First Time Buying Beats Online: Going from Free Beats to Leasing Beats

Most independent artists start by using free beats in the early days of their music career. If you’re reading this article, you’re likely finding yourself weighing up the pros and cons of opting for free beats or leasing a beat...

How Free Beats Work

You can spot a free beat easily, as they usually incorporate a producer tag every thirty seconds. If you were to buy the beat, this producer tag is removed to improve the listening experience for your audience. A similar situation to ‘free beats’ occurs when you’ve managed to obtain a beat without having a licensing agreement from your producer. In both scenarios, you won’t be able to use your beat for commercial purposes and financial gain.


​If you’ve ever opened a YouTube search bar, you’ve probably seen the phrase “free beat music.” There are producers online who use platforms like YouTube to create and offer free beats, providing them to boost their own profile. More often than not, it’s clickbait and a marketing tactic. 

What You Can Do with a Free Beat

The answer to this question is – not a lot


You’re unable to do anything with the free beat that could be considered as commercializing it. The term ‘commercializing’ is constantly evolving online, especially with more platforms becoming monetized. You won’t be able to upload the beat onto websites like Soundcloud and YouTube, even though both are considered streaming services.

The purpose of a free beat is to provide independent artists with a try before you buy option. You can download the free beat and record vocals over the track to see if they match. This process allows you to ask for feedback from friends and followers before committing to purchasing the license and spending your hard-earned money. Until you have the beat in your hard drive, you might struggle to conceptualize what it’ll sound like with your lyrics.

It’s important to remember that the producer who made your free beat can have it removed from other platforms if you upload it. You’ll always want to check the description or any information provided by the producer. Some may allow you to upload the beat onto social media, while others will explicitly request that you credit their work in exchange for posting the beat on specific platforms.

​One thing to keep in mind is that a ‘free beat’ is virtually useless other than trialing a sound. You can’t use it for any purpose, and doing so can land you with serious copyright issues. 

How Do I Buy Beats Online?

Buying beats online is easier than you think. It’s not too different from purchasing an audio file on Amazon Music or iTunes. When you are purchasing the beat, you’ll receive a series of rights, alongside your purchase, related to the distribution and use of the beat. This document is known as the license agreement between the artist (you) and the producer. 


There are two types of licenses for you to choose from: non-exclusive and exclusive licenses. The main difference between these two is that a non-exclusive license can be sold an unlimited number of times, whereas an exclusive license can be sold once. If a beat previously sold as a non-exclusive license is purchased exclusively, it’ll bring the other licenses to an end when their agreement runs out. 

​A non-exclusive license is cheaper as a result, while an exclusive license will give you more rights for a higher price tag. If you’re making the transition from free beats to licensed beats, you’ll likely be choosing the non-exclusive option. 

If you’re interested in learning more about non-exclusive and exclusive licenses I have an entire article dedicated to that. Click the button below to read that. 


Which License Is Right For Me?

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 really need to be considering exclusive rights are independent artists with a larger 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.

What is a Tracked-Out File?

As a newbie to the world of licensed beats, you must understand why you need access to the tracked-out file. You won’t be able to create a professional piece of music without the tracked-out stems for the beat. It may take you a while to get used to using a tracked-out stem, but it’ll massively upgrade the quality of your work. 


You’ll usually have to purchase a higher-tier non-exclusive licensing agreement to get hold of the tracked-out file. If you’re turning your music hobby into a side hustle or career, the tracked-out stems are essential.

Tracked-out stems include individual stems and group stems. The individual stem is a single track that consists of either instruments or vocals. A group stem is a category of tracks within an audio file. You’ll usually find all the tracks together, along with the tracks for specific musical instruments.

When it comes to improving the quality of your music, you want to focus on the individual tracks. Most music producers offer individual tracks within their tracked-out stems, making this process easier.

The purpose of having the tracked-out stem is to put you in control of your music. You can manage the song arrangement and mix while controlling the volume of every track. You can also control the frequencies of each track. Having these individual stems means that your audio engineer or producer can help you create a piece that meets the industry standards. 

If you’re an independent artist who mixes their own music, you’ll still need the tracked stems for the same reasons. You don’t need to be a professional audio engineer to know how to adjust the sound on individual tracks, which can fundamentally change how your music sounds.

