The instrumentalist in rap and R&B brings a lot of skill to the table. This gives them a huge advantage when it comes to being seen and making passive income.
Producers must perform everything the vocalist does to be successful. However, they also get the added benefit of the vocalist performing it again (like marketing campaigns), and being almost indispensable because they can do things that the vocalist cannot.
Beat producers are people who know music theory and have an ear for what is popular and sounds good. They also double as record producers. Producers are also proficient studio and recording engineers, and can likely be a competent mixing and mastering engineer.
These talents are unique and offer an opportunity for beat makers to gain exposure, build a reputation, and climb the ladder of higher-profile records and better beat placements.
Have no fear. This guide will cover every aspect of the process. It starts with selling, then loops back to the beginning to learn about the community and market. Finally, it covers marketing and how to build a career as a hip-hop instrumentalist.
You’re probably already familiar with a list of beats that you want to sell. Let’s get started with the steps to sell beats online and get paid. This is how you sell beats online.
How do I sell my beats online?
Virtually everyone sells beats online. No one is selling mix CDs online to A&R. The digital entertainment industry is music, so this is the way it has gone. This is great news for independent beat makers because it equalizes the playing field greatly.
At this point, you only have one thing missing: connections. We discuss that below. Let’s now look at two ways you can sell beats online.
ONLINE INSTRUMENTAL STOCK
Many sound effects and music stores are available online for the film, music and video game industries. Many of these stores have their sole focus on hip-hop.
If you’re looking to cast a broad net, this is where you should be. Don’t let your mind fall for the mental trick that says one is better than the other. All of these approaches should be taken at once.
Selling with such a store is advantageous because they remove an entire aspect of the game (in return for a commission for each sale). They are already familiar with selling beats online and only need your beats. It’s a win-win situation. At 3.1 million listens from potential buyers, it’s safe to say this producer is getting sales.
They are out there trying to build a following and market their store. If you don’t sell, they don’t get any money. It’s in their best interest to ensure that as many people as possible are shopping on their platform.
Take a look at the Airbit marketplace pictured above. They are working hard to create a website infrastructure that streams beats to potential buyers. This will make it as easy as possible to purchase. They recently changed their name to myFlashStore, and they are working hard to ensure your beats are heard and sold.
These stores are able to manage your inventory, provide customer support, negotiate contracts, and bring customers to you. Although you will have to pay a commission, the savings in time and money is well worth it.
GRASSROOTS FORUMS AND COMMUNITIES
You’re probably already doing this. We are all forum junkies who enjoy taking part in battles and contests as well as getting feedback on beats and mixes and relaxing with other artists. These communities are where almost every major label signee comes from.
Although you may not have heard about them until the moment, there are many of us who know the guy who was the biggest hit this summer. He used to talk with me every day. You might have already collaborated if you are lucky.
The point is that you can make a difference by connecting with the right people early in your networking efforts.
Even if it doesn’t, these communities are full people trying to achieve the same thing, and they need lots of instruments. Being a big fish in small pond will guarantee you a steady stream of sales and you instantly become a signal in all the noise that is internet.
Imagine a community that has a million members. You might know 1000 producers who are better than you but no one knows their names. Because you are the best beatmaker from another community, everyone knows your name.
They don’t care that it is a smaller group. They just know your name, and that’s what matters. The music industry is primarily about marketing, not skill.
Tips to Sell Beats Online
Let’s start with some tips to help you build your reputation and market. There are many marketing tricks that can be applied to both the traditional and online worlds. Some are even more applicable than production. Let’s go over these:
Quality over Quantity– Don’t throw away all the beats you have. You must put your best foot forward in order to attract as much attention to your top work as possible without overwhelming potential buyers.
You want them to hear the best possible opportunity of being sold. You can always trim older beats that are less effective and offer them freebies or cheap leases.
Retarget Past Buyers It’s much easier to sell a second beat than it is to find a buyer. Keep in touch with them via email marketing, social networking, or forums to stay in touch. To encourage past buyers to return, offer discounts and incentives. These incentives work like magic, and we have more ideas.
Tag Team The Chorus You can make it even easier for buyers by taking over some of their jobs. You can try providing choruses for some of your beats to see how it goes. You could team up with a singer, or even a DJ that can add vocal chops and scratches to your beats.
Even if the rapper is not ready to record, you can offer to reuse lines from previous songs. Major labels are more likely to do this than you might think. You’ll be amazed at how many songs that have R&B choruses were sold.
