This is a long read so if you have no interest in reading, don't bother with this thread. For everyone else, I'll leave this open to discussion!
Calling all Producers! Why you will NEVER make a living selling beats…
I’m going to tell you what very few of us want to hear at a time like this. One of the most common questions on message boards, forums, blogs and internet videos is:
Can I quit my job and make a living selling beats?
Right now? NO!
Stings doesn’t it?
Those of you who know me will know I’m not one to throw a controversial idea or statement out there without explaining the reasoning behind it, but if you listen and digest what I have to say, you’ll realise this is nothing but truth.
The market is saturated but this is not a reason, just pretence.
I’m not going to bore anyone with the specifics of just how many producers there are trying to make it, how many people are on Soundclick, the producer/artist ratio etc, because this stuff is not relevant!
I repeat… the market is saturated… so what?! Market saturation never stopped anyone who truly wanted to achieve success in their endeavours. So this is not an excuse.
Drop that argument already.
Breaking down the producer
Now heed my warning because I’m going to break a large group of people down and in doing so, I aim not to offend anyone, but to shed light on the mentality of a group of people.
Most upcoming ’producers’ by and large fit into the 16 – 24 age group. If you are reading this you are most likely in this age group yourself.
In fact, if you have read this far, I already know several things about you;
1. You are insecure.
2. You are tired / desperate and looking for any reason to corroborate your logic.
3. You are lazy.
Being young means you are waking up to a world of financial possibilities and opportunities. People of this age see the world around them and have strong desires to eat a piece of that pie. Or at least nibble on it.
What is most infatuating in the surroundings of a 16 – 24 year old?
What is it that is the most brazen, in-your-face lifestyle / avenue to success?
This naivety is what causes most young people to feel insecure about their music and indeed about the music industry… whether that is insecurity about their own music, about other people, finance or the way the business works.
It’s pretty much accepted how small the chances of making a living in music are, but these chances are usually measured as the chance of making it, rather than the chance of not making it.
It is more inspirational and motivational to think ‘There’s a small chance I’ll make it in this business’ than ‘In all likelihood I won’t survive off this’.
Which is fine, because no one is telling you that you can’t make it. I am simply pointing out the attitude and thought pattern most producers have, and do not wish to be labelled as pessimistic or anything else.
Being tired / desperate
Most producers and musicians reach a stage where they become desperate because they are not making as much money / haven’t developed as many opportunities as they thought they would on the offset and they require these.
This, coupled with the general attitudes of other people, musicians, industry types etc. forces people to search for measures to reaffirm their belief that they are on the right path.
For example, its most likely you are reading this article not because you’ve realised you’re not selling enough beats and want to accept it, but that you can’t accept it and want to find an exception to the rule to prove to yourself that it can be done.
Think about it this way… in a regular non-creative profession such as a carpenter, surgeon or park-keeper, you will find it very hard to think of someone who is an exceptional, exemplary model of that job and lifestyle. It just doesn’t exist… all workers are pretty much on an even plain.
So why is it so difficult for musicians to justify their ambitions without resorting to the exceptional example? Why can’t producers explain their desires to hit the big time without quoting ‘Well Timbaland did it, he came from nowhere’, or ‘Eminem did it, and he was white! So there has to be a shot’.
Stop if you’re doing anything and seriously think about this for a second. If you’re attuned to the reality of the working world, you will realise that your logic, your reasoning is actually pretty dumb.
Media has in fact convinced you to convince yourself that something is desirable and indeed possible.
But is it?
Being downright lazy
You may not be. But if you’re reading this, you probably are. You came to find a shortcut, a quick-fix, a way to solve your problems and finally live off music. A way out of this hardship, a way out of doing hard work, of pouring out your blood sweat and tears into this music and getting nothing back in return.
But you won’t get that from this article. That’s already been established.
This is where a lot of you will stop reading.
Which is fine. Except you will be missing out on the real reason why you will never make a living off selling beats… something which, perhaps at an unconscious level is something you truly desire to know.
I’ve broken down the average producer. I didn’t mention he wasn’t talented or creative, that he didn’t love music or have a passion for it or that he didn’t have dreams or realistic ideas, etc. I simply said he was insecure, frustrated and lazy.
