How does Beat Licensing work? What are Non-exclusive and exclusive licenses?


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.


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!


Which license is best for you? Non-Exclusive or Exclusive

To answer this, consider a few questions.

Are you just wanting to make 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?

Maybe you’re not new to the business, but are you still building a fan base?
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.


For casual artists, there’s no harm at all in just having fun making songs. Aren’t we supposed to have fun in life?! With non-exclusive licensing you can have access to high quality production without having to break the bank.

For artists who eventually want their talents to pay their 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 as you gain experience marketing your music and putting money in your pocket. Even if you sell half of the distribution limit of the least expensive license, the small investment on your music production will give you a huge return!


Now, for seasoned artists.

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 means in place 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.


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! Now it’s time to choose your beats and start making music!


Carl aka CCBeats

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