Wendy Day: What Every Producer Should Know

If you’ve followed Hip-Hop music for the past 20 years , you would know that the once strictly art form has quickly transformed into a multi-billion dollar industry.  When money enters any equation, what was once considered art, is now officially business.  Fifteen years ago Wendy Day recognized the need to help artist become more […]

If you’ve followed Hip-Hop music for the past 20 years , you would know that the once strictly art form has quickly transformed into a multi-billion dollar industry.  When money enters any equation, what was once considered art, is now officially business.  Fifteen years ago Wendy Day recognized the need to help artist become more educated about the business aspect of Hip-Hop music.  As the music form gained more notoriety, and began to garner more attention from major record labels and various corporations, she also noticed her favorite artists and producers getting the short end of the stick.  She felt a strong urge to help those artists who were making little to no money from their current deals.  This “urge” led Wendy to form Rap Coalition in 1992.  Rap Coalition is a not- for – profit organization dedicated to educating and empowering rappers, Djs, and producers, to recognize a poor record deal and provide the necessary information to negotiate a better one.  In Part one of this two part series, Wendy discusses  how new producers can break into the industry, why producers should not give away free beats, and how to structure a deal so you can get paid exactly what your production is worth.  Producers take notes…AllHipHop.com:  You have a lot of information on your website.  How did you go about learning all of that information.Wendy Day:  Actually, mostly trial and error. I’m very fortunate that as a human being I have no trouble walking up to somebody and starting a conversation with them, and asking them almost personal questions.  When I first started doing deals in this business I asked E-40, “How’d you get your deal?” I was able to ask a lot of people intimate details about what they had done and I learned from their knowledge and their experience.  AllHipHop.com:  How can a producer use your website and benefit from the information in it?Wendy Day:  www.Rapcoalition.org has a lot of industry articles that will benefit the producer side of the industry.  I just found a designer who is going to re-design it.  It’s going to be broken into sections for producers, for rappers, and for DJs.  There will be separate sections where people can go to get information that will be pertinent to them.  But, for a producer who wants to be independent, the best thing a producer in a smaller area can do it to align themselves with an independent artist that’s doing it.  You know somebody who’s making noise. Because as that artist blows up, so will that producer.AllHipHop.com:  You started in the industry in 1992 and the climate has somewhat changed since then.  There are producers everywhere now with the advancements in technology. What would be the best first steps to break out as a new producer in an over-saturated market?Wendy Day:  I think the most important thing is to make good music. I probably meet 30 producers a day. But of those 30 producers, probably one is really talented. I mean yes there’s a lot of competition, yes there is a lot of over-saturation, but there’s not a lot of over-saturation in terms of talent.  It’s almost like the rap game is the new drug game. It’s like everyone wants to get into it, but not everyone is qualified. Not everyone has the ability or the skill set necessary.  Yes you can set up a cheap studio in your home but that doesn’t mean that everybody should be doing it.  The most important thing is to make good music.  The second most important thing is to learn the business. I think Kanye [West] is a great example of that because if you listen to his interviews he talks about how he feels so taken advantage of by Jay-Z and Rocafella [Records]. But, if he would have taken some time to learn how the industry really works, that would have never happened to him.AllHipHop.com:  Do you think a manager is necessary for a producer?Wendy Day: No.  I think the most important thing again is it comes back to having hot tracks.  I think the one thing that producers have the ability to do that rappers don’t, is they have the ability to build a bigger network.  They can work with many different rappers and they have the ability to get their tracks out there. So as a rapper is on the street selling his own Cds, or sitting in an office in New York trying to get a record deal, that producer’s sound is being heard.  And it’s a production driven industry which means if I’m a producer, and I’m based in Memphis Tennessee, just to pick and arbitrary small town, by working with as many different rappers as possible from that area, I’m able to get my beats all over the place.  I think that’s something that a producer has, that a rapper doesn’t necessarily have. The bottom line is  it’s a producer driven industry.  When somebody hears a song, they hear the beat first.  There are times when I’ll listen to a song like 20 times and then say, “Ok now let’s see what the rappers saying.”  I’ll hear the beat first, the beat is what sucks me in. AllHipHop.com: What’s your opinion on giving beats away for free or for very low cost?Wendy Day:  I’m glad you asked me that.  I’m somebody that’s done a lot of s**t in this industry for free.  So I can tell you from personal experience that when something is free, it has no value, and that’s not good. Whatever you do you need to have some sort of price on it because everything we do in business has value attached to it.  The way that a producer can protect themselves financially, as well as being able to work with as many people as possible, is to structure the deals [differently].  Let’s say I’m a producer and I live in Memphis Tennessee. I want to do beats for as many rappers in my area as possible, but these guys don’t have 5,000 a track, or 2,500 dollars a track to pay me. But my value, in my opinion as a producer is that I should be making somewhere between 2,500 and 5,000 a track.  So I’m going to structure my deals with these artists [differently]. So maybe you pay me 500 dollars now, you get to use my beat for a certain amount of time for maybe six months to a year.  If you go and you get a deal or you put out your record, and my beat is on there, I’m going to want the rest of the money that I feel I deserve.  So you can pay me 500 dollars today, and if you go get signed by Def Jam, you owe me 2,000 dollars for that beat.  That’s a way that you can do it where you still get your full value, but you’re still able to work with as many people as possible.AllHipHop.com:  Yeah, people have different opinions about that, some feel that you should do whatever to get in the industry.Wendy Day:  I’ve done so much s**t in this industry for free, I mean I’ve done deals for free.  I just don’t feel that free has value. I think free is saying to somebody , ” I don’t attach a value to what I do, so take it from me.”  You know it’s one thing if you and I do something together, and only 500 dollars is generated, that’s a different scenario than if we do something together and five million dollars is generated. If I have gotten paid nothing, and you make that whole five million, I have a problem with that.  So I think we should structure and agreement where if money is made, we share in that money.  AllHipHop.com:  So should a producer still have a contractual agreement with an underground rapper or one that doesn’t have a lot of money?  I know a lot of guys just take the money and that’s it.Wendy Day:  You have to have an agreement because there are so many questions that occur in the music industry. Our deals all have back-ends.  Whether you choose to get paid on the back-end or not is up to you.  So let’s say I’m that producer from Memphis, and I sell you a beat for 500 dollars, and I take my money on Paypal.  Let’s say you go and get a deal with Universal and they say “We want to use the album exactly the way you put it together. Give us all your paperwork.”   Now you’re looking stupid because you have no paperwork from that producer from Memphis. You paid him already, but you have no paperwork to say that he’s been paid or that there is no back-end. So now Universal is either going to not use that track, which sucks for everybody, or they will have to go back to that producer. He may be in a worse financial situation and he hears Universal is involved, he may want ten grand for that track, even though you paid 500 bucks. So yeah you have to have the paperwork.  AllHipHop.com:  Explain what that means to get paid on the “Back-end.”Wendy Day: In the music business,  at the time that you’re selling the beat, the Cds aren’t in the stores selling yet.  That means there is going to be future revenue coming. Because you’re selling artwork that has the ability to sell in the future, you need to work an agreement of what you’re going to get paid in the future, and that’s called a royalty.  As a producer, I would want to make sure that whatever I get upfront now in a cash figure, I [also] want to make sure that I get three points, which means three percent of the retail selling price.  It’s a mathematical formula based on the number of songs on that album. I want to make sure that I get paid for every Cd that gets sold.  So I’m asking for three points in addition to that 5,000 dollar payment that I’m getting.  Stay Tuned for  part two on Wednesday Check out Wendy speaking at a Music Conference in Mississippi