While the lyrics of a track can make a song go down in history, forever chanted by millions of people in clubs, festivals, and house parties, nothing makes a song more catchy and memorable than a great beat.
Think of the best of Kanye West’s legendary sampling abilities. Consider Tame Impala’s mind-bending psychedelic melodies. The lyrical content of a hit song can be completely overshadowed by the sounds and rhythms that leave listeners in musical Nirvana.
Basically, beats matter. I wouldn’t be here if they didn’t.
So what can I do for you today? Whether you’re…
- Someone only getting started with music and barely initiating the research process on how to become one
- An experienced lyricist looking to level up
- Someone who’s done using free YouTube beats and wants to get serious in the music industry
…you’ve come to the right place.
I’m going to run through everything you need to know about how to buy beats online, differentiate between the different kinds of beat licensing, go over some valuable tips on buying beats, and so much more that will be worth your while.
Let’s dive in!
The Sampling Problem
Even the most talented up-and-coming artists of today can be hamstrung by lackluster production on their tracks. This often simply comes down to not having enough connections in the music industry to link with talented producers.
It’s also a money problem. Paying royalties to sample a track isn’t something just everyone can do. Sampling without asking pretty much guarantees lawsuits.
With the explosion of digital music production and the convenience of online shopping, however, being able to buy beats online is an increasingly attractive option for artists of all levels.
While the process of buying beats for sale might seem like a straightforward process, this can be a daunting task for many musicians.
It’s especially challenging for those who are new to the music industry and don’t have enough business know-how to figure out which licensing options work best for their needs. Artists also need to understand whether they’re even able to monetize the songs they craft with these beats for sale.
Beat Licensing: An Exhaustive Overview
The world of beat licensing may seem complicated, but it’s surprisingly straightforward once you get started.
Essentially, a producer creates a beat and uploads it to their online store, where artists can purchase it directly. Once the artist buys the beat, the producer provides them with a legal document called a license agreement.
This agreement outlines the artist’s user rights and gives them the green light to use it in their own songs and, depending on the beat licensing agreement – more on this shortly – release it for monetization purposes.
Nonetheless, receiving free beats for sale from a producer is not enough to replace a binding beat licensing agreement. Without a license agreement, there is no legal proof that the artist has permission to use the beat – even if there’s a verbal agreement over text or phone call. This is why the license agreement is crucial in the buy beats online process.
One common misconception in the music industry is the idea of “selling” or “buying” beats. While you are purchasing the beat to use it yourself and create whatever music you want with that beat, what is actually being purchased is not the beat itself but rather the license agreement that grants the artist permission to use the beat.
So, as we dive deeper into beat licensing, let’s keep this in mind and focus on the legal agreements that allow us to create amazing music.
Non-Exclusive Beat Licensing
If you want to purchase a beat for your next hit song, non-exclusive licensing, also known as “leasing,” is the most popular option.
For a price ranging from $20 to $300 on most producer websites, you can buy a non-exclusive license agreement that allows you to release your song on platforms like iTunes, Spotify, and Apple Music. This also lets you create a music video for YouTube and make some serious cash in the process.
These types of licenses are readily available from the producer’s beat store, meaning you don’t have to waste time inquiring about them – you can purchase them instantly from the online store. The license agreement is usually auto-generated and includes important details such as the buyer’s name and address, the date of purchase, user rights, and information about the producer.
With a non-exclusive license, the producer grants the artist permission to use the beat to create their own song and distribute it online. Nevertheless, the producer still retains copyright ownership, and the artist must adhere to the specific rights outlined in the agreement.
The Caveats of Non-Exclusive Beat Licensing
The caveat with most non-exclusive licenses is that they come with specific limitations on sales, plays, streams, or views. For instance, the license may only permit a maximum of 50,000 streams on Spotify or 100,000 views on YouTube. Additionally, non-exclusive licenses are only valid for a set period, typically between 1-10 years. Once the contract period expires, the buyer must renew the license by purchasing a new one.
Keep in mind that the license must also be renewed as soon as the maximum number of streams or plays is reached, even if that happens before the contract’s expiration date! Given that non-exclusive licenses can be purchased by an unlimited number of artists, it’s feasible for multiple artists to use the same beat for various songs under comparable license conditions.
Whether this poses an issue or not depends on the phase of your career that you’re currently in. For beginner artists, a non-exclusive license may be the best option (you lose nothing from risking others using the same beat). However, soon-to-be-famous artists may be better off with an exclusive license.
Before making a decision, it’s essential to consider your individual needs and goals carefully.
