Updated: Sep 12, 2019
Everything you need to know about the terms, conditions and options when it comes to buying beats online and signing your first beat lease agreement.
In the world of hip hop, songwriting duties have normally been divided into two roles, artist and producer. Over the last decade it has become increasingly easier for both parties to share in this exchange of creativity. Thanks to sites like BeatStars, Airbit and Soundgine, producers can put beats up with a click of a button. Artists too can now buy and lease a beat or song pain free and the contracts involved usually keep to a strict and simple industry standard. With that said though, it is still important for all parties to understand and agree upon the terms before any purchase is made and any beat is delivered in full. This article is aimed at clearing up some questions you may have before purchasing your next fire beat for your up and coming banger!
What does it mean to purchase a limited Beat Lease Agreement?
Purchasing a lease for a beat from a producer means that the artist has the right to use or incorporate the instrumental into his/her own recording for a certain amount of uses over a certain set period of time. Keep in mind that the producer owns half of the mechanical right to the new recording made by the artist that purchased the lease for the said instrumental or beat. Basically, the beat is always a 50/50 split between you and the producer unless otherwise stipulated and discussed.
Another thing to remember is that the producer can resell the lease to any beat that has not been bought exclusively. This makes the producer more money because the same beat can be resold over and over again but it also makes the beat much more affordable for the artist.
When you should consider buying a Beat Lease Agreement?
Artists who are working on promos and mixtapes should consider buying a lease on a beat. These leases are not recommended for use on full albums or EP's that are intended for commercial use. The one factor to keep in mind is beats that are leased can be sold to any other artist, the second thing to consider is the fact that almost all non-exclusive beat leases have terms that limit commercial use. Imagine writing and recording a single, producing a music video for it and then marketing that single only to find the exact same beat on another artists album. Beat leases are great if you're going to use the beat to create brand awareness and if you're an artist who is still new to the industry. It's also a possibility that the track you record with a lease blows up, if that does happen there are options. For now it's a great consideration for young artists that are new to the industry but need a professional sounding track.
What are the terms of the Lease?
Beat Leases have their limitations and it's important to understand those limitations. Very often these Beat Leases have expiry dates and limited exploitations. For example, the beat could have a three year expiry date on it and only allow you a certain amount of plays online. If either the expiry or exploitation is met, the beat can no longer be used until the lease is renewed by purchasing the lease again. Please read the terms in the store carefully before considering which purchase best suits your needs. The terms are very clear and transparency is key in these situations but if not read carefully, it will be difficult to undo or change terms in a contract at a later stage in the game.
What are the do's and dont's?
The main idea behind an artist leasing a beat is to use the beat to record their own voice over the beat and create a new recording that they can then release and use to promote themselves. Re-leasing or reselling an instrumental that you purchased a lease for would typically be a breach of contract, so selling a lease on a beat lease is usually not allowed. Another aspect to consider is the "territory" the beat can be used in, sometimes a contract has a limit to where that beat can be released in the world. Most of the time the "territory" includes "The Universe" or "The World" but there are cases where the producer has a limited number of places the beat can be release in. Remixes using the beat or elements of the beat is also not recommended but there are situations where the producer allows "flips" or rearrangements of the original beat. Multiple recordings by the same artist on the same beat are usually off limits, remember, the producer encourages the artist to make and promote a single version of the song per lease. It's not recommended to try and do multiple versions of a song using one beat, it's best to stick to a single beat, single recording policy.
What do you get?
Every Beat Lease Agreement should stipulate what exactly an artist gets when purchasing a lease for a beat. Most producers will offer a number of options for a single beat, namely an MP3 version, which has a lesser quality in sound, a WAV high quality option and a "track out" option. A "track out" just means that some elements from the beat like the 808, bass, drums, synths or loops are singled out or separated for the artist to utilise. The "track out" option gives the artist more wiggle room when it comes to recording, mixing and mastering their song and is highly recommended when buying a lease as you can really squeeze everything possible out of a beat. If you want to take your branding and promotion seriously, than this is without a doubt the best option.
What about licensing?
Normally the Lease Beat Agreement will give you a number of lease options. There are a number of versions of each beat lease and with every lease come different rules and terms. The standard that most producers offer is Basic, WAV and Unlimited. Each lease has a certain amount of exploitations or sales, streams, music videos and broadcasting rights . An Unlimited Beat Lease Agreement can sometimes offer an unlimited amount of streams and sales but that all depends again on what the producer has stipulated. Unlimited leases are great for artists who are going to be implementing as much push as possible to get their music heard.
What about publishing?
All Recorded music is divided into Performing rights and Mechanical Rights. With most agreements, the producer will split the mechanical rights 50/50 with the artist who purchased the beat lease. The producer owns no percentage of the performing right but will own 50% of the mechanical right. 50/50 splits are an industry standard when it comes to leasing beats, they can apply to limited leases, unlimited leases and exclusive leases. The artist is required to notify his producer of any digital sales, physical sales and streams of any recordings made using the producers beats that have been leased. It's best to keep any statements to avoid any miscommunication, keep records of your sales as much as you possibly can, your distributor can give you detailed lists of every sale and stream. If you fail to hand over any info pertaining to the sales or streams of the recording using the bought lease, the producer then has the right to take you on legally. It's really important to be transparent with the parties involved in the making of a beat or recording at all times in order to eliminate any bad feelings or bad business.
What about crediting the producer?
Crediting the producer is an industry standard and the terms are usually stipulated in the Beat Lease Agreement. These terms should always be taken into consideration whenever you are releasing your music using a leased beat. Every producer has specific conditions but remembering to add credits in the metadata when uploading a song is a good place to start. On the back of albums, in the liner notes, or in advertisements is also a consideration to keep in mind, repetition is key in this case and so is consistency. The credit is what advertises the producer.
This may all seem intimidating but most of these things have become very simple and streamlined. There is so much more transparency now and it's difficult to make any serious mistakes when purchasing a lease. To recap some of these ideas, here is a list for you to use when purchasing your next Beat Lease Agreement:
Make sure you know exactly for what purpose you need a Beat Lease and look carefully before you pick the lease that best suites your needs
Make sure that the lease has good conditions, look at the number of streams, number of copies, number of live performances and number of radio stations before you purchase the lease
Look through the actual contract once you have chosen a lease and make sure you fully understand and are happy with the rules of the agreement. Don't skip through the details, most importantly, see where you can post your recordings commercially using the Beat Lease
Don't forget to credit the producer so that everyone is happy and business goes on without a hiccup
Thanks for taking the time to read through the article, protecting yourself and understanding what a Beat Lease Agreement entails can take your career a very long way.
Keep it chill fam!