Internet Production through the Lens of Ransom Beatz
The ascent of technology has led creatives, who would probably have been sidelined were traditional music business structures, into an era of unprecedented recognition and the attainment of commercial success.
John Iyinbor is one of them. The 25-year-old producer, known popularly as Ransom Beatz, is in the cozy, cerulean-illuminated interior of the music studio within the plush comfort of his home, crafting beats that will eventually end up on his YouTube channel, BeatStars profile, or personal website. The speakers fill the studio with the infectious, head-bopping rhythm of Afrobeats, (Ransom’s specialty) but the boisterous energy typically accompanied by an artist’s presence is noticeably missing. Ransom does not need to link up physically with artists who will use his beats for their songs, most times, he doesn’t even know them. This uncommon dynamic — producers leveraging the internet as a marketplace to sell beats to artists without them physically convening — is Internet Production.
In-person studio sessions have undeniably found heavy mainstream success, yet Ransom Beatz, despite his unconventional methods, has been thriving as a music producer, even long before landing international placements and cementing himself as one of music’s most exciting new talents. “When I started the afrobeats selling game online, it wasn't really popular. Returning to Nigeria after Uni, people were like, “is it fair to sell one of your beats to multiple artists?” Ransom recalls.
Internet production entails producers uploading their beats online and artists utilizing it only after paying a bargain-rate fee. If an artist can drop a little more money, they acquire an exclusive license to the beats, or else, it is left open for other artists to purchase and use as well. Ransom, wary about people warping his passion for music into acquisitiveness, is firm about the reasons he is into this type of production. “I have a special interest in upcoming artists. I want to see the music community grow, that’s why I don’t give a fuck if I am giving out my best beats on the internet”, he continues, “I’ll keep on saying this till today, I sell my beats out like that because I want to give every artist the opportunity to be the best version of themselves. As an artist, personally contracting a producer for beats will cost a lot of money. Instead, they can go online and select from a wide range of sick beats for a few dollars.” Ransom’s comment brings an underdog turned global superstar story to mind: Montero Lamar Hill drops out of college at 19 years old, unknown and unemployed. One day, he buys a twangy beat from a Dutch stranger on BeatStars for only thirty dollars and sings on it. The song will become the chart-smashing "Old Town Road". This is the story of how Lil Nas X is catapulted to fame.
Serendipity colors Ransom’s music career. In 2017 the accounting and finance University of Essex graduate discovered AirBits while researching for his dissertation on clashes of contracts. “I just wanted to get my shit out there”, Ransom says. As a show of support, a friend of Ransom’s, Bando, purchased Ransom’s first beat on that platform for five hundred dollars. Soon enough, Ransom moved to YouTube to upload beats leisurely, with neither any intention of making sales nor prior knowledge that YouTube pays creators. On there, he did an afrobeats-esque remix of a beat which American rapper Ugly God used, causing it to not only blow up but also amass 7.2 million views, enabling Ransom to earn money as a YouTube creator for the first time. In 2019, Runtown contacted Ransom via YouTube and together they convened to craft ‘Goosebumps’, a single off the Nigerian singer’s comeback project released ‘Tradition’. That same year Ransom will reach out to Ramoon, who at the time had fewer YouTube subscribers than him, and the first beat they will work on together, will be exclusively licensed to 6ix9ine for his song ‘Yaya’ in 2020, a year later. The year ‘Yaya’ came out and Ransom’s producer tag ‘Ransom got that sauce in it’ is announced from the speakers of a global audience, he will not only produce for British rappers, Big Tobs and Dizzie Rascal, right from his home in Abuja but become the first Nigerian to amass one million streams on BeatStars. “The tracks that I have produced that went far, the artists got the beats from YouTube. I find it difficult to sell beats outside the internet because I don’t like my beats being on my hard-drive unused for a long time,” Ransom, currently boasting 76.9k YouTube subscribers, says.
On this day, this Benin-born producer says Internet Production is “like making money in your sleep”, but his modus operandi remains: stellar consistency, an understanding of the music market, and extensive networking with fans and other music creators. All this suggests that thriving as an online producer isn’t as effortless as he makes it seem. Ransom for the past five years has uploaded beats online every single day. “Even though you don't see me making beats, I have about five beats on my laptop that haven't been uploaded. I can literally bring out beats ready to be uploaded next month. You just need to know the current trends in the music market, and then strategise on the kind of beats you would release for that season," Ransom explains when asked if he had made any beats on the day we spoke. “My knowledge in finance has helped my music. Marketing strategies, e-commerce, and accounting for taxes, these are all important when selling beats online. Also, I try to stay connected with my fans.”
The world of Internet Production is undeniably auspicious, creating digital creatives and toppling boundaries in an industry notorious for gatekeeping. Internet Production revolutionises the game for both producer and artist. For the latter, a lot of producers and beat makers are putting out quality beats for cheaper the price. For music producers, community building, creative freedom and financial stability are at the cusp of their hands, literally.