Top 10 Ways For Producers To Make Money With Beats
There are a lot of different ways to turn a beat catalog into income. Yet most producers seem to know little about the business side of beat making beyond putting a PayPal button onto a SoundClick page. After spending countless hours honing your craft, learning production techniques, downloading the best VSTs and making awesome beats it can be very frustrating if you’re not racking up the kind of sales you want. So here are my personal Top 10 ways for producers to make money with beats, backed up with some image proof and compiled after almost a decade selling beats professionally!
1. Sell licenses to your beats
This is the easiest and still the best way to make money with your beats. Once you have a decently sized catalog of quality beats, you can register and set up your own website for cheap, or sign up to a VIP artist service like My Flash Store that will allow you to set up your own beat-selling home page. Some people also hustle their beats on music communities like SoundCloud and include email information for purchases, or more specified beat websites like BeatStars.com. Generally you will need to have a PayPal account in order to receive payments online, though you can also arrange payments with customers through services such as Google wallet, bank transactions or Western Union. Most producers sell licenses according to three main categories: Lease licenses, Exclusive licenses and Sync licenses. Lease licenses are non-exclusive licenses with a limited sales cap. This means that your buyer can only sell a limited number of digital downloads or physical albums (usually around 2000-5000). Your beat can be leased to an unlimited amount of buyers as you retain the rights to your beat. Lease licenses are sold by producers anywhere from $1-50, with an average of about $25. It is common practice to also offer Premium Lease licenses, where buyers are given the option to pay a little extra to receive separated instrumental track lines of your beat and/or to sell more units. Exclusive licenses, on the other hand, are full ownership licenses, usually with an unlimited sales cap. They are therefore sold to only 1 customer and the beat is subsequently marked as sold. Naturally, they will be priced a lot higher, anywhere from $50 to $1 million if you’re Timbaland! The final license type, which is ignored by the majority of producers, is a Sync license. While Lease and Exclusive licenses are targeted at recording artists, Sync licenses are for media professionals and broadcasters (such as websites, movies, TV or video games). Sync licenses are usually limited to a specified number of broadcasts, for example 1 DVD release title. They are commonly priced between Lease and Exclusive licenses, depending on the intended use. If you’re planning to make beats your full-time income then selling licenses will be the backbone of your operation. Even if your plan is to go after album placements, your first priority should always be setting up your Internet presence. Get yourself a PayPal account, set up a beat-selling website and start promoting! In the image above you can see the kind of income our beat page generates in a good month through PayPal (that’s $23,216 in USD only, not including payments in any other currencies). Bear in mind I have been selling beats for a long time, but the sky really is the limit for you!
2. Sell other producers’ beats
It might seem counter intuitive to spend your time pushing other producersâ€™ beats, but building up a team of beat makers can be beneficial in many ways. Not only can you feed off each other creatively and provide your customers with a constant stream of fresh material, you can also agree to take a set percentage of the sales you make for your fellow producers. If you put together a strong team with a diverse range of beat styles you can greatly increase your market share and divide marketing duties. Everyone benefits!
3. Sell mp3 downloads
A lot of producers neglect selling mp3 downloads to their beats, opting instead to give out free downloads, or not to allow any downloading at all. However, giving out mp3 downloads for $0.99 or $1.99 to your beats can actually be a great additional revenue source. Essentially this is free money as you can make it clear to your customers that the mp3 downloads are intended for non-profit use only. There is a big market of music fans and casual artists who might enjoy just listening to your beats or recording on them for demo or personal use without wanting to invest the 20 odd bucks for a commercial Lease license. If you are worried about the safety of your beats you can always tag them and tell customers that untagged versions are only sent out with Lease or Exclusive licenses. This is a fair deal for everyone, as your listeners will still get to enjoy and/or trial your beats. Mp3s can be sold through a number of online vendors such as iTunes
or Amazon, though also worth your consideration is the SoundClick mp3 store, as it attracts a lot of Hip Hop specific listeners. As you can see above the Anno Domini Beats Soundclick page made over $20,000 from mp3 sales alone, not bad for free money right!
4. Make beat tapes
Similar to selling mp3s, it is well worth your time releasing beat tapes or compilations of your instrumentals, perhaps even the odd exclusive release with unpublished beats. This can generate a lot of excitement amongst your fans and lead to your music being discovered by whole new fan groups on sites like CDBaby. Over the years I’ve released a number of compilation albums and publish them all via the Anno Domini CDBaby page. The site is very useful – as well as selling your albums through their own website they will distribute your songs to all their digital partners such as iTunes, Amazon, MySpace Music or Rhapsody. What’s more, you have the ability to enter all your songs into sync licensing via Rumblefish which can potentially earn you even more money if your beats are used, for example, in YouTube videos. CDBaby have paid out $5877 to me so far, the majority of which has come from digital distribution and sync licenses.
