What If My Song Blows Up When I Lease The Beat

If you're starting your career as an independent artist, you'll probably purchase the non-exclusive rights for your beat. This agreement will usually cover you for your music, except in one scenario...
If your song blows up, you might decide you need to go back and purchase the exclusive rights to the beat. This process can be complicated for you to wrap your head around. It’s a “what if?” scenario. The most common question about leasing beats is what happens if your song turns into a hit.

We’re taking an in-depth look at what might happen if this situation occurs. It’s always better to be prepared and to have an answer to the question in case you strike gold and go viral.

What Happens If My Song Becomes a Hit?

Most producers keep an eye on the artists who license their music. After all, they have an interest in watching it become a success. If your song turns into a hit, it’s likely the producer is already aware of the situation. Not every producer takes this approach, so you may need to reach out and tell them what’s happening.

If you hope to collaborate with the producer again in the future, it’s good practice to share your song with them once it’s on streaming services.

When you release your song, and it’s becoming a hit, your first instinct is probably to have a celebratory drink and plan your move to Hollywood. While this is natural, there is one other thing you should do.

Buy the exclusive rights! 

When it becomes clear that you have a hit on your hands, you want to reach out to the producer right away and negotiate a deal for exclusive rights. Often, this upgrade will be for practicality. Your non-exclusive agreement will come with a limit on the streams and purchases of your song before you have to renew your agreement with the producer. If your song becomes a hit, you’re likely about to reach the top of this threshold and need to renew your contract.

Suppose you want to take your hit song mainstream and make as much financial gain as possible. Under the non-exclusive rights agreement, you’ll only have limited user rights and won’t be able to use it for more than one project. With exclusive rights, you can do whatever you want with the beat.

It’s usually a good idea to reach out to the producer and make them an offer for exclusive rights. This investment can help you use the song to its full potential.

Let’s take a step back. If you’re a beginner in the world of beat leasing, you might not know the difference between exclusive and non-exclusive rights. While we have a complete in-depth guide on the difference between these two agreements, we’ll give you an overview of the distinctive differences between them.

What Are Exclusive Rights?

When you buy any licensing agreement, it gives you ‘user rights, which define what you can do with your beats and how you can distribute any music containing the beat. A licensing agreement is a legal document, and you’ll want to make sure to read it thoroughly before purchasing your beat. Every producer can create their own licensing agreement, inserting their own clauses.

With exclusive rights, you get the beat without any limitations on your user rights. You can do whatever you want with the beat as an artist. It can be streamed an unlimited number of times without your contract needing to be renewed. There’s also no expiry date on your licensing agreement.

While non-exclusive licensing is typically limited to a single project, like a song, your exclusive license will allow you to use the song across multiple projects. You may have started with the beat being included in a single, and the exclusive rights will allow you to use the song in other projects.

Significantly, after you purchase the exclusive license to a beat, the producer is no longer able to offer it for sale. This fact doesn’t mean that other artists don’t already hold the right to use the beat. When the exclusive rights are purchased, it doesn’t immediately impact holders of the non-exclusive licensing. They’ll remain valid for the rest of their contract, but they cannot be renewed after the expiry date.

When you purchase the exclusive rights, the producer is still the original author of the beat and will be eligible to collect their writer’s share and publishing rights when your music is distributed. If you choose to go back and upgrade your non-exclusive rights to an exclusive agreement, you could negotiate these royalty rights.

What Are Non-Exclusive Rights?

Non-exclusive licensing is the most common form in the music industry. As a cheaper alternative to exclusive rights, it’s the best choice for independent artists. You can still make money and collect royalties with this licensing agreement, which is automatically provided when you purchase the beat from a producer’s online store.

These non-exclusive agreements are auto-generated, incorporating the personal information you provide at checkout. You’ll still want to read over the standard form agreement before purchasing the beat. In some situations, producers will add an exit clause, allowing them to buy the rights to the beat from you. It’s always better to check over the agreement first to not get any unnecesary surprises.

Where non-exclusive beat licensing falls short is that they come with limitations, hence the lower price point. This license will usually have a limitation on streams and sales, requiring you to renew your agreement when you get to this threshold ahead of your expiry date. The expiry date for non-exclusive rights can vary between producers and will also depend on the price point. A non-exclusive agreement could have a life span of anything from 1 to 10 years.