When you’re transitioning from free beats to licensed beats, 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 professionally within the music industry, you cannot use an MP3 file to give you the same quality.

​If you decide to use a producer or sound engineer to mix your tape, you’ll need to send them over the track-out stems. Sending them the MP3 file is a major faux pas. When you have an MP3 file of a beat, it means it’s already been mastered by the producer. It’s impossible to master an audio file that’s already been mastered and get the highest sound quality, which is an issue that artists find when they purchase the cheapest licensing options available. 

Still not sure what tracked-out stems are or not sure why they’re important, I have an entire article dedicated to help you out even more! Click the button below to learn more. 


Upgrading from a Basic License

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 can vary depending on what producer you contact. 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.

The Risk of Purchasing Non-Exclusive Licenses

Like everything, non-exclusive licenses have one major shortcoming. A non-exclusive license can be resold hundreds of times, but once an exclusive license is sold, this comes to an end. If you hold a non-exclusive license for a beat that is sold under an exclusive license, you won’t feel the immediate impact. You’ll still be able to sell and distribute your music, but you won’t be able to renew your contract. 

Your non-exclusive license will need to be renewed when it either reaches its expiry date (usually within five years) or when you reach the streaming threshold. When another party purchases the exclusive license to the beat you’re using, you’ll no longer be able to renew your license. 

One thing you’ll want to look for within your non-exclusive license agreement is an exit clause. These are becoming more common and allow the producer to terminate your license by writing to you. In exchange for terminating your license, the procedure will usually offer you a price higher than what you initially paid for the beat. If you think a song is about to become your ‘big break,’ you’ll want to avoid having a license with a producer exit clause.

​Let’s say you get lucky, and your music becomes an instant success. Perhaps you go viral on TikTok, or maybe you get the attention of a music label. You may decide that you want to upgrade from your non-exclusive license to an exclusive license to give you more control over the music. The best way to go through this process is to directly reach out to the producer and negotiate a deal with them for the upgrade.

Beats + Copyright

The most confusing part of transitioning from free beats to licensing is the issue of copyright. While we’ve covered this in other articles, we’ll give you a general overview in this guide.

When you use a beat from a producer for your music, you create what’s known as “derivative work.” As the artist, you’ll come to own 50% of what is known as the ‘writer’s share,’ as you’ll have come up with the lyrics. Your producer will own the other 50% of the writer’s share. 

​The producer will have a copyright over the beat, including its title and interest. Through your exclusive or non-exclusive license, you’ll have a right to make a financial gain by commercializing the beat as part of your music.

More on this here: Everything You Need To Know About Online Beat Licensing

What If I Buy A Beat Online And It Blows Up?

This is a common question and for good reason! We’ve seen songs like ‘Panda’ by Desiigner and ‘Old Town Road’ by Lil Nas X become major hits after each of those artists bought a non-exclusive license off of an online beat selling website. 

For that reason I’ve got an article that covers everything that you may be wondering around this! Click the button below to jump into that! 


Where Can I Buy Beats?

If you’ve been using free beats, you’ve probably been downloading them from links on social media or YouTube. There are several popular websites that producers use to sell their beats, including Airbit and BeatStars. If you want some extra peace of mind, it’s a good idea to do your due diligence and have a look online for reviews of the platform before you purchase a beat.

The benefit of using these platforms is that they offer instant delivery. As soon as your payment is confirmed, you’ll be able to download the beat directly onto your computer. You may decide to use one of these platforms for extra security instead of going straight through a producer’s personal website. If you find a producer whose work you like, you’ll be guaranteed to find them on one of these platforms, along with having a dedicated website.

One thing to note is that these platforms allow producers to create and manage their licensing agreements. There is no such thing as a ‘one size fits all’ licensing agreement. You want to make sure you check out what the licensing agreement entails for any beat before hitting ‘purchase.’  

If you’re looking to get serious with your music career or side hustle, it’s time to leave the free beats behind and opt for licensed beats. In the beginning, a non-exclusive license agreement will work for you as an independent artist. Don’t forget to make sure you have access to the tracked-out stems when choosing your license tier.

Did You Come Here To Learn More Before Buying One Of My Beats?



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