Making a way in the music business, while easier than ever in some respects, is also harder than ever. That’s primarily because a more relaxed barrier to entry has created a sea of new artists and producers — and that means that standing out has become increasingly difficult. Many new acts have come to grasp the fact that success comes at a price, and purchasing co-signs or collaborations can be a quick road to success.
Or can it?
A lack of business acumen and proper guidance can — and often does — lead to young artists getting finessed in one of many ways, possibly ending promising careers before they blossom.
One example is 16-year-old North Carolina producer Banbwoi, who up until this point had achieved only minor success with credits that include upcoming singles with viral rappers Matt Ox and Reggie Mills, to name a few. He and members of his circle attempted to purchase a verse from buzz-worthy Chicago rapper Lucki — who has collaborated with major players in the game like Danny Brown and Chance The Rapper.
Things didn’t go as planned, however. “We messaged him wanting a feature and discussed the price,” says Banbwoi of the failed transaction. “After he had given us his price, we made two small payments on Cash App … then he said he needed more.”
Lucki did finally provide a verse, but it wasn’t to the beat he was sent. Even worse, he allegedly sent the same verse/beat to multiple artists.
This what a xan addict , looks and sounds like .. don't cop feature from lucki guys 💖 pic.twitter.com/NVVC5JNqjh
— banbwoi 🌷🕊 (@banbwoi) July 26, 2017
These scenarios aren’t unique or unheard of; a few (now deleted) threads on Reddit’s Hip Hop Heads Subdeddit a few years ago had accused ragin’ rapper OG Maco of ripping off artists in a similar fashion. D12’s Bizzare has also been accused of allegedly not delivering in the past.
Quinelle Holder, b.k.a. as Coach Q, founder of Medium PR Agency, recently spoke exclusively to DX and offered up some pointers to help young artists and producers navigate the business side of collaborations.
1. Treat It Like A Business
Embed from Getty Images“If you’re going to be doing business, you should have a business account,” suggests Q. As he explains, using payment options such as personal PayPal accounts or Cash App all but ensure that if the deal goes south, you’re out of luck. “Have a business account, so when you put in this money, or you’re sending this money, there’s a record of you sending that money.” “I suggest using a business credit card (if you can) to send over finances,” he adds. “If you have a contract and you have it documented, even if you can’t get the money back from that person the [credit card] company will reimburse you if there was any fraud — especially if you have proof.”
2. Get That Paperwork
“It’s important to make sure that you get to the right person … somebody who’s credible, a publicist, booking agent, management, or the artist directly if you had that opportunity,” says Q. “Once they give you a price, there needs to be a contract in place. It could be a contract that you draw up yourself … I would suggest if you’re not someone whose made a contract for a verse or beat before have a music attorney, look over it.” As Q further explains, having a firm contract in place avoids any potential he said / she said situations. “If something doesn’t go right, you have a record, and you have a document that holds the other person accountable.”
3. Understand What You’re Paying For
Embed from Getty Images“Something that’s crazy is this idea that you get a verse from someone and now it’s yours,” says Q. “No, no, no. That is promotional use only … you could put it out there for free, but the moment that you cross the line and you try to upload it to your iTunes you’ll get shut down.” As Q explains, it’s important to understand what you’re paying for, and the limitations that come with that deal. Is that beat exclusive or leased? Can this verse be released on a commercial effort? These things need to be hashed out and signed off on before money changes hands. “If the artist didn’t sign something for you saying that they’re able to use the verse in a situation where you can sell it and can profit off of it, then you’re not in a position where you can legally do that,” Q states bluntly. “This is stuff that nobody tells you, though”
4. Go Through The Proper Channels
This is especially important if an artist is signed to a label — whether major or indie. “Even if the artist wants to do it, it’s the label who has the final say,” explains Q. “If they do not agree or have knowledge of it, they can send a cease and desist letter and put an end to a record real quick. The solution? Ensure you deal with management (if applicable). “Reach out to management. Even if they’re saying that it’s cleared, ask them to loop in a label rep so you can make sure that this is definitively going to be cleared,” says Q. “I’d rather somebody be like, ‘Man you ask too many questions.’ If it’s legitimate business they shouldn’t care; why wouldn’t they want it to be done the right way?”
5. Explore The Alternatives
“My first suggestion would be to try to find an up and coming producer or try to find an artist that would genuinely work with you,” says Q. There are enough people on the internet — just like you. If your stuff is legitimately good enough, you may be able to get them to do stuff for free or collaborate if they’re dope.
“I think the people that either doesn’t want to do the long game or feel like they aren’t that dope, yet, are the ones that are quick to be like ‘I’ll pay for the features, I’ll pay for the production’ … those are the guys that normally get through.”
“Don’t get it twisted, if you have the opportunity to get some leverage to do those feature or dope productions and it makes sense for you — and you have the paperwork — do it,” Q conceded. “But if you don’t [have paperwork], don’t mess your whole career up. You can mess around and end up being black balled.”
And there you have it folks. It’s your bag. But, do yourself a favor and take the necessary steps to keep money in your pocket and drama off your plate. Don’t put yourself at a risk that you’ll have to inevitably erase, pay potential damages, or rupture relationships with label executives and media.
Coach Q is currently prepping his artist, Roc Nation’s very own G4SHI, for his upcoming nationwide tour. He’s also accepting applications for his Medium PR Agency. Inquire for all the above at www.quinelleholder.com.