The code of the beat.

The New Beat Market Exchange, Pt. 3: Union Talk


Acclaimed Beatmakers Lobby for Work; Celebrity Beatwork Solicitation Means Your Favorite Beatmaker is Now Competing with You; Beatmakers Union Inevitable

By Amir Said (Sa’id)

For Part 3 of “The New Beat Market Exchange,” I thought it would be a great idea to share my response to my friend and fellow beatmaker, (and one of the most respected members of the BeatTips Community), Uh Oh Beats.

Here’s Uh Oh’s comments and questions to me:

“dope. read the article, and have been reading the thread for the past few days. just haven’t been sure how to jump in the conversation.

i agree however with the union idea. how does one go about entering the union tho? like when i think of a “union” i think of all them old white dudes my dad knows who get together and throw parties and do city work and etc etc. and to get in the union you have to know someone in the union. would it be similar to that?

and what would be the driving points to get beatmakers to want to join?

because honestly, i would want to join if i was guaranteed 3000 a beat. but honestly how many beats would i be selling? id be happy to get 1000 for a beat, hell to be honest if someone gave me 500 id be amazed and jump all over it. so whats to say struggling beatmakers with no connections other then the internet, what would be stopping them from going around the union?

i think that’s the main point of interest we have to look at and address to really make this happen.

because honestly just the other day i sold 5 beats for 1000. which is the most money i’ve ever made off my music at one time. (the previous was 5 beats for 250:()

i just find it so hard to sell beats as is, when i’m letting them go for 150 for exclusive and 50 to lease. (frown upon me all you want lol. i love making beats and its that much better getting paid to do something i love. gotta go cheap if you want to sell ANYTHING with the market so flooded) i cant imagine honestly asking someone to pay 3000 for one unless their seriously established and working on a serious project.

but the union would also have to have a cap for the amount of members wouldn’t it? and serious artists would go to the union for beats. but if there’s so many members how would one go about even looking for beats within it?

My response:
uhoh, you raise a number of legitimate concerns. Hopefully, I’ll be able to appropriately address them all.

(1) “When i think of a ‘union’ i think of all them old white dudes my dad knows who get together and throw parties and do city work and etc.”

There are a number of different unions, but essentially, all “worker unions” share two primary goal for its members: fair wages and better labor conditions. The labor union that you’re probably most familiar with is in the vein of an auto/trucking union, or city workers union, something along those lines. Well, a music union—which is what a beatmakers union would be—is a creative arts-based union. Just like any other union, there are rotating wage concerns and labor situations. A beatmakers union would seek to secure better wages for ALL members as well as better labor conditions.

Membership in a creative arts-based union is different than, let’s say, the UAW (United Auto Workers). Union membership is NOT fundamentally based on “who you know.” Instead, membership is based on your actual professional work. For instance, the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) is a union for professional actors. SAG has feature film, indie film, television commercial contracts, etc. What you gets you into SAG is your first SAG sanctioned gig. So let’s say, for instance, you go to an open audition for an upcoming feature film. Now, whether you’ve acted before or not, if you get the role, you AUTOMATICALLY become a member of SAG; if you do not join SAG, then the producers can’t grant you the role. And now that you’re a member of SAG, you get a notice about the initial SAG entry fee and subsequent dues, which is based on a small percentage of your annual earnings. And now that you’re a member of SAG, you get a notice about the initial SAG entry fee and subsequent dues, which is based on a small percentage of your annual earnings.

Now, the VERY IMPORTANT thing to understand here about SAG is that they’ve already worked out the “starting point” for all of its members. That is to say, because of SAG there is a minimum day rate that ALL actors must get, based on the type and size—big budget feature, small budget feature, indie—of the film. This also includes labor conditions that must be met, for example: personal trailers for principle actors, guaranteed work breaks, guaranteed overtime pay, guaranteed lunch breaks and food, transportation, etc. Before there was an actors union, NONE OF THIS was guaranteed! Movie producers could and routinely did pay an actor whatever they wanted. In fact, before SAG, most (if not all) movie studios would sign certain actors to long-term draconian contracts, “leasing” the actors out to other studios at will—actors had NO SAY in the matter.

Finally, it should be noted that because SAG has jurisdiction over so many areas, film/television production companies face hefty DAILY fines when they use a non-union member for a SAG-sanctioned project! Trust me: film/television companies DO NOT FUCK AROUND WITH THIS…they ONLY use SAG members for SAG-sanctioned projects!

(3) “What would be the driving points to get beatmakers to join?”

That’s easy: better wages, appropriate labor conditions, and the promise of more work.

(4) As for “getting around the union?”

As with SAG, if a beatmakers union secured the right agreements with major labels (RIAA) and indie labels, jurisdiction would make it impossible for non-union members to get work on those projects sanctioned by the union! Point is: there’s a bigger picture here. Of course, there will be selfish people who think that they can go it alone. But the reality is this: the number of new beatmakers is steadily growing—fast; the number isn’t decreasing. Therefore, a beatmakers union is in inevitable. I just happen to believe that now is the absolute best time to strike, because ALL labels are weakened, and they’re more likely to make MANY concessions to a beatmakers union, provided we can help them turn their sales picture around.

(5) “But the union would also have to have a cap for the amount of members wouldn’t it?”

No! There’s no cap on the amount of new projects someone can think of, create, and distribute for commercial purposes. So why would there be a cap on the number of members in a beatmakers union? Again, entry into the union would be based on a beatmakers contribution to a commercially released project or professional mixtape. This project could be a beatmaker’s own commercially released project—NOT a mixtape that was just handed to a handful of friends. However, I would be willing to admit members on the basis of a mixtape made for free distribution online; of course, such a mixtape would have to have had garnered some widespread level of critical acclaim. But in the union I envision, all of the parameters of entry could not be determined by just me or any one person. Although I’d obviously take a leadership role, I would only act in accordance with the feedback from those who were involved in the details of the process.

(6) “If there’s so many members how would one go about even looking for beats within it?”

Well, each member would be registered, and labels and individuals could submit beat requests to what I would call the union’s “beat request registry.” (I’ve really thought this through.) Each “BR” request would have a number and link to the actual request. ONLY members in good standing (meaning dues paid, no worker complaints, etc.) would have access to the BR filings.

Finally, there is one more important thing that I want to point out about the union I envision. Under no circumstances can anyone who IS NOT, NOR HAS NEVER MADE A BEAT, be a member of the union. Persons who are not beatmakers/producers or have NEVER made a beat, for example “managers,” beat brokers, etc. could only be hired as independent contractors by the union. And in some cases, they could hold entry-level staff administration positions.

Read “The New Beat Market Exchange, Pt. 1”

Read “The New Beat Market Exchange, Pt. 2”

The BeatTips Manual by Sa’id.
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About Author

Amir Said (aka Sa’id) is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of BeatTips. A writer, publisher, and beatmaker/rapper from New York, Said is the author of a number of books, including ‘The BeatTips Manual,’ ‘The Art of Sampling,’ ‘Ghetto Brother,’ and ‘The Truth About New York.’ He is also a recording artist with a number of music projects, including his latest album 'The Best of Times.' Follow him on Twitter at: @amirsaid and @BeatTipsManual