Everything You Need to Know About Tracked Out Stems

When you're buying the license of a beat, there's one key component that people often forget to look for. The tracked-out stems are an essential part of the beat and will make or break your song...
If you’re a new independent artist or making the transition from free beats to non-exclusive licenses, you might be unfamiliar with what tracked-out stems are. These files are a gamechanger for the quality of your music and are essential for creating industry-quality music. 

Not every producer will provide you with a tracked-out stem. After all, they know how valuable they are. Just like artists, producers have to make a living. Most of them will charge you more for access to the tracked-out stems. Is it worth it? Absolutely!

We’re covering the importance of tracked stems, how you can add them to your music, and why an MP3 is never the answer. While it’ll usually cost you a little extra to get your hands on the tracked-out stems, it’s the best way of doing your music justice. When you put your heart and soul into creating a piece of music, you want to set it up for success, from writing the lyrics to selecting the beat.

Exclusive vs. Non-Exclusive License 

90% of the time, a non-exclusive license will work for an independent artist. Most producers offer several tiers of access with their non-exclusive license. You can pay more to receive a higher number of user rights, including a higher stream threshold. The only people who need to be considering exclusive rights are independent artists with a more extensive following or if you think you’re about to have your ‘big break.’ If you have the backing of a record label, an exclusive license can become more attainable and a sensible choice.

If you’re looking to take your music hobby or career seriously, you’ll want to focus on creating a high-quality song. When you’re choosing your license, make sure you have access to what’s called the ‘tracked out’ file for the beat. You may need to select a higher tier for the non-exclusive license to get access to this, but it will be worth the investment.

​If you want to find out more about the difference between exclusive and non-exclusive licensing agreements, you can check out our article here.

What is a Tracked-Out Stem?

It goes by a few names; tracked-out stems, tracked-out files, and simple track stems. You’ll often see these mentioned as user rights within a licensing offering, usually in one of the more expensive tiers for non-exclusive licensing. There are two kinds of track-out stems used by artists.

  • Individual stems – known as tracks – feature a single instrument or vocals. There is usually a separate audio file for the lead vocal and guitarists, along with backing vocals, etc. The beats you buy online are considered stems, helping you build up the finished product.
  • Group stems are several sounds placed into a category within an audio file. These audio tracks are brought together because of their similarities and often because they feature the same instruments or vocalist. As an independent artist, you’ll rarely use group stems as they’re primarily for the mastering engineer or if you’re making a music video.

You want to get your tracked-out stems as individual tracks, as this allows you to focus on improving the overall quality of your music. Depending on your audio engineer or producer, they may export your music as group stems when mastering the song. This process is entirely separate and shouldn’t be confused with the tracked-out stems we’re talking about in this article.

What is the Purpose of Tracked-Out Stems?

If you’ve used free beats before, you may be wondering what the purpose of tracked-out stems is. Why are they so important? Tracked-out stems put you in control of your music and the overall mix. You can tailor the song arrangement by controlling the volume of each track, choosing to intensify or lighten any track. A tracked-out stem also allows you to control the frequencies of each track.

As an independent artist, you want to produce music that is up to the industry standard. While anyone can record a song on their smartphone, it doesn’t mean that you should publish it directly to Apple Music. Whether it’s you or a producer doing the mastering, you need to have control over the tracks to produce high-quality audio.


How You Can Mix Your Songs with Tracked-Out Stems

When you’re starting out as an independent artist, you may not have the most flexible budget to hire third-party help. If you’re planning on mixing your music yourself, the tracked-out stems are just as essential. When you have access to them, you can edit the music however you choose. 

You don’t need to have a degree to know how to edit tracked-out stems. Any slight change can make the music sound entirely different – whether it’s turning down the volume on a stem or heightening the frequency. When you’re working with a vocal track and single beat file, it’s almost impossible to mix a unique track.

​Even when you have your lyrics nailed in time with your beat, you’ll want to make adjustments to every layer of the audio.

The Problem with MP3 Files

If you’ve previously been downloading ‘free beats’ from platforms like YouTube, you’re probably used to having an MP3 file sent to your desktop. It’s essential to know that MP3 files are not how the industry operates. If you want your audio to play well on the air, you need to master it properly.

​Whether you’re using an audio engineer or a friend to help you polish your audio, you’re likely going to be laughed at if you send them an MP3 file. The problem with an MP3 file is that you can’t do much with a single track. For a similar reason, you also want to avoid WAV files.

