How does Beat Licensing work? What are Non-exclusive and exclusive licenses? Which beat license is best for me?

First, here is some standard lingo you’ll hear when researching how to buy beats online:
Licensor/Leasor = Producer/Beatmaker
Licensee/Leasee = Artist/Singer/Rapper
Usage rights = the terms and conditions a licensee follows to legally use a beat
Term = how long a license last


What is Beat Licensing?
Beat licensing, also known as beat leasing, is the exchange of money for the legal rights to use a beat as outlined by the licensor. You may hear or see the phrase “beats for sale”, but the majority of time, it’s actually a license being sold. This license grants permission to use a beat up to a certain number of sales/streams, or a certain amount of time (legally known as the “term”). Once these limits are reached, the license expires and another license will need to be purchased to continue using the beat. There are two main types of licences: non-exclusive and exclusive. For reasons explained below, non-exclusive beat licensing is the default licensing model. Most producers’ beatstores offer different tiers of non-exclusive licenses. We will discuss these different licenses below.


Non-exclusive Beat Licensing
A “non-exclusive license” means more than one artist could legally license the beat. Once you record your vocals to a beat that was licensed to you, that new song is called a derivative work. Even though you just made a new song, you only own the copyright to the lyrics. The producer still owns the copyright to the beat.

So should you submit your song to distribution services like TuneCore or CDbaby and they ask you who the copyright owners of the song are, you’ll have to tell them that you only have copyright over the lyrics and that you’ve created a ‘New work’ with copyright protected audio that has been non-exclusively licensed to you by the producer.


Exclusive Beat Licensing
An “exclusive license” means only one artist will be the exclusive licensee of a beat. Once an exclusive license is sold, no other artists will be able to purchase a license to use the beat. However, previous non-exclusive license owners can still use the beat based on the terms of their previous agreement and the producer still retains copyright ownership of the beat.

The term “exclusive rights” can be used to describe an exclusive license, as explained above. However, sometimes producers sell “exclusive rights” and put in their contract that they are transferring complete ownership of the beat to an artist. This is also known as “purchasing a beat outright” or a work-for-hire. Unless a producer is uninformed or new to the music business, work-for-hire’s or transferring complete ownership of a beat should only happen if the monetary offer is so large that it can’t be refused!


So shall I go for Non-Exclusive or Exclusive licenses?

To answer this, consider a few questions:

Are you just wanting to make a song for fun?
Will this production be your first recorded song with a beat?
Is this your first mixtape or album?
Are you new to buying beats online or the music business in general?
Are you new to making money with your music?
Are you still building your fan base?
Are you still learning how to market your music?
Are you simply testing to see if your song can be a hit?

If you’ve answered yes to any of the questions above, you might wanna start with non-exclusive licensing.


On the other hand:

Have you built a large fan base that’s ready to listen to and buy your music?
Is your social media popping?
Do you have your marketing and promotion ready to maximize your song’s reach?
Do you have a substantial budget for music production?

If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, you might want to consider reaching out to me about an exclusive license.


That said, buying non-exclusive beat licenses is better for the vast majority of artists. This is the reason most producers’ beatstores present you with various non-exclusive beat licenses.

If you’re an artist who simply wants to make a song, either for yourself, or for the world to hear, non-exclusive licensing gets you access to high quality production without having to break the bank.

If you’re an artist who wants your talents to pay your bills, it’s smart to use non-exclusive licensing to help you achieve your short and long-term goals. You can invest in multiple beats for multiple songs, giving your fans numerous opportunities to experience what you bring to the table. With each new song you put out, you’ll increase your fan base, gain experience in how to market your music, and put money in your pocket. Even if you sell only half of the distribution limit of the least expensive license, you get a great return on your investment!

Bottom line, non-exclusive licensing lets you spend more money on marketing and promotion, which allows you to gain more fans, and lets more people experience your music.


So, which non-exclusive beat license is best for me?

Here is short breakdown of the different licenses:

MP3 – Start a fan base! ?
The MP3 License is great for artists who are starting to build their fan base.

Basic – Make money with your music! ?
The Basic license gives you better audio quality with the WAV file and sets you up to make a solid return on your investment via digital music outlets.

Premium – Next level audio quality, radio, and shows! ?
The Premium license can make you even more money and gives you the best audio quality with “trackouts” or “tracked out stems.” Trackouts give you the ability to make adjustments (like panning and volume, etc.) to the individual sounds of the beat. This will help mix your vocals to the beat! This license also permits artists to get their songs on (terrestrial) radio stations, as well as get paid from live shows. If your budget allows, this is a great option for you and your fans!

Unlimited – I got fans and a marketing plan! ?
The Unlimited license gives you the quality audio of the trackouts without any limits on how many monetized streams and downloads you can have and the ability to monetize your song on your YouTube channel. (ContentID is still not permitted as that system causes a lot of issues.) Even though this license has no cap on the permitted usages (streams/downloads/radioplay), the license does expire after 5 years. So, to get the most out of this license, it’s best to already have a fan base as well as a solid budget for marketing and promotion.


Next Steps

Hopefully this articles has given you insight on how you should invest in your music career with beat licensing. If you have any questions or comments, please use the comment section below or send me an email! Now it’s time to choose your beats and start making music!


Carl aka CCBeats


  1. If I lease a beat and the lease term expires would i get a copyright claim in my YouTube channel (I mean would that exact video get a copyright claim) or the producer will need to find me and negotiate for extra payment. Most site escapes this part waiting to find an answer please.

    • Hi Raymond,

      When the lease term has expired, there is a chance that you might get a copyright claim, because at that point you would be in breach of the licensing agreement. If your song is getting a lot of exposure, your chances of a copyright claim after a term lease expires increases.

      With that in mind, if you really want to make sure your song stays up, it’s best to buy a new license agreement near the end of the term. Otherwise, you do risk getting a copyright claim or takedown.

      Hopefully a producer would try to reach out and talk with you first before placing a copyright claim on the video, but they would be in their legal right to file that claim if the lease term has expired and they can’t get in contact with you.

      Please be aware that even when you are abiding by the terms of the license agreement, sometimes copyright claims are automatically done via Content ID service. In these cases a video, you’d send in proof of license purchase, the video would be “white-labeled”, and the claim would be removed.

      Lastly, I’d say that most producers do not spend their time hunting down artists who are in breach of contract. especially if the song’s views and/or traction isn’t significant. Most of us producers value relationships, so we would rather reach out with you first before filing a claim.

      Hope that helps!
      – Carl

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