Grammy Nominated Producer Cash Clay Beats Talks Production, Placement and Publishing
Take a moment and read up on Grammy Nominated producer Cash Clay Beats as he shares the “ins and outs” of the music business. Learn about his claim to fame and the importance of valuing your craft as a producer.
Interview By Tyrone Davis + Kevin “Blue” Jones
Tell us about how you grew up.
I grew up in St. Louis, MO (northside) in a household that consisted of my mother, grandparents and 4 uncles. It was 9 people in one house and it was great. Having all of my family around gave me confidence. I played most sports, but I took to basketball the most. The area was gang infested and there were shootings in the neighborhood daily but my family attended church often and it kept me from being in the streets so much. St. Louis definitely taught me how to survive in life.
What made you relocate to Atlanta and how was it the first year you got there?
I moved to Atlanta to go to Morehouse College. It was shocking to find out Morehouse was in the hood. I was trying to get away from the hood all my life and drove 8 hrs to another hood. I was like, “I can’t get out the hood”. But, I was cool for the most part. Being that I was use to being in this type of area I adapted quickly. I met a lot of good friends and I liked the fact that I was on my own at a young age. The first year was spent on campus. I loved Atlanta because there was so much talent and competition there. I also saw a lot of successful black people there working for themselves which I had not seen in St. Louis.
In the music business, there are a lot of avenues one could pursue. What made you choose being a producer/beatmaker over a rapper?
Actually, I use to rap, but it wasn’t paying the bills. I use to make my own beats and that’s what lead me to producing for others, especially when I found out that a producer could get $5k for one beat. I was all in.
Do you consider yourself a “producer” or a “beat maker”? What is the difference?
A “producer” actually can help with the creation of the song. They know how a melody should go, where to place the hook/bridge and they assist with ad-libs and stacks to help with the final product. A “beat-maker” is a person that just made a beat and someone else produces it. Also, a producer is not necessarily the person that makes the beat.
How did you land your first major placement?
My first big local placement was in 2009 with Rich Kidz song, “Friends With Benefits’”. I was working with producer Deraj Global, who was doing a session with them. He played some of my beats for them and they picked one and recorded the song on the spot.
Do you make beats with a specific artist in mind or do you just make a bunch of them to pitch to whomever?
Both. It depends on who is working and what connections I have at the time the artists are working. I’ve had situations where I was making beats for artist specifically and a lot of the times I just make beats in general.
Do you prefer working with an artist in person or creating them and sending them online?
I like working by myself first then going to the studio with some ideas laid out. I can be more creative helping with melodies and arranging the song instead of trying to make a beat on the spot. I don’t really like to email beats unless that’s my only choice because you really don’t get to build a relationship with the artist that way. If I already know them then it’s cool.
Do you ever get “producer’s block”? What do you do to ensure all of your beats don’t sound the same?
I get “producer’s block” from time to time because producing is mental. If things around me are not going right, it can interfere with creating music. I try to listen to different genres of music and go to clubs where music is loud. Trying to re-create other people’s beats and getting new sounds help too.
Recently, a few known producers have come out and said they aren’t getting paid by the major labels for their beats because a lot of their records going on projects that are considered “mixtapes”. Can you elaborate?
That happens all the time. Some artist will pay for the production though. The independent artist are more likely to pay the more known artist. But on the flip side of that, if the song you produced becomes a single or makes the album they would have to do paperwork. I register all my songs with my PRO so even though they did not pay up front, I still can collect off of streaming and other publishing.
For artists purchasing beats from producers via outlets like Soundclick, can you offer some clarity here? What is the difference between a lease, an “unlimited” lease and an exclusive?
Leasing the rights means a music artist buys your beat but they do not own the track exclusively. The beat is usually lower in price because it will be sold multiple times to multiple music artists. Exclusive rights means the track will only be sold once to a single music artist and cannot be re-sold to another artist.
A lot of artists have this “unlimited” lease option that says after purchase, you can use the record on all digital platforms, radio, sale an unlimited amount of copies and it’s all “royalty free”. How is it possible for an artist to do all of that if they don’t own the beat?
