So far, 2018 has seen its fair share of coverage regarding the lack of appropriate pay for hip hop producers. Beatsmith’s such as DJ Mustard, TM88 and J.U.S.T.I.C.E League have helped drive the conversation forward. Thus, the awareness of streaming-the positive and the negative impact, has been a lead conversation for music fans.
Popular hip hop producer Sonny Digital has cut his teeth producing for the likes of Future, 21 Savage and 2 Chainz. With his expertise in working with the big wigs of rap, his knowledge and experience in music is essential. Sonny shared those exact experiences with music magazine The FADER, including an interesting story on his “Birthday Song” production for 2 Chainz.
“For instance, ‘Birthday Song’ with 2 Chainz and Kanye West — that song had my tag in it at the beginning, and they ended up taking it out because of how the song started,” Digital said of a specific instance from early-on in his career. “I felt like, Man, that’s the only thing I had that was identifying me on there, and y’all trying to take it away from me. I felt like that shouldn’t even have been a conversation if it was the same mutual respect between the artist and the producer. Fast forward to now — people are dying for the tags to be on their shit. That’s kind of what got me to the point I’m at today.”
The Atlantic Records/producer pay controversy was the initial starter of this conversation. Producer E. Dan stated last week that Atlantic purposefully label albums to “commercial mixtapes” to avoid paying producers what they would compensate them for an album. Sonny chimed in on that topic, adding in his own perspective
What I saw [online that day was], “Atlantic call albums mixtapes to lower the fees to pay producers.” I’m like OK, cool. I don’t know why y’all are talking about Atlantic for, because every label does this shit? Every label puts out a mixtape that ends up on Apple Music or Spotify, everywhere except Live Mixtapes or DatPiff or Soundcloud. Everybody that just came out with a “mixtape,” it coincidentally always ends up on iTunes. Anything on iTunes is basically an album because you have to pay for it.”
Sonny Digital also reflected on the time in which he worked on Lil Uzi Vert’s Luv Is Rage. The project started off as strictly a mixtape. But the record soon ended up for purchase on iTunes.
The same situation happened to me before with Atlantic, with Lil Uzi Vert, when he did the Luv Is Rage mixtape early on in his career. When that project came out, it was all love, I wasn’t looking to make no money, I was just here to support. When it went up on iTunes though, I was like, Ok, someone’s getting paid now.
With the record now being sold, Sonny elaborated on how he had to be careful stepping to Atlantic. Uzi around this time was a new artist, so Sonny understood the potential gray area he may have stepped in.
When I went into the situation, I wasn’t planning on making money because, remember, that project came out as a free mixtape. I fucked with him too so that would defeat the purpose of being involved in the first place. When Atlantic hit me back, they said we only have $1000, $1500 to give you, so I was like Fuck it. After they paid me that, they recouped that money back [on sales]. If your producer advance is low, it will be easier for them to recoup that money and you’ll start making royalties quicker.
To check out the full Sonny Digital interview, click here.