Written by J. Simpson
Learning how to sell beats online is the dream. Actually, it's a few dreams rolled into one.
For one, selling beats online is a great way to earn some extra income, considering that 45% of working Americans have some form of side hustle at this point.
Learning how to sell beats online can be a dream job even without the hopes of becoming rich or famous. You can make beats whenever you feel inspired.
You don't have to go anywhere, provided you've got some form of songwriting and recording software at home. You don't have to punch a clock (although you can, there's something to be said for keeping a set schedule.)
For those who are serious about pursuing a musical career, learning how to sell beats online is even more of a dream.
Songwriting and producing is often a fast-track to mainstream success, like Drake helping to launch the career of production team Partynextdoor.
You don't even have to have your name in lights to make a decent living selling beats online. Producers like Robin Wesley have been making upwards of $100,000 a year selling beats and instrumentals online.
Whether it's the economics, the proliferation of powerful, inexpensive recording software, or the multitudes of online creative communities, there's been an explosion of interest in how to sell your beats.
We're going to take a look at how you can sell beats online for yourself, taking a deep dive into how you can cultivate your beat-making career no matter what your end goal may be.
And while it’s awesome to sell beats, it’s even more incredible to write hit songs and / or collaborate with other artists and watch your songs rise on the charts. Whether you’re the artist yourself or an aspiring hit maker, feel free to check out my own online course, Insider Secrets to Hit Songwriting here at Teachable. And voila - special offer, as a reader of the blog, you can use coupon code BENJAMIN20 for 20% off.
Inside the course you’ll find 25 video modules revealing the insider Secrets to Hit Songwriting. These are all garnered from my own signings and / or working with over 100 hit songwriters/producers/artists and Grammy Award winners over my 25 years as a music publisher at EMI Music, BMG Music, Kobalt Music and my own companies, Brill Building and We Are: The Guard.
And now back to the program!
Learning how to sell beats online is trickier than it may seem in this era of instant information and endless tutorials on absolutely everything.
The trouble with learning how to sell your beats is the same as learning any other highly marketable, sought after, and potentially lucrative skill for yourself.
If somebody is really such a hotshot producer or beatmaker, making millions selling beats as instrumentals, why are they selling an online course for $49.95?
Yes, maybe they're just philanthropists or just believe so strongly in the power of good music, giving their secrets away for the greater good.
Unfortunately, all too often when someone professes to have some secret for making skads of cash when you learn to sell music online, it usually means they don't.
That's one of the main reasons I've put together this tutorial.
I am one of those idealists who feels that better music makes a better world. I also respect that up-and-coming creatives are often strapped for cash and short on time. Shysters peddling snake oil as fire actively makes the world a worse place for everybody.
With all of that in mind, let's get started in our how to sell beats online masterclass.
This article is intended for absolutely everybody, from the absolute beginner to the professional musician.
Some of this info may seem slightly pedantic, as a result. Feel free to skip around and find the sections that you need, and come back as often as you like. The journey to selling music online is more of a twisting path than a straight line.
Let's start at the beginning, as the song says.
As I said, some of this info may seem basic if you're already further along in your music making mission. I think it's still worth including, though, as some musical terminology can be confusing if not contradictory.
So, what is a beat?
When producers talk about selling beats online, they don't mean a single kick drum or the sound of two frequencies falling in and out of phase.
For all intents and purposes, a 'beat' and an 'instrumental' can be used interchangeably. The plug-in manufacturer Izotope defines a beat as "a kick, a snare, a high-frequency percussion sound, a bass, and a melodic element."
I mention it as you'll want to master each of these elements if you're serious about becoming a beatmaker.
Again, I'm stating the obvious, but I'll explain why in a moment.
The first step in learning how to sell beats online is making beats.
Learning how to make a beat is sort of like the board game Othello - it takes a minute to learn but a lifetime to master.
You could fill numerous encyclopedias with instructions on how to make beats online.
