Entry-Margin Service Providers, Email Beat Submissions, Foggy Dreams, and the Up and Mostly Downside of Using Beat Brokers
|By AMIR SAID (SA’ID)|
Here’s where most people get Blackjack—the most popular casino game—wrong: They believe it’s a game of chance. Truth is, Blackjack is a game of skill that carries good odds. Understand the rules of the game, the cards and their probabilities based on all the players involved, and you reduce your losses. More importantly, you increase the probability that you will win, certainly much more often than the average unskilled player. On the other hand, if you don’t understand the game, the cards and the probabilities involved, and you simply drop down money on a “chance,” you might win…but you’re sure certain to lose a great deal more.
This is how I feel about anything that requires skill and understanding. Increase your skill and understanding, and you increase the probability of your success. But, put your faith in the whim of chance, and you decrease the probability of your success. This philosophy tracks across all industries. Trust me.
In the music industry, as with any other sector of the entertainment industry, there are no guarantees, only high and low probabilities. There are no surefire approaches to making it or getting on. Every strategy, every chosen path comes with its own risk and its own probability of success. And when it comes to placing beats and using beat brokers, the probability of success is low…very low!
Entry-Margin Service Providers
Before I discuss beat brokers and the role that they play (or don’t) in placing beats, it’s important that I spend some time explaining entry-margin services and products. Entry margin services and products are the sub-industry products or services designed to help people gain entry into any given industry. From the tech industry to the publishing industry, there is an assortment of sub-industries that are focused on helping people navigate to and within their chosen industry.
Some entry margin service providers are top notch; these are the specialists. People like the film industry’s Dov Simens or Syd Field, whose products and services have helped and continue to help countless screenwriters, producers, directors, and the like break into the film industry. There is a host of reasons as to why these two entry-margin specialists have been able to help so many people crack the film industry code, but I suspect that their success is most attributed to three things: first, there deep and up-close understanding of the history of the film industry as well as its creative and business processes; second, their commitment to being brutally honest about the film industry; and third, their very thoughtful and timely instruction, advice, and general counsel.
Below the top-notch entry-margin specialists, you have a mix of service providers. There are some entry-margin service providers who are perhaps O.K.. The ones that usually fall into this category are those who maybe have a few legitimate low- to mid-level connections in a given industry. Although this group of entry-margin service providers may have a basic understanding of a given industry, they usually have an incomplete view, as they typically lack considerable knowledge of that industry’s history as well as its finer creative and business processes. Still, even with limited understanding and sometime B- and C-list contacts, this group of entry-margin service providers are often able to secure fees for their services or products.
Finally, there are those entry margin service providers who are, at best, barely helpful, and at worst, absolutely terrible! These are the “middle-men” types that present (or try to, at least) themselves as highly knowledgeable industry insiders with great connections to and close relationships with key or otherwise known decision makers of a given industry. This group is a real toss up, as within their ranks you will find some who are truly knowledgeable of the industry they provide services and products for; and you will also find some who do not really understand the industry they purport to know at all. Furthermore, from this group, you will often get the most narrow (sometimes intentionally misleading), self-serving advice than any other group of entry-margin service providers.
Broadly speaking, the entertainment industry has a number of people who earn a living off the entry margins. But the music industry is notorious for middle men who earn money off the margins by “selling the dream” or, “selling the secrets” of the industry, or “selling their contacts”. This is not to say that all middle-men types in the music industry are bad, some are useful in specific situations. But when it comes to using an entry-margin service provider, you have to ask yourself if a middle man is actually needed. I never recommend seeking out or working with a middle man if you don’t have to. But that’s the unfortunate issue with many beatmakers: They believe that they have to go through middle men to make it, or more precisely, to get beats placed.
Beat Brokers and the Beat Market Exchange
Beat brokers, one of the newest class of entry-margin service providers to emerge in recent years, purport to broker beat placements for aspiring music producers. Although some may have secured placements for acclaimed producers, most beat brokers generally focus their time and energy on attracting so-called up-and-coming producers (particularly those with beat placements or sales as their primary or only idea of success in music). Some beat brokers are self-described producer managers, some are not. Please Note: Do not confuse a producer manager with a beat broker. They’re two totally different positions. Finally, most beat brokers tend to push for non-sample-based beats over sample based ones—this is usually for either one or two reasons: sample clearance concerns or personal taste.
Beat brokers work a tremendously flawed and counterproductive cottage industry that I call the beat market Exchange. In the beat market exchange, the only focus is to get beats placed. Beats get “shopped”, either through direct contacts with recording artists and key decision makers, widespread email submissions, or impromptu chance meetings, etc. Although the beat market exchange does render some results for a small minority, I view the beat market exchange on the whole as a highly flawed industry—I’m talking bad odds here. Remember what I said earlier about Blackjack? Good odds!
Making music to be submitted into some black hole of an exchange just doesn’t sit right with me; I find it highly counterintuitive, especially when more evidence supports building your own group/platform. I’ll get to that later in this piece… But as I was saying, the whole concept of the beat market exchange is so far removed from the organic approach to making beats and coming together with a rapper to form something truly collaborative that I find it difficult to see why anyone chooses it as their number one option.
