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In many ways, there’s never been a better time to be an up-and-coming singer, rapper, or producer. The DIY scene is thriving in ways that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago. Options for self-recording and production are better and more available than ever. Just about anyone’s laptop can hold a whole range of professional-level tools, and it doesn’t take much to transform your home into a usable recording studio.
The beats marketplace is one of many parts of the industry that has opened up to the wider world of creators. Today, there are thousands upon thousands of beats, loops, and other tracks available online that anyone can license for use in new compositions. It’s just a matter of knowing how to find the right ones and put them to good use.
Accurate information about how to find the right sounds for making music as a commercial venture, though, can be hard to pin down, and that’s a problem. No matter how much creative genius you have to give, it’s critical to know the rules and best practices, spoken and unspoken, of making music. Too many options means that it can be hard to know where to begin. And, when you’re a self-made artist who has to know everything from fundamental copyright regulations to the nitty-gritty of file formats and equipment, the details can seem overwhelming. It can feel impossible to find the answers that will help you move forward in your musical career.▼ Article continues below ▼
This isn’t a coincidence. For decades, major labels and publishers have gatekept the tools of the trade and knowledge of how to use them. For outsiders, it’s been an uphill battle to try and break out into the public sphere. Only in recent years, with the rise of indie labels and advances in personal technology and music streaming, has it become possible for individuals to take all the steps they need to make good work and get it into circulation.
So, how do you get started finding and using beats for music you intend to release on YouTube, Soundcloud, Spotify, or other platforms? Here are a few key considerations to keep you on the right track as you navigate the beats marketplace:
As you get started sourcing beats and sounds for use in your own work, always make sure you understand the licensing terms you’re using–no matter how dry they are. Licenses tend to vary not just from platform to platform, but from track to track. They can specify anything: where you can use the beats, how many streams are allowed, and even how much you can do with your beat. Think ahead: is this a song you might perform live? One you might use in a music video? Make sure you know if your license clears those uses so you don’t end up in legal hot water later on.
When possible, your best bet is always to find an unlimited license, one that allows for any number of uses and streams of your work. That way, you don’t have to deal with the stress of tracking plays and then having to come back and upgrade your license.
Whatever sounds you end up using, you’ll always need to properly credit any producers or writers whose works you use, both for legal reasons and, more importantly, because it’s simply the right thing to do. Most producers know exactly how they want to be credited, and they’ll note that in the license terms. Whether you’re using their work in a video on YouTube or posting a track to Soundcloud that builds on their beats, there’s always a way to make sure you’re properly paying respect to the people whose work makes your music possible.
When distributing a track via a website like TuneCore or DistroKid, you will likely need to enter the producer’s information.
You can usually find this info in the License document that you can download when you are buying a beat online. This info typically includes the legal name of the writer(s), their IPI number, the ownership percentages of the composition, publishing designee (if applicable) and also the “preferred credit,” which means how they want to be credited (usually their alias).
It’s your responsibility to check that and credit them accordingly through whatever distribution platform you use.
PRO TIP: Take some time to read up on performing rights organizations or PROs, the companies every songwriter and publisher has to register with to earn royalties. In the US, these are ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. Each one has different ways of issuing licenses, tracking plays, and distributing royalties, so do a little research before you sign up.
Not all tracks are mixed equally, especially in the free-for-all world of the beats marketplace. While some are professionally mixed, many are not. You might not always be able to tell the difference until it’s too late. Before you choose a beat, get a second opinion from an expert if you can, preferably an experienced sound engineer.
Another important part of quality control is making sure the beats you lease have all the parts you need. If you’re planning to rearrange the track you’ve licensed, you’ll need the stems (or “multitrack”) — stereo recordings of each element of the file (often also called the “multitrack”). Otherwise, you’ll have to use it as-is.
The files you use in your production process should always be in .wav format. This format is uncompressed, meaning it will be much fuller and clearer than .mp3 files used for demos.
Finally, when you’re putting the beats in your track, use the mix file, not the master. The compressed master file may sound fine when you’re previewing a beat, but they’re bound to sound distorted on the final track when you add vocals. The uncompressed mix is the one to download.
If you’re just getting started, you might still be figuring out what equipment you need for getting the best possible sound at home–and on a budget. Today, it’s easy to find the inexpensive equipment you need to make professional quality music at home.
A portable vocal booth keeps you isolated and gets rid of background noise. While these span a wide range of prices, you can find relatively inexpensive ones at most music technology retailers.
Along with that, you’ll also need a pop filter. If you talk directly into a microphone, you might find that sharp noises like plosives or laughter cause a pop sound, the result of strong air pressure. A pop filter keeps the air from hitting your microphone too fast. It also protects the microphone from your spit, helping it last longer.
Few things impact the quality of your finished track as much as your sound engineer’s level of expertise. An engineer who knows how to mix tracks correctly is crucial in elevating your track from a home recording to a polished product. Good work means the difference between flat, amateurish music and powerful dynamics, well-balanced beats and vocals, and an all over more interesting and professional-sounding track.
If you’re lucky enough to know an engineer who might work for a reduced cost, this might not be a major expenditure for you. For the rest of us who don’t have anyone in our networks with audio engineering experience, though, there are plenty of places to find freelance workers. Sites like SoundBetter and Airgigs offer a range of different services to fit different budgets, as well as customer reviews. When you can, make sure you check out engineers’ previous credits to get a sense of their skills. Choose an engineer that has experience working on your specific genre and style.
Keep in mind that when it comes to skilled professionals like audio engineers, you’ll often get what you pay for. When you’re putting together your budget, this is one part of your process that might be the most worth a splurge.
Beatopia is the ideal beats marketplace where artists at any point in their careers can find high-quality tracks from hitmaker producers. With an affordable subscription model and a single standardized license that still incentivizes producers, Beatopia makes it easy to find the perfect instrumental for all genres. Beatopia’s monthly fee is $15 for full rights to five beats, .wav files and stems included. Representing a value of around $1000 a month, the platform lowers the price barrier to better democratize creativity.