Representation, such as a manager or a lawyer, is an essential asset to any recording artist trying to succeed in the music industry. But for hip hop beatmakers/producers, representation takes on a whole new meaning. For one thing, the role of a hip hop-rap beatmaker/producer is different than that of a typical recording artist. Hip hop-rap beatmakers/producers provide beats for other recording artists to write and perform to. Moreover, unlike other recording artists, who sell their persona and image to the public just as much as they do their music, beatmakers/producers sell their music to other recording artists, and they usually do not have to worry about their persona or image being in the public eye. Instead, their primary concern is pairing their beats with recording artists who need new music. Thus this precarious music-matching process is one reason why beatmakers/producers need to have representation. They must have someone who can flush out opportunities for music placements; they need someone who can find recording artists and other comparable parties who are seeking new beats.
The other reason why a beatmaker/producer needs a representative, especially early on in their career, deals with the compositional method of hip hop-rap beatmaking/production itself. Hip hop beatmaking/production is a very meticulous and often arduous craft that is usually orchestrated in a solitary environment. It is this solitary dimension to beatmaking/production that prompts the need for representation. Beatmakers/producers need a representative, someone to pitch and/or broker the sale of their beats. So just as with the music-matching process of the beat-selling world, here, it’s easy to see why a representative—or better yet a “beat broker”—is absolutely critical to the chances of beatmaker/producer landing the much sought after placement on a commercial release.
Representation is varied, but the three kinds of representatives that hip hop-rap beatmakers/producers should look for are:
- Beat brokers
A beat broker is someone who simply shops (promotes) the beats of a beatmaker/producer. A beat broker can be a friend, a music insider, or anyone that has access to a network of recording artists, in particular, recording artists who are likely to be in the market for new music material. A beat broker’s only responsibility is to shop the beats of the beatmaker/producer that they represent. They need not be skilled in negotiating the terms and sale of the beats that they’re shopping. (An entertainment lawyer privy to beat/instrumental placements can handle that). Because of this limited (but critical) scope, an agreement between a beat broker and beatmaker/producer can be rather simple, straightforward, and short in duration. In fact, a beat broker can be commissioned for a 10% finder’s fee, worked out over a per beat or per situation agreement.
A producer manager is perhaps the most ubiquitous (and undefined) kind of representative that a beatmaker/producer can have. Normally, a manager is someone who manages the entire career of a client. But as noted earlier, a beatmaker’s/producer’s career is based primarily on their ability to sell beats; beatmakers/producers are not expected to perform, make public appearances, and/or maintain a public image. And thus a producer manager’s responsibilities can fall anywhere from simply shopping beats to negotiating the terms of beat sales, to arranging pivotal meetings with prospective beat buyers, to setting up beat showcase meetings with key decision makers at record labels. But because of the scope of a manager’s role, it is likely that a beatmaker/producer will have to enter into a more lengthy and more detailed agreement than they would with a beat broker. A typical producer’s management agreement will stipulate that a manager receives 15-20% of all music-related revenue that a beatmaker/producer earns. It also maintains the representation usually for 2-4 years.
The role that a lawyer usually plays in the career of a beatmaker/producer is very different from both that of a manager and beat broker. Shopping the beats of a beatmaker/producer is not the primary role of a lawyer; though in some limited cases, lawyers do indeed pass on the music of their clients. (This practice is much more common and accepted in other pop music genres). Lawyers are mostly responsible for drafting or reviewing the legal agreements that their clients enter. It is in this capacity that lawyers can ultimately be more important than beat brokers and managers.