Every producer will have their own tiers within their non-exclusive licenses. Each of these levels will come with different user rights, forming the backbone of your licensing agreement. The more user rights you want, the more expensive your licensing agreement will become. With a limited budget and smaller audience, you might find it more worthwhile to invest in a non-exclusive beat license than a more expensive exclusive license.

What Happens to Other Non-Exclusive Rights Holders?

One danger that comes with buying a non-exclusive right for a beat is that other artists can do the exact same thing. Once you’ve gone in and purchased the exclusive rights to the beat, you might wonder what happens to everyone else who has purchased non-exclusive rights.

In the beginning, nothing will change.

Their non-exclusive agreement and user rights will remain the same until they’ve reached their sales threshold or their expiry date. When you purchase your exclusive rights, another artist may still have five years left on their contract.

If we look on the flip side to the people with the non-exclusive rights, nothing will change for them either. When an artist purchases the exclusive rights to a beat, they’re made aware of the other artists who hold user rights for the beat.

A section within every exclusive rights agreement named the “notice of outstanding clients” acts as protection for holders of non-exclusive licenses. If you hear a hit song using the beat you’re using, nothing will change for you. You can still do everything laid out in your agreement until the end of your contract, whether you reach the stream threshold or the expiry date.

​What if I want the exclusive rights, but someone else already has them?

While this situation is extremely unlikely, it could still happen, and it’s worth investigating your options. Most producers will only sell the exclusive rights to a beat if they know the artist has the potential to make the most of it. After all, someone could appear a few weeks later and offer more money for the rights.

Some independent artists start with the non-exclusive rights while aiming to one day go back and purchase the exclusive rights when it’s viable for them to do so. You could do a few things to prevent another artist from buying the exclusive rights before you can buy them.

When you purchase the non-exclusive rights, make it clear to the producer that you’re thinking long-term and would like to come back for the exclusive rights. Some producers may give you the option of a payment plan, which will require you to pay a deposit and then gradually pay off the cost of the agreement. Until you’ve paid the plan off, the producer will hold the agreement aside for you.

If you can’t agree to a payment plan with the producer, your best option is to build a relationship with them. Keep them in the loop with what you’re doing with the beat, and make sure to send them a copy of the song when it’s finished. You can ask the producer if they’d be prepared to hold the exclusive rights for you. If you’re going to make this proposition, you need to offer them something in return, such as crediting them on your marketing material and artwork.

Do I Need to Buy Exclusive Rights Upfront?

 Let’s take off the rose-tinted glasses and take an objective look at the situation.
Only a small number of independent artists are fortunate enough to go viral and land a hit song. It’s not impossible, but the competition is fierce; what’s more important than a ‘what if’ is the reality of your situation. You’re fortunate if you’re in a position where you can spend hundreds – if not thousands – of dollars on exclusive rights. The non-exclusive rights will always be cheaper, giving you a higher return on your investment and enable you to release more music.

When you’re getting started as an artist, you want to be regularly putting out music. You won’t have the loyal fan base of Drake or Beyoncé, who can come back and release music whenever they choose. You must show your audience that you’re not a one-hit-wonder. For the price of one exclusive rights agreement, you could purchase several non-exclusive rights.

With hard work and a little hustle, you’ll get to the stage where you will need exclusive rights for a beat. When this happens, you’ll either have a larger following of around 100k on social media or will have recently signed with a music label. If you’re a small artist with 10,000 followers on social media, you’ll be effectively putting money down the drain by purchasing exclusive rights in 99% of cases.

As your career progresses, you’ll know when to switch from leasing beats to purchasing exclusive rights. Don’t rush the process, as it can cause you to put money in the wrong place. The cost of your rights agreement will come from the profits of your song. With a non-exclusive agreement, you’ll usually always make a healthy profit margin – although you’ll need to account for your other costs and overheads.

If you purchase an exclusive agreement, you might end up making a net loss. It could take months, if not years, for you to start making a profit on that song. When this happens, you’ll wish you had split that money across multiple non-exclusive agreements instead of putting all your eggs in one basket.

It’s up to you to decide whether you want to purchase the non-exclusive or exclusive rights to a beat. Don’t get ahead of yourself and assume you have a hit on your hands. If your song goes viral, you can go back to the producer and negotiate exclusive rights. It’ll be a small likelihood that someone else will have purchased the exclusive rights in the meantime, so you shouldn’t have any issues getting your hands on them. You want to consider your music as your business and make a smart investment decision.

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


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