Anno Domini talks production success & advice for aspiring CDN producers [Interview]
London, UK – In the early 2000’s, when the relationship between hip-hop and the internet really began to flourish, many aspiring MCs would visit sites like SoundClick.com or (a much different looking) mp3.com to find beats and promote their records. The “Instrumentals” categories were broken down by countless sub-genres for different production styles, equipped with thousands of beats by producers from around the world. One name in particular constantly charting well on these sites was Munich, Germany born UK-based producer, Adrian Boeckeler aka Anno Domini (AD).
I first discovered Anno Domini’s work online in 2000 and since then he’s built a production empire that not only boasts an impressive client list (over 100 million recorded online song plays since 2006), but also supports the careers of countless other aspiring producers.
AnnoDominiNation.com, part of the Anno Domini Beats Music Group, offers a similar feel to the sites that first introduced me to AD back in the day: Showcased beats which can be streamed, downloaded, rated, shared and, most importantly, licensed in just a few clicks. AD is part of the first wave of producers who pushed the production-leasing concept on social music sites and was quite successful in the process. The growth of the Anno Domini name online led to more established artists reaching out, and corporations in need of music to license, pulling out their cheque books.
Production credits include names like Rick Ross, Kool G Rap, Wu-Tang Clan, D-12, Three 6 Mafia, Styles P and the list goes on… and on. The corporate clients are just as impressive. The Anno Domini brand has excelled online and continues to build in pretty much all avenues of music entertainment: TV, film, video games etc. You might hear him on the soundtrack of your favourite video game or an MC spitting over one of his beats during Freestyle Friday sessions on BET’s 106 & Park. Even a particularly well known intergovernmental militarily alliance reached out to the young producer for his work (find out who in the Q&A below).
With the a recently added Canadian business partner, and tons of new opportunities on the horizon, AD graciously took some time out of his busy schedule for a quick Q&A. Aspiring producers take note – a ton of free great advice is put forward by a man who’s made a living off music for almost 10 years.
Without further ado, I present my interview with Anno Domini.
Anno Domini: Q&A
HipHopCanada: Anno Domini, welcome to HipHopCanada. How did you originally get into producing?
Anno Domini: Thanks for having me. I got my start in producing when I was at college. I was always a massive hip-hop fan but never paid much attention to the production behind all of my favourite tunes. Then one afternoon I downloaded this free music production tool, this really simple drag and drop block system, and started piecing together my first ever beat. I became hooked instantly!
HipHopCanada: What is your preference on equipment and software to use? Has it changed over the years?
Anno Domini: I’m not much of a hardware guy. I’ve used the same Korg Triton keyboard and KRK Rokit 5 speakers for most of my production life. I used to be heavy into Reason but the workflow is just too tedious so a few years back I switched to FL Studio which has made it much easier to turn ideas into beats for me.
HipHopCanada: You’ve been pushing beats online for as long as pretty much anyone. I think the first time I looked for instrumentals online 10 years ago, Anno Domini was one of the first names I came across. How have things changed since you first brought your production online?
Anno Domini: You’re right, 2014 is our 10 year anniversary – time flies! I would say the beat selling industry has grown significantly in that time period and has become a lot more professionalized. The competition has intensified massively, the barriers of entry are getting lower all the time, every dude with a laptop and an internet connection can download software and start selling beats. Back then making beats was more of a hobby, nowadays there are many producers who make a full-time living selling beats online. Almost everyone knows what a beat lease is today, but in the early days we were the pioneers pushing these concepts to the artists.
HipHopCanada: Since SoundClick is no longer as useful, what are good alternatives for shopping your work online?
Anno Domini: I would say artists who don’t have a YouTube channel are missing out massively. It’s the single biggest repository for music online. You don’t have to shoot a high quality music video for every single song or beat you want to promote either; it’s more than enough to just upload a song playing over a static background image. Just make sure you write a good video title, description and tag section with important keywords relating to your music to increase your chances of having your work discovered.
HipHopCanada: You’ve recently brought in a new partner to the business. Can you talk about how that came about and how you guys originally connected?
Anno Domini: Dillin Hoox and I go way back, we connected on a creative level back in the days. We’ve been making songs together for going on a decade now so when I was looking for a business partner for our company, Anno Domini Nation, Dillin seemed like an ideal fit. He’s a successful artist and businessman in his own right so I’m confident he can help us to achieve our goals.
HipHopCanada: Will there be plans to bring in additional partners?
Anno Domini: I wouldn’t rule out the possibility, if we can find other partners who would enable us to reach new markets or offer beneficial services it would be prudent to listen to those proposals.
HipHopCanada: Since you’ve been producing for 10 years, what do you consider your accomplishment to date?
Anno Domini: I feel that my biggest accomplishment is having created from nothing, a full-time income for myself and the producers on my team. Getting paid for doing what you love is the greatest feeling.
HipHopCanada: Which album release have you been most proud to take part in? You’ve been involved with several projects that have gone multi-platinum so I imagine that might be a difficult choice to make.
Anno Domini: Oh wow, that’s a hard one. This might sound kind of egotistical but the album I am personally most proud of is my first producer album (Secret Archives, 2006). I did everything on that album myself, from the beats to the mixing, artwork, distribution and promotion. I spent months arranging that and tweaking every sound. Man I still remember sitting on stacks of jewel cases, selling CDs out of my parents’ basement [Laughing]. Listening to it now it sounds horrible to my trained producer ears, but that whole process was the greatest learning experience. It taught me to appreciate every aspect of the music creation process, not just the production side. That’s why I’ve always tried to go above and beyond what other producers are doing, offering artists a holistic experience from production to mixing and mastering, graphic design, distribution and promotion.