Exclusive Beat Licensing
Owning the exclusive rights to a beat means that there are no limitations on user rights, giving artists the freedom to exploit the song fully and do as they please. Unlike non-exclusive licenses, there is no particular limit on the number of streams or plays the song can receive on any of the major streaming platforms, and the contract has no expiration date. The artist can also use the song in multiple projects, such as singles, albums, and music videos.
In contrast to non-exclusive licenses, which are typically limited to use in a single project only, purchasing the exclusive rights to a beat provides greater flexibility and creative control. When an artist buys the exclusive rights to a beat that was previously licensed to other artists in a non-exclusive agreement, the producer is usually no longer allowed to sell or license the beat to others.
After a beat is sold exclusively, the producer is no longer allowed to sell the beat to others, which ensures that the licensee has complete ownership.
A good way to remember the differences between the different kinds of beat licensing is that it’s somewhat like the difference between buying and renting. Think of non-exclusive rights like renting a car and exclusive rights as actually purchasing the vehicle. With a non-exclusive agreement, you only get to own the beat for a specific amount of time, whereas, with an exclusive agreement, that beat is yours for good!
Royalties, Publishing Rights, Etc.
Many people looking to buy beats online find the music industry’s obsession with royalties difficult to navigate. Different producers license and provide music with different clauses in their contracts, meaning you always have to read the fine print if you’re foraging for beats. Few people get into music production because they’re excited by the legal aspect, so using a service that simplifies contracts is highly recommended.
It’s still worth knowing how it works, though – we provide a quick explainer below.
To clarify things, we’ll focus specifically on online beat licensing and break down the process step-by-step. Before diving into the specifics, it’s important to have a solid grasp of two types of royalties: mechanical royalties and performance royalties.
Performance royalties are earned when a song is played or performed publicly, which can include instances when music is performed live in venues or played on radio stations. Anytime a song is publicly performed, the songwriter and publisher earn performance royalties.
These royalties are paid out by performing rights organizations (PROs) such as ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC, which collect fees from venues and broadcasters for the right to perform copyrighted music publicly.
Mechanical royalties are earned when music is reproduced or distributed in a physical or digital form, such as through the sale of CDs or digital downloads and streaming services like Spotify.
These are different from performance royalties in that these don’t factor into the royalties earned when artists perform their songs live in front of an audience.
The Division of Mechanical Royalties
When it comes to mechanical royalties, most of the time, the artist is entitled to keep all of it in exchange for the license fee, whether it’s an exclusive or non-exclusive agreement. However, if the agreement is exclusive, some producers may ask for a small percentage of the mechanical royalties, usually between 1-10%, which is referred to as producer royalties or points.
This means that the artist is getting an advance on future mechanical royalties, which are calculated based on the net profit of the song. All costs associated with creating the song, including the exclusive license fee, will be deducted before the producer receives their share.
If the artist is signed to a label, the label may collect them and decide whether or not to pay the artist a portion of it. However, independent artists can receive their mechanical royalties directly from distribution services such as TuneCore, CDBaby, or DistroKid.
While the licensing agreements I personally provide don’t stipulate that any percentage of the mechanical royalties go to me, it’s still worth highlighting. If you’ve ever worked with a producer that does charge producer royalties within a beat licensing agreement for one of their beats for sale, you’ll understand how frustrating these clauses can be.
Songwriter royalties, also known as the “Writer’s share,” refer to the portion of royalties paid to the credited songwriters of a musical work. This includes the lyrics, melody, and musical composition of the song. In the context of beat licensing, songwriter royalties apply to anyone who had creative input in the song, including producers, songwriters (lyricists), and engineers.
In non-exclusive beat licenses, it is common for the producer to retain 50% of the publishing and writer’s share, while the other 50% is divided among the lyricists. This division is usually not negotiable, as the music part of the song is considered the producer’s contribution and is thus considered half of the song. If there are multiple songwriters who contributed to the lyrics, this 50% is divided between them.
However, it is important to note that songwriter royalties cannot usually be sold through an exclusive license unless done through a work-for-hire agreement. When you buy beats online, it is common for exclusive licenses to include the mechanical royalties but not the songwriter royalties.
Kinds of Copyright Situations
Understanding copyright laws and situations can be complex and requires extensive knowledge of the law. For a more in-depth understanding of copyright law, I recommend researching further or seeking advice from a legal professional.
However, for the purposes of artists like yourself wanting to buy beats online, we will discuss the ownership of a song and its copyright holders, breaking it down to its individual creators.