The real reason you’re not making money off music
If you’ve read this far, you may even have the humility of admitting that I have been correct in judging your character. Of course, I may not have been but I recommend you read on anyway.
If it has been so simple for me to build a portrait of you, think of how simple it must be for someone else, perhaps for a company with large enough funds to conduct this sort of research.
Which is where we come down to the most fundamental unspoken truth.
Anyone and everyone who wants your money will manage to use your character and mentality against you to sell you basically ANYTHING.
Desperation is the weakest state of mind a person can have because from desperation comes a break in logic, we resort to things that we know otherwise would be absolutely useless to us.
Some people would call it marketing. Others would call it psychology.
Why do you think people buy so much shit they don’t need? And they keep buying shit every day of their lives despite the fact that to us, it seems so pretentious and unneeded.
Many examples come to mind… people who buy a newspaper daily just to submit to all the competitions they have inside. Or an old lady who buys 40 lottery tickets every month thinking she has a chance. Or a woman who buys hundreds of dollars worth of ‘rejuvenating’ face cream to make herself look more attractive because her husband doesn't pay her two shits worth of attention.
It isn’t really that they’re being irrational. Their desperation has caused a break in their logic which has changed their perception of what is attainable and what isn’t.
All the while you are under a false perception, you will always be at the whim of anyone looking to exploit you financially and otherwise. And for someone as fragile and easily led as a young (remember 16 – 24) musician, this is a large group of people!
- Legal services.
- PR / advertising.
- Other artists.
- Beat selling websites.
- Software companies.
- Music / instrument stores.
- Music info subscription services.
- Self-help guides.
- Apparel and clothing companies.
- Music courses.
- People looking for sex.
- Etc etc
There is a huge list of people who solely depend on the warped reality of artists (producers, rappers, singers) to sell a product which does not yield ANY return for that artist.
And the funny thing is, with the exception of the obvious, these people are usually not evil corporations or megalomaniacal twisted scam artists looking to rape you for your last penny, they are simply individuals and businesses who have their head screwed on correctly and are achieving what you aren’t!
It may be, and often is, that you don’t reap any substantial reward from your investment because you are lazy. Not seeing a gratifying reward ironically makes people lazier because they believe it wasn’t their fault a certain goal wasn’t achieved, which makes it not worth struggling for.
And right now you are part of that system, be it in a small or large capacity.
To realise a change, you must first rid yourself of any false perception. This is a very hard step because most people’s minds will fight to retain an idea or a concept, or a possibility.
You must accept who you are first, that you are in fact insecure, that you are desperate, and that you are lazy. This will make a huge difference because if you can accept it, it signals that you are ever closer to changing that mentality and character.
Once you have clarity in your character, you will be in a position to define your path. The choices you make will be based on a logical decision rather than a possibility or inkling.
You will deviate from people who you know will take advantage of you.
You will explore options which you would never have considered before.
Things you buy will be bought with a specific end purpose, and will return the value invested AND then some.
People you meet will recognise your clarity and be intrigued by it.
Your scope will slowly begin to encompass elements outside of music.
Now I know you’re saying… well I could do all of those things without any of this character bullshit… I’ll just be extra cautious! I’ll make sure no one takes my money and work triple hard from now!
If you do think that then you really haven’t grasped the concept of this article and you should re-read it before getting to this part.
The point is not to be more cautious, to take less risks or to avoid unknown situations… the point is that clarity of mind will allow you to make decisions which can drastically alter the rewards of your efforts.
Reaping the rewards
Which is where the best element of clear thinking comes into play… you start getting back what you put in. There is no better feeling in the world, trust me.
The gifts you receive from your hard work, be it money from selling beats, opportunities from working with other individuals, a new place to live, a new car, whatever they may be, should motivate you to work harder and your return will again show this.
Is the beat market saturated? Hell yes. Everyone and their mother and their dog makes beats today! There are no secrets about this.
So then… can I quit my job and make a living selling beats?
You can do ANYTHING if you’re in the right character and state of mind but you must work very hard to rid yourself of the notions which lead us not towards our intended paths but into the paths of other entities looking to exploit us.
There are no rights and wrongs, no universal choices and nothing that can be taught by citing a prior person's actions... hopefully your new character will help you assimilate things better so that you can create your own path instead of blindly following someone else's.
J R Rodriguez
Songwriter, performer and record producer
Get at me.