There are also countless tutorials online, both text-based and YouTube. We'll just skim the surface of how to make a beat, with that in mind.
To make a beat, you're going to need:
That's essentially it!
Depending on what kind of beat or instrumental you're looking to make, one program is often all you'll need.
Digital audio workstations (DAW) are impossibly deep and powerful, making even a home computer far more versatile and capable than the most advanced studios of the '60s - '80s.
Technically speaking, you could make a beat using only audio editing software like Audacity, but anything even remotely approximating sequencing is beyond maddening with only an audio editor. That's not even mentioning the difficulties that would come with collaboration.
If you're serious about earning money by selling beats, you should really look into installing a DAW.
If you're strapped for cash, you can even get a free DAW with Reaper, although be prepared for some frustrating workflow issues if you decide to go that route, in my opinion.
Now it's time to make your beat. Fire up your DAW or recorder of choice.
To make a beat, you can boil down the many different approaches to two main approaches:
Whichever element you start with, tweak around until you're satisfied. Then once you've got a foundation to work with, you can fill in the rest with supporting elements.
Again, there are as many possible variations as there are songs in existence (and many more, besides). The construction part is up to you and is up to your tastes, skill, and expertise.
You should also spend some time learning how to mix and master your beats. That's one of the main attractions of buying a premade beat or instrumental.
You'll need your productions to sound as pro as possible if you're looking to stand out from the many excellent producers already working in the field.
Also a Pro Tip! Your beats will probably be the best they can be and have the most hit factor, if they also include a riff or 2nd melody! And what’s that? Well, for starters, how about a copyrightable riff that identifies the song even before the singer opens their mouth! There’s a whole article (and a million bucks) waiting for you here on the post “2nd Melodies aka “The Riff.” I mean think about it … Timbaland, Pharrell, Mike Will, etc, yes - they have great beats...but they also have great MUSIC and riffs, and chord changes etc that go along with those beats! That’s just the tip of the iceberg! For more on the unfair advantage of hit making, there’s more here at my Teachable online course: Insider Secrets to Hit Songwriting.
Again, this could make for an extensive article all on its own.
It also largely boils down to a matter of personal preference and taste.
If you're serious about selling beats online, though, it bears some investigation.
Making beats for other people to use is slightly different than making your own personal music. Think of it as the difference between art and craftsmanship.
If you want to earn an income by selling beats online, you should do a little market research, so to speak.
You should listen to as much music as possible to get an idea of what's popular. This is one of the main differences between making music for yourself instead of making beats for sale.
If you make your own music just to be popular, there's a good chance it will fly under the radar or sink like a stone.
Learning how to make beats in popular styles as an instrumental producer, however, and you stand to make some money.
While you can make money selling beats in a number of different instrumental electronic genres, hip-hop is by far the most popular (and so far, the most lucrative.) There are a gazillion different types of hip-hop out there, from Old School to trap to grime to future beats.
One of the most popular beats you'll see on marketplaces is the "type beat." You've probably seen them if you've ever been on one of those websites - "J. Cole type beat" or "Future type beat" or "Waka Flocka Flame type beat."
Type beats are impossibly popular so you'd be well advised at learning how to emulate some of the most popular hip-hop producers if you're serious about pursuing making beats as a source of income.
However, keep in mind that the best producers ultimately set out to create their own sonic identity (think Timbaland, SOPHIE, Mike Will, etc.)
Knowing how to sell beats online isn't that dissimilar from any other type of business, actually.
There's doing things your own way by owning your own website, which is similar to being an entrepreneur or small business owner. Then there's selling your beats through an online marketplace, which is more like a platform service like driving for GrubHub or Lyft.
Both have their strengths and weaknesses.
Let's start with learning how to sell beats via the online marketplaces as there are numerous excellent sites dedicated to selling beats online. Then we'll dig into selling beats on your own website, which can be more lucrative but is also more like developing a traditional music career or independent business.
By the time you're ready to begin selling your beats, you'll need to become adept at marketing as well as production and songwriting.