Performing Arts Copyright
Let’s take an example of an artist who found a beat they liked on YouTube and purchased a license from the producer’s website. After writing lyrics and creating a song, they distributed it through platforms such as CDBaby, TuneCore, or DistroKid.
The producer who made the beat owns the rights to the track, while the artist owns the copyright to the lyrics, whether they purchased an exclusive or non-exclusive license. This is referred to as Performing Arts Copyright (PA-Copyright).
It’s important to note that registering the music or lyrics with the U.S. Copyright Office is not required, as the moment the creation is written or saved, it’s automatically copyrighted. While registering with the U.S. Copyright Office has its benefits, failing to do so does not mean losing ownership over the creation.
Sound Recording Copyright
Let’s say you made a song with a producer’s beat and either exclusively or non-exclusively licensed it. The song now inhabits two copyrighted aspects: the lyrics and the music. Regardless of the beat licensing agreement you obtained, you own the copyright to the song’s lyrics, but the producer owns the one to the track itself.
However, when it comes to the sound recording copyright, the type of license you obtained makes a big difference. If you exclusively licensed the beat, you own the master and sound recording rights, making it your sole property free from any claims by the producer, except for their right to jointly claim the copyright of the underlying musical composition.
If you obtained a non-exclusive license for the beat, then you do not have ownership of the master or sound recording rights. Instead, you’ve been permitted to use the beat and profit from the song according to the non-exclusive agreement’s conditions. However, you still possess the Performing Arts Copyright of the lyrics.
A derivative work is a piece of creative content that combines an original copyrighted work, such as a beat, with another original work, such as lyrics. This is a common occurrence in the music industry and can include remixes, translations, parodies, and movie adaptations of books.
Non-exclusive beat licensing agreements allow artists to create such derivative works using the producer’s copyrighted material. However, only the owner of the underlying composition, in this case, the producer, has the authority to authorize a derivative work. Therefore, when an artist licenses beats for sale on a non-exclusive basis, they are granted the right to create a derivative work.
Non-Exclusive or Exclusive? Decisions, Decisions…
After discussing the differences between non-exclusive and exclusive licenses, you may still be unsure which option is best for you as an artist. While exclusive licenses may be a better option in terms of quality, they may not be necessary for everyone.
As you consider your current situation, including your number of followers, released songs, plays, marketing budget, and financial support, it may be best to ask yourself what is the best option for you as an artist today.
Most artists are not yet ready to buy exclusive rights, and that’s perfectly fine. For instance, if you’re a young artist working on a mixtape or first album to establish your name, it’s not advisable to spend a lot of money on exclusive rights when you’re not certain if the record will become popular.
The wise investment would be to purchase one of the higher-tier non-exclusive licenses so you can save money, afford more licenses, and gradually build your fanbase with more consistent drops until you’re ready to take the next step.
Ready to Buy Beats Online?
Let’s quickly recap – we’ve covered:
- Beat licensing agreements
- The different kinds of royalties artists and producers can earn
- The different copyright situations that could arise in a licensing agreement
We’ve got a solid base of information for negotiating with producers. Are you ready to buy beats online?
My goal is to ensure you’re buying beats with 100% confidence. To help you navigate the process, I’ve compiled a buyer’s guide, including twelve key reminders to keep in mind before you buy beats online.
1. Avoid Low-Quality Files at All Costs
When you buy beats online, it’s crucial to ensure that you’re getting high-quality audio files. The last thing you want is to have a great song ruined by low-quality audio – thus, checking the audio file’s format, bitrate, and resolution before making a purchase is essential.
Make sure to only buy audio files in lossless formats such as WAV or AIFF. Lossless files retain all the data from the original recording, which means that you get the highest possible audio quality. On the other hand, compressed audio files such as MP3 or AAC discard some of the data to reduce the file size, which results in lower-quality audio.
Another thing to consider is the bitrate of the audio file. The bitrate refers to the amount of data transmitted per second, and a higher bitrate typically means better audio quality. Look for audio files with a bitrate of at least 320 kbps.
Lastly, pay attention to the audio file’s resolution. Higher-resolution files have more detail and clarity, resulting in better sound quality. When you buy beats online, look for audio files with a resolution of at least 16-bit/44.1kHz.
Remember, high-quality audio is essential for creating a professional-sounding track. Don’t settle for low-quality audio files, and always check the format, bitrate, and resolution before you buy beats online.
2. Seek Bulk Discounts
If you’re planning to buy beats online, looking for bulk discounts is always wise – especially if you’re on a budget. These discounts usually apply when you’re purchasing multiple licenses at the same time. For instance, you can get a discount when buying two beats but a more significant discount when you purchase five or more.