The Issue with Mastered Beats

Most likely, before a producer uploads a beat to the internet for you to buy, the audio has already been mastered. This process allows the producer to improve the volume and frequency of the beat for the best results. It can also help producers reach the audio standards of YouTube.

While these producers are also using this version, it’s also what they’re selling you. Not every producer is the same, but it’s worth checking the small print to see where your producer stands on the issue of mastered beats.

You can’t master something that has already been mastered. If you go for a cheaper MP3 license for your beat, you may find that you get sent an MP3 instead of a proper tracked-out file.

​When you use an MP3 file, the vocals of the audio seem off-balance and not in unison with the instrumental music. It also reduces the overall quality of your piece.

Why Tracked-Out Stems Are So Important

Now that you know why you need tracked-out stems, you might be wondering why they’re not a required part of buying beats and why your producer will ask for a higher price tag on the tracked-out-stems as they know the importance of the quality that they come with. 

While you’ll have to pay a little more for your non-exclusive license, it’s a worthwhile investment. The higher price tag for tracked-out stems comes from the fact they unlock the quality of your independent music, helping you bring your music to the industry standard. As these tracks are so valuable, producers naturally charge extra to give you access to them.

The tracked-out stems are a win-win. Your producer can make a little extra money, and you can enjoy the benefits of a high-quality product. You can promote your music across social media and other platforms, including radio, without worry about the sound not being ‘summer ready.’ 

​Usually, when you buy the tracked-out stems, they’re part of a package, and you’ll also receive more user rights alongside it. If you want to boost the ROI of your music, you need to have a versatile aesthetic and tracked-out stems to allow you to produce high-quality content. Not only do you get access to the tracked-out stems, but you’ll also get more user rights to utilize your content thoroughly. With better user rights, you can add your music to multiple platforms, gain maximum exposure, and improve your investment.

What If I’m on a Budget?

If you’re on a budget, all is not lost. You can usually get the WAV version of the beat file for a more affordable price-point. While you’ll be more limited with what you can do in terms of mastering and mixing and it’s better than an MP3 file. A talented audio engineer or producer will still be able to work with your music. If you’re producing a single, mixtape, or any music that you intend to add to a streaming platform, then we don’t recommend the WAV option.

Your music is less likely to perform well on streaming platforms as the algorithm favors high-quality music. If you want your music to attract an audience’s attention, you want it to be the highest possible quality. What happens if your song is destined to be your big hit, and you’ve skipped on the tracked-out stems?

​It’s a good idea for independent artists on a budget to prioritize your tracked-out stems over other aspects of the process. If you want to make an excellent first impression with potential fans, your music must be to an industry standard.


Choosing the Right Beat Options

Generally speaking, exclusive licensing is the best choice for individuals with an established following or the backing of a label. If you’re an independent artist just starting, you’ll want to opt for the non-exclusive licensing rights. When you’re purchasing your beat, make sure you’re choosing the option that includes access to the track-out steam.


If you’re on a strict budget, you may be starting with no choice but to go with the cheapest option available. While you should be able to upgrade your licensing agreement, it will be at the producer’s discretion. This service isn’t something that every producer will offer, so it’s worth checking whether you can upgrade before purchasing your license. 

​When you can upgrade from your basic license, you should only be required to pay the difference between your existing license and your chosen tier. If a producer doesn’t offer an upgrade option on their website, you can also reach out to them directly to ask about a potential upgrade.


Are You Still Not Sure?

When you’re transitioning from free beats to licensed beats or starting in the music industry, you might assume that using an MP3 file is okay. After all, that’s most likely what you used with your free beats. If you want to be taken seriously and respected professionally within the music industry, you cannot use an MP3 file to give you the same quality. The beauty of track-out stems is that they’re like the petals of a flower. Each track allows you to change the finished product. 


As an independent artist, you need to invest money to make money. Your royalties will depend on the number of streams on your music. With millions of songs to choose from, no one wants to listen to music that isn’t audible or high enough quality. While you may have to skimp elsewhere on your production costs, the tracked-out stems are crucial to the success of your music.

​Putting music together can be a long, complex, and expensive process. Hopefully, this guide has made it easier for you to understand why tracked-out stems can make or break the quality of your music. Your talent deserves to be invested in, which is why you should always upgrade the tier of your licensing agreement to give you access to the tracked-out stems. 


Have you got any questions? You can drop me a DM on Instagram at @adelantemusic or email me at info@adelantemusic.net

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