HipHopCanada: Having achieved over 100 million recorded song plays online since 2004, I’d say you’re an expert on getting your name and work out. Since, unlike artists, producers are generally behind the scenes, how can a producer promote themselves if they don’t have a big catalogue to speak of yet?
Anno Domini: It’s easier now than it was 10 years ago. There are superstar producers just as much as there are superstar artists – just look at people like Dr. Dre, The Neptunes or Timbaland. I would say exposure is key, get yourself on as many websites, social media platforms, blogs and forums as possible. Network and interact with people, don’t give them the hard sell. Nobody wants to see spam but if you offer value and knowledge they are much more likely to listen to you. Don’t be afraid to give out free beats and connect with popular artists to get your name out there.
HipHopCanada: Which song in your catalogue is your favourite? Why?
Anno Domini: One of my personal favourites is “Same Story” by Vinnie Paz. That’s one of my most emotional beats and Vinnie blessed it with the most heartfelt and honest lyrics I’ve ever heard from him.
HipHopCanada: For the aspiring producers out there, what’s the best way to get started? Is there a way for someone to see if they’re cut out for producing, without dropping a heap of money in equipment first?
Anno Domini: Absolutely, I started out with a laptop and some free software I downloaded online. In fact that’s all I used for the first 2 years of my production career and I started selling many of those beats to artists. You can get demo versions of basically every production tool out there so there’s really no reason not to give it a go.
HipHopCanada: In another interview you did a couple of years back, you stated that upcoming producers should spend 90% of their time promoting themselves and their music, and only 10% of their time making new beats. What kind of advice would you give to a young producer looking to sell beats and get those highly coveted album placements? What’s the best way to approach that?
Anno Domini: Yes, though that assumes you already have a sizeable catalogue of high quality beats to promote. I would say at least 50. You need some choice and variation for artists. After that your time is much better served promoting the beats you already have than constantly making new ones. What’s the point sitting on 1000 beats nobody knows about. Make a big deal out of each new beat you release, send out a newsletter, post on your social media pages, create a YouTube video for it, send it directly to your past customers or artists you feel would sound good on it and so on. If you’re going after album placements then you want to keep your beats more exclusive and network with A&Rs and artist managers. Trying to hit up artists directly is going to be difficult, so do your research and find out about the team around them.
HipHopCanada: You have a ton of video and TV credits on your resume. Can a producer get into that side of the game on their own or do they need to know the right people?
Anno Domini: I would recommend linking up with an agency to go after those sync placements. Not the huge ones like Getty, Big Pump Audio or Taxi as you’ll be competing with 100,000 other artists there and nobody is going to be paying any special attention to your work. Link up with a smaller boutique agency that is going to dedicate the time and effort to your music and will actively look for placements for you.
HipHopCanada: What’s the most obscure corporate / non-recording artist related placement you’ve had?
Anno Domini: I actually worked with NATO on a series of commercial shorts that were aired on news channels around the world. When I was contacted by NATO about buying beats I thought it was a joke. There were all kinds of secretive documents and non-disclosure agreements I had to sign, it was a strange experience [Laughing].
HipHopCanada: On that note, there’s a few placements on your resume that jumped out at me and I was hoping you could explain your connection to them: 106 & Park, T.I. and Tiny: The Family Hustle, and X-Box 360 (505 Games) – and, to keep it Canadian, NHL.
Anno Domini: 106 & Park came about from various emcees hitting us up about using our beats for their live battles, for example Complex. It’s awesome when you see emcees tearing up your beats on live TV! T.I. and Tiny was a placement our sync agency in the US got for us, they have a good relationship with a lot of TV channels so you’ll hear a lot of Anno Domini beats in programming on MTV, VH1, TNT, ESPN, CBC and so on. For the X-Box projects the game developers actually hit us up directly about using our music. We’re very fortunate to have an established brand name by now and often the people who work for these companies either have employees who have rocked our beats in the past, or just stumble upon our music through word of mouth or our website.
HipHopCanada: You’re in London, UK but you were born and raised in Germany. Do you identify more with the UK or German music scene?
Anno Domini: A little bit of both. I keep in touch with what’s going on in Germany but I’m surrounded by more UK music on a daily basis. I’m also working with a bunch of UK artists right now. Funnily enough we’re making a collaboration album with USG – who are one of the biggest groups in the UK right now – with a “UK To Germany” theme. We’re bringing on board a bunch of popular German artists.
HipHopCanada: What’s your take on the Canadian hip-hop? Favourite artists to work with?
Anno Domini: Canadian hip-hop is huge! I grew up listening to people like Swollen Members, Choclair or k-os. Yeah I was an underground head! I’ve worked with Moka Only from Swollen Members in the past; that was dope.
HipHopCanada: Which new artist excites you the most? Is there an artist in particular you’re really watching out for?
Anno Domini: Here in the UK I think USG are doing their thing, and my own artist and producer Tim Ross. We’re bringing an EP out for him this year, I’m excited about that. I also can’t wait for the Choo Biggz debut album to drop on Sony/ESMG very soon. The whole album was produced by my co-producer 2Deep and the lead single features 50 Cent and Tank.
HipHopCanada: Anything else you’d like to touch on before we wrap this up? Shout-outs?
Anno Domini: I’d like to give a huge shout out to hip-hop in Canada and a massive thank you to anyone who ever rocked an Anno Domini beat out there. Also thank you to my whole team, Dillin Hoox, 2Deep, Screwaholic, Scarebeatz, Oskar Mike, Life And Death, Tim Ross, Epistra and Vherbal.
Don’t forget to visit the official website, AnnoDominiNation.com.