Your beat selection is an expression of who you are as an artist. Your choice of beats tells your audience what sounds, vibes, moods, and emotions you’re on the same frequency with.
You have a few options to get beats:
Purchase a beat for your exclusive use.
Lease a beat from an Internet producer.
Partner with an up and coming producer.
Learn how to make your own beats.
Use a combination of these approaches.
(Watch producer Curtiss King explain the difference between leasing rights and exclusive rights for a beat.)
When you buy a beat as an exclusive, it means that you are the sole owner of the beat and nobody else can buy it. It’s yours to rap or sing over. Exclusive beats are still bound by a contract, where the artist and the producer agree how to split any royalties that the artist earns from the song.
Exclusive beats can range from $300 to $2500 and even higher. Rappers and R&B singers that purchase beats as exclusives usually have an established fanbase and expect to move a lot of units. The artist’s investment in exclusive beats is worth it because they know they’ll make their money back when they drop their music.
Full disclosure: I do beat leases because I think they’re the best way I can support up and coming artists who are building their career.
Compared to exclusives, beat leases are a much more affordable way to get high-quality beats. With a beat lease, other rappers and singers may use the same beat. However, a lease costs a lot less than an exclusive, ranging between $15 and $50.
Many online beat stores offer discounts if you buy more than one beat, for example four beats for the price of one. Using these discounts an artist can have a full album of studio quality beats with a production budget under $200.
A successful internet producer has usually put thousands of hours into learning sound design, music theory, picking drums, song arrangement, manipulating samples, playing an instrument, watching production tutorials on YouTube, and so on. Internet producers have also invested thousands of dollars in their studio equipment, music production software, plugins, sounds, and their own education.
If you lease a beat from a successful internet producer, you get access to their investment in making beats at a very cheap price point. Internet producers like me view beat leases as a way to take our investment in our craft and use it to help more artists.
Collaborate with a Producer
Another strategy to get beats is to collaborate with an up-and-coming producer. This is an equal partnership between the artist and the producer. You and your producer agree to equally invest in creating your music, and agree to equally benefit from any profit from your music.
Before you agree to a 50/50 partnership with a producer, ask yourself these questions:
What are you both trying to accomplish with your music? Do you and the producer share the same goals?
How do you plan to get your music out there? Are you and the producer on the same page about business and marketing strategy?
Do you share a taste in music? Are there some artists you both really like?
What’s your vibe like? Do you like each other as people? Is this someone you could spend a lot of time with?
Are you both equally committed to improving your craft?
Do the producer’s beats speak to you musically?
If the answer to all of these questions is “yes,” you need to start making music with this person right away.
Make Your Own Beats
This can be really rewarding, but takes thousands of hours of practice to do well. I don’t have space in this guide to get in the weeds on making your own beats, but there are some amazing resources about this on YouTube.
You can use a combination of these strategies to start building your music catalogue and fanbase. You can get some exclusives, do some beat leases, and collaborate with some producers that you vibe with. If you make beats, you can rock over your own stuff too.
By dropping new music and showing what you can do as an artist, you can use the songs you’ve released to start getting collabs with other artists and producers.
You’re probably going to hear terms like “MP3” and “WAV” and “Track Out” and “Stems” and stuff like that. Here’s what all of that means:
MP3s and WAVs
There are a lot of different types of audio recordings, including music. These audio recordings can be stored digitally on your computer or phone. MP3s and WAVs are two different file formats that store audio (such as music) digitally.
Comparing MP3s and WAVs, WAVs are the highest quality audio format. If you’re working in a professional studio environment, your engineer is probably using WAVs to record, mix, and master your music. However, WAV files are very large and not practical for sharing music.
MP3 is a lower quality audio format than WAV because MP3s use lossy compression. MP3s are much more practical for sharing music with other people than WAVs because the file size is MUCH smaller. Most people use a lossy audio format like an MP3 for songs in their personal music collection.
You should give your music to streaming services such as SoundCloud and Spotify in the highest quality format, a WAV. These streaming services will automatically convert your WAV file into a smaller, more compressed file that the average music fan will listen to.
When you buy an MP3 or a WAV, you’re getting the entire beat in one audio file. Unlike an MP3 or WAV license for a beat, track outs deliver individual instruments as separate files. Sometimes people call these files “stems.”
You’ll get one audio file that is only the kick drum, one audio file that is only the snare, one audio file that is only the keyboard part, one audio file that is only the bass, and so on. All of the different parts of the beat are separated out into their own audio track.
By getting a track out instead of a single WAV, you’re giving yourself a lot more control over the sound of your song. Don’t like how the piano in a beat sounds? You can turn down the volume or get rid of it completely. Is the snare getting in the way of your lead vocal? You can deal with that too.
If you’re working with a professional mix engineer, they’re going to want the tracked out stems so they can fully mix your song.
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