5. Become a YouTube partner
Becoming a YouTube partner and subsequently having sponsored advertisements displayed in your videos is more of a long-term strategy, as it will take you a while to get there. Once you have racked up a certain amount of views and subscribers, you can apply to become a partner on YouTube. If successful, YouTube will give you the ability to monetize your videos, which basically means you will have Google ads displayed before, during or after your videos. You will need to have signed up to an AdSense account and will earn a percentage of all ad revenue generated in this way, as displayed below:
If you regularly update your YouTube channel with interesting content and get a lot of traffic, this can potentially be a big earner! I don’t really have the time to make a lot of interesting videos, but even just uploading beat videos (that is a video of your beat playing over some kind of static background image) it has earned me a handsome £4224 (or $6302) until now.
6. Get a TV placement
Getting a placement in a TV show, film or video game can be an arduous process. There are thousands of producers out there submitting their material to placement opportunities on a daily basis. However, if you regularly network and build relationships with media professionals, companies and agencies you will eventually persevere and the spoils will be worth the toil! While you won’t necessarily be paid a large sum up-front, the royalty payments are where producers really make the big bucks. In order to benefit from this it is essential that you are registered with a royalty collection association such as BMI, ASCAP, SESAC or PRS. You can read our guide on how to collect and earn music royalties. TV stations in the US in particular pay out large sums just for short music segments in their programming. This quarterly royalty statement through my PRS account was for a single placement on CBS Sports. £2818 (or $4205) for 30 seconds of a beat is not bad right?
7. Get your beats on internet radio
Getting your beats on to a regular radio station can be pretty hard, as by and large stations are only interested in full songs. However, internet radio stations are a different matter. A lot of people enjoy browsing stations like Pandora or streaming websites like Spotify for instrumental music and here is where it gets interesting: Pandora and Spotify both share out their profits amongst members according to the amount of plays your music receives. You do have to jump through some hoops to get your music onto radio stations or streaming sites but if your beats prove popular this could be a nice little side-earner. Pandora just recently announced that they send over 2000 artists more than $10,000 a year. Drake and Lil Wayne even make $3 million a year, go figure!
8. Make a drum kit
A lot of producers have recently taken to the idea of packaging and selling their own drum sounds for other musicians, and rightly so! There is a vast amount of producers out there hunting for new and better drum samples and if you have already built up a reputation with your beats, chances are there will be someone out there ready to jump at the chance of emulating your sound. Putting together a drum kit can be fairly time consuming, but if done correctly it can be a worthy investment. You can sell your kit on your own website, or even better, find the most popular drum kit websites out there and partner with them to retail your products. As they have a ready-made sales platform, audience and marketing strategy, they will be better positioned to sell your products than you are. Be prepared though: most vendors will take a 50% cut of sales, this is normal. Personally I have always sold by kits through websites like ProducerLoops.com and from this excerpt of my income statement you can see it has earned me around £1622 (or $2420) on that website alone.
9. Submit your beats to music libraries
There are a big number of music libraries and stock music websites online, ranging from general sites to industry-specific sites for film music, ad music or video game music. When you upload your beats to these sites you will usually have to enter into a non-exclusive sub-publishing agreement, which basically means you are signing over the right for those websites to make money with your music in exchange for a profit share. They will usually take somewhere in the region of 50%-75% so that;s a fairly large chunk! However, a lot of producers make a good amount of money licensing their beats through websites like Pump Audio or Audiojungle. The customers of these sites are usually video creators, advertisers or website owners, so by uploading your music to these sites you can reach a new audience outside of the recording artists targeted by your fellow beat makers. Just make sure you read any contract you sign with these websites very carefully, as some of them are known to be fairly cut-throat.
10. Be creative!
Ok so this last one is a bit of a cop out, but what I’m trying to say is that there are an endless number of ways in which you can make money from beats, just get creative! You are certainly not limited to selling licenses through a website or hustling your beats to artists for placements. There are many other avenues I haven’t covered in this list and probably a whole lot more I’ve never even thought about. You could run song contests for artists with a paid submission for example, write an e-book, or get paid for product placements on your website. If you come up with any more great ideas or want to collaborate on an innovative project, you’re always welcome to contact me !