Missy Elliott- A Great Producer and Artist, But Can She Still Be A Gamechanger?

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I didn’t think to write about Missy Elliott because I thought she only has been credited as a producer on her own songs. Boy was I wrong. She has produced for so many people- like No Doubt, Aaliyah, Ginuwine, Mariah Carey, Timbaland, Whitney Houston, Destiny’s Child, Mary J. Blige, Beyonce, and many more artists.

When she was 25, she signed a deal with Elektra Entertainment Group that allowed her to write, produce, and record music under her own Gold Mind record label.

She recently released two singles, “9th Inning” and “Triple Threat”. Her new album, “Block Party”, is expected to be released later this year.

It’s really interesting, because neither of these songs sound much like her style… her rap flow and styles of the beats on both of the tracks evokes immediate comparisons to Nicki Minaj’s music. Perhaps she’s trying to relate to what’s popular now, but I don’t think the many fans she’s had for a long time will like the fact that she is trying for the Young Money sound…to them, it’s probably a kind of a sellout and doesn’t fit her persona at all.

“The music game is in a bad state, so we’re in the 9th inning like World War 2 and we have to come in and try to salvage what’s left of it,” says Timbaland, who appears on both tracks and is credited for producing, while Missy Elliott is credited for songwriting. Both songs can be listened to here: http://goo.gl/mmCRu 

“We basically coming to switch music again. We’ve been doing this for over two decades and people wonder what took us so long, and I felt like, too, we needed to refresh our brains. And either come correct, or don’t come at all,” says Elliott.

Well if they’re trying so hard to create something new and fresh in hip hop, why decide to produce two tracks that sound like everything else? There isn’t enough genre innovation here to claim they’re changing the game. 

Some Types of Producer Contracts

I’ve gotten a lot of questions lately about what a music producer does, so I decided I would do a little research about different contracts for production. There are three main types of contracts a producer will sign: a contract where the producer produces the entire album for the artist, a contract where the producer only creates a musical track, and a contract where the producer makes the master recordings and shops around to get a record deal for the artist.

Entire album- usually the producer is paid a fee and an additional “record royalty”, 20%-25% of what the artist is paid from the record company every time the product is sold. These producers usually are helping the artist, band, or group in the studio successfully record.

Track producer- usually creates music on the computer or the music to the vocals the artist or songwriter writes. They will co-own the song with the person who writes the lyrics. They are paid a fee for the creation of the recording, but they have the rights to the music they write. They also receive part of the artist’s royalty, but it’s only 5-8%. This type of production contract has become very popular in hip hop.

Development producer- the producer and artist work together to create the master recordings and shop them to record labels to help them obtain a deal. There are different kinds of development deals. A lot of these deals depend on whether or not the artist gets a record deal, in which case the producer would get a percentage of the artist’s advance, a flat fee, and/or a percentage of the artist’s royalties. 

Rick Rubin, One of Music Production’s Biggest Cash Cows

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The iconic founder of Def Jam Records has gone a long way. He has been a producer on so many albums his discography has its own extensive Wikipedia article. The genres he has worked with are endless, from LL Cool J to Johnny Cash to the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Slayer. His net worth is $400 million, according to therichest.org. Well, we all know that in order for “cash cows” to stay in the game and not become “dogs”, they have to invest their time and money in other things with potential. So what’s next for Rick Rubin, other than him starting to look increasingly like Charles Darwin?

He is taking on more of an executive producer role, according to Billboard.biz. Rubin had a stint working as Columbia (Sony)’s co-president. Now, he has signed a P&D deal with Universal Republic. Smart move, Universal. 

With Live Nation constantly riding its tail, Universal needs to beef up its production department, strengthen their core business, and become the best at something Live Nation really has no experience with. Reel in all the top producers from the outside and Live Nation can’t even think about trying to compete in that aspect of the record industry.

Got An Idea For Some Electronic Music Software? Max/MSP Makes (Almost) Anything Possible

 

Max/MSP. What a program. Technically, it is a programming language platform. You can do literally anything with it. Using objects and sending messages from one object to another by connecting them in an intricate web, you can create plugins and bring any electronic music idea to life. The downside is that it takes a long time to learn. But, if you want to differentiate yourself from other electronic musicians and have a complicated idea, then why not create your idea from scratch?

It’s really difficult, but really exciting and the possibilities are endless. Your projects can get really messy and look like this:

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But, that’s sort of like the source code to a website. You can make your finished product look like this: 

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Unfortunately my very simple sampling software, which took me several months to finish, didn’t turn out nearly as detailed as the one pictured above. But I thought it was fun to learn. 

It is a great production tool to create plugins with…that is if you use Ableton Live- they have created an easy integration called Max For Live.

Ableton and Cycling ’74 (the creators of Max/MSP) have formed some sort of an alliance, so there isn’t really any other digital audio workstation software where one can easily use their DIY plugins.

