All Articles Tagged "music business"

LA Reid Leaves Island Def Jam

March 18th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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( — After seven years of cultivating the careers of Island Def Jam superstars like Rihanna, Kanye West, and Justin Bieber, Island Def Jam Chairman LA Reid resigned this morning, reports  In a letter to his staff, Reid explains that he’s “always thrived on growth and the next great challenge, and I look forward with much enthusiasm to what the future holds.”

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Hip Hop Invented Modern Music Economics

January 7th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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(The Atlantic) — Perhaps no entertainment industry has been challenged by the Internet like music. Consider this statistic: At the end of the 1990s, artists made $15 million a year from record sales. In the digital decade that followed, music sales fell 60 percent. What’s an artist to do?  Diversify, diversify, diversify.  These are boom times if, like the Dave Matthews Band, you’re a popular group with affluent middle-aged fans who are willing to shell out $50 – $100 for a concert ticket. That’s one reason why DMB made $500 million in the last ten years from touring alone, as Annie Lowrey writes.

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Chuck D on Evolving Beyond The Limitations of The Old Music Business Model

December 28th, 2010 - By TheEditor
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(The Sydney Morning Herald) — Albums are very last century to Chuck D. As is record-company power. The rhyme-animal from Public Enemy, who helped shape the foundation stone of hip-hop, has moved on from both, having spent the past decade immersed in cyberspace, building online communities outside corporate governance. “My joy over the last 12 years [firstly] has been in the digital forefront, seeing some of the big monster [companies] being levelled down to planet Earth,” he says. “[Secondly], building portals on the web . . . seeing that there’s a world connected beyond the power and the corporations of radio stations and TV.”  “But you have other artists who have not been so fortunate because of the lack of infrastructure, so I built . . . So if someone like Dana Dane or a Digital Underground comes out with a single, they don’t have to go through the whole bureaucracy.”

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6 Independent and Business Savvy Hip-Hop Labels

December 11th, 2010 - By TheEditor
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Once upon a time, it was all about the major music label deal. But today, as every type of business is taking a loss, some business-savvy artists are doing things their own way with independent labels. Here are some of rap’s richest who continue to thrive in a slow economy with their own label imprints.


The legendary rapper-producer is also one of hip-hop’s savviest–unlike many who sell away the rights to their songs, Dr. Dre hangs on to most of his. and still collects royalties on multiplatinum albums like the 1992 classic The Chronic, which sold nearly 10 million copies worldwide. He also rakes in cash from his headphones line Beats by Dre, a partnership with Interscope Records.  He served as executive producer for Eminem’s “Recovery,” which sold over 1 million U.S. copies in its first two weeks; solo album Detox is slated for release this fall.

It’s been a good year for Aftermath Entertainment. The Dr. Dre founded label is enjoying the fruits of Eminem’s latest release with the Detroit rapper earning 10 Grammy Award nominations for Recovery, capping a comeback year for the once-troubled rap star.
Aftermath operates as a subsidiary of, and is distributed through, Universal Music Group’s Interscope Records. Upon his departure from Death Row Records in June 1996, Dr. Dre quickly launched Aftermath Entertainment through Interscope Records (which at the time was Death Row’s distributing label). It was founded as a “boutique label” that prides itself on “quality over quantity”, focusing on small numbers of high-profile releases.

Inside The Business Life of a DJ

November 17th, 2010 - By TheEditor
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Cocoa Chanelle is a DJ at Hot 97 in New York

by Sheryl Nance Nash

The deejay can make or break an event. The right music sets the tone, creates a mood, emits emotion and has the power to leave an indelible mark on the memory. Deejaying is not just about spinning records. It’s an art form, a passion and a business that can also be quite profitable. A six figure income is not unusual. According to the American Disc Jockey Association, while rates vary greatly, a four hour booking for a  DJ on average pays $1,200.

Those who are in it, say there’s no other place they would rather be. “When I bring up what I do in a conversation everyone is like, ‘oh, that’s awesome!” says Will Curran, a junior at Arizona State University, who has been deejaying for a few years, and whose company Arizona Pro DJs has expanded from just a DJ business to an entertainment, production and planning company targeted to teens.