When you think about it, most things can be broken down to a basic set of variables. The more practical, pragmatic you are able to view these variables, the easier it is for you to understand them and, therefore, predict a given outcome. So in the case of an open call for beat submissions, via a beat broker’s beat submission email address, it’s worth examining the numbers. In other words, all we need to do is look at the math.
For example, let’s say beat broker X accepts submissions from any beatmaker that knows how to use to email. You know what, in fact, let’s be fair and say that beat broker X only accepts submissions from a list of beatmakers that are either signed up with them or following their Twitter timeline or some other social media access point. Now, let’s say that this amounts to 10,000 total beatmakers. Let’s cut that in half and say that 5,000 of those beatmakers actually email at least one submission in three months, one quarter of the year. All right, so that’s one beat broker and 5,000 submissions.
One beat broker + 5,000 beat submissions, via email? These numbers don’t appeal to my practical, pragmatic side, as they raise a number of questions. First, who’s going to actually listen to all 5,000 of those beat submissions? I receive a lot of important emails on a daily basis, and I have trouble checking them as soon as they come in. But with organization, structure, and diligence, I’m usually able to read (and respond to) all my important emails within 2 to 24 hours (some times 48 hours if I’m out of town) of receiving them. So let’s say beat broker X is highly organized, diligent, and has a solid structure for listening to 5,000 beat submissions. Can they even listen to all 5,000 beat submissions in three months, let alone properly evaluate them all? Perhaps. Maybe they have a “team” of assistants, who knows. So is it possible? Sure. But is it probable? Hey, I don’t think so. But I’m practical, pragmatic…
Point is, numbers usually never lie. If you dramatically decrease the size of the entry post, that is, where people have access, and you dramatically increase the size of hopeful entrants interested in that particular access point (i.e. beat placement), then you create a very low probable success rate. In other words, the more beat submissions that a beat broker gets does NOT improve your probable success rate, but it does improve theirs. The more beats a beat broker can funnel into their network of prospective beat buyers, the more likely they will be able to get at least one placement; and that’s really all they need each year to advertise their rate of success.
And for every successful placement that a beat broker’s efforts lead to, either directly or indirectly, the more credits they can point to. This, in turn, allows them to increase their profile as a successful beat broker (or “producer manager”), which then, of course, attracts more beatmakers and more beat submissions. Great for the beat broker who actually is able to place beats; good for the handful of beatmakers who perhaps get a placement through the beat broker; not-so-good for all the others who emailed submissions. But as I said at the start: There are no guarantees, only high and low probabilities. Each individual decides for themselves how they want to weigh those probabilities, based upon their own understanding and unique circumstances. But why bother playing the daily lottery, when your own Blackjack table is right in front of you?
Understand: My biggest concern with regards to beat brokers and the beat market exchange is the common misinterpretation of beat placements. Many beatmakers, new and old, chase the foggy dream. They believe in something they can’t see clearly. They believe that a beat placement is the only entry point to a career in music. And while some may not see it as the only entry point, they still see the coveted beat placement as the #1 means to music related revenue or a thriving career in music. They believe, even in the face of clear evidence that says otherwise, that a placement automatically leads to another even bigger placement, or at least some semblance of a career in music. In some cases, this can happen. Indeed, it has happened for some, and I’m sure it will continue to happen for a handful of others in the future; but the probability will always be low. (Everyday, somebody wins playing the daily lottery…and everyday, millions more lose.) And because so many beatmakers do not properly understand beat placement or the beat market exchange and how it works, they do not correctly understand the probability of beat placements through a beat broker (or anyone else for that matter). As such, they run the risk of allowing themselves to rely more on a bad-odds chance than on the development and use of their own music-making skills and understanding of how things really work.
Create Your Own Platform, Expand Your Opportunities
Let’s say you make dope beats. Through your own dedicated journey, you find and partner up with a rapper (or more). Together, you make dope songs. You build sincere relationships with other equally talented music makers. They dig what you’re doing… At the same time, you build respectful relationships with people in the online music press, and one of your songs gets some shine on a blog…then another…then another… That’s a more realistic, meaningful scenario than throwing beats at a beat submission email address.
Not saying that the scenario is automatic, or that it will play out overnight. But then again, neither is the beat broker scenario. However, what I’m getting at is the odds, the probability. If you truly make dope beats, and combine forces with someone as or even more talented, and you cultivate authentic relationships with people who care to put others on to your music, you will eventually win. How much and for how long? Well, that all depends on how you play the cards.
Finally, consider this: No matter what approach you ultimately take, beat broker, self-platform, or both, if you contribute to solidifying the prestige and importance of the beatmaking tradition, you not only help raise the profile of the entire tradition, you position yourself as one of the tradition’s leaders. This, in turn, leads to multiple opportunities for your music, which improves the odds and probability of your success. So perhaps what it really comes down to is you thinking about the ways in which you want to contribute to modern music, and your best means for improving the probability that it happens.Articles, Beatmaking Themes, Theories, and Concepts, BeatTips, Editor's Choice, Music Business, The BeatTips Manual