A computer with the right software, some equipment, and a willing artist allows just about anyone to call themselves a music producer these days. However, it takes much more than that to be successful in the business. A career in the music industry can be immensely rewarding, but at the same time, equally challenging and intense.
I recently sat in the studio and talked to a music producer in Jacksonville, FL who has faced those challenges head-on and found success over the past 20 years. Jimmy Beats of Dark Beats Music is currently working with local dancehall reggae artist Mosiah Jones on a brand new album, Trip to JA, that will be officially released on June 28. I interviewed Mosiah in a previous column and was invited to the studio to talk with him and his producer.
I arrived for the interview and found myself in a space with light honey-colored wood floors, overstuffed couches, and pictures of Bob Marley and Marilyn Monroe and large Jamaican and Puerto Rican flags decorating the walls. The impressive sound equipment and a recording booth were the centerpieces of the room. The set-up was efficient, laidback, and inviting, traits that I soon came to realize could also describe Jimmy Beats himself.
Jimmy Beats grew up in Orlando, FL, where his music career began with guitar lessons at age 12. “That was a time where you didn’t have Playstation, didn’t have Nintendo, as a distraction,” he observed. His neighbors of the same age also played instruments and they formed a garage band that within a few years was landing gigs at local nightclubs, parties, and skating rinks. His interest in music was fueled by an engaging Orlando entertainment scene. “If you weren’t into sports, you were playing an instrument.”
The transition from performer to producer and songwriter was a gradual one for Beats. A lot of the artists he worked with went on to have successful performing careers, touring with superstars such as the Backstreet Boys, NSync, and Britney Spears. During this period, Beats moved to Jacksonville and established a business in the automotive industry. After growing this successfully, he bankrolled the earnings to fund his music production interests.
Watching the careers of his fellow musicians served as a turning point for him. “Seeing everyone else reach those heights, it inspired me to stay on track and to still pursue the music, without just being a musician for hire...there’s a difference between being a musician out on the road playing someone else’s music than it is being in the studio creating the music. It’s very difficult to do both.”
Choosing the production route has paid off for Beats, but the choice has not been without obstacles. Moving to a new city, he found himself having to introduce himself to an entirely new music scene, one which he found to be as diverse as Orlando’s, but much more spread out. In Orlando, he noted, artists across genres knew and supported one another, contrasted with Jacksonville, where artists generally seemed to stay within genres.
Beats started out producing hip-hop, not reggae. He was drawn to the hip-hop world because of the rawness and the intensity, saying, “a lot of these guys were actually living what they were spitting.” True to his moniker, he put out a lot of beat cds and submitted a few of them to MTV when they put out a call for music to be used on their network shows. MTV liked what they heard and used his music for the popular prank show Punk’d. Beats ended up licensing three of his cds to the network and recalled what it felt like the first time he heard his music being played on television, during the making of the video for Eminem D12. The experience “gave me the confidence, like, you know what, keep pursuing this, something’s eventually going to break out.”
Break out he did. Make sure to subscribe to my column and check back this week for the second part of the interview as we discuss how Beats teamed up with Mosiah Jones on their current collaboration, Trip to JA, available online now. I will also be doing a full album review and you definitely won't want to miss that!