Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Danja in Billboard Part 2: The Interview

Here is the 2nd part of the full article from Danja's Billboard Magazine feature:

When aspiring young producer Nate "Danja" Hills began working alongside studio wizard Timbaland in 2004, it was the breakthrough he had been waiting for. Now emerging as a powerhouse hitmaker in his own right, Hills has produced tracks for an impressive array of stars, including Nelly Furtado, Justin Timberlake, Sean "Diddy" Combs, Snoop Dogg, Katharine McPhee, Duran Duran, Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez and most recently Madonna.And he's just begun. Billboard recently spoke with the 27-year-old native of Virginia Beach, Va.

Billboard: Let's start with your thoughts on the music business today.

Danja: It has switched to songs, songs, songs -- hit records, and not albums and artists. I don't think people care about artists or artistry too much in this day. Let's take "Low" [from Flo Rida and T-Pain], for instance. People just want to download on iTunes or the ringtone and that's it. They don't really care about who the artist is. It's just a hooky song. So a producer like me who came into the game with Tim [Timbaland], we will suffer because nobody listens to the album and we're just trying to draw attention back to the artist again. But it's so easy to get one record.

Even though I use iTunes, it's a horrible idea: You can click on an album and listen to every song and just buy the one you like instead of the whole album. So no one is telling their story anymore on an album; they're just trying to do that hot single. It's so important right now to look at the [Billboard] Hot 100 [that] the No. 1 album doesn't even matter because record sales are so low.

Billboard: How does this affect you?

Danja: My style of approaching the business is, "Let me do the album. I will give you a hot single, but I want to do the album." You can't make any money without album sales, so in order for me to make money I need to do six or seven songs, and hopefully it will go platinum so there are some kind of residuals.

Billboard: Is there any way to change the situation?

Danja: It's hard to pinpoint the problem. Maybe the artist and producer just need to step up and make hotter albums. But the reason why Justin's album worked, Nelly's album worked, Tim's, is that the same core of people worked on them -- me, Tim, Nelly; me, Tim, Justin; Timbaland and whatever artist he wanted to feature on his album and me.

Most successful albums have one producer or one set of producers. Take it back to [Dr.] Dre and Snoop Dogg, DMX, even from hip-hop to rock to pop: One producer producing an album sounds like a body of work, but [the music business is] not selling a body of work [now]. We're selling songs.

Billboard: What can the business do?

Danja: The thing we have no control over is technology and the Internet. It makes it accessible for a 6-year-old -- if they want to -- to download every song they want and not pay. But that's out of our control. There needs to be some sort of law to control who has the music, when it leaves the studio. I don't even leave the studio with my music [on a CD] anymore. If you want to hear it, hear it in the studio.

You have to limit the amount of hands that touch the music, and that needs to be enforced by the record companies. There should be fines to control the leaks. I hear some say it's a good thing [when] a record leaks, to show how many people want it. But what sense does that make? If they got their hands on it, they're not going to by it.

Billboard: How would you characterize your experiences in dealing with the artists, labels, managers, attorneys and other music business personnel?

Danja: Everything's been pretty smooth. I've been totally blessed with the way my business has been arranged, so I have no complaints with anything.

Billboard: What are your thoughts on contemporary pop music and the related opportunities and perils?

Danja: Any record can turn pop -- become popular. When it crosses over, all sorts of opportunities can come from a hit record -- movies, TV shows. And that's a good thing and necessary because record sales aren't that good. So there are many other ways for your music to be exploited.

Billboard: What is the best thing, for you, about the music business today?

Danja: It allows me to sleep in late -- and party when I want to! But it's a great opportunity to reach the world, once you get successful. It all goes back to a No. 1 record: Once you have a hit all these doors open to every state in the U.S., every country in the globe. It puts you in a place where the world becomes your market.