Relative newbies and veterans alike say the DJ business just keeps getting better and better thanks to technology. “With the advancement of technology, you can carry your entire music collection on an external drive. There are now speakers with built-in amplifiers, so you don’t have to carry a 60 pound amplifier. You can do more, with less to carry,” says John Young, a member of the American Disc Jockey Association, who has been in the business for more than 20 years. Vinyl turntables are becoming extinct.

The game has definitely changed. “Technology is not only the driving force behind the industry, but it has also made the craft much more readily accessible to people who would like to learn,” says Zach Loczi aka DJ Loczi. “When I started, you had to buy all the equipment and you had to buy each song you wanted to play on a vinyl record. If you wanted to play the song back to back then you had to buy two records (each record cost between $4-$12). Today, you can buy a laptop and download MP3s for free or at most $1 per song, then plug it into a sound system and you are technically a ‘DJ’,” says Loczi, who has deejayed at high-profile events like the official Grammy’s After Party, Madonna’s Closing Tour party, New Year’s Eve Millennium Ball Drop and has worked with the likes of Black Eyed Peas, The Rolling Stones and others.

He recently kicked off his once a month Studio Saturdays from San Diego’s Ivy Nightclub in the Andaz Hotel, where he makes himself virtually and instantly available to a worldwide audience. An hour of audio from his live set is recorded and available for download free of charge. His performances are broadcast live via

“Social networks are huge in the DJ world. We are now able to promote, market, and develop online personas that may or may not be true, but regardless have international reach and can literally make or break a career,” says Loczi. Blogging, tweeting and websites decked out with bells and whistles also go a long way in building a following.

Technology has also lowered the barriers to entry. “Technology allows an individual with no background and no blending, scratching and mic skills to buy a cheap DJ system and charge a ‘peasant’s fee’ which cheapens the market and devalues our profession,” says Young.

Lauryn Hill Speaks: Why She Left The Music Biz

June 29th, 2010 - By madamenoire
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Lauryn Hill has been a mystery to her music fans and we can’t help but wonder the affect it has had on her personal life. She has been popping up in a few surprise performances lately and now it seems she ready to speak. NPRMusic caught up with her for a rare interview and asked why the music stopped.

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Lyrics, Royalties and The Business of Songwriting

June 22nd, 2010 - By TheEditor
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by Sheryl Nance-Nash

"Songwriter Sean Garrett"

Sean “The Pen” Garrett has penned number 1 hits for the likes of Beyonce and Usher

So you think you can write a song?  Maybe you stand out among the competition, but if you want to make a living this way you’ll need more than the right melody, lyrics and rhythm to keep you afloat.  Your business savvy better equal  your talent. But before you start working the system you must understand a few things about how the system works.

How do royalties work?

Royalties are classed according to the media by which a piece of music is experienced.  Mechanical royalties are paid for physical sales, i.e., CDs, digital downloads, vinyl records and tapes.  Performance royalties accrue as a song is played via the radio, piped in music service or live performance at a music venue.  Synchronization royalties or “sync fees” are earned when a piece of music is “synchronized” with a piece of film as in motion pictures, television programs and advertisements.  There are now also streaming royalties for a number of internet and digital uses,  such as when companies make songs available on their website and telephone service providers sell ringtones.

Radio airplay usually pays the most.  When you have a hit song it’s heard repeatedly all over the country and sometimes the world, making it possible to quickly garner substantial royalties.   Physical sales are way down from where they used to be as many people skip buying albums to purchase singles.  Illegal downloads also hurt profits in this camp.  These days, a performing songwriter may make most of his or her money doing live performances of their songs.

Radio airplay is collected by BMI (Broadcast Music Inc), ASCAP (American Society of Composers Authors and Publishers) and SESAC (originally stood for Society of European Stage Authors & Composers).  Their methods for collecting royalties and paying their songwriters vary, but generally they collect money each quarter, take out operating expenses and distribute the remainder to songwriters based on the amount of airplay they received during the quarter.

