When it rains it pours, and right now we're standing in a monsoon of producers angrily hitting back at a music industry they feel is taking advantage of them.
Yesterday, Flying Lotus took to Twitter to blast rappers for expecting producers to work for free, and today multi-Platinum, GRAMMY-winning production trio the J.U.S.T.I.C.E League picked up where FlyLo left off, letting loose a string of tweets that shouldn't be called a "rant," more like a cold bucket of truth dumped over the music industry's head.
And that's the abridged version, they also went on to detail their experiences with racism in the industry and streaming companies they believe aren't paying any royalties.
While I can't speak to whether Chance does or doesn't pay producers—although it's worth noting that we recently read a story of Chance's team wanting a gratis (free) license for two beats from Apollo Brown—once again the larger points are undoubtedly true. As the money's fallen out of music it's producers and songwriters who have been hit hardest. Labels and artists are getting pennies for streams, and producers are getting fractions of a penny if anything at all. Chance, for example, might be able to give away his music for free and make money on touring and merch, but what about all the producers on that album? How do they benefit? An increased profile that lands them a spot on another free album?
We wanted to get a little more insight on the thinking behind these tweets, so we reached out directly to Rook of the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League and in an email, he expounded:
First of all, our fees haven't hurt us from getting placements, it was a conscious decision on our part to fall back a little so we can focus on our own music like Lazy Americanz and our website LuxurySoundSociety.com. It's one the best decisions made because we're not beholden to any label or publishing company. Also we only lower our fees as favors to people we really mess with. Of course we still working with the likes of Nas, Eminem, Raekwon, etc. Can't leave rap alone completely! I love the new guys also! We mostly show them love, we know how it is to not be able to afford us lol.
As far as stories [about racism in music], it's more general. I see the racism everyday with my own eyes at the offices. It's very nuanced but in your face at the same time. Damn near every major label is literally segregated, black people in one area, white people in another...with a few Latinos and Asians sprinkled in.
The theme of the last few days has been that the music industry's default standard is to pay producers as little as possible (a.k.a. nothing), and unless a producer actively fights off that default and comes up with other ways of generating revenue on their terms—like Frank Duke's Kingway Music Library or the League's LuxurySoundSociety—they're in for a career filled with struggle. Know your worth my people, and don't settle for anything less.