Inside Rights is an interview series hosted by Pex. As the trusted global leader in digital rights technology, we routinely speak with rightsholders about their copyright challenges and successes. We hope this series sheds light on the complexities of copyright use on social media and the importance of proper attribution for platforms, rightsholders, and content creators.
Music creators: your content has value, learning the business is important for protecting that value, and remember: if you created it – you own it.
April 26 is World IP Day, and the 2022 theme is “IP and Youth: Innovating for a Better Future.” The under-30 crowd is seen as the heart of the creator economy, driving trends and always finding the new, hit platform first. While the largest number of content creators are between the ages of 30-49 (48% of creators), a Pew Research study found that those most enthusiastic about content creation – “Power Creators” – have an average age of 25, and 28% of creators are ages 18-29.
While the creator economy is not entirely driven by youth, they have helped make it an estimated $20B economy and are fueling its rapid growth: The creator economy is expected to be worth $104B this year, with $800 million in venture capital invested in creator ventures.
Even with all this attention on creators and monetization, there is still a sizable gap in knowledge around ownership, copyright, and the business and legal aspects of content creation, especially for music. We spoke with musician, creator, and entrepreneur Kwesi Albert Lutz-Paap about how he got started making music, what it takes to learn the business side of the industry, and why it’s crucial that creators understand their content is valuable.
Pex: How did you get started in music?
Kwesi Albert Lutz-Paap: I come from a music family. I was born in San Bernardino, California, but my family’s from Ghana, West Africa. San Bernardino was kind of like the murder capital of California at that moment, so my mom sent me back to Ghana. When I came back to America, she taught me how to speak English by writing songs with me in English, and so music was really my second language and English was my third.
Fast forward, we moved to the Bay Area and I learned about Fruity Loops and software and how to connect the MIDI that I learned how to sequence from my uncle who taught me at five or six-years-old. I learned how to create my own beats and by the time I turned 13, I sold my first beat and then continued to sell beats. That was my first intro to entrepreneurship and understanding that I can create something and it has value and I can sell it to people.
I went to the Musicians Institute in Hollywood and was challenged by some of the greatest musicians in the world. I was there for about a year, but I asked my instructors, cut to the chase: let me know what I need to know. And they said: learn the business and don’t sign anything that you don’t understand. When the pandemic happened, I knew I needed to center myself, and really the center of who I am is music. And so I started Prodosapien and continue to release music and also consult with companies and startups that are building from the ground up.
Pex: What’s made you lean into the business side and what value have you gotten from it?
KALP: It was the impatience of being young and looking at rappers or looking at different artists or producers – they’ve got the flashy cars, they’re making a lot of money, they’ve signed, they’re doing all these things – but a lot of them were putting themselves in debt and didn’t understand the business. They signed the types of contracts that reflected a lack of understanding of finances. While I was in school full time I worked as a banker, and it truly allowed me to understand the impact of finances, and sharpened my ability to understand that you really have to be invested in your own business. A lot of folks want to just stay on the creative side but the balance is interesting; it can chisel your creativity if you’re creative on a business level as well – it can influence the way you approach your music.
Pex: How do you monetize your content?
KALP: It’s a combination of a lot of things. Over the years I’ve done some ghost production, and I contract with independent filmmakers, so there’s royalties from some of the placements that I’ve had. I also produce and release music independently, and publish it independently. I continue to consult and work with a lot of different artists from all over the globe. I’m constantly finding new things to do and it’s not just about the most popular or the path of least resistance, it’s also thinking into the future and investing in technology, investing in companies. Currently I work really closely with a company called Airbit, a beat selling platform, and became an official advisor for them. I do live streams and release music with them as well. So it’s a host of different things.
Pex: What made you want to start your own publishing company?
KALP: I think publishing and self-publishing is going to be the future. I’m not afraid to step into it. It might be scary, but I’m confident in my music, in what I can create, and the quality that I bring. It’s really about the type of tools that are being developed that help the process for the average person. It’s taken years of research and talking to a lot of different folks to understand how it works. And it is complex, but it’s not really rocket science; it’s just more tedious work.
Pex: What do you think is in the market today that is making self-publishing easier?
KALP: I look at platforms like Pond5 and Airbit that allow you to automate your process of creation with pre-made contracts that set you up for success and clarify that you have ownership. I think that’s really changed the game for us. The next step is going to be, how do I track? The internet is so vast. When you release something, it could be repurposed, remixed, memed, sampled, twisted, contorted. It can be a scary place. I’ve learned to just get my stuff out there and if it is of value, it will be copied. And if it’s copied, that’s the best form of flattery.
Pex: Why do you think other content creators and independent musicians don’t have as strong of an understanding of why ownership is so important?
KALP: There are people who want to support artists. There are people who hear something or see something and think, “this gives me joy.” And I think the disconnect for some artists is they don’t understand that their content has worth and it’s valuable. Sometimes creators just create, and don’t realize that there is an exchange. The energy that you put out should come back, and it should be able to support you so you can do it more, especially if that’s what you love to do. And understanding that you own your creations as well. If it came from you and you created it, you own it. So I think it’s a shift in mindset.
Pex: What do you think needs to happen for creators to understand ownership and their value, so they can better represent themselves and get their voice back?
KALP: If new tools for creators emerge to connect who they are and what they do with how they can be compensated, I think we’ll see a completely different world of really unique people. And they either won’t be worried about money, or they will double down on who they are and really invest in themselves to build a lifestyle around what they love to do, and do that with assistance from new, innovative technology.
Ownership and attribution for creators
At Pex, our mission is attribution for all, and that includes creators who deserve proper credit and compensation for their original works. Our Attribution Engine allows anyone who owns copyrights to register them at no cost and monetize their use prior to distribution on participating social media platforms. We make it easy to track who is uploading copyrighted content, where it’s being shared, and how it’s performing.
Want to learn more? Reach out at [email protected] to speak with a member of our team.
About Kwesi: Kwesi is an entrepreneur, musician, and music-tech aficionado. Growing up in professional studio environments, Kwesi inherited the basics of playing the keyboard and sequencing MIDI patterns at age five by his uncle. With early beginnings using the Akai ASQ-10 & Roland XP-60, Kwesi’s devotion to producing stayed consistent for decades through the evolution of hardware to software, FL studio to Reason, Logic, Protools, and now the Maschine. His early start to entrepreneurship was in Silicon Valley, selling his first beat at 13-years-young, which highly influenced his perspective on the future of disruptive music technologies. Kwesi taught art therapy through music production to incarcerated youth and disadvantaged teens in Silicon Valley while hosting open mics, creative writing sessions, and artist showcases. With work experiences outside of music ranging from marketing and operations to UX/UI design and media creation, Kwesi applies his broad spectrum of skills to consult for various companies.
Kwesi is rooted in producer communities, has a strong pulse on music technology trends, and continues to advocate for independent artists in the evolving creator economy. In addition, he is an advisor and strategic consultant for various companies and stands as a mentor to young people starting their journeys as entrepreneurs in the creative industry.
About Prodosapien: Creative firm Prodosapien consults high level creative direction, product innovation, design & brand strategy. Subsidiaries include music production and publishing arms Prodo Music and Prodo Publishing. “Aprodoo” (prodo for short) is a word from the west African Akan language of Ghana, which means to leave home for a purpose and embark on a journey. Through storytelling is how Sapiens have made sense of the world. Speak, and tell your story.