If you don’t use Ableton though, you’re pretty much out of luck. Theoretically, you could create your own DAW software on Max/MSP and then use your plugin with that (which would take way too much time and be EXTREMELY hard to do), but what if you use Reason, DP, Logic, or FL Studio?

Although, somehow I doubt users of FL Studio would be creating their own plugins.

Wow ok that could totally be taken the wrong way. I’m just saying, it’s true! Not trying to be the pretentious person saying you’re sooo much better at creating any sort of computer based music when you create your own plugins, nor am I trying to say homemade plugins are better. Because I happen to love beats made on FL Studio or anything that’s not necessarily from scratch. 

All I’m saying is, Cycling ’74 probably realized that their target market was mostly Ableton Live users… many of whom are very experimental electronic music makers. It’s just an interesting way to potentially make yourself different from other electronic producers. 

Another program Cycling ’74 makes is Jitter, which is really useful for musicians who also want to creatively incorporate video into their shows. 

Music Producers Who Start Hybrid Entertainment Companies

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PHOTO: Jim Jonsin, founder of Rebel Rock Entertainment

 More and more producers these days are starting their own small labels, or “entertainment companies”. Jim Jonsin, RedOne, and of course Dr. Dre are some of the most entrepreneurial producers of today. They all have started their own labels. The fact that they are already producers makes it easier to start record labels because they already have production resources for their value chain.

However, the companies these producers start are usually called “entertainment companies” because they are usually made up of mostly producers and they sign a few artists on the side. Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Music has only four artists and the rest of it is made up of seven producers. Jim Jonsin’s Rebel Rock Entertainment/Rebel Rock Productions, founded in 2006, only has one artist, B.o.b. and two production duos.

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PHOTO: Max Martin (r) and pop producer Dr. Luke at the 2011 ASCAP Pop Music Awards.

Max Martin’s production company, Maratone, takes on a more traditional role, saying on their website that “Maratone does not operate as a record company… Maratone only works for record companies”.

So why doesn’t Maratone choose to expand its value chain like other “entertainment companies”? They make it very adamant on their website that they are not a record company. There are probably many factors. Maratone’s main business model seems to focus on working with artists from major labels- they say on their website that in order to work with them you have to be signed to a record label. Their strategy probably has some benefits, because being a label/production company puts you in direct competition with other labels who may have artists you want to work with.

What are your thoughts on this?

Emerging Producer of the Week

First, before I introduce this awesome producer I just found, please excuse my slight feminist tangent. Maybe one mistake I’m making with my previous blog posts and that a lot of people are making is writing blogs and articles about “female” producers. Why not just call them producers? By writing articles about how someone is the “best female producer”, it still sets them apart from male producers as different. Why should they be any different? Maybe it’s better to just call them producers and act like they are supposed to be getting as much attention as male producers. It’s kind of a problem that everyone keeps treating female producers as different and so out of the ordinary- like wow she’s a good producer…for a girl. I always hated when people would say stuff like that to me. So, maybe this changes my whole point of view of my blog, but opinions are allowed to change, right?

Let’s bring into the spotlight another producer I think should already be in the spotlight! DJ Soupa Model is a producer, DJ, songwriter, arranger, and remixer among other things. She has her own production company, indie label, artist development, and branding company, Music Boulevard Group-  based in Washington, DC. She is also a producer for NappyBoyRecords, T-Pain’s label. She has worked with a ton of music industry stars like T.I., T-Pain, Jason Derulo, Wyclef, Ace Hood, and artists on Konvict Music, Sony, and Universal.

Having lived in Africa, the UK, and the US, she has been exposed to a ton of different backgrounds and cultures and experiments with a variety of different genres, making her sound a unique one. She recently collaborated with Grammy Award winning dancehall artist Beenie Man. 

“In fact, my most recent production for Mims is a mixture of electro, dubstep, and South African drums,” she says in her biography on the Music Boulevard Group website.

I love how she takes all these different flavors and mixes them into her sound, yet her sound still sounds very appealing to fans of mainstream hip hop! I think she could potentially be a big influence on making changes in mainstream hip hop’s sound. 

Syd Tha Kid and Odd Future Go For Extreme “Shock Factor”

The semi-underground hip hop group Odd Future has been repeatedly blasted forits misogynistic and very offensive lyrics. But, their producer, Syd Tha Kid, is female. How does that work?

I think Odd Future is trying to popularize a new genre: Punkhop. Or Hippunk? Their lyrics are reminiscent of the shock factor of some types of punk culture. Their lyrics aren’t just misogynistic, they jab at many different groups of people. Because of this, it is hard to believe that they actually hate all of these types of people. Historically, many different artists, musical, literary, and visual, have created works for the sole purpose of getting a reaction from somebody. Whether the reaction is positive or negative doesn’t matter to them. It also doesn’t mean the person who creates it is expressing his or her own personality.