Mechanical royalties, funds collected on the sale of a physical product, is set by copyright law at 9.1 cents per song.  According to Bruce Burch, director of the University of Georgia’s Music Business Program and former creative director for EMI Music Publishing, the world’s largest music publisher, synchronization fees are negotiated according to several criteria.  Contracts take into consideration such factors as how much of a song is used by the licensee, how popular the song is (hits and classics generally receive higher payments) and the popularity of the songwriter or artist.  Sync fees can be set as low as zero, such as when a new artist offers their song to a television show that cannot pay but allows exposure to a new audience.  At the other end of the spectrum they can bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars, even millions, for top film composers like John Williams, who has been nominated for 45 Academy Awards, winning five.

What about ownership rights?

It’s all about the deal.  There are two ownership shares of a song: the writer’s share and that of the publisher.  A writer owns both rights until he assigns the publishing rights, usually for a monetary advance against the song’s future earnings.  Starting out novice songwriters must typically sign deals in which they have to give up all publishing rights.  A more established songwriter, who perhaps enters a publishing deal with a song already recorded, will usually be able to negotiate an agreement in which he or she retains 50 percent of the publishing rights.  Sometimes a songwriter can negotiate reversion rights, an arrangement whereby publishing rights revert back to the songwriter after a certain period of time.

What are you waiting for? (OR How do you get started?)

Now that you know the basic economics of songwriting, here’s some advice from folks at the top of their game.

Study up. Do your research.  “This game will eat you up and spit you out. You’re sitting in a lion’s den,” said Sean Garrett, who earned his nickname, “The Pen”, from Jay-Z.  He’s written and produced over 17 number one hits for the likes of Usher, Beyonce and Mary J. Blige, in part because he took the time to learn the business.  There’s a ton of resources from websites, blogs and seminars, to books like Everything You Need to Know About the Music Business by Donald Passman and Music, Money and Success by Todd and Jeff Brabec.

Fontana Partners With Rap-A-Lot Records

May 17th, 2010 - By TheEditor
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(PRNewswire) — Fontana, the independent distribution arm of Universal Music Group, the world’s leading music company, has signed an exclusive distribution deal with critically-acclaimed Rap-A-Lot Records, it was announced today by Ron Spaulding, President of Fontana, and James Smith (a.k.a. J. Prince), Founder of Rap-A-Lot Records.

Rap-A-Lot Records was created in Houston in 1986, putting the South on the hip-hop map with its most famous act, The Geto Boys. Rap-A-Lot has continued to focus on rap by navigating the careers of Devin The Dude, Tela, Yukmouth, Do or Die, Scarface, Z-Ro, Bun B, Pimp C, and Trae Tha Truth, among many others. Rap-A-Lot has released almost 200 titles to date and recently launched the upcoming celebration of the label’s 25th Anniversary. The company will mark the anniversary with releases from Z-Ro, Bun B, Pimp C and several themed compilations using select songs from Rap-A-Lot’s extensive catalog.

“I have been doing business with James Prince and Rap-A-Lot for a long time and it is an honor to welcome his entire team to Fontana.  James is a true music visionary and has established Rap-A-Lot as one of the great pioneers of southern hip-hop, a true original,” stated Mr. Spaulding.  “And as they approach their well-earned milestone of 25 years in the industry, Fontana is thrilled to embrace their innovation, rich catalog and talented artists as we play a role in the next exciting chapter of their history.”

“I am excited about Rap-A-Lot Records’ new journey and the opportunity to work with Jim Urie (President & CEO, Universal Music Group Distribution) and Ron, two music executives that I have the utmost respect for,” added J Prince. “I believe in the Universal/Fontana system and I look forward to having the Rap-A-Lot brand be a part of the #1 music company.”

