Smashing the Record
photograph by Larry Kuzniewski
One artist who has taken the entrepreneurial approach is Robert Harris, aka “The Vinyl Producer.”
Harris produces beats, which are the background music over which rappers perform. Beat production is a seriously competitive industry that provides musical architecture not just for all of the hip-hop superstars, but — perhaps more important from an economic perspective — the millions of aspiring rap superstars who want to make demos.
Harris charges $350-$500 per beat when the deal is a straight sale: meaning all rights in the intellectual property go to the buyer in perpetuity. When he started up in 2010, things went slowly. He met with Mann at the MRC and they reviewed how larger production sites in Atlanta were selling beats online.
The leasing model is working for Harris and for artists who are facing the challenge of making those huge R&D expenses.
“Most people run into the financial issue,” Harris says. “Beats lease for $19 to $24. I’ve had quite a few lease and then contact me for purchasing. They just pay the difference. The beat for lease is taken down and can’t be used by any other artist.”
Lease your own beat at www.vinyltheproducer.com.
Harris’ situation illustrates the sort of decision-making that faces artists in the new musical economy.
“In Memphis, by virtue of the difficult environment, you have to be an entrepreneur. That’s the common thread that I see,” Mann says.