Beat Naming conventions – Keep your names short and simple when listing your beats in a store like Airbit. Even better, be descriptive of the instrument’s feel. You might consider adding the name and contact information of an artist or producer with similar sounds. Here are some examples:
- Summer Guitar with Female Chorus [Ja Rule and Ashanti]
- Atlanta Nightlife [Drake]
- Dark Trap [Juicy J/ Ace Hood]
Be the Luxury Choice. You don’t have to offer Pro Tools projects, tracks out parts or stems for free beats. However, you can offer a pre-mixed, uncompressed wave file rather than a lower resolution MP3 as your competitors. You don’t have to spend extra time or pay more for it.
Treat Exclusive Buyers like Royalty (Because they will likely bring you royalties). At the very least, you should offer stems that are easily sent to a professional mixer. You can even offer the entire Logic Pro or Pro Tools project to arrange the beat and then mix it and master it.
Upload a zip file to allow for instant download. If they are unable to upload a zip file, send them a USB stick or a hard drive. They can then use it and save it for later. This is important in case they are asked to create movie or commercial sound clips.
Get to Know Your Buyer Don’t be afraid of denying sub-par artists. People will want what they don’t have and there is nothing that says “elite” more than being willing to accept less money. If your beats land in the wrong places, it can bring down your reputation.
There are many benefits to being a producer who chooses who can rap and sing over the beats. It’s similar to a rapper who collaborates with everyone to get heard. If there is too much supply, the demand for your music and reputation will plummet.
Offer Packages: When possible, offer 2 for 3 beat deals or a bundle in which you combine the rap vocals with the beat for your client. This is a great way for you to make more money and to work with talented clients who can’t afford professional presentations. Mixing can be offered as an additional service.
You will come across more senior clients and have to meet higher expectations. Many artists and businessmen will abandon you if you don’t realize that they need to coach you in the right way to give them the correct materials.
These steps should be part of your beat-making process. Read our previous music production tips discussion to learn more about the unknown factors that could sabotage your future success.
Should I sell my beats online as leases & exclusives?
This is a big issue and one that no one can resolve for you. When balancing the financial rewards of being a producer or a major star, you have to be realistic. Let me tell you what I mean…
THE PROS & CONS OF LEASING BEATS
- Multiple earnings can be made from any one instrument
- However, each of these earnings will not be as high as an exclusive.
- Leasing instrumentals is less professional for the buyer.
- While you will be more well-known than the best, you’ll still attract clients.
- It is no longer desirable to lease a beat.
- Leasing is a lucrative business opportunity that has many potential customers.
THE PROS & CONS OF SELLING EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS
- Each sale is worth more, but each can only be made once
- To achieve this, you will usually need to have a good reputation and market your products.
- It is seen as more professional. Name-dropping higher clients can help your achieve even better ones.
- It’s possible to make connections with artists and collaborate with them on projects.
- Publishing rights and royalties are a great way to start earning passive income.
- You will be asked to create custom work according to the style of a specific artist.
It is important to see yourself as a brand that can easily be ‘cheaped’ by being associated with lower-value artists. On the other hand you must eat and make a living. There isn’t much in the way of balancing these two.
There are many times when it is feast or famine. You should have income from other sources so that you can plan strategically and not just panic.
Pricing Tips: How to Sell Beats
Before we can get into pricing scenarios, it is important to understand the markets you have access to. You know your instrument marketplaces and your grassroots community.
Each person can tolerate different ownership methods and pricing. You can also emphasize their different needs to make them more attractive.
WHERE TO SELL BEATS ONLINE – LEASING Vs EXCLUSIVES
You can collect data from all beat selling websites but not be able to use it. You’ll first be following trends, which is data that has been distorted by copycats who receive very few sales.
You will also be comparing yourself with producers of different levels of reputation without any context as to who their buyers might be. It is important to consider your target audience, which is where you have built a reputation.
Your online forums and social media networks are the best places to begin to learn about the standards set by producers for that particular group of singers and rappers.
These numbers can be cross-referenced against these instrumental shops and you will likely discover that your audience is more willing to pay a higher price for someone they know than someone new to the market. This is the power and reputation of marketing.
A guy who produces for the most popular and skilled rapper on your forum will often sell multiple times more at a higher cost to people looking to climb that social ladder.
It is logical to place beats on these instrumental marketplaces with lease options. Exclusives should be placed on the producer’s website, away from other producers trying to get the same attention. Visitors are interested in your work, not just for entertainment.
This is the place to showcase your achievements, collaborations and mixing services. Anything that will boost confidence and make it easy for a potential buyer.
This is how you do it, along with the ‘Beat Selling Tip’ mentioned above.
HOW TO PRICE YOUR BEATS ONLINE
First, remember that everything is subject to change. Demand and supply change continuously, as well as the willingness of your micro-demographics to pay a particular price. We’ll show how reputation and marketing can influence all of these factors.
