What is a beat licensing?
Buying or leasing a beat online is not a new concept, like every other industry it started at a very small scale and now has huge potential for any Artist and Producer. This being said, purchasing beats online should be done with proper knowledge and care to avoid any confusion or disappointment.
To stop this from happening, I have outlined everything you need to know about exclusive and non-exclusive licenses.
Starting with the basics, what does the term beat licensing actually mean?
According to Google:
In simple words, you pay the Producer or the owner of the beat to let you use the beat for any sort of purpose you like.
The license is proof in law for the Artist that the Producer has permitted them to use the beat.
This might seem simple at first, but there are many things affiliated with this which you should know before purchasing a beat online.
When browsing for beats online you’ll come across two main types of licenses:
- Exclusive license
- Non-exclusive license
Let's start with an exclusive license.
When you buy an exclusive license for a beat, you become the whole and sole owner of that track, and now you’re free to do as you please with that beat, for commercial purposes or any other way you want to use it.
Plus, when you buy an exclusive license, there is no limit to time, streams, plays or anything associated with the license. You can monetize from the beat as much as you like.
Now, exclusive licenses are mainly sold in two ways in today’s industry:
- Selling exclusive rights
- Selling exclusive ownership
When you buy exclusive rights, the Producer is still the author of the music and can collect part of royalties of a different kind usually known as publishing which I'll save for another article!
With exclusive ownership, the Producer has no right leftover to the music including copyright, and the Artist becomes the legal owner of the music.
It's worth saying that when you purchase exclusive rights to a beat, the exact terms are usually negotiated with the Producer. On BeatStars for example, you'll sometimes be required to make an offer for the price as well as the publishing % splits.
Exclusive license example:
Non-exclusive license, as the name suggests, is when you do obtain the rights to use the beat in your song and earn money from it, but you will be not the only person who can buy this beat - any other artist can purchase the same beat and use it for monetary gain. I.E the beat won’t be exclusive to you.
This doesn't mean they can claim copyright on your song or you can claim on there's.
The Producer is still considered the author of the beat and people buying non-exclusive licenses have the rights to use it commercially in any possible way depending on the terms of the agreement.
Non-exclusive beats are generally cheaper than exclusive ones as multiple Artists can buy them, and in today's time, it is completely normal especially for less-established Artists to purchase non-exclusive beats, while signed or well-established Artists generally prefer exclusivity as there are some limitations glued with non-exclusive licenses.
Most non-exclusive licenses have a limited number of plays or streams you are entitled to once you upload the song, and if you’re lucky enough to surpass this number (which is usually around 50,000) you’ll be required to renew your lease or negotiate an unlimited cap with the Producer.
In some cases with non-exclusive licenses, there is a time limit for the rights you own, otherwise known as a lease. Once the period or "term" is over, you will have to renew the license.
What you also need to understand is that if you lease a beat and another Artist purchases the exclusive rights, you will still be entitled to everything you paid for (e.g 50,000 streams and anything else included in the lease).
Non-exclusive lease example:
If you ever come across an unlimited License, it usually means you're obtaining a non-exclusive license however there will be no limit to the number of streams, radio plays and other ways you can monetize your tracks.
If you're confident in your work and believe your track will surpass the stream threshold but you aren't worried about other Artists using the same beat this lease option is perfect for you.
Unlimited Lease Example:
I understand this can get confusing especially when it comes to royalties, and so I'll be writing a separate article detailing everything you need to know about royalties very soon.
For now, all you need to remember is the following:
- If you purchase a non-exclusive license you will be the sole owner of the beat and are free to monetize as much as you like from the completed song.
- If you purchase exclusive rights, the Producer will still be entitled to a publishing percentage.
- If you purchase exclusive ownership, the Producer will have no rights leftover and you are free to do anything you like with your music.
- If you purchase a non-exclusive license other Artists can purchase the same beat and you will usually have a cap on the number of streams, music videos and radio plays depending on the agreement.
- If you've purchased a non-exclusive license and another Artist buys exclusive rights afterwards, you are still entitled to everything your agreement included (e.g. 50,000 streams).
If you're still unsure about which type of license you should purchase, here's an easy guide:
- If you are adamant that no other Artist should use the same beat as you, go with exclusive rights.
- If your song is expected to surpass the stream threshold but you aren't concerned about other Artists using the same beat, go with an unlimited non-exclusive license.
- If you're not concerned about other Artists using the same beat and you don't think your song will surpass the stream threshold, go with a standard non-exclusive lease (you can always renew the lease further down the line).