Who makes the beat calls the tune - Gussie Clarke urges beat makers to insist on rights
Veteran music producer Gussie Clarke has blasted producers claiming music created by beat makers as their own, dubbing them criminals. Clarke is encouraging these producers to quit while they are ahead as he believes time will catch up with them for their unjust actions.
He was reacting to a story in last week’s Sunday Gleaner, where beat makers were encouraged to educate themselves about the copyright process in order to avoid being exploited by producers. Clarke has established Anchor recording studios on Windsor Avenue, St Andrew, after running Music Works on Slipe Road. Among his standout early music productions are Big Youth’s Screaming Target album and songs such as Rumours (Gregory Isaacs) and Telephone Love (JC Lodge) showed him embracing the digital sound that mushroomed in the 1980s.
Clarke told The Sunday Gleaner that although the issue wasn’t new, the problem has escalated in recent times, with beat makers growing extremely frustrated with the way they have been treated by producers. “It has been going on for quite some time now and it is just a wicked criminal act. They are stealing people’s works, and not only are they not giving these people any credit, but they are also not giving them any of the earnings from these projects,” he said. “Many of these persons (beat makers) are approached by these producers and are asked to create a rhythm for them. He (the beat maker) then sells them the rhythm. But what he has sold is the master, which is the right to take that rhythm and voice as many people on it as he (the producer) wants. He has not sold his copyright. Some producers don’t know this and think they bought the copyright. The copyright is not transferable by word of mouth. It has to be contractual.”
With that said, Clarke encouraged beat makers to get experienced music publishers on their team as many of them who believe that they have sold their rhythms still have their copyright as creators and could capitalise on earnings being generated from the use of their work.
“Automatically in law, as the creator, this person owns the beat. It is a fact that after ‘buying’ some of these rhythms these producers go behind the backs of the beat makers and register the work as their own,” he explained. “But if beat makers are serious about being compensated for their intellectual property, it is a matter that will be easily resolved in court. If I’m the creator of something, it’s easy to prove. All I need to do is describe how I put this thing together from scratch and have physical proof to back it up.”
Clarke emphasised that it is not a local matter only. “You need a good music publisher with international affiliation so that your rhythm is registered in every country and every database in the world. Once that is done, when anybody wants to use your work, whether it is a song that has gone international using your beat, you will be compensated as the composer,” he said.
The producer said that as creators, beat makers are the persons who have the ultimate say in who earns what from using their work. “The law does not question you if you are the creator. Anybody else who wants to use your work must get permission, and nobody can tell you what they want to give you for it,” he explained.
“No producer can tell any beat maker, who is the creator/ composer, that ‘Oh, mi a gi yuh a change from dis’. No, he does not have that right. What he can say to you as the creator is, ‘Can you give me a share of your copyright?’”
He also encouraged composers to look at the larger picture and not just dollar signs when negotiating deals involving their creative works. “Don’t have a limited picture of these business deals. If you can build a beat and sell all your rights to it for X amount and then the work goes on to earn three times that amount, you nuh have no ambition. There are many ways you can negotiate these deals. You can give away a portion of your copyright, but don’t give away everything,” he urged.