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Where Do Beats Come From?

posted Mar 29, 2011, 8:22 PM by Golden Knight

Posted in Music

by Daniel Gong


In an era of music where synthesized instrumentation floods our radios, music production has never been more important. In today’s music industry, the quality of the beats, or song instrumentals, is perhaps the most important aspect of a song that catches the listener’s ear. The beat has to be catchy, yet with enough variation to keep the listener interested. Where do these beats come from, then?

From a simplistic aspect, artists choose from a massive pool of beats from many music producers. Although most famous artists have production contracts with well known producers, such as Kanye West and The Neptunes, some of these artists pick beats from small, unknown producers. For example, the beat for “We Made You” by Eminem was found on a producer network website. Since Eminem liked what he heard, he purchased the license for the beat and put out the hit single.

How much exactly do these beats cost? For smaller producers who license their beats from small websites, the full rights to a beat are generally a few hundred dollars. However, for some of the industry’s biggest producers, such as Dr. Dre, beats can cost several hundred thousands of dollars. For example, Mary J. Blige purchased the beat for her hit “Family Affair” for $500,000 from Dr. Dre. In addition, Dr. Dre collected over $2,000,000 in royalties, a percentage of the song’s revenue, just for that single. Yes, Mary J. Blige did make millions off of her hit, but it was at a high cost. With beats at such a high price, it can be a very risky investment for an artist. Sometimes an artist is unable to break even from the costs of the beat among many other expenses.

Unfortunately, much of music politics plays a role, so many artists forgo handpicking their own beats for their songs. There are artists who produce much of their own music, such as Kanye West and Soulja Boy. However, most artists rely on the various music producers for their instrumentals. Unfortunately, while artists receive such high acclamation and attention, the importance of the producer is overlooked. While most people can name a long list of artists, they can only name a handful of music producers. All in all, it is important to understand the long process and the many people involved in a song’s success. The artist is often the face of their success, but it is important not to forget the music producers, promoters, managers, and the many others that make it all work.