Author: Al Navarro, CCO & Co-Founder

I’m the father of two young women, one in college and one a high school senior. So I get exposed to a lot of music that I might not hear were it not for my kids.

One somewhat recent song is “Black Beatles” by Rae Sremmurd (that’s “Ear Drummers” spelled backwards). It’s a catchy (if not entirely family-friendly) song that defies categorization. While it does feature rapper Gucci Mane (what’s up with these names?), it’s much more melodic than most songs in the rap genre.

Give it a listen now, and you’ll be just one of over 500 million views on YouTube.

Besides being a catchy song, there’s something about “Black Beatles” that I noticed in the sound bed. It appears about 25 seconds into the song. You’ll hear a woman’s voice say “Mike Will Made It”. This piece of audio serves as a watermark of sorts for Mike Will, aka. Michael Len Williams, a producer/songwriter who’s worked with a diverse range artists — from Miley Cyrus to Lil Wayne.

If you listen to any contemporary rap or R&B music at all, you’ll no doubt have heard this audio “watermark” before. And Williams is not the only producer to brand his work this way. DJ Khaled, another producer who has even starred in a commercial for TurboTax, also puts a similar audio mark into his songs.

The first song in which I remember hearing DJ Khaled’s signature “We the best music” branding is the song “For Free” (very NSFW) which features singer-rapper Drake.

Khaled seems to have another catchphrase: “Another One”, that he uses as well.

This was never a thing in music when I was growing up in the 80s and 90s, so I did a little digging around about the phenomenon. There is a DJBooth.net article from 2014 that identified and named the trend: calling it a “producer drop”.

That same article mentions the reason why I’m even writing about it now. All of these producer drops are really nothing more than branding for the creator of a piece of content (in this case, music). And hearing these soundbites all over the airwaves or in online audio has made me think about agencies doing the same thing.

Yes, I know there used to be a convention for European ad agencies to put their name in the gutters of magazine ads, but I haven’t seen that done in a long while. But perhaps it’s time to return to that convention — and even take it from print to broadcast/digital.

Why? Well, as noted in the DJBooth piece, “Producers are often overlooked and uncredited. When you send out a beat, you have little to no control over what happens to it….Adding a catchy little snippet at the beginning is like a watermark, it ensures everyone knows who the beat belongs to. Plus, like a catchy slogan, it can be used to create a brand.”

Simply substitute the word “ad” for “beat” in the above. What would happen if at the beginning of a commercial there was a little super about the ad agency who created it? Or if agencies got to tag a few frames of a banner ad with their name or logo? It certainly seems to be working for those music producers!