This saves you money and allows you to experiment with more beats and diversify your sound, and with a broader selection of beats, you can work on different projects and get creative with your music.
Furthermore, if you find a beat maker or producer you like, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask if they offer any bulk discounts or promotions. Some producers offer discounts on holidays or special events, so keep an eye out for those too. This can also be the start of a strong relationship with a producer, which can be parlayed into a history of working together.
In summary, when you buy beats online, always look out for bulk discounts and promotions. This is a smart way to save money, get more beats to work with, grow your producer connections, and diversify your music.
3. Check the Producer’s Reviews and Reputation
When buying beats online, it’s important to do your research and check the producer’s reputation and reviews, as this will give you an idea of their experience, professionalism, and quality of work. You might stumble upon someone who crafts magical beats but is a pain to work with.
It’s also helpful to read reviews and comments from other artists who have bought beats from the same producer. This can give you insight into the quality of the beats, the producer’s communication and delivery time, the experience you will have working with them, and their overall professionalism.
Another thing to consider is the producer’s social media presence. Check if they have a strong following, engage with their audience and share updates about their work. This can signify their commitment to their craft and willingness to build relationships with their clients.
Remember, taking the time to research the producer can save you a lot of time, money, and disappointment in the long run. Be thorough in your search and make an informed decision based on the producer’s reputation and reviews. If you find a producer you click with and make amazing music with, that can prove to be the difference between making it big and remaining unknown.
4. Make Sure the Beat You Want is Actually Available
It is essential to make sure that the beat you desire to buy is available for purchase before you spend time creating a new masterpiece, and this is doubly true if you’ve been browsing a producer’s website and found a beat you’ve fallen head over heels for.
To confirm its availability, you can look for a purchase button or an add-to-cart button. If you don’t see either of these options, you should contact the producer to check if the beat is still available for purchase.
It’s important to confirm availability because some producers might forget to remove beats that have already been sold, are not available for licensing anymore, or might be attempting to double-cross or scam you. This could lead to wasted time and energy on your part, which is why you should always make sure the beat you want is available before you start working on it.
5. Double-Check the Beat Licensing Agreement
It’s always essential to read the license agreement thoroughly before deciding to buy beats online. Don’t just skim through it or rely on the producer’s verbal promises – make sure you understand what you’re allowed to do with the beat, what restrictions apply, and what rights you’re acquiring.
The license agreement, as extensively covered above, outlines the terms and conditions that govern the use of the beat you’re buying. It’s a legal document that protects both the producer’s and the buyer’s interests. By taking the time to read it and not disregard it like it’s an Apple Terms & Conditions document, you can avoid misunderstandings, disputes, and legal problems down the road.
Some license agreements allow for more flexibility than others, so knowing what you’re getting into is essential. For instance, some agreements may restrict your ability to monetize your music, use the beat for certain purposes, or require attribution to the producer.
Therefore, take the time to read the license agreement carefully, understand what you’re agreeing to, and ask questions if you’re not sure about something. It may seem tedious, but it’s well worth the effort to avoid any potential complications in the future.
6. Avoid Buying Sampled Beats (If You Can)
Verifying that the beat you’re purchasing does not contain any unlicensed samples is the best way to avoid unwanted legal complications down the line.
Sampling is a common practice in music production done by all the best producers in the industry, but using unlicensed samples can lead to lawsuits and heavy fines. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the beat you are buying is 100% original and doesn’t contain any samples that could land you in trouble.
One notorious example of an uncleared sample causing trouble for an artist is the case of Vanilla Ice and his hit song “Ice Ice Baby.” The song features a riff that is very similar to the bass line from Queen and David Bowie’s “Under Pressure.” While Vanilla Ice initially claimed that the two songs were different, it was eventually revealed that he had used an uncleared sample of “Under Pressure.”
Queen and Bowie’s record label filed a lawsuit against Vanilla Ice, and the case was eventually settled out of court with Vanilla Ice agreeing to pay a substantial sum of money to the rights holders of “Under Pressure.”
The moral of the story is – don’t be Vanilla Ice.
While the odds of something so catastrophic happening when you buy beats online are essentially zero, to ensure that the beat you’re buying has no samples, check if the beat is marked as “sample-free” or “100% original” on the website. You can also ask the producer directly if they have used any samples in the beat.
If you’re unsure, it’s better to err on the side of caution and not purchase the beat or negotiate with the producer to remove any samples before you make the purchase.
7. Ensure That You’re Getting Your Beats Immediately
It’s important to establish that you’ll receive your beats immediately after buying beats online, as waiting for your beats to arrive can be frustrating and hinder your creativity. It’s crucial to confirm the delivery time before making a purchase.