My point is that pricing should always be tested and placed at a price that achieves your main goal. This could be to maximize your earnings, or to improve your reputation. These two goals can sometimes conflict.
Let’s start with the marketplaces. You’ll be able to choose from a variety of exclusive beats for your lease beats, but I personally wouldn’t mix them.
I will not feature leases on the marketplaces. Instead, I will emphasize that rappers can create custom beats similar the leases or view your exclusives online for a premium.
These marketplaces should focus solely on volume sales to lower-budget artists while also raising your brand’s visibility within the broader rap community. This is your chance to make steady income and gain visibility among other artists.
It’s passive marketing. You want to create a scenario where many smaller artists use your leases, giving you credit and spreading your brand’s name.
You want them to brag about your association with you while everyone else in professional society realizes that they use leases. You can brag about your relationship with them if one of them achieves the next level or gains fame.
Don’t mention their names until then. Position yourself above the rest.
You can see patterns emerging in the prices on lease marketplaces. While you don’t want your prices to go beyond the accepted limits of each market, it’s important not to undersell yourself.
These leases can be monetized over and over again, so low prices are acceptable. These leases come with the above-mentioned marketing benefits, so some of your payment is non-monetary.
Prices for non-exclusive, lease beats will vary (in USD).
- 30% available at less than $20
- List price for 20% around $20
- List price is approximately $35
- List price for 20% around $30
- The outliers that sell for higher prices
You may feel that the prices are ridiculously low, while others may think they are amazing. These marketplaces can be used to earn income and build a reputation, even if you think you are better than others.
You can later re-brand the leased beats or change the name of your main production company. This will allow these leases to continue and make you some side-cash. If you feel they have gotten to the point where you are causing damage to your reputation, you can disassociate from them.
Do not attempt to rebrand unless you have established relationships and are able to collaborate with artists who can make your brand more relevant.
EXCLUSIVE PRIVATE SALES
You’ve stocked up the marketplaces, offering many lease options for older beats that don’t fit your skill level or follow old trends. While you may be making some sales, you are also getting inquiries from private clients. They want to see your exclusive collection or to copy another beat.
You should be paid a premium for your best work, as well as custom work. Now you are ready to entertain the offers. You now need to decide how to price them.
You’ve now figured out who your community is and what they are willing to pay for beats. You can negotiate down by adding a percentage to this amount.
Anyone with serious buying power will negotiate with you. So list a little higher than what you are comfortable selling at.
When negotiating, mention packages like 2 for 3, or 20% off the purchase of two beats. If you offer mixing services, mention them. You already have a customer who is willing to pay up, so it’s easy to make money with them.
These deals will make your work less valuable. They are equated with value so price and confidence in them should not be underestimated. If necessary, be ready to say no.
You may be tempted to start selling exclusives at a lower price when you first get started. This will help you establish your brand among the top artists in the area. Privately, you can reach out to popular artists to offer a beat free of charge for their next promotional song or possibly land on their next album.
Then, the less-known artists will start approaching you to buy your work. Start with a lower price, until you reach a certain number of sales like 5, then increase your prices until resistance is met. This is how you gauge your customer base and manage supply and demand.
You’ll eventually reach your maximum market potential. Although you won’t be overworked because you aren’t selling to every new rapper, you will still make a lot of money because you only sell to the most reputable artists at a higher rate.
You can now use your reputation to help you get into another similar-sized community. This horizontal growth can be continued until other artists make it big, or until you do. Even if no one does, you can still increase your regular income and get better at making beats.
Pricing is a highly variable subject and it is best not to compare yourself with other people on beat marketplaces.
Any listing on a marketplace that has an exclusive option and a price indicates they didn’t sell, so data is a bit fuzzy.
I have seen it happen from my own experience and can tell you that the lowest-level producers will be able to get exclusives for as low as $25-50, while the highest-level beat makers will earn between $150 and $500 per beat.
Beat sales can rise to $5,000 per exclusive in larger communities with more fanfare and artists who know they will get a return on investment.
You can expect to get background music placements on TV commercials. Save your projects so that you have the ability to make custom spots of 10 and 30 seconds each. It’s all about networking to get bigger and better projects.
Referrals are the most important thing in this industry. So get networking and leverage your reputation.
Build a reputation as a beat producer
We can now talk about how to get clients and create demand so that you can command higher prices.
There are many general concepts that we have discussed, including how to dominate’small pond’ communities, and leverage that to climb to larger ponds. But here, we will get more specific about the tactics you can use, to make yourself known to those who know you and increase awareness about your beat brand.
Use Audio tag Watermarks Create an audio tag with the name of your production company. Random songs may have the same names appearing at the beginning, such as J.R. Maybach Music, Red One and Red One.
