What Is Beat Licensing?
People have been licensing their beats online for quite a while now (since the 90s), and even though the technology to do so has become more accessible in the past couple years, thanks to companies like BeatStars, the basic process is the same as it always has been.
“You find a beat you like and pay the artist to license it.”
Yeah, that’s pretty much it in the most basic terms.
But I’m guessing most of you already know that. In this guide I will explain the concept in more detail and the types of licenses you should expect to come across while shopping for beats.
- Beat Licensing – The Basics
- Free Beats
- Non-Exclusive Beat Licensing
- Exclusive Licensing
- About My Free License
- I Want To License A Beat That Is Marked As “Sold” By A Producer. Can I Reach Out To The Buyer And Purchase It From Them?
- I Purchased A Non-Exclusive License For A Beat But Someone Else Bought It Exclusively. What Happens To My License?
- My Non-Exclusive License Is Reaching It’s Limits But I Can’t Buy A New License Because The Beat Has Been Sold Exclusively. What Happens Now?
Beat Licensing - The Basics
It’s an easy concept to understand. Once a producer has made a beat, they will upload it to their beat store and put it up for sale alongside different license types to suit different types of buyers. For example, if you are an artist, you may be looking for a beat license which allows you to sell up to 10,000 copies of your song and stream it up to 100,000 times.
The prices for these licenses can vary but typically range from $30 to $200+ for non exclusive licenses (more on those later).
In exchange for the purchase, the buyer will receive a license agreement. This is a legal document which grants the buyer certain user-rights, depending on the terms of the license. These terms are normally laid out in plain English so that it is easy to understand what you are purchasing. As well as the license agreement, the buyer will also receive the necessary files to accompany the license type they bought.
See below for a quick overview of the license types I offer.
So, let’s say that you are a beginner artist and you are looking to buy your first beat but you don’t want to waste your money. You may decide to go for the Free License. This license will provide you with an untagged MP3 of the beat, allow you to stream up to a maximum of 10,000 streams, make a music video with your song, upload it to YouTube AND monetise it. As well as this you must give credit to “Kashou” as you do not own the exclusive rights to the beat.
You can see that as the licenses get more expensive, you get access to different file types and the amount of streams and sales increases along with unlocking things like paid performances and uploading your music to online streaming services like Spotify and iTunes.
A common misconception when someone purchases a beat is that they are buying the beat itself. This is not true. They are purchasing a license agreement which grants them permission to use the beat according to the terms in the license.
Sign Up For A Free Beat Pack
When you download a beat for free, you have been granted permission from the producer, usually in exchange for an email address, to use their beat in a non-exclusive manner for non profit means. In other words, it’s a try before you buy kind of thing.
The beat is yours to use for as long as you want, but (unless otherwise specified) you are not allowed to distribute it, stream or perform with it. It’s basically for practising with so that you don’t commit to spending money too soon. I personally don’t mind if you do upload your song to YouTube or Soundcloud. It gives me exposure and gives you something to practise with. Win-win.
Read more about what you can do with free beats you download from me here.
Non-Exclusive Beat Licensing
Also known as “leasing”, non-exclusive licensing is the most common kind of beat licensing. As mentioned earlier, beats with a price range of about $30-$200 are non-exclusive licenses.
With these licenses you are able to perform your song for money, stream it online on Spotify or iTunes etc, play it on the radio and sell copies of it.
When you buy a beat from a producers online beat store, a non-exclusive lease is what you are purchasing.
These licenses are automatically generated by the beat store provider to include your personal details to make the agreement unique to you.
With a non-exclusive license the producer grants the buyer permission to create a song of their own using the beat and distribute it online. The producer still retains copyright ownership of the beat and the buyer legally must adhere to the terms set out in the agreement.
The Limits Of Non-Exclusive Beat Licensing
Non-exclusive licenses are convenient and easy to understand. But the cheaper ones can come with their limitations.
In order to increase the amount of streams, sales, live performances etc that you can do with the licensed beat, the license will have to be upgraded. As well as all this, non-exclusive agreements have an expiration date, typically around 1-10 years. After this amount of time has passed, the buyer will have to buy a new license.
The license will also have to be renewed when the song reaches the maximum amount of plays (or anything else that the license sets a maximum for).
Non-exclusive licenses can be sold multiple times to different artists. This means that someone else could be using the same beat under similar terms as you. Whether this is a problem or not depends on what stage the artist is at. If they are a beginner, then a non-exclusive license would be best for them. But if they are a big artist with a large online following, then they may be better of purchasing exclusive rights to the beat.