The upside is that selling beats online via a dedicated marketplace means that much of the hard work is done for you. Once you've signed up, you've just got to upload your tracks, some kind of artwork, and provide some kind of written description and you're good to go.
Some of the most popular online marketplaces for selling beats are:
Since there are a lot of producers on online beat marketplaces, you're going to need to stand out in some regard.
This also speaks to some of the challenges when it comes to making money online selling beats. Producers that are already well-known get the most plays. Tracks that get played the most move towards the top, becoming a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy.
If you're going to sell your beats via an online marketplace, you should also know how to describe your music. This is where the marketing comes in. You should know if your beat is a 'Dirty South' beat or a 'Grime' instrumental or a 'Happy Trap.'
This is one way that having an established audience or network could help you pull ahead of the other producers listed on the marketplaces.
When you upload a beat to one of the marketplaces, you could ask your audience or social media followers to drop a listen. Some of the marketplaces, like Beatstars, act more like a social media network, complete with likes, follows, and reposts. This is a prime opportunity if you've got a healthy audience to jump ahead on the marketplace charts.
You'll most likely want to have some sort of DAW if you're serious about making money online selling beats, as well.
Top tier pricing usually comes with a 'trackout,' also sometimes called a 'multitrack' or 'stems.'
This means that each individual element has its own track, giving the person who purchases your beat as much finesse and control as possible.
You'll want to spend some time, energy, and resources on some high-quality graphics, as well.
You'd do well to learn some graphic design skills, even if it's only an online photo editor like Canva or BeFunky.
These same skills can be used on your social media channels, as well, so it's worth investing some time if you're serious about growing your music career.
Of course, if you don't have time or the interest in learning graphic design or photography and you do have a bit of a budget, it'd be worth your while to find a graphic designer to work with.
As I said earlier, selling your beats or instrumentals on your own website is much more like building a traditional music career or online business. It's also well worth it, if not essential, if you're serious about making money selling beats or establishing yourself as a producer.
Having your own website to sell your beats gives you control over every aspect of the process.
You'll be able to customize your website to your heart's delight, provided you've got the web design skills.
This gives you control over every aspect of your "brand" - letting you customize everything from the color scheme to the fonts you use.
It could even impact how you show up on the search engines, as you're far more able to optimize your website for pertinent SEO keywords and phrases.
That being said, would you pursue that option versus the ability to have your goods in a thriving market place like BeatStars or any of the other beat selling platforms.
Why not do it all?
It's also accepted wisdom in the business world that you never give someone else complete control over your "product," which, in this case, would be your beats. If you spend all of your time and energy building a reputation on one platform just to have it disappear overnight.
Just look at what happened when the social network Polyvore shuttered unexpectedly, leaving hordes of shattered influencers who lost countless hours of hard work in the blink of an eye.
Being tied to beat-selling markets also means you're forced to pay fees forever. No business that is serious about success would be content to be anchored down by constant, unavoidable overhead.
The one thing to keep in mind is if you're going to host your beats for sale on your own website, you're going to have to attract your own traffic to sell your beats.
The good news is that you should be doing that anyway if you're serious about growing your beat-making business.
The good news about growing your beats for sale business is that it's very similar to developing a traditional online business AND an artistic career.
That means that there's an ocean of information out there to give you guidance and inspiration on how to develop a loyal following.
In fact, it's probably even easier getting attention for beats than either a regular business or your own music.
As a regular business owner, it gets increasingly difficult to get actual interest in a new business or brand.
Quality inbound links, from a major site, are more valuable than gold at this point and are virtually impossible to buy. This basically means that some charitable journalist from Forbes or Consumer Report would have to take an interest in your business, brand product, or service.
I wouldn't hold your breath.
Something similar could be said for artists or musicians. If you've ever tried to build a following for your own creativity on the internet, you're likely familiar with how frustrating this can be, how much work is required as well as a not small amount of serendipity.
Beatmakers have something special going for them, though.
You're offering a service. Something that not everybody can do.
