6 Tips to Become a Full-Time Producer (Poetics Op-Ed)
I have been full-time as a hip-hop producer for about two and a half years now. In that time I have received five million streams on my own music and had a couple of songs I produced pass several million streams.
I have worked with artists like Rxseboy, Futuristic, Snøw, Canon, KB, Chuuwee, and many more. I’ve had songs in TV Shows on BET. I had a song in NBA 2K and a placement in the television series Love Island. I have been blessed with great opportunities, but a lot of this comes from my drive and hard work.
A lot of producers who have only been producing for six months send me DMs on Instagram asking “How can I quit my job and be a producer?” but a lot more goes into this than they think. Here are some tips.
Build your own brand
Do not rely directly only on artists to build a buzz. Do not rely on a collective of producers. I highly recommend utilizing TikTok and Instagram Reels to build a natural buzz. The more you build your following the more you can offer when someone buys a beat.
They will not just be buying a beat, but they will be getting exposure on your social media. This will make them see more value in purchasing a beat from you compared to some random producer they found on Youtube. This will also keep people consistently coming to you instead of just coming around because you got a placement with an artist or a shoutout from an Instagram page.
Building your own brand could also include releasing your own music. I have a Spotify page where I release my own music. I have big artists I haven’t produced for that are on my own songs, and this definitely helps with building a buzz on social media. I can leverage these connections and continue to build with artists once I have had them on my song.
Build Legitimate Connections
In the music industry, it is easy to be transactional, but that is not where a lot of the best connections happen. Ask artists (and producers) questions. Learn about them. Find people who are successful in your city and buy them coffee. When you’re working with a big artist offer to give them a free beat no strings attached. Be relaxed, be flexible, but be quick when something is needed. This can include sending stems, making a custom beat, communicating with them, ect.
Connect with smaller artists, and help them build connections with other artists you work with. I have had many small artists that I have helped get featured on bigger artist’s albums when I had the opportunity. That helps me look good in their eyes.
When I first got into the game I only made trap beats. This was good at the time because a lot of people I knew wanted banger trap beats. As I met more artists and got more connections this was a thorn in my side.
Many artists I was building with wanted boom-bap beats, lo-fi beats, pop beats, and over time, I had to learn how to make these different styles.
It helped IMMENSELY. I became flexible and doing this made me way easier to work with. It also made me way more comfortable meeting with artists in studios because they would decide to try something different, and we could both get out of our boxes together.
Another good thing about diversifying your income is you get different revenue streams.
If you are a producer trying to come up, I highly recommend getting knowledge in the worlds of engineering, promotion, graphic design, or any other lane you can find. I learned a lot about playlisting and was able to build that up over time to where now I have a lot of connections with playlists.
I was able to get better at mixing to where I get money coming in for that. There are a lot of amazing producers who are great at graphic design and get that coming in. As a hip-hop producer I release music featuring artists, but I also get a good portion of my income coming in from my lofi singles which get added to background playlists. This has been a great way for me to learn about a new community and sell collaborations and engineering to different people.
Be Flexible With Money
This might sound weird, but I really want to emphasize this. If you are thirsty to just sell beats, you will sell a lot less beats. Sometimes it is more beneficial to offer an artist a split when they can’t afford it. Sometimes it is better to give away the first beat for free to a big artist just in the name of building.
Think about it like this. If I get a really big artist with 100k followers that wants a beat, I email them and I say, “I want $500 USD for this beat.” They might pay that and I will make $500 from the track. After they release the track they probably won’t shout me out because it was transactional. If I give the beat to them for free, they will be thankful. They will likely tag me in their post when they release it and shout me out.
When they do this I might be able to sell four more beats all for $500 to artists who are fans of theirs. This artist will also love me and be
coming back around for another beat down the line.
Have a Good Reputation
One good thing about me is I have never screwed someone over. I have never talked bad about an artist behind their back. I’ve never sold a beat illegally, or not delivered stems. I have never treated someone badly and because of this most artists I work with will always tell other artists to work with me.
Word of mouth is very important in the music industry, and someone’s word goes a long way. Treat people right and you can go far. Also, inform people when they buy a beat if you use a sample from Splice or Looperman, or any royalty-free site. I actually learned this tip recently when I tried to release something and someone had illegally claimed a copyright on a sample.
The music industry is a very weird place, and it is very unpredictable. Some months you might only make $2,000. Some months you might make $10,000. Be smart with your money.
Make sure you save a lot and be prepared for a rainy day. I have had months where I had vacations and didn’t have much money. Then I had other months where I worked hard and something popped off, and I made a lot of money. Just be smart and don’t make any decisions you aren’t prepared for.