A picture used to be worth a thousand words, but now all that matters are streams.
Over a decade in the game, producer araabMUZIK has had a prolific career making beats for The Diplomats, A$AP Mob, Cam’ron, and hip-hop’s favorite curmudgeon, Joe Budden. While hip-hop has changed a lot since Araab’s first encounter with an MPC, one thing remains the same: money talks.
So, how are producers getting their money in 2018? According to araabMUZIK, it’s all about streams and virality—the artistry now comes second.
“People chart off of views now, people get looked at because of their views,” Araab explains over the phone. “Instagram views, Instagram followers, whatever—everyone just looks at those numbers. They start looking into the artist based on the numbers that they have.”
In response to this emphasis on numbers, Araab is pouring even more into his craft, taking time with his releases as opposed to dropping tracks for the sake of getting his play counts up. And while he admits that streaming has some benefits to the producer—namely, a wider audience—he’s also well aware that producers aren’t getting paid their fair share.
Araab’s proposed solution: a new partnership and ambassadorship with License Lounge, the digital marketplace and music licensing agency for established artists and producers. The platform ensures that artists are getting official beats from industry producers, and more importantly, producers will be able to enjoy a stable revenue stream.
“The producers are making the artists be who they are, you know?” Araab rightfully points out. “We all gotta eat, we all gotta get paid for what we do. It’s all work.”
Our interview with AraabMuzik, which was lightly edited for content and clarity, follows.
DJBooth: For as much as the industry has changed since your first beat placement, the business side has remained the same. What part of that side of the industry have you struggled with the most?
araabMUZIK: It’s basically like the business side of things, with the lawyers… Only, later on, was when I started to understand the business when it came to the publishing and royalties. In the beginning, you do everything just for the credit, just to build your name up. Down the line, you want to start getting paid. I feel like everyone [works for free] to build their credibility. Everyone starts off that way, with any type of business they’re in, and you grow from there.
What is the biggest challenge a producer will face in the streaming era?
Right now, streaming is the new thing. If there’s a million people streaming, that’s really good, because the new way of people getting paid is off streams and views. I guess that’s the new formula of getting paid, not just [for] producers. [Because of the larger audience] it’s good, it works out better.
How has the size of the consumer market changed the way art is monetized?
People do things just to get everyone to view them now. Everyone’s more worried about the views than the sales. Everyone’s making videos and putting things out to see how many views they get. Views on YouTube and SoundCloud are the two biggest platforms… People chart off of views now, people get looked at because of their views. Instagram views, Instagram followers, whatever, everyone just looks at those numbers. They start looking into the artist based on the numbers that they have.
What’s the biggest change you’ve personally had to make to adapt to the streaming era?
I’m working on being real particular with my craft and the things I’m putting out. I don’t wanna put anything out just because. I kind of want to build the momentum first, that way everyone knows I have something, rather than dropping things out of nowhere. People who can drop things out of nowhere are JAY-Z, Drake, Beyoncé. I’m not one of those people who can come out of nowhere.
A lot of producers have come forward recently with stories of being screwed out of money by record labels.
Nowadays, the producer is what’s making a lot of these hits and music that people really listen to. The producers are making the artists be who they are, you know? Right now, a lot of producers are getting their credit for the hits they’re making. They’re not here to go unnoticed. I think it’s time for producers to get the recognition that we all deserve. It’s been years. The industry is heading towards “that sound.” Like, “What producer has that sound?”
You have a partnership with a company called Licence Lounge. How are they helping to circumvent some of these challenges?
It’s a platform for people to be able to have access to producers like myself because there’s a lot of imitators and people creating fake music and putting someone else in the title. This is a platform for people to have access to tracks from us and not have to spend thousands of dollars on a track, they can just lease [a beat].
What can producers who are new to this business do to ensure they get paid?
Do the right business: have the right manager, get money upfront. Right now, there’s people giving [beats] for whatever. Then they look back and start to realize all of the money they could have made. Sometimes moments pass by and they’re like, ‘Damn, I kind of gave something away, just 'cause I was so hyped on the moment.’ We all gotta eat, we all gotta get paid for what we do. It’s all work. This is what we do to live. If not upfront, then just get royalties of what makes sense in the backend of a major [placement]. If it’s just something real quick, get the money upfront.
For a major label placement, what is “fair” compensation for a producer?
Give the same type of deals they give to artists. I feel like we should be getting equal types of deals, depending on what type of deal it is.
Is there any piece of advice you ignored during your come up that you wish you had taken?
Nope. I was always confident and determined. As long as you keep at it and keep going, and don’t worry about what people say or think. Stay focused, because I’ve been that way, and I’ve succeeded. Everything falls in place.
What would you tell someone who wants to get into music production because they think anyone can do it?
Nowadays, people do things because they feel like they can, not because they love it. In my case, I love what I do. I was born to do what I do; it’s in my blood. Other people can wake up and something that they don’t like but feel like the can do. If you’re gonna do this for an extra hustle, then by all means, there’s no right or wrong way… People can definitely tell [if your heart’s in it], they can hear it in the music.
araabMUZIK's newly-released sound kit, with 118 unique sounds influenced by his Electronic Dream album, is now available on License Lounge.