Perhaps Syd Tha Kid and the other members of Odd Future are actually misogynistic. But, I think they are mostly going for shock factor, given the amount of other slurs about other groups of people. People may accuse them of perpetuating misogynistic stereotypes in hip hop. Maybe punk and hip hop clash as cultures. However, this almost comes across as parodical of these stereotypes…they do it so much I don’t think they mean for listeners to take them seriously. I mean come on, look at the full name of the group: “Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All”. Syd Tha Kid herself says, “I look at it like most people do when you hear something outrageous. You go, ‘Aw, that was fucked up,’ ” she says. “And then you hear it again, and it’s like, ‘That’s really fucked up.’ And then you hear it so many times you just start laughing, like, ‘That is so fucked up!’ But it’s hilarious, and that’s when you start to take life a little less seriously.” — from “Syd the Kyd Could Be Hip-Hop’s Next Lesbian Icon”, OUT.com.

Niche Market Female Producers and the Fluidity of the Definition of “Producer”

It seems like the short list of women producers people tend to talk about consists of producers who produced hits from over 10-20 years ago. These are producers like Linda Perry, Trina Shoemaker, Sylvia Robinson, and Sylvia Massy. These producers, however, were successful when then definition of “producer” was still quite a concrete term and when there weren’t as many complex subgenres of music.

In those days, job titles in the record industry were much more easily defined. Today, being a “producer” can mean many things. There are many circumstances where there is a big overlap between “producer”, “songwriter”, and “artist”. Someone can write the beat for a hip hop track, create the synths for an electro house track, write the lyrics for an R&B track, or help arrange all these aspects together into a finished product. Many artists are also their own producers. Many are also DJs or also create remixes.

We really have to consider these factors when we try to figure out why we aren’t seeing as many standout female producers:

1. The industry is gaining more and more niche markets and genres.

2. The definition of “producer” has become more fluid.

3. Anyone can produce their own music as a result of technological advances and collaborate easily with anyone because of the internet.

That said, there are many great female producers (many of whom produce their own material) in underground, subgenre, or niche markets in the industry. Here is Tokimonsta, a producer from LA featured in MTV Iggy’s article “16 Female Producers You Didn’t Know Are Running Things” (see previous blog post):

Maybe the title of that article is a little misleading, because I wouldn’t say any of these producers are really “running things”. Yes, they are producers of some really good music, but they haven’t really produced hits in popular genres. They very well could be, but do they want to? That’s a different story… well, this is one way to gain notoriety:

Apparently Diplo loves her.

Female Producer of the Week

 

Lisa Chamblee Hampton- CEO, Black Fox Entertainment, executive producer, Making Music Herstory 

Why she’s awesome:

Worked with several Grammy nominated artists- Prince on his 3121 album and also with Justin Timberlake on his Future Sex/Love Sounds album. Founded her own production and engineering firm, Black Fox Entertainment, in 2004. She has also done recordings for artists like Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Eric Benet, and Ledisi.

What she is doing to put female producers in the spotlight:

She founded a project to feature all female artists, producers, writers, and engineers called “Making Music Herstory” and also moderated a panel at NAMM 2011 (one of the world’s largest music product trade shows) called Women Behind the Console: Inside the Process.

Why this project is important:

This project features and makes known female producers who could potentially be role models for women who want to pursue the profession. The fact that it was discussed at NAMM along with the panel gave the project great publicity. The project, if marketed in the right way, could reach and inspire many.

Women Music Producers

Image      Every time I search for articles on female music producers, in the results are a lot of articles and blogs on the lack of well known female producers in the industry. Apparently less than 5 percent of producers in the entire industry are women. It’s an interesting number, but certainly sexism is not the only reason this number is so low. One theory is that besides that, major labels want to hire people who have already produced hit records, which have historically been produced majorly by men.

There are women, like Beyonce, who have a role in production of some of todays greatest hit records, but are co-producers of their own music. Often, media fails to give these women credit for any of the production, assuming that all of the production has been done by another better known producer, who is usually male. There have been few women in the past who have completely produced hit records. I would like to hear about more women producers like Linda Perry, who lately hasn’t really been in the foreground of music production, but has an extensive discography of hit singles she worked on with other artists as a producer. The music industry either lacks role models like her for other women who aspire to become producers, or the media isn’t giving them enough credit. You always hear about “super producers” like Max Martin and Dr. Luke, but never that Bjork may have actually produced her 2001 album Vespertine and not producer Valgeir Sigurdsson, as Icelandic newspaper Grapevine made the mistake of saying.

I think it would be interesting to find a female producer to blog about each week. Here are some up and coming female producers worth listening to: http://www.mtviggy.com/lists/10-female-producers-youve-got-to-have-heard/