Just Blaze has a career many producers would die for. He’s produced some of your favorite records for some of the biggest names in hip-hop and R&B, he's helmed soundtracks for multiple video games, and he’s spent the last few years touring as a DJ with EDM superstar Baauer.
Until just recently, however, one thing he never did was sign a publishing deal.
In a recent interview with Forbes, Just details his new deal with New York City-based publishing company Reservoir, a partnership facilitated by his friendships with Illmatic A&R Faith Newman and Boston-bred producer and DJ Statik Selektah.
While Just was able to get “two or three” big placements in movies, commercials, and more over the years independently, it wasn’t until he linked up with Reservoir that he truly realized how much money he’d been leaving on the table over the years.
"I think the one thing I was lacking was somebody actively trying to place that music in trailers or commercials or exploiting it outside of record sales. Once I realized that, and I sat with the people at Reservoir, I realized that I haven’t had that partner who’s actively trying to place this music in places where it could be the most effective, but also be lucrative. That was my deciding factor in partnering with Reservoir."
Reservoir is looking to quadruple Blaze’s publishing income, which was already reportedly in the low to mid-six figures range annually—a huge bump for an already accomplished artist.
It wasn't all that surprising when we learned a naïve, young rapper like Lil Yachty had no clue who's currently handling his publishing, but when an established veteran like Just Blaze—who has done records with Jay Z, Kanye West, T.I. and countless other A-list acts—admits he never signed a pub deal, it should send a giant red flag to every serious independent artist and producer across the globe.
Music publishing often offers artists financial security far beyond the reach of their longevity in the spotlight, and even in the midst of a supernova buzz, like in the case of Yachty, it can never hurt to have alternate revenue streams.
Considering the shakiness of digital album sales and an increasingly congested landscape of touring, avenues like song placements in movies, television shows or commercials are potential hugely profitable supplements for artists whose financial stability is often at the whim of a notoriously fluctuating market.
So artists, established or amateur, let this be a lesson to you. It’s easy to lose sight of the business end of your career when you’re immersed in creating the art that actually sustains it. But it’s ultimately up to you and your team to track down all those avenues of income and use them to stabilize and prolong your career.
Not only will learning from Just Blaze’s mistake put some extra coin in your pocket, it could potentially extend the life of your art immeasurably.
Update: In response to our article, Just Blaze reached out on Twitter to explain that he purposely didn't sign a publishing deal at the beginning of his career. Since he wasn't hurting for money at the time, his plan was to "let things stack" and then cash in down the line.
"I ended up making more money now than I would have if I'd done it 10 years ago," he said. "I should have touched on that aspect in interview but a lot was going on that day."
By Brent Bradley. Follow him on Twitter.
Photo Credit: Ralph Lorenzo