It takes a lot of push and preparation sometimes. But once you make it, it's kind of limitless. And like I said, in today's time there are so many different ways [to create revenue]. I don't have to be a mega-hit producer: I can still do movie scores and TV shows and still make as much as I make from selling records. Being able to create music and do what I love doing is always going to be fun, and I come across a lot of people in the business and artists who are good people. So to me it's like high school, your senior year all over again. For 10 or 15 years -- or however long I get -- it's just a big high school. Just fun. And it's real good if you want to be famous, but I'm not that type.

Billboard: Is there anything you know now that you wish you had known when you started out?

Danja: That it's so political. It's very, very, very political. You hear the saying, "Ninety percent business, 10% music"? It's absolutely true. But that 10% music has to be smash -- hot music. It can't be just something to get by or mediocre because that 10% music makes the whole business run. But there is a lot of business. I had meetings in New York and completely forgot I was a producer at one point. I thought I was an executive.

Billboard: What advice would you offer to young people getting into the business?

Danja: I'd first ask, "What would be your reason for getting in?" You can say because you love it, but once the first check rolls in and you're making money, [you then say], "This is what I'm doing it for." But you don't want to cross the line and do it just for the check. It ends up just fizzling away anyway, because then your music is not good anymore. Becoming wealthy or making out good in your lifestyle is definitely a plus and is easy for me because I love what I do. But whenever I feel I'm doing too much business I tell everybody, "Leave me alone. I'm going to do what I'm going to do." Hire a team of people who have your best interests, from your business manager to your lawyer to your manager. Please don't try to walk through the business blind, because then you end up on "Where Are They Now?"


  1. Very nice read Danja is right the industry is just trying to sell songs not albums thats why he and timbo have been having success and he is right they will suffer because of it.

  2. I couldnt Agree more Danja.

    Tell EM...

  3. THIS is awesome...THANKS for gettin danja news its very interesting

  4. very good, if not to say excelent

  5. Awesome. He really has his head screwed on, I guess you have to in these turbulent times.

    And please don't let anyone say "this is a Tim blog not a Danja blog" again....

  6. An album or record album is a collection of related audio or music tracks distributed to the public. The tracks on an album may be related by subject, mood or sound, and may even be designed to express a unified message or tell a story (as in the case of a concept album), or the tracks may simply represent a convenient grouping of recordings made at one time or place, or recordings whose commercial rights are controlled by a single record label.
    The term "record album" originated from the fact that 78 RPM Phonograph disc records were kept together in a book resembling a photo album. The first collection of records to be called an "album" was Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite, released in April 1909 as a four-disc set by Odeon Records.[

    In 1948, Columbia produced the first 12 inch, 33⅓ RPM microgroove record made of vinyl.[1] With a running time of 23 minutes per side, these new records contained as much music as the old-style album of records and, thus, took on the name "album". For many years, the standard industry format for popular music was an album of twelve songs, originally the number related to payment of composer royalties.

    Today, with the vinyl record no longer being used as the primary form of distribution, the term "album" can still be applied to any sound recording collection.

    MY POINT???
    The concept of the modern album (many songs by one artist in a short amount of time) is still a very "new" concept in the grand scheme of music history.
    When did the great classical composers make albums? What about indigenous tribal music since the beginning of time? It was always about the few GREAT songs created by many people developed over time. Its almost impossible to NOT make disposable popular album in this age due to limited amount of time given to producers and musicians.
    That is time that the records labels don't give. There is no other choice but to record and include 75& of mediocrity.
    We are returning to a era where we would rather pay for one or two gems, not not 10-12 lumps of coal
    I am all for concept albums however, times are changing.

    Thanks for the article.


  7. I love Danja's interviews, because he always talks sense and seems to know 100% what he's doing and has a level head.

  8. danja, u r right! ! ! great talk!

    many people have to change their minds in many ways...

    art in every way is more than just art - look behind things! be curious, helpful & empathic. =)

  9. I hope he executive produces my album one day :)


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