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The Different Types Of Non-Exclusive Licenses
Most producers offer different types of non-exclusive licenses. Below are the outlines for the type I offer.
As you can see I offer an unlimited license, trackout license, standard license and a beginner license. These license types are narrowed down as specifically as I could get them to cater to all types of artists at different stages of their careers.
If you want the trackout files so that you can better mix and edit your song, the trackout license would be best for you. (Unsure what trackout files are? Click here to learn more.) Or if you are a complete beginner and haven’t bought a beat before, the free license might be best for you.
In my case, the trackout license is the most popular choice for artists as it gives them the most control over their song without spending too much money.
Artists who believe their use of the beat will far exceed the terms and limitations set out by the most expensive license can instead choose to purchase the beat exclusively.
Owning the exclusive rights to a beat means that you, and only you, are able to exploit it however you wish with no limitations. Most importantly though, this type of license comes with no expiration date. It is yours forever.
If you are buying the exclusive rights to a beat that was already previous licensed to another artist (non-exclusively), nobody else can purchase the beat after you. Once the terms of the lease have been met, they cannot renew their license. You will be the sole user of that beat from now on.
In order to protect previous buyers from copyright strikes from the exclusive rights buyer, there is a section in the exclusive rights lease which protects those buyers from that. It is there only to highlight the fact that other people may have leased the beat previously.
If you are interested in exclusive rights, contact me to discuss it further.
The Different Types Of Exclusive Licensing
Thanks to the technology of today, contracts matching industry standard have become more common thanks to streamlining in the beat buying process. Because of this, there are now two main ways that exclusive rights can be bought.
- Buying Exclusive Rights
- Buying Exclusive Ownership
When you buy exclusive rights, the producer remains the original owner of the music and is able to collect royalties and the like from it. When buying exclusive ownership, the producer sells all forms of ownership and will not receive any royalties or have any rights to the copyright. Typically this sort of deal is made when a producer is hired to make a custom beat for an artist for a one time payment. In other words, the artist will be the sole owner of the beat and retain all rights to the copyright.
Here is a quick overview of copyright law: According to the United States Copyright Office (downloads a pdf file), “from the moment it is set in a print or electronic manuscript, a sound recording, a computer software program, or other such concrete medium, the copyright becomes the property of the author who created it. Only the author or those deriving rights from the author can rightfully claim copyright.”
If you read the link just above, it goes into more detail and you’ll be able to see the confusion in figuring out who has exclusive ownership of a piece of music. Because of this, producers tend to sell their exclusive rights only and hold onto their ownership. It is preferred that both parties (producer and buyer) can profit off the song rather than leading it into legal obscurity.
About My Free License
I find that a lot of the people who are interested in my music are younger, beginner artists looking for a way to make a beat their own without spending too much money. That’s why I decided to make a free license. It’s a foot in the door for them. And I know it works because more often than not, they eventually come back and purchase the $30 license. Some of them even go for the more expensive licenses.
It’s very easy to make your own song and put it on YouTube, but some producers don’t like people doing that without purchasing a lease first. But I find that giving permission for these artists to upload their song/music video to YouTube where they can begin to monetise their music really helps them feel comfortable with the process of buying beats.
I’m in this to find artists who are serious and know what they want to do. This helps me do so.
Read the full terms of the free license here.
I Want To License A Beat That Is Marked As "Sold" By A Producer. Can I Reach Out To The Buyer And Purchase It From Them?
Unfortunately, you cannot do this. Some artists think that because the beat is “sold” that the producer does not own the beat anymore. From the section above about exclusive rights, we know this is not true.
When selling exclusive rights, there is a section in the license that says that beat cannot be redistributed in any way, shape of form in its current state, unless it has lyrics over the top of it. Doing so would be a breach of the agreement.
I Purchased A Non-Exclusive License For A Beat But Someone Else Bought It Exclusively. What Happens To My License?
Don’t worry! Your license is still perfectly valid until you reach the maximum terms set out in it or until the length of the agreement is reached.
If you look at your license, it will have a date from which it becomes valid. It’s at the top of the agreement.
The buyer of the exclusive rights will be notified of previous purchases of the license so as to avoid any legal troubles surrounding you and them.
My Non-Exclusive License Is Reaching It's Limits But I Can't Buy A New License Because The Beat Has Been Sold Exclusively. What Happens Now?
If your non-exclusive license is reaching its cap and you are not able to extend the license length, then unfortunately you will have to take your song down.
This is why the unlimited license exists. It comes with no caps on sales or streams to help avoid this sort of situation in the future.
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