Some beat producers may take a few hours or even days to deliver the beats, which can be problematic if you have a tight deadline. Therefore, it’s recommended to choose a producer that offers instant delivery or at least a fast turnaround time – someone who doesn’t offer these options might also be attempting to scam you.
Additionally, make sure to check that the beat files are in a format that works with your music production software. Some producers may provide only WAV files, which may not be compatible with certain programs. Check for other available formats, such as MP3 or AIFF, to ensure you can work with the files immediately upon receiving them.
8. Steer Clear of Producers Selling Exclusive Rights for Cheap
When shopping for beats online, be cautious of any offers that seem too good to be true, particularly when it comes to exclusive licenses. If a producer is offering exclusive rights to a high-quality beat at an unusually low price, it’s important to investigate further before purchasing one of their beats for sale.
Why is the price so low? Is the producer reputable, with a track record of producing high-quality beats? Or are they trying to scam unsuspecting artists out of their hard-earned money? Remember, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is – this age-old adage applies to most things in life, and the buying beats industry is no exception.
Always do your research before making a purchase and ensure that you’re working with a trustworthy and established producer who offers fair pricing for their beats. By taking the time to verify the legitimacy of any offers that come your way, you’ll be able to protect yourself from scams and ensure that you’re getting the best possible value for your money.
9. Make Sure to Understand the Profit Split
When buying beats online, it’s important to understand how a profit split works. The profit split is the percentage of revenue that will go to the producer and the artist if the song becomes a hit, which is usually outlined in the licensing agreement you sign with the producer. Understanding this split is crucial to ensure you’re not getting the short end of the stick.
Typically, producers receive a percentage of the royalties for the beat they created – albeit this is not the case with any beats you’re purchasing from me. Knowing this upfront is essential, so you don’t get surprised later on. Make sure you read the licensing agreement carefully and don’t be afraid to ask questions if anything is unclear.
Remember, the goal is to ensure you and the producer are both happy with the profit split. It’s a win-win situation. You get to use a quality beat, and the producer gets a fair share of the profits.
10. Look for Credibility Signals from the Producer
In the age of the internet, it’s mandatory to ensure that you buy beats online from a trusted source – it’s almost too easy these days to fall for a scam. Look for trust signals from the seller, such as:
- A Strong Sockets Layer protocol (SSL) on their purchasing platform (which ensures the security of a given purchase)
- A professional-looking website
- Social media presence
- Customer reviews
A seller who has a strong reputation and a history of positive feedback is more likely to provide you with high-quality beats and excellent customer service. Make sure that you do your research before you buy beats online and choose a seller who is reliable, reputable, and trustworthy, as this will almost guarantee that you have a positive buying experience and that you get the best value for your money.
11. Avoid Overpaying!
As is the case with almost anything else in life, when it comes to buying beats online, it’s important to get a good deal. While high-quality beats can be expensive, you should never overpay for something you can get from another producer for cheaper. Be sure to do your research and compare prices before making a purchase.
Keep in mind that just because a beat is expensive doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best one for you; on the other hand, if a beat is priced too low, it may be of low quality, not properly licensed, or have those pesky uncleared samples that can get you in trouble if you end up making a hit record. The key is to find the right balance between price and quality. With a little bit of effort and patience, you can find a great beat at a fair price that meets your needs as an artist.
12. Don’t Hoard Beats You Won’t Use
Are you building a beat collection or making music? Some artists are guilty of buying beats compulsively out of fear that someone else will purchase it exclusively, and they will miss their chance. While this may upset some producers, it’s important to stress that you should only buy a beat when you plan on using it.
Structure the way you buy beats online according to your current situation. Make it your priority to get, record, and release your music. This is a vital tip to keep in mind, especially as some clients buy instrumentals and never follow through. Focus on making music with the beats you buy, and don’t let them collect dust in your digital library.
Buying beats online can be a great, budget-friendly way to take your music career to the next level, but it’s important to approach it with caution and an informed mindset. By following the tips we’ve outlined here, you’ll be well on your way to making smart purchasing decisions that can help you achieve success in the music industry.
Remember to always do your due diligence when buying beats online. Look for reputable sellers, read license agreements carefully, and make sure you’re getting what you pay for. And perhaps most importantly, stay true to your own artistic vision and don’t get swept up in the hype of buying beats just because they’re popular.
By keeping these things in mind and taking a strategic approach to buying beats online, you’ll be able to make the most of this valuable tool for aspiring musicians.
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