In my opinion, it doesn’t really make sense to do “unlimited” leases, so I don’t. I think some producers put titles on things to make it sound good to the buyers so they can get more money for the same thing. I give the artist the option to lease. If the song is doing well and they want to purchase the track exclusively they can, IF the track is still available. I will deduct the leased amount from the exclusive amount.
Do you think “unknown” producers are shooting themselves in the foot by selling their product for cheap instead of releasing records the right way?
I think it’s a good idea to lease your beats because as producers, we have a lot of beats sitting on our computers, taking up space that could be making money for us. Now I wouldn’t recommend selling them for dirt cheap on the exclusive side, but as far as leasing it’s ok to sell for lower amounts because you can keep reselling the same beat over and over.
“Music Publishing is the owning and exploiting of songs in the form of musical copyrights” – Randall Wixen (The Plain and Simple Guide to music Publishing). If you have written or composed an original piece of music, you own the copyright to that piece of work. In the event that the composition created is used in a way that generates money….at that point the copyright owner or owners are entitled to the publishing in the form of mechanical royalties, performance royalties, licenses for synchronization, licenses for sampling and more. So pretty much, music publishing is the cornerstone of a musicians income. It can be passed down from generation to generation as long as that composition is still making money.
Do you give free beats to certain artists? What determines if you’ll let one hop on your production for free?
I send beats out all the time. I don’t consider them free, but I want the artist to record to it first before we agree that “this is the one”. That’s mainly with major artists. When we come to an agreement, we do paperwork and then go from there. I’ve had some independent artists that I’ve looked out for from time to time before my Grammy nomination and Platinum Plaque.
How does it feel to be Grammy Nominated?
I feel like I won the Championship. It’s a great feeling to have that title. It wasn’t easy at all and kind of gives me a pat on the back for all of the hard work I’ve put in all these years. It also comes with much responsibility. I feel a little more pressure than before to deliver more and take my music to the next level.
Do your credits help you be able to negotiate how much you make off each song? How do you go about negotiating your cut of a record?
My credits definitely help. Before all of my credits, the labels and managers always wanted to know who I worked with to justify paying me a certain amount. Now my credits are all over the place, so it’s not a problem for me to get the amount I deserve.
What advice would you give up and coming producers who are trying to get major placements?
Network with as many people as you can like engineers, friends of artists, artists themselves, AnR’s, etc. Pretty much anyone that you think that can help you get to the artists that you are trying to get the placements with. Use social media to your advantage. Sometimes they will have email addresses on their pages and will post about the different events they will be attending. Stay solid because the industry is very small and if you get a bad reputation, the word could travel fast. Learn your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) and perfect your craft. Be ready at any given time because when it happens, it happens and time does not wait. Trust me. Get a lawyer to help with your contracts and sometimes they are connected with artists too. Stay working as learning much as you can. That part will never change, even for me.
What’s next for Cash Clay Beats?
We are currently launching our merchandise, “Street Certified” (Beat Cartel) which is also a production company where we have producers and songwriters. I’m scheduled to be in 2 documentaries this year titled, “Turnt” and “The Rise of The Atlanta Producer”. I’m also scheduled to be on “The Drop” which is a TV show that will appear on Comcast. I have more production on the way with “Think Its A Game’ Records” and much more. I am also part of a partnership with Atlanta Public Schools. The best talent of each school (out of 11 schools) will have a chance to work with a major producer. Additional partners for the contest include: RadioOne, Hot107.9 and some of Atlanta’s most sought after producers including: Zaytoven Beats, Kenny Barto, JUSTICE League (with Faz Syed), Elliott Carter, Grand Hustle Records, Paul Diaz, Treesound Studios, Timothy “Bolo Da Producer” Mingo, Scott Keiklak, AIMM, Kennard Garrett, Quantum SteadyState, and LLC and Jafari “Farro Jarro” Jeter.
Any last words?
Thank you for taking out the time for this interview. Anyone looking to follow me, can do so at Cashclaybeats.com and @cashclaybeats on all social sites. For media contact @tiaculver. Thanks again!