Talking With Producer Manager Zach Katz (Part 2)

by Moe Arora on March 17, 2009

producersweek

zackkatz

This is the second half of a 2-part interview with Zach Katz. To read Part 1, please click here.

Do you focus more on placing J.R Rotem’s music with artists or are you more focused on placing music with film, television and video games?

We do both, but I primarily focus on placing his music with artists.

We have an incredible publisher that helps us, Sony/ATV. That’s one of the reasons to do a publishing deal – to add more people to your team. They have a full film, television & video game department, who I provide music to on a regular basis, and their job is to go out there and to secure placements.

So I don’t do it all alone; I have people on the team who can also help.

But that income is definitely valuable, and the name of the game – especially in this shrinking market – is to capitalize and bring in as many revenue sources as possible.

One issue many upcoming producers have is knowing when to do free production for an artist and when to start charging. Also, once they do charge, how much to charge. How do you recommend they approach that issue?

Well, one objective is to keep a roof over your head so that you can actually make the music that’s going to build your future.

It’s different for everybody, but I mean, some people are still living at home with their parents, so it’s not a matter of charging. They have the luxury of being able to give people tracks for free, at first.

Others don’t have that luxury, so they have to charge something. So, at first, doing free tracks is definitely a solid option. It’s going to help get your name out there.

If doing 1 or 2 tracks for free is going to help you sell tracks 3 and 4; it’s worth it. But it’s just a matter of what you’re economic reality is.

Once you get into the game and you start charging, there is no set range. I’ve seen new producers sell tracks for $500, and I’ve seen them sell tracks for $7500.

I’ve seen a new producer get lucky landing a first single for somebody, and was able to sell it for $30,000; so it all depends. It depends on who you’re dealing with, who the artist is, what kind of budget they have, and how valuable is your record to that project.

That’s the biggest thing; how valuable your record is to that project.

A result of this shrinking market is that budgets are cutting dramatically, and producers are having more difficulty charging what they did a few years ago. Where do you draw the line on how low to charge for a production?

It’s very simple – right now, record labels aren’t really interested in album cuts; they want singles.

If you have a record that a record label is actually looking at, to launch their artist’s career, or launch a particular album – if the foundation for that project is your song – then you’re holding the commodity. You can charge whatever you want.

If you’re a brand new producer that happened to nail a record, let’s say for Rhianna or Beyoncé; I’m just using them as an example, I’m not speaking about them specifically – but if you’re a brand new producer, you made your first record today and tomorrow it gets in the hands of Beyoncé’s A&R, or Rihanna’s A&R or whoever else at the top of the game, and they actually pick your record as their first single – it doesn’t matter if you’ve never sold a record before in your life; you can charge whatever you want.

We spoke about this briefly, but can you delve a little further into the beatmaker vs. producer debate? Do you think someone can have long-term success as a beatmaker as opposed to being a music producer?

I think it’s becoming more challenging to be a beatmaker. Like I was saying earlier, people don’t want tracks.

People email me tracks everyday; I probably get 20 tracks a day. But I can’t do anything with them.

Here’s the problem: if you’re an amazing beatmaker, but for some reason, you’re not working with songwriters and you’re not actually making records out of your beats, you’re only half way there.

Some people make beats and when it’s a really hot beat, they talk about how they can see it being a single, but it doesn’t matter how hot it is; it doesn’t become a single unless somebody writes the right hook to it; or the right song to it. If you don’t have that, then your hot beat won’t matter.katzquote02

To me, being a beatmaker is like having a very nice car that has no engine – you’re not moving. If you’re just a beatmaker, you’re not going all the way out, to do what you’re supposed to do.

My advice to any producer, or any aspiring producer who just sits in their room, making tracks all day long and trying to move tracks around – my advice to them is to spend at least as much time collaborating with songwriters, as you do making tracks.

Anybody who’s just making tracks and complaining that they can’t get on, or that they’re not moving, my answer to them is; you’re only doing half the job. That’s why you’re not going anywhere.

Artists need to keep their presence known and make sure that they stay up on sites like MySpace, Twitter & Facebook. How important is it for producers to keep up their public image?

I think it important for producers too; especially MySpace. I get up by producers everyday asking me to check out their MySpace. If time permits, I definitely go. The problem is, most of the tracks they have on there are average.

Don’t ask somebody to go to your MySpace unless it has your best stuff on there.

At the very least, make sure you put your best foot forward and make sure that your best records are on your MySpace; so if I go, I’m impressed.

Otherwise, it’s just an idea of what you can do. I don’t need an idea – I want to know what you’re capable of, at your best.

What’s the biggest mistake you notice others make when they’re coming up in the game? What advice can you offer them?

That’s a tough one. Probably, getting into the wrong relationships.

A lot of times, people seek out managers, and they’re so set in an idea, they’re so married to the idea of having a manager represent them, that they end up signing long-term contracts with people who can’t really do anything for them.

If you’re going to have somebody managing you, you should have a trial-period, to see how compatible you guys are and how productive you can be together.

If you guys prove to be compatible, then great – sign a long-term contract.

A lot of these guys, they want a manager so badly, they get into the wrong contracts with somebody who isn’t doing anything for them. And then they’re stuck with somebody, for a matter of years, who can’t move their career forward.

So just think things through and make sure not to jump into anything just because you love the idea of it. Try it out first.

You can find Zach Katz and Beluga Heights on MySpace at http://www.myspace.com/belugaheights.

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