Maybe you should lease that hip hop beat
So you wrote a killer hook to a beat you found on YouTube or SoundCloud, and you’re certain you have a hit on your hands. Now it's time to get in contact with the producer and obtain the rights to the beat. But should you buy or lease that hip hop beat?
Of course you're enthusiastic — you feel like you’ve created something great — so it can seem like an excellent idea to buy the exclusive rights to the beat. But there are a few things you should consider before diving in and making that purchase.
What is your goal for the song?
This might seem like an obvious question, but I’ve run into many artists who don’t have realistic expectations or a clear goal when it comes to their musical works. Many just think the song is going to “get them on” and "blow up” without a plan to get to that point. If you’ve already got label contacts you can shop a song to, buying the exclusive rights might be a great idea and you can probably stop reading this and get on with it. But if you are like the majority of artists who are just looking to break out and get noticed, you’re going to need a better plan than posting to SoundCloud and ReverbNation and waiting for something to happen.
Do you have a budget?
You need a plan if you want your song to enjoy any semblance of success, and that plan will almost inevitably involve spending money. So, after establishing your goals for a track, develop a budget. This should include considerations such as buying or leasing the beat, the recording session, artwork, mixing, mastering, video shoots and promo, and all the other marketing and promotions that will run for the song.
How much of your budget should you spend on the beat?
Now that you know how much you can spend, you have to start allocating it to your various production and marketing plans. Let’s say you have $1,000 to spend on the song and the exclusive rights to a beat cost $750. Can you realistically spread the remainder of your budget across marketing, recording, artwork, etc.? Possibly. Is it the best way to spend that money? Probably not.
In order to drum up the buzz and attention you’re hoping for, you should probably set aside at least half of your budget to promotion and marketing, and you should never skimp on recording, mixing, mastering, or artwork. So that leaves you with about 25-30% of your budget. Unless you can increase your budget, purchasing exclusive rights to a beat is probably not the best use of your money. Thankfully, there's another alternative: leasing a beat.
Why lease a beat rather than buy it?
First off, in case this is news to you: yes, leasing a beat is a real thing, and it’s a popular practice in the independent hip hop scene as it benefits both producers and rappers. A standard lease price for a beat can be anywhere from $15-35, so you’ll immediately save money that can be better spent on other parts of your plan. Most lease agreements allow you to sell as many as 2,000 copies before having to renew, which means you can sell the track to recoup your money while taking a much smaller financial risk up front. And, if the song does blow up, you always have the option to buy exclusive rights to the beat after you've leased it. By leasing instead of buying, you put yourself in a low-risk/high-reward situation.
Won't producers push for exclusive rights?
They shouldn’t. From an independent producer’s standpoint, leasing a beat is almost always in their best interest. Selling a beat for a few hundred dollars is a nice payday up front, but exclusive rights means they can no longer profit from that beat. There a chance they can earn royalties from a track if it blows up, but their earning potential for that beat is tied to that one track and is likely all they'll see if they sell it exclusively. If you encounter a producer who is pressuring you to buy, you might want to find another.
So leasing is my best option?
In most cases, yes it is. It is easier on your wallet and is beneficial to the producer. There are certain scenarios where purchasing exclusive rights makes more sense, but they are comparatively rare. If you’re an independent rapper, chances are 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.