Everything You Need to Know About Buying Beats Online
Buying beats online can feel overwhelming.
- What are free beats?
- What is a non-exclusive license?
- What about an exclusive license?
In this short article, I will cover everything you need to know about buying beats online.
First: Please AVOID Free Beats
If you learn only one thing from this article, I hope it’s this: there’s no such thing as a “free beat”. Sorry.
Unfortunately, many artists believe you can download a “free beat”, record some vocals on top of it, and distribute that music without a license. If you are using a beat for which you have not received a license agreement in writing from the producer, you are NOT authorized to use it. If you do try to use a beat without a license, you could get in serious trouble and have to pay out significant damages ($$$).
Using a “free beat” is not worth the risk.
Free Beat vs. Free License
While there is no such thing as a “free beat” there are free licenses. A free license will tend to be very restrictive, but there is still some type of written agreement (i.e., the license) that has been exchanged between the buyer and the producer. Although there was no money exchanged, there was still a license permitted to the buyer/artist.
As an artist, you must read and understand the license agreement. Again, a free beat license will tend to be restrictive. Most likely, the free license will not permit you to use the beat for any type of “for profit” activity.
But What Can You Do With a “Free Beat”?
Not much. They are restrictive because you cannot do anything commercial or “for profit” with them.
What if I upload something to Facebook, Instagram, or another social platform? Is that commercial? These days, yes. Yes it is. Same story for YouTube, Soundcloud, TikTok, etc. because these platforms allow you to monetize streams.
The short answer is producers offer free beats to let artists:
- Try the beat before they make a purchase.
- Record vocals and see if their vocals match the key of the beat or flow of the track.
- Record a demo and get feedback before purchasing a license.
- Gain confidence that a license purchase will be worth the investment.
Admittedly, some producers, including myself, will permit some artists to upload their songs created with a free beat to social media platforms. However, the producer and owner of the beat reserve the right to take down any song, post, or media created without a license at any time, for any reason.
What Are License Agreements?
When you purchase a beat online, you are actually purchasing a license agreement for the audio files that are copyrighted by the producer. The license agreement outlines the rights granted to you by the producer for the beat you have purchased. There are two main types of licenses:
- Non-Exclusive License: the same beat can be sold to multiple artists and remains available on the beat store.
- Exclusive License: the beat is sold to one artist and removed from the beat store immediately after purchase.
Non-Exclusive Licenses tend to have additional sub-types. At j.ivar sound LLC, we offer three non-exclusive license types: basic, premium, and unlimited. For me details on the specifics, see our licensing page.
Each license progresses in terms of the benefits/rights that are granted to the artist. More rights = more money = more flexibility = more permissions.
Personally, the “Premium” license is what I would recommend for most artists striving to create industry-standard quality music because it comes with the tracked out files/stems.
If you cannot afford a more expensive license, you can always upgrade at a later time. You will only pay the price difference between both licenses.
What About Exclusive Licenses?
Purchasing an exclusive license (and the corresponding exclusive rights) will always be the most expensive option. However, if you’re an artist looking to have a beat that is exclusively yours and you cannot risk having anyone else use it, then an exclusive option is definitely something to consider.
The instant you purchase exclusive rights to a beat, the beat is removed from the beat store and you receive the exclusive license.
What About Copyrights?
When you record vocals/lyrics on the beat, you will own the copyright to your lyrics only. The song becomes legally known as a “derivative work” which means you own 50% of the writer’s share and the producer owns the other 50%.
Should you submit your song to a music distributor (e.g. TuneCore, DistroKid, CDBaby, etc.) they will ask for the copyright owner(s) of the song. At that point, you would inform your distributor (most likely by “filling in the blanks” on submission forms) that you have the copyright to the lyrics and that you have created a “new work” with copyright-protected audio that has been non-exclusively licensed to you by the producer.
You do not own the master or the sound recording rights in the song.
You have the right to use and commercially exploit the song based on the terms and conditions of the license agreement you purchased.
How Long Does a Non-Exclusive License Last?
Every producer is different, but most non-exclusive licenses last between 1 and 4 years.
At j.ivar sound LLC, every non-exclusive license comes with a 3-year term.
This means that the license agreement will last for 3 years before you have to renew or upgrade it.