Online beat licensing has been around for many years now. Back in the early 2000’s we had the growth of platforms like Myspace which has now progressed to many popular beat selling platforms like Beatstars, Airbit and Traktrain.
Music production today can be learned from pretty much anywhere no matter your skill level. This is thanks to the amazing resources online that have evolved just as much as beat selling platforms.
In this guide I’m going to walk you through the concept of beat licensing and explain the differences between them to give you a better understanding without the hassle of boring yourself to death reading through a bunch of legal 💩
Grab yourself a cup of coffee ☕ By the end of this guide, you will know everything you need to know to either sell your own beats online or confidently make beat purchases.
Beat Licensing In a Nutshell 🌰
The concept of beat licensing is a simple one. Producers upload their beats to an online store, any artist can purchase that beat and once they do, they recieve a digital written agreement granting the artist a license to use that beat to create and distribute a song.
This license agreement is what producers are actually selling and is legal proof that the producer has given permission for the artist to use the beat.
Free Beats Explained 🤔
One of the most confusing subjects is free beats. Here is the truth:
There is no such thing as a free beat..
If a producer sends an artist a beat(often tagged), that doesn’t mean the producer has given permission for the artist to use the beat as there is no legal proof or written agreement to say so. This is where a license agreement comes in.
Often times, a producer does this for promotional reasons and to give the artist enough freedom to work with the beat to see if its worth purchasing a license or not.
Non Exclusive Beat Licensing
The most common form of beat licensing, also known as “leasing” comes in the form of non exclusive beat licensing.
This is a license any artist can purchase and release a song on Spotify, iTunes and other streaming services and make money from.
Typically non exclusive beat licensing follow a standard format of:
- Basic Lease($15-$30)
- Exclusive(offers only)
These are common types of non exclusive licenses and rates producers charge. Often times, these are hosted directly on their website in a beat store so you don’t have to contact producers directly to grab a license and start working with the beat.
Once purchasing one of these licenses from a producers beat store, the producer grants them an auto generated digital agreement granting permission for the artist to use the beat in compliance with the license terms.
For most artists, a non exclusive license will suit them perfectly fine but lets take a closer look at them to get a better understanding.
Basic(Non-Exclusive) - $
My price $30
A basic lease is usually the starter license a producer offers and is aimed towards artists still trying to build their following and for many, this will work just fine. Lets have a closer look at what this license typically grants an artist.
Unmastered Untagged MP3(Sometimes +WAV)
The first thing artists get is the beat itself. It’s typical for producers only to include an MP3 version of the beat in their earliest license but some also provide the high quality WAV.
Personally, I’d advise against only providing an MP3 file because of quality control. Let me explain, if an artist purchases a producers beat, the producer should make sure that when the artist releases their song, it sounds high quality. This will only aid the producer and the artist with potential growth and show that the producer cares about the quality of the beats they are putting out there for artists. As an artist myself, I’d never work with an MP3 file of a beat in the studio.
Another thing to note is that these files should come unmastered. This gives the artist enough headroom to lay a vocal on top of the beat or instrumental. All my beats comes with at least 5-6db headroom for the artist so they have enough room to record their vocals on top.
My basic license comes in this form as both MP3 and WAV files.
Use for 1 Music Video
A lot of artists like to make videos for their new songs and why wouldn’t they? it’s a great promotional tool as it’s much more engaging than a still image.
Most basic leases do include permission for artists to make 1 music video using their new song
Max Number of Streams(50,000-100,000)
This grants permission for artists to release their song onto streaming platforms such as Spotify.
The maximum number of streams changes from producer to producer. Producers choose a number of streams they would like to grant artists but its very common for this to be in the range of 50,000-100,000 streams for a basic lease.
My basic license comes with 100,000 streams.
Max Distribution Copies
Distribution copies is anotheer number that changes from producer to producer. Typically a basic lease starts at 2500 distribution copies.
This means that the artist may record their vocals onto the beat, place the song on 2500 CDs, DVDs, cassettes, or any other form of recording media, and sell those for profit.
Paid Performances(Not Always Included)
This grants permission for an artist to perform their song live and earn profit from the performances.
While not every producer includes this, I strongly recommend including it even in a basic lease because it’s a well known fact in the industry that most money an artist can make comes from performances. Including this in a basic lease says the producer cares about the artist succeeding with the song they have wrote to the producers beat.
As you can see, from everything a basic lease includes, most artists will be just fine with. Next we’re gonna take a look at a premium lease.
Premium(Non Exclusive) - $$
My Price $70
A premium lease is typically directed towards artists have passed the beginner or startup stage.
These artists are actively releasing singles or albums to Spotify, and/or doing performances for profit. Lets take a look at what an artist is usually granted.
The premium license includes everything basic does plus:
Max Number of Streams(100,000 – 500,000)
An increased amount of online streams. My license comes with 500,000.
Max Distribution Copies(5,000-10,000)
An increased amount of distribution copies. My license comes with 10,000.
The number of stations producers grant varies but can be anywhere between 1-5 stations for this license.
Unmastered Tracked Out Files
What are tracked out files and why are they important? Tracked out files give you complete freedom with the beat. This is usually every instrument in the beat delivered as separate audio files. This means if an artist don’t like a synth pluck you put in your beat, they can simple mute that track and the rest of the beat remains the same.
This is great for an artist who wants complete creative freedom on the song they are about to put out there.
These files are also most commonly delivered as unmastered audio files meaning they have a good amount of headroom for the artist to master their song with their vocals. This makes the vocals sound like they fit or belong with the beat even more.
Tracked out files are also delivered unmastered, giving the artist the most creative freedom possible.
That’s a lot of information, you still with me? 😅 For those who are even further in their music career, the next and final version of a non exclusive license may be the best fit.
Unlimited(Non Exclusive) - $$$
My Price $120
Unlimited licenses are usually aimed towards artists that don’t want limitations on the beat.
This license typically allows artists to have unlimited streams for example. This license has everything that premium does plus:
Unlimited Audio Streams
Streaming limits are removed.
Sell Unlimited Copies
Place your song on unlimited CD’s, DVDs, cassettes, or any other form of recording media, and sell those for profit.
Unlimited Radio Airplay
No limits for broadcasting.
Exclusive - $$$$
Exclusive licenses are usually aimed at artists who want full control, unlimited use and a beat for themselves.
When an artist purchases this license, the beat can no longer be sold out to other artists.
Something to keep in mind though is that, when the beat is purchased exclusively, anyone who purchased the beat non exclusively before that artist can still keep their songs online.
An exclusive license offers everything an unlimited license does with the addition of exclusivity.
Exclusive licenses are not typically set at a price. Artists usually make the producer an offer and the producer chooses whether to accept that offer.