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Leasing Beats vs Buying Exclusive Beats | Which one?

Posted On Saturday, August 20, 2016

In this post we are going to break down beat license types and try to make sense of all this. Pull up a chair

Should I Buy Exclusive Beats?


Whats a beat lease?


Unlimited Licenses...what's that?


Which Beat license type is right for you?

With so many options to choose from how do you really know if leasing beats is the best option for you?

Well, in this post we are going to break down beat licensing and try to make sense of all this.

We'll start by dividing beat licenses into the 2 major categories (Exclusive and Non Exclusive) and then go over the up and downs within these categories.

So pull up a chair as we go over the most common license types that you may encounter when shopping for beats online.

Category 1: Exclusive


Exclusive licenses are usually the most costly license type but offer you the most control when it comes to usage and distribution of the beat. They are ideal for those who are looking to do "big things" with their project.

 Exclusive beats are generally priced higher because:

  1. You will be the only one with that particular beat*
  2. After the Exclusive license is sold the beat can no longer be licensed to anyone else.*


Also, with your Exclusive license purchase you will usually get the music tracked out (meaning you get everything separated and not just one stereo file) which is super important if you plan on remixing the song or want a better mix altogether when you hit the studio.

*always review the licensing agreement as the terms vary from Producer to Producer

What to look out for

  • - True Exclusivity

    If true exclusivity is essential to you (eg: you being the only one with that beat) then take the time to read the fine print! 

    Not all Exclusive licenses are created equal!

    If the beat is online the track may have been shopped around to different Artists / Labels and non-exclusively licensed previously.

     Think about it, if the beat has been available online for some time others probably have heard (and / or downloaded) it.

    So keep that mind as well.

    Also another common mistake that I've seen Artists make is to assume that if they "buy the Exclusive" then the beat is theirs and theirs only.

    This is not always the case.


    Another thing to look out for

    • - Who owns the beat

      When you buy a "license to use a beat" you are buying just that - a license to use it. 9 times out of 10 you are not buying ownership of copyrights. Buying a usage license and buying someones copyrights are not the same thing! ==> Click here to read up on copyrights if you are not sure what a copyright is.

      • What you can do with the beat

        Lets say you want to use the beat in a film as background music. Is this covered under your license agreement? It may not be. And just because it's not included doesn't mean that its OK to use it or that its not an option. When in doubt, contact the Producer and just ask.

        • What you can't do with the beat

          Remember what I said about copyright ownership? For example, If you don't own the copyrights to the instrumental then legally you can be sued if you sell or give away the beat to someone else. So read up to make sure you know where the boundaries are.


          • - The Major benefit when you purchase an Exclusive usage license is that most of the time "that's it" in terms of  "out of pocket" payment from you to the producer.

            Typically unless there is a unique publishing percentage agreement discussed up front or some other stipulation in place, your publishing is split 50/50 and your Exclusive License payment pretty much "squares you up" with the Producer as far as usage of the music is concerned. So if your song blows up you are good to go.

            • - Another benefit is that you may be the only one allowed to use the beat*

              *Like I stated before, check the licensing agreement and also contact the Producer before you buy the Exclusive license if true exclusivity is of the utmost importance to you.

              • - You will be able to monetize the music on most (if not all platforms)

                Some Producers will not let you perform to their music on stage unless you buy the Exclusive.

                 Again: Make sure you read the license agreements carefully so you know for sure before you buy!


                • - It can be costly.

                  Exclusive prices can be pretty steep. But if the beat is hot it may be worth the investment.

                  • - You may not be the only one allowed to use the beat

                    Others may have bought licenses to use the music.

                    So you will have to honor those usage licenses.

                    Its because of these reasons (and more) that a lot of Artists lean towards the next license type..

                    Category 2: Non Exclusive


                      Non Exclusive licenses (commonly referred to as leases) are usually the most cost effective of the license types and are ideal for those who are looking to do things within a tight budget.

                    Under the Non Exclusive umbrella there are generally a few "sub-types" that are offered that give you more (or less) control and options in terms of usage and distribution.

                    A few of the common non exclusive license sub-types found online are: 

                    • Unlimited License
                    • Premium License
                    • Standard License
                    • Professional License
                    • Lease
                    • Regular License
                    • Basic License
                    • Premium
                    • Track out
                    • Extended Lease
                    • and the list goes on

                      These sub-types tend to vary in what they offer from Producer to Producer but usually involve the following:

                      • Different Distribution Limits
                      • Duration (How long you can use the beat for)
                      • Price Point (More units sold = higher priced license type)
                      • File Types and Delivery (MP3 / WAV | Track out - Instant Delivery, etc)
                      • Allowed distribution channels (Sell online / Physical units)
                      • Performance rights (The ability to perform in public)
                      • Ownership
                      • Credit
                      • and so on


                        What to look out for


                        • - Distribution limit and duration


                        How many units are you allowed to sell before you have to purchase another license?

                        How long are you allowed to use the beat before you have to buy the another license??

                        Don't make the mistake of assuming that just because you have "leased a beat" that you can use it as much as you want.