Producers or production companies can watermark their beats to promote their brand. This can be done to all your leases and exclusive beats. This is not considered a bad practice, so don’t be shy.
Offer free beats – You can offer a few beats on your site to make it stand out. These can be posted on music streaming sites, forums and beat marketplaces that all link back to your main website.
It’s important to increase awareness about your website so that people can find it later, when they are ready to buy an exclusive. It’s a great way of giving back to the community by offering three to five free beats. When they get more experience and require custom work, amateurs will be able to recall that. Limit how many free beats you give away. Do not cheapen your brand.
Know Your Buyer We have already discussed this, but I want you to remember this. You don’t have to accept money from every person who has it. You can be more hurt than helped by working with a controversial or horrible artist. Each buyer should be thoroughly investigated and verified that they are skilled and qualified.
Producers use artists as stepping stones to climb up the ladder. Always strive to climb higher. While it is nice to be able to support an artist friend and take them along, you cannot save everyone. You also shouldn’t try to protect your reputation.
Make Mixes– Acapellas and vocal stems are available in large quantities. Remixes of old hits and new songs are a great way of spreading the word about your brand, especially via services like YouTube and SoundCloud.
You can also release remixes in groups as promotional albums. This is a great way for you to get your hands dirty and let off steam. To learn more about the legal implications of this, please read the next tip.
Take Care with Sampling. Don’t use any samples that aren’t in the public domain, or haven’t been granted the rights to use. You can cause unanticipated legal problems for your client by being careless. This is the fastest way to destroy a relationship.
You should only use copyrighted copies on promotional materials if you are an expert and know how to sample . Make sure to not use large amounts of the original recording and ensure it is truly transformative. Fair use may protect you legally but it doesn’t guarantee that you won’t be involved in a long and expensive court battle. Take care.
Be Big Fish in a Small Pond I wrote novels about this topic in the discussions that led to it. It’s all about building a reputation and snowballing marketing.
It’s silly to compete against 1000 other producers when you can do the same thing against 20 or more elsewhere. You’ll be at the top of the pond if you circle back to a larger pond because you were smarter in the past.
Piggyback to Hot Trends — Does anyone want that Island sound! You can make a beat like that. Are you all getting into G-Funk? You can make a few.
This is a great way for you to meet demand, make more money, and learn new skills. If they have an instrumental like this, you can get on the album. You’re also the most efficient person there and ready to do the job.
Make Beatmaking Tutorial Videos There are two major validations for potential beat-buyers. Seeing other producers respect and look up to you and hearing mass public validation such as lots of views and listens on video streams.
Tutorial videos can be used to kill both these birds by promoting them. This shows your skills and your work flow. It also humanizes your brand.
Make Favors to Climb The Ladder You don’t need to wait for an artist in order to purchase an exclusive. Reach out to them and offer freebies, help with promotional songs, trades and many other things. To be able to name-drop someone, you only have to do it once.
It’s not meant to be irritating, but I do intend to use it professionally as “As Seen on …” this record by major artist so-and-so.” This can be used to prove your worth to other artists and help you climb the ranks.
Stay Away from Stock Sound Fonts. The sad truth is that professionals can recognize stock sound fonts even from the most powerful DAWs. We all have heard the same sounds on millions of FL Studio beats since the beginning. The Yamaha MotifXS Sound Module Rack Mounted
There are many options. You can download expansion packs, CDs and search for free sounds. However, the best solution is to purchase a MIDI module from one of the most popular production keyboards such as the Yamaha Motif, Roland Fantom or Korg Triton.
Don’t Be Negative, Never Talk Outside Your Specialty. Don’t get involved in online arguments, be kind to new artists, and don’t let anyone see that you are disrespectful or foul-mouthed. You can lose connections that you didn’t know you had.
You can’t forget a thing on the internet so don’t. Don’t get bogged down in politics or other hot topics. This can make it difficult to find buyers. Keep your mouth shut if you aren’t being helpful, kind, or neutral. This will help you protect your brand.
Create a compilation series by reaching out to emerging artists and asking them to appear on your own compilation. This will allow you to promote the album to all of your fan bases.
This allows you to retain complete control. Volume 2 can be leveraged from the success of volume 1 to get collaborations with other high-profile artists. Continue to grow until you reach the top, like DJ Khaled or Lil Jon.
This is how to sell beats online.
You can see that even something so simple as knowing how to sell beats online requires a lot of effort and information.
As well as anyone else, talent is only a small part of the game. The rest is about who you know and how well you market. There are many starving artists because they are not willing to become businessmen.
You must be as passionate about selling beats as you are about making instrumentals. Although this is a great way to shine a light on the path you must still walk it. All the best and have a great time!