And people love people who can do things for them.
When it comes to building your reputation selling beats online, pursue as many of the traditional paths to generating attention and building a following as possible.
YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter - even Pinterest! You wouldn't believe how much traffic a single well-placed pin can bring.
Beatmakers have even more paths and options available than other business owners or independent artists, as well.
You could make a beat tape of your best beats and instrumentals and post it to DatPiff, the popular beat tape/mixtape site. You can include all of your inbound links when you upload, as well, giving you one more of those sweet, sweet inbound links that are so hard to come by these days.
The real secret to success for selling your beats online is community, however.
There are endless communities for musicians online. Consider Reddit, the popular link-sharing site. There are A TON of great subreddits that are prime for widening your musical network.
Some popular and useful subreddits for building your beat-selling business are:
While definitely the best and most well-trafficked of the music subreddits, even these are just the tip of the iceberg. They should be more than enough to help you get plugged into some online music communities and really get started growing your beat-making business in earnest.
You'll notice that most of these subreddits are geared towards hip-hop, which you should keep in mind if you're wondering how much money you can make selling beats.
If you're trying to establish yourself selling instrumentals or as a songwriters, you can always check /r/indieheads, /r/indiefolk or some of the other indie music-related subreddits as well, should you decide to go that direction.
One thing to keep in mind is don't, under any circumstances, spam your beats all over the message boards.
Most music communities offer a time or dedicated threads for self-promotion. If you just wallpaper your links everywhere without thinking how they'll be received, you'll end up doing more harm than good.
People will associate your beatmaking brand with low-effort posts, which often translates as low-quality beats or music. Or they'll just be vaguely irritated and will carry that association with your production, going forward.
The best way to get involved with a musical community isn't that dissimilar from growing any other small business.
Be generous and give things of real value to the community and they will love you.
This network can become your biggest cheerleaders and not just for one post, either. They'll stick with you for life, and you simply can't buy that kind of goodwill.
You never know which one of those rappers or musicians could become the next Pop Smoke, Meghan Thee Stallion, or Billie Eilish and take you with them.
Selling beats online could launch your actual producer and music career, you just never can tell.
On that note, we’re going to wrap up this master class on how to sell beats online with a few FAQs:
As is often the case when you're looking for answers online, the answer to "How much can I make selling beats online?" is "It depends."
Every beat-selling marketplace has their own fee structure. The fees and commissions for the best beat-selling websites are as follows:
As far as we can tell from our research and rights reserved, You retain the rights to all your beats and instrumentals. You can list them on as many beat-selling websites as you like. However, you should verify and do your own due diligence.
Again you must do your own due diligence, but depending on the license under which your beat is published, you can sometimes negotiate royalties if a song becomes successful. Producer Robin Wesley who we mentioned earlier apparently re-negotiated a contract after one of his beats garnered over 180,000,000 plays on YouTube.
Per our research, rights reserved, as long as a beat is licensed, it can still be used by others. Sometimes musicians have the option to purchase the rights to a beat outright, which would then be known as an Exclusive.
Of course none of the answers here should be taken as legal advice and is our opinion only. You should consult your attorney and/or fully read the terms and service, if you decide to use one (or many) of the platforms.
In conclusion, selling beats online is a microcosm of today's music scene, as a whole. Yes, there is a fierce amount of competition. But there are also more opportunities than any other time in history. You can essentially run a Brill Building songwriting factory, a synch licensing firm, a production studio, AND a music career all out of your bedroom.
And like any other kind of music career, or pursuit in general really, building your beat-making career won't happen overnight. It can take a little while to get your momentum, to get some traction and loyal followings on the beat-selling marketplaces or steady traffic to your own website. It can be done, though, and often faster than you might think.
Pursue selling your beats with the passion that you'd have for any other long-term project, including your own music career. Do good work. Care about your customers and the music you're helping to make. Your customers, and listeners, will thank you, often by giving you money. It's one of the most satisfying paychecks you'll ever draw.