                        This can be a costly mistake if the Producer chooses to pursue legal action against you.

                        • - File Types and Delivery

                          I don't think I need to tell you how important it is to get the highest quality music for your project but you'd be surprised how many people I've encountered that have garbage mixes on their projects.

                          Don't let that be you.

                          When leasing beats, if there's an option to get a better quality file (eg: WAV format) spend the dough.

                          Also, in this "instant download" world we get used to receiving our downloads as soon as our purchase is completed.

                          When it comes to receiving track outs, this isn't always the case.

                          So if you are heading to the studio and you think you may need the beat stems - think ahead - contact the Producer first to make sure you can get the track out when you need it and then download the files to a secure location like dropbox or google drive.

                          This way you'll be ready with the files when your Producer / Engineer is ready to mix your project.

                          • - What happens when the beat is sold Exclusively

                            Check to see if you can still upgrade your license type once the Exclusive beat is sold. This can put you in a bind if you were planning on "eventually buying the Exclusive" and someone else beat you to it.

                            • - Can I perform to this music on stage

                              Again, when leasing beats check the license agreement very carefully because this may not be included in your purchase.

                              • - Can I monetize a song using the beat on Youtube

                                Another one that may not be included. This one has mos def caused a bit of grief among Artists and Producers. Unfortunately the YouTube algorithm cannot tell the difference between a beat and a song so if the music matches up - their might be problems.


                                • - The biggest benefit to leasing beats (or non exclusive licensing if you want to get technical) is its price point.

                                  In most scenario's you can put together a small project like a Mixtape for a few hundred dollars. Awesome.

                                  • - You also secure your right to use the music (early) which is nice just in case someone else falls in love with the track and wants to buy the Exclusive.

                                    I can't begin to tell you how many times Artists contact me and ask if a beat is still available after its already been sold.

                                    • - Also, when leasing beats you also can usually upgrade to a premium license and get maximum control over the music without breaking the bank as in the case of buying an Exclusive License.

                                      On sftraxx.com I typically allow Artists to pay the difference to upgrade their license type.

                                      (Assuming the beat is still available, of course).



                                      • - The biggest downside to leasing beats is that you are probably not the one using that beat on your project.

                                        Whether or not this matters to you is simply a matter of personal preference. From my experience, some artists care whilst others don't.
                                        • - Leasing beats can be costly in the long run.


                                          Well, remember what I said about distribution and duration? Yea those.

                                          Well, if you're leasing beats and your project takes off and you want to continue using the music, you are going to have to buy another license. If you don't, you risk being sued later if your project does well.

                                          Those lease purchases can add up over time.

                                          A lil something to think about...


                                          Choosing a license type


                                            To help determine which license type is right for you, you should first ask yourself a few questions. Below I have prepared a few questions you can use as a jump off point to get some ideas of how you may want to approach this:

                                          1. What's my target budget for this project?
                                          2. What's my projected reach?
                                          3. Do I plan on doing performances? (eg:stage performances)
                                          4. Do I plan on licensing the song for film?
                                          5. Am I'm giving out this project for free?
                                          6. Am I selling this project?
                                          7. Which distribution channels do I plan on using?
                                          8. What other ways can I monetize this?
                                          9. Is composition ownership an option?
                                          10. Can I upgrade my license type if my project exceeds our expectations???

                                            Having questions like these on deck are so important because not only will they help you decide what license type is the best for you, they will also save you time, money and headache in the future. 


                                            To get the most out of this


                                            You have to be realistic in your answers to these questions.

                                            Your ability to do so will help you approach your particular situation from a more grounded position.

                                            Also, don't get discouraged if you don't have answers for all these questions yet, just know that as with most things in life, planning ahead is crucial, so you need to at the very least consider these things.  

                                            Especially number 10.

                                            Because what happens if you do "blow up" and become a huge success and the beat you wrote a song to is no longer available??

                                            I'm just sayin.   


                                            More License types?


                                            Above we scratched the surface on the most common license types found online.

                                            Not discussed, but also worth a mention is "Work for Hire".

                                            Although not exactly a license type, a work for hire is basically when a person is being commissioned to create something and has no interest in ownership in that particular thing.

                                            Its basically Contract work. 

                                            So in the case of music, if you bought a beat as a work for hire, the Producer might be creating a beat for you based on what you want (like a custom beat for example) and agreeing to pass on their copyrights to you.

                                            In music, this is a common practice, especially in the case of session musicians. (eg: Guitarist bob is being paid to play a guitar riff in your song)  


                                            To sum it up


                                            I made this post to help out the true Artists who take their journey in music seriously.

                                            I tried my best to keep it short.

                                            If I have missed something or you would like add something or have a question - drop a comment below.

                                             Also, if you can't find answers to questions you have while looking to buy beats from my site or any other website - don't hesitate to ask the Producer / site owner.

                                            Most Producer's [myself included] will gladly respond to questions if they are not answered in our FAQ's as they show us that you are serious and most Producers love to work with Artists who take their craft seriously.

                                             So regardless if you are leasing beats or buying Exclusives feel free to reach out and make that connection if you've got questions.

                                            You'll be glad you did.


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