Are FREE BEATS really free?
Have you ever seen or downloaded a beat labelled as “free” online? If you’re an Artist, chances are you have, whether it was from on YouTube, BeatStars, or a Producer’s website.
But what does the term “Free Beat” actually mean? And are they actually free to use in your works? Here I break down the differences between free beats and paid ones, and what to look out for when shopping for productions online.
I’m a full-time Producer who leases and sells beats online, but that hasn’t always been the case. Years ago I started my journey in music as an aspiring rapper (or so I thought), so I know how the game works and I most likely know why you’ve clicked on this article.
First of all my guess is you’re one of the following:
- A new artist with a dream to make it big
- An artist who’s been on the scene for a while but wants to take it more seriously
- An artist who’s looking for beats online
- A serious artist who wants to properly purchase beats from producers
Sound like you? Keep reading this article and your questions will be answered.
What is a free beat?
When you see a free beat online, you immediately get excited and think “damn this is crazy, I’m gonna kill this sh**”. Then you take a step back and question everything, thinking “nothing in life is free”, “surely there’s something in the small print”, “is this fake?”.
I’ll be straight up, we producers use the word “free” to grab people's attention. It’s clickbait. If you were walking through a store and you saw the words “costs money” on one aisle then “free” on the other, which one are you gonna be drawn to first?
It’s a powerful marketing tactic and it might seem like we’re tricking you but that’s not the case at all — there’s some truth in it.
A free beat means free for non-monetized purposes
Monetize means “to earn revenue from” or to earn money from.
By now you’re probably thinking “wait a minute, I don’t really earn anything from my music, so I can still use the beat”. Have a think about where you upload your music, do you upload it to streaming platforms such as Apple Music and Spotify? If so, you will use a distribution company like DistroKid or Ditto, and those companies collect revenue for you.
The same goes for YouTube and Soundcloud — they’re both ways to monetize your music.
Can you do anything with a free beat?
Here’s why there’s some truth in the clickbait tactics we use: artists can download the beat for free to practice with.
Think about it, how many times have you recorded to a beat and never released it because you didn’t like the outcome? Everything sounds fire in your head, but when you actually record your vocals sometimes that vision doesn’t translate and you end up scrapping the track altogether.
We don’t want you to spend unnecessary money so we encourage you to download the beat and record your ideas. If you’re happy with how it sounds, you can go back and purchase the necessary lease for that beat and release your music to the world.
This saves a lot of headaches and gives you the chance to get feedback on your music from people you trust before committing to the track.
The dangers of using a free beat
So what possible consequences are there if you release music with a free beat? Let’s start with how it’ll sound.
Producers usually include several tags in their free versions, so if you record over it there’s a huge chance your killer punchline will be covered up with some type of voice artist saying “purchase your tracks today” or “Jay….Jay….Jay Cactus”.
Don’t get me wrong, a producer tag can be powerful at the beginning of a song especially if it’s from a well-established producer, but nobody wants to hear it 5 times in a track.
When you download a free beat you’ll most likely receive an mp3 file which is a compressed version of the audio. Producers upload compressed versions as they’re smaller in file size and easier to send via emails etc. You might not notice a difference at first but when played on larger systems you will, and if you’re serious about music you want to release the best sound quality possible for your listeners.
Also, when you distribute music you’re usually asked to upload a high-quality WAV file such as “WAV, 16-bit, 44.1 kHz”. I won’t bore you with the geeky details today but just know that if you start with an mp3, there’s no way you can bring back the quality of a WAV even if you save the final song in that format.
Think about it like an old home video, just because you’re playing camcorder footage on a 4K TV it doesn’t mean the original video’s quality will improve, you’re just stretching it.
The most important thing to note is that you can’t legally monetize a track with a free beat, so if you release the music the producer has every power to get that track taken down. If this happens 3 times on YouTube, your account will be suspended which is something nobody wants to go through.
Are any beats actually free?
The one exception for free beats is when you see a title such as “free for-profit” or “free for monetization”, but again you should double-check the license agreement because you’ll likely be limited to a number of streams, distribution, radio play, and other usages.
How to buy beats online?
When you purchase a beat online you’re usually leasing that beat, which means you’re paying the producer X amount of money in exchange for several rights to use the track in your work. This is what’s known as your license agreement.
I wrote a full article explaining the different types of licenses you’ll come across and which you can read here, but just understand there are two main types of licenses: exclusive and non-exclusive.
The main difference here is that non-exclusive beats can still be sold/leased to other artists, and exclusives cannot. However, this doesn’t always mean you own the beat, and artists who have purchased leases before you can still use the track within their terms (I go through it in much more detail here).
Which beat license should I buy?
Let me guide you through this by looking at my personal options:
As you can see I offer three types of licenses: Premium WAV, Unlimited WAV, and Exclusive.
Both the Premium and Unlimited WAV options are non-exclusive, which I briefly explained above. The main difference is the terms of usage. The Premium WAV license has a cap on the number of streams you’re entitled to with your release (50,000). You’re also limited to the number of radio stations and music videos your track can be used for.
With the Unlimited license, there’s no cap. If you believe in your music and think you’ll surpass 50,000 streams, this license is for you.
Also, with this license, you’ll receive high-quality stems/trackouts for the beat (which Engineers love to receive). Stems are individual audio files for each element of the beat, so when it comes to the mixing stage of your song you can achieve a far better outcome. Your vocals can be mixed into the beat rather than onto the beat.
For example, let’s say you record your vocals but you think the bass is too loud and overbearing, you’ll have the ability to turn it down as an individual instrument rather than bringing the whole beat level down (which is all you can do with a Premium license).
I take pride in the quality of my mixes, but a vocal is an instrument in itself so it’s impossible for me to know what your vocal will sound like in the track without you recording it first.
Moving onto an Exclusive license, you will receive everything you do with the unlimited license however I will remove the beat from my store, giving you exclusivity.
This doesn’t mean that anybody who purchased a lease before you has to take down their song, they’re still free to use the track within the terms of the license. This is a commonly misunderstood concept!
You’ll also notice that many Exclusive licenses are offer-only, so you’ll have to make an offer depending on your budget. I personally set it this way because I don’t sell exclusive beats to anyone, and it might not always be worth it for me to sell a beat exclusively if that track is selling a high number of leases.
To quickly summarize, you can only use a free beat for non-profit purposes such as to practice with and record before making the investment.
If a beat is labelled “free for-profit” you should still read the terms as there’ll most likely be a cap on the number of streams you’re entitled to (and you’ll probably need to credit the producer accordingly).
I guess there’s no such thing as a “free beat”, but the idea behind it is to make your investment as risk-free as possible.
Did you come here looking for more information before purchasing one of my beats? If so, check out my beat store.