2018 is the year we get producers paid on time and in full. At least, that’s the hope as conversations regarding the lack of compensation for producers continue to dominate the music news cycle.
In an interview with The FADER’s Nazuk Kochhar, Atlanta producer Sonny Digital continued the discussion DJBooth began early last week regarding Atlantic Records and reportedly unfair compensation for producers. Digital, who has been a vocal proponent of fair pay for producers, attempts to shift the conversation from Atlantic Records to the industry et al.
“Another thing, I did my deal with Atlantic, but I haven't told people that [yet],” Digital explains. “I'd seen people attacking Atlantic on numerous occasions. I understand, but it's about how you handle your business. These companies have been here and they're not going anywhere based on what you say — this is what they do.”
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Digital, an Atlanta-based native of Saginaw, Michigan, goes on to say that Atlantic is not the only label billing albums as mixtapes to cut producer’s pay. Per his tweet last week, every label seems to be culpable—not surprising. Yet, coming from the man who once called for a producer’s union, to hear Digital double back, likely because of his deal with the label, is somewhat disheartening.
His defense of Atlantic is essentially a non-defense—just because other labels are participating in the same scam does not make Atlantic’s behavior any less unsavory.
Later in the interview, Digital insinuates that producers should be grateful that they have an opportunity to be paid for their work. While it's true that being paid for your creative endeavors is a dream, settling for less cannot be the industry standard. Of course, a brand new producer can’t expect to charge the same rate per placement as Sonny Digital, but a head-down mentality is toxic. When we push to increase the value of production on the whole, all boats will rise with the tide.
Amidst the field of PR and self-interest that Sonny manages to navigate in his FADER interview, there is one, overriding takeaway: we have to strive for more. It does not matter if Atlantic is one of one, or if all labels are in on the scheme. It also doesn't matter that some producers are being paid well enough, because enough doesn't equate to fair, and it certainly does not equate to great.
From the listener to the label head, a concerted effort needs to be made to generate more equity from this industry.