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Build Your Base: Finding And Buying Beats As An Indie Artist

Being an independent artist, you are not guaranteed the luxury of having people around you to network, professional equipment, people who are ready to work with you, or even lawyers to take up copyright disputes. You become an army of one, navigating the industry yourself. And though anyone can do it themselves, we at the MSQ Shop try to help the process as much as we can.

Let's say you're just starting your music career. Let's also say you don't have the benefit of music production training, you're gonna have to find instrumentals that you can use to build your discography, grow your fanbase, and generally show potential managers and others what you bring to the table as an artist. Here are some helpful resources and things to know when you go about selecting beats for your own use.

Know the Difference Between Non-Profit Use And Profit Use

Many artists with few resources use beats from YouTube or Soundcloud to rap or sing over. If this is your plan, that's perfectly fine, but you must check the instrumental itself, to see if the producer has allowed for non-profit use. They usually distinguish themselves by saying (Free) in the title, or somewhere in the description or hashtags. Non-profit use normally indicates that you are free to use a beat, so long as you don't profit off of it. Regardless, it is the best practice as an artist to credit the producer of the beat when you are using it for non-profit purposes, putting (prod. by ___) can go a long way towards helping yourself and the producers you receive beats from.

Profit use is when you use an instrumental that the producer has given you the ability to profit off of, these are rarely free, but if you find some, then more power to you. Most producers will give you the ability to profit off of the song as long as you either lease or purchase the beat.

Lease Vs. Purchase

Think of the difference between leasing a beat and owning a beat outright as the difference between renting an apartment and buying an apartment. Renting comes with more conditions that must be adhered to, usually things like percentage cuts of profit given to the producer, and rights being given for a certain time and/or a certain number of streams. Owning a beat outright is usually more expensive, but you are freer to do as you please, you own the beat itself so you take full control of the profit you receive from it if that song becomes popular. So in summary, non-profit beats are free so long as you don't make money off of them, profit use means your use is with the intention of making money off of them. Leasing a beat is more cost-effective. However, leasing and purchasing a beat are with the intention of profiting off of them, and being able to put them on major streaming platforms can prevent having a song flagged for copyright violations.

How Can I Get Beats For As Little $ As Possible?

Develop good relationships with people who make beats, reach out, network, don't be afraid to ask one of your friends who play around on FL Studio to help out and really make something great. The more friends you have, the more you may find opportunities, instrumentals, discounts, and more.

Using Non-profit beats on SoundCloud has become a prominent route to gaining success as a musician, so many generational talents of our era have been spawned from their early work on SoundCloud, Lil Uzi Vert, Playboi Carti, Juice Wrld, Ski Mask The Slump God, XXXTentacion, just to name a few. These artists had their fair share of copyright obstacles as well, Playboi Carti had a song chart on Spotify's Top 50 without even being commercially released, being popular from the weight of bootleg listens. Pissy Pamper's sample of Tasogare by singer Mai Yamane could not be cleared, meaning the song would've been taken down anyway if it was ever released. There is always the possibility of a beat being flagged and removed for copyright, lack of compensation, and/or uncleared samples, but until your music gains serious traction, it is not likely to come upon anyone's radar. It is always best to be respectful and courteous of beatmakers, credit them whenever possible, pay your dues upfront, abide by the lease agreement, and develop a good relationship with them to ensure that in their minds, you aren't another selfish, beat-thief.

Where Should I Go To Find Some Beats?

When finding your distinct sound, flow, and vibe, "type beats" can go a long way, that way if a producer ends up trying to make instrumentals just for you, you will have a good idea of what you want. Here are some quality resources that have a diverse array of beats from across genres.

The MSQ Shop also highlights the work of producers through our blog and social media, be sure to check out our Producer of the Week picks to get to know some underrated beatmakers to choose from.

Ultimately, the best place to find your beats is straight from the producer. Usually through DM, email, or if they leave a business phone number, there is no harm in even just asking about rates for lease and purchase.

Finding and properly utilizing beats as an indie artist is more difficult, it takes a few business-savvy decisions, trial and error, and lots and lots of networking. Just remember, it's always achievable.

Written by Max Olarinde, @mobeige1 on all social media.

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