About Fontana

Fontana Distribution, the independent arm of Universal Music Group Distribution, provides unparalleled sales and marketing support, as well as back office services, for a diverse roster of labels and their artists. Fontana distributes more than 80 labels including Eagle Rock, Downtown, Vagrant Records, WaterTower Music, American Gramophone, Kedar Entertainment, Last Gang, Savoy Label Group, ESL, Music World, Delicious Vinyl, Ipecac, Six Degrees, SMC, VP Records, and many others. In addition, Fontana distributes select projects from UMG labels worldwide.

SOURCE Universal Music Group

The Business of Making Beats

May 11th, 2010 - By TheEditor
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by Sheryl Nance-Nash

Producer Ty Baldwin aka Ty-Up has worked with Jay-Z, Trey Songz and the like

These days, the music business, particularly the urban and R&B sector, is driven by producers.  For those with an ear for unique sound, opportunities abound to profit from making beats, although it takes more than skill at the mixing board to make money.

Producers not only create the sound bed and refine the tracks artists lay on top, but more and more, they are representing innovative businessmen and women, according to Wallace Collins, former recording artist with Epic Records, now practicing entertainment law in New York.

Before jumping in, novices would be wise to consider the advice of Calvin Hill, CEO of Marinated Musiq in Atlanta: “Learn the business. This career is 10% entertainment and 90% business.”

He warns that legal awareness is a big part of protecting and nurturing one’s career as a beat maker.

“Anyone can be a music producer,” he said. “What separates the men and women from the boys and girls will be how your music sounds and what kind of legal protection you have for your music. Get one or both of these wrong and you will get crushed in the world of selling beats.”

For Ben McLane, an attorney specializing in music law at McLane & Wong in North Hollywood, success not only takes talent and good counsel, but a dedication to connecting with people.  “If you want to get your stuff out there, it’s about building relationships, networking with lawyers, labels, artists, as many as you can,” he said. “Because when you’re new, nobody wants to take a chance on you. You have to create your own success by hustling until you get your break. Be good, be visible, be aggressive, eventually you’ll get a break.”

And when that break comes, the work doesn’t stop there.  “When you’re a new producer, you may create a beat and get

a couple of hundred dollars but a big name artist takes the credit.  It’s important that you get your name listed — no credit, no money,” said McLane.

Ty Baldwin, also known as Ty-Up, wrote his first beat at 13. Today at 38, he recalls the early days of offering his beats for free to get his name out there. He’s had the displeasure of hearing his tracks slightly altered and claimed by someone else.  “It’s a grimy business, especially now that a lot of the independent labels are gone,” he said.

In 2002 Baldwin founded Tag Music Group (TMG) in the Washington, D.C.-Virginia metropolitan area.  Known for incorporating varied elements into his music, especially strong backbeats and funk, he’s collaborated with performers like Jay-Z, Trey Songz, Big Pun and Bobby Valentino.

Things have changed a lot since he started out.  “The labels are getting young producers so some veteran cats are not getting paid what they are worth,” he said. “The labels are picking up kids who will do beats for cheap because they’re hungry to get their name on a CD jacket.”

Hill said that someone of his caliber can earn between $5,000-$15,000 for a beat but the big names can earn much more.  “Super producers like Timbaland, R. Kelly, The Neptunes and DJ Khaled earn hundreds of thousands of dollars from single productions.”

But for most producers starting out and marketing their work on the internet, compensation is modest.  Typically, these individuals lease beats for $10-$100.  In such an arrangement ownership , the beat remains with the producer.  There are alternative deals in which the exclusive rights to beats are available for purchase, fetching $250-$5,000 per track.

The Most Corporate Band

April 9th, 2010 - By TheEditor
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( — In the music business these days, it’s not about selling the most CDs, it’s having the best sponsors. On its path from rootsy L.A. hip-hop troupe to pop juggernaut, the Black Eyed Peas have been escorted by a parade of corporate backers. From Coors to Levi’s, Honda to Apple, Verizon to Pepsi, brands have padded the group’s video budgets, underwritten its tours and billboarded band members in prominent places. When Apple was preparing the 2003 launch of the iTunes store, The Peas’ “Hey Mama” became the first song associated with the iconic campaign’s dancing silhouettes, a point of pride for, the band’s frontman.

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