The debate has waged forever: Are they albums or mixtapes? For many, there’s not much of a difference to distinguish the two, but for producers working with Atlantic Records, it appears the distinction is of critical importance.
Twitter crackled with discussion regarding the alleged Atlantic practice of retitling albums as “mixtapes,” “street albums,” or “compilation albums” to avoid paying full price for beats after BeatStars, a producers’ marketplace, posted a video of producer DJ Pain interviewing E. Dan of ID Labs decrying the practice and revealing how placements for Wiz Khalifa’s 2016 “compilation album” Khalifa paid him less simply because it was listed as a “compilation album” and not just an “album.” Other producers chimed in, pointing out that it isn’t just Atlantic Records problem, it’s an industry-wide, systemic practice that cheats producers out of compensation for their hard work.
“If you gonna call out Atlantic then you might as well call out all the labels because they all doing the same thing,” tweeted Atlanta beatmaker Sonny Digital, who leveled similar complaints about his treatment after producing “Unforgettable” for French Montana. “Sh*t Cash Money was dropping actual albums and wasn’t even paying the producers. You can’t just single out one party when all other parties doing the same.”
Production collective The J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League also reiterated that all labels should be held accountable, writing, “Been said this, but all labels do it black music. It’s all about the bottom line. What angers me is the black executives that let it happen.”
The last point is intriguing as well; there has long been a history of underpaying musicians going back to Motown, where The Funk Brothers performed the backing to most Motown recordings from 1959 until 1972, where they were paid salary, not royalties, despite playing on more Billboard-charting hits than any other musicians in music history.