If you have contacts you can shop a song to, buying exclusive rights to a hip hop beat might be a good idea. If you are just looking to get noticed, you should consider leasing that beat.
So you found a hip hop beat on SoundCloud or YouTube and wrote a killer hook to it and you’re certain you have a hit on your hands. The next step is getting in contact with the producer and obtaining the rights to the beat. At this point, due to the normal enthusiasm you feel after you’ve created something great, it can seem like an excellent idea to buy the exclusive rights to the beat – but there are a few things you should think about before diving in and making that purchase.
What is your goal for the song?
This might seem obvious, but I’ve run into many artists who don’t have a clear goal or realistic expectations when it comes to a potential song. Many simply answer that they think the song is going to “blow up” and “get them on” without a plan to get to that point. Now, if you’re savvy enough and have label contacts you can shop the song to, buying the exclusive rights might be a good idea for you and you can probably stop reading this and get to work. However, if you are like the majority of artists who are just looking to get noticed, you’re going to need a better plan than posting to ReverbNation and SoundCloud and hoping for the best. This brings us to the next big question:
What is your budget?
You need a plan if you want your song to enjoy any modicum of success, and that plan will most likely involve spending money. So, after setting your goals, you’ll need to develop a budget for the track. This should include considerations such as the beat (obviously), the recording session, the mixing and mastering of the track, any artwork needed, any video that will be shot, and any marketing and promotions that will be run for the song. Once you have your budget set, you can move on to the next step…
How much of your overall budget should you be spending on the beat?
Now that you know how much you can spend, you have to start divvying it up. Let’s say you have $1,000 to spend on the song and the exclusive rights to a beat cost $750. Can you confidently spread the rest of your budget across recording, artwork, marketing, etc.? Maybe. Is it a good idea? Absolutely not.
In order to garner the attention and buzz you’re hoping for, you should probably allocate at least half of your budget to marketing and promotion, and you obviously don’t want to skimp on recording, mixing, mastering or artwork. So that leaves you with about 30% of your budget or less. So unless you can increase your budget, you’ll have to be extremely smart with your money, which means purchasing exclusive rights to a beat is probably not the best use of your money. What you should do instead is look into leasing a beat.
Why lease a beat instead of buying it?
First off, if you didn’t know, yes, there is such thing as leasing a beat, and it’s a prevalent practice in the independent hip hop scene as it benefits both the rappers and producers involved. A typical lease price for a beat can be anywhere from $15 to $35 in most cases, so you’ll immediately save money that can be better used elsewhere. Most lease agreements allow you to sell up to 2,000 copies before renewal, meaning you can still sell the track to recoup your money while taking a smaller financial risk up front. Also, if the song does blow up, you always have the option to buy exclusive rights to the beat at any time. So by leasing instead of purchasing, you put yourself in a low risk/high reward situation.
Will producers be pushing me to buy the exclusive rights?
They shouldn’t. From an independent producer’s standpoint, leasing out a beat is almost always in their best interest. While selling a beat for a couple hundred dollars is a nice payday up front, exclusive rights means they can no longer profit from that beat, for the most part. There’s the off chance they’ll gain royalties from the track if it blows up, but their earning potential for that beat is likely realized if they opt to sell it exclusively. If you run into a producer who is pressuring you to buy, you might want to find someone else.
Is leasing the way to go?
In most cases, yes. It is easier on your wallet and it is more beneficial to the producer. There are certain scenarios where purchasing exclusive rights would make sense, but those are very rare and chances are if you’re an independent rapper, leasing a hip hop beat is the better avenue for you.
The BeatLandLorde is an independent producer who works at a desk by day and makes scorching hot beats by night.
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