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Beat makers vs producers - Education the key to copyright issues

Published:Friday | January 20, 2017 | 12:00 AMShereita Grizzle
Esco at his recording studio, Star Struck at 28 Derrymore Road.
Christina Grand

Industry insider and director of operations at the Reggae Embassy, Christina Grand, is encouraging local beat makers to get educated on how to carry out business transactions involving their creative work.

Grand expressed concern at the level of ignorance that exists among local beat makers where their rights as composers and creative entities are concerned, as she says in recent times, her organisation has been approached by countless beat makers seeking assistance in getting compensation for their riddims/beats.

She explained that many of these beat makers, through ignorance, 'sell' their riddims to producers without recognising that selling them the riddim doesn't mean that they have sold their rights to the beats.

"Beat makers need to understand that selling their beats don't have to mean they are giving up their rights and doing a work for hire. Selling their beats really means that they are selling a licence for these producers to use the beat," she explained. "The problem is that these beat makers are not understanding and producers are taking everything from them. Stop using the terminology, 'I'm going to sell you a beat', explain to that producer that you will license them the beat but you will still keep your publishing rights."




She went on to explain that producers have been exploiting the fact that beat makers have little or no knowledge on what their rights are as composers and are encouraging local producers to stop abusing the advantage they have as it will only be a matter of time before beat makers become aware of the correct way of doing things.

"There are a lot of producers in the industry who feel like they can take advantage of people because they claim to have 'bought' these beats/riddims from these beat makers. It is unethical and unfair for producers to use these beats, pay the composers a little money and then rip them off by not allowing them to put their names on the publishing without realising that all they bought was a licence to use the beat."

Esco, artiste-turned-producer, agreed to some extent.

He says, "In Jamaica, the beat maker was usually the producer, but that kinda changed over time with the emergence of those men who never play a instrument yet but got artistes who voiced on the riddims," he said. "Those people were usually called the executive producer and the beat makers were also the producers, but because there was no unity in dancehall, that relationship break down. The producer and the beat maker was supposed to be one person, but because of the change in the business, their role has been reduced."

He went on to say that as far as rights go, once a beat maker sells their work to a producer, they have no more hold to it.

"From you are the beat maker and you take any kind of money for the beat, it's over. Unless you've signed a specific paperwork that says you're selling a certain percentage, but from you build the beat and take money, that's it. If you don't take any money and there's no contractual agreement, then the actual beat is still owned by the beat maker."




Esco went on to explain that there is a lot of confusion when it comes down to who owns what, but highlighted that the solution to everyone's problems is very easy.

"If people are smart when it comes on to this thing, they will lay out terms when conducting business. For example, if Esco is smart as a producer or a beat maker and I say I want US$1,000 fi di riddim, if the persons agree and pay me the money then they own the riddim. If I say I want US$500 but I want 25% of my rights reserved and him agree, then him gone with the riddim, but I still have some of my publishing rights reserved."

Grand agreed, saying that producers and beat makers alike should sign contractual agreements whenever conducting business.

"Make sure you have everything in writing, stating that they can use the beat, not own the beat. Do not sign any documents stating that your work is a work for hire," she said, encouraging persons who want to go about things the right way to get in touch with the Embassy.

"For those who want to learn what to do, they can come to us. We will give them advice, free of cost. Come in and speak to us as at the Embassy. We want to make a better reggae and dancehall industry for everybody."