, instantly and all from the comfort of your computer!
I hope that this information helps you find that banger that your looking for, and feel free to contact with any questions!
Wishing you continued success!