The way people consume music has changed drastically over the last 5 years. I've felt the impact as a producer so I'm certain you've felt the impact as an artist. The days of creating one song/album and working that for an entire year are over. People are consuming music at alarming rates, licking their chops, and waiting for more immediately after a release. Consistent content is the name of the game now. With so many expenses attached to creating and releasing music, how do you navigate in this new space without losing your shirt? This is where leased beats come to the rescue!
One of the main reasons I switched my business model from leases and exclusives to primarily leasing is because I believe leasing is the best move for most independent artists. Very few indie artists are at the point where buying Exclusive Rights makes business sense. Exclusives, while awesome, are expensive and if you don't have the budget or fan base in place to justify the expense, you will be in hole FAST. I've seen so many artists buy exclusives too early in the game only to have their song sit on Soundcloud with minimal response. Good music doesn't deserve to die unheard. Today I aim to shed light on how to use leases to take your independent grind to the next level! Hope this helps!
Audience Building Tool
If your fan base is small or non-existent, you need to throw the idea of albums and EPs out the window for a while and just focus on releasing consistent music. What defines "consistent" will be different from artist to artist, but I recommend releasing new music at the very least on a monthly basis. Leases are the most affordable way to achieve that goal!
Starting out on a smaller budget, I'd recommend going with basic leases just to get things moving. With most producers making basic leases so affordable, there's really no excuse to not find a few tracks you like and get to work. Basic leases are a great tool to get out there and test the waters before heavily investing in your career. You get to see what type of content resonates most with your audience without draining your pockets.
But if your budget is larger I'd recommend always going with lease licenses that include trackouts (individual instruments like kick, snare, bass, etc). A common complaint I hear about why some artists prefer not to use leases is because they don't want to sound like another artist. This is why I recommend trackouts as either you or your engineer can go in and customize the arrangement of the beat to be unique to your needs. Add sections, take out sections, add new elements, etc. Having the trackouts puts you in full creative control and takes away the excuse of sounding like someone else. I've heard some artists do AMAZING things with trackout leases that totally set them apart.
Another important part of building your audience is taking time to properly promote your music online. This is the area where people usually get in trouble. Marketing and spamming are two different things. Spamming is constantly asking people to listen to your music and tagging people in your music posts. Sending unsolicited emails to people about your music is also spamming. But marketing is posting captivating content relating to your music that attracts them to naturally consume it. You can take that even futher by setting up ad campaigns with whatever social platform you're using to further the reach of your content.
As far as email, the proper way to market is to sign up with an email marketing service (Aweber, Mailchimp, Getresponse, etc), place a sign up form on your website, and let people interested in your music sign up to your email list. The key is letting them sign up themselves. Don't just grab a bunch of random emails and add them to your mailing list. It's much better to market to people who've actually signed up to your list than send unsolicited emails to people who haven't. Once you start building your list, then you can send out emails to your mailing list (at a reasonable rate) keeping them engaged with your music. If you don't have a website or a mailing list in 2018, these are two things you need to jump on ASAP. Building your audience on Spotify, Soundcloud, Instagram, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc is awesome! But the reality is none of these platforms are guaranteed to still be here later down the road. Remember Myspace? The key is building on these platforms but then also routing that traffic to your website and your mailing list so that you can retain your audience.
As you're building your audience, keep in mind that your content doesn't always have to be the actual music itself. In the past artists/brands could be very impersonal in their approach but today people want to KNOW YOU as much as they can. Your whole life is content. It's not wise to share everything in your life of course, but find unique ways to showcase your life to your audience. Remember you're not selling your music. You're selling YOU. The more people resonate with you as a person, the more they will resonate with you as an artist.
Income Generating Tool
So you're releasing music consistently now and you've set up a solid marketing plan to get your music out to the people. But how do you make money? Can you make money with leased beats? Absolutely you can! That's the whole point. Using affordable leases to build an audience which leads building your income. You can profit from leased beats many of the same ways that you profit from exclusive beats. The actual leasing terms will be different from producer to producer, but I personally keep my terms pretty relaxed as my aim is to help independent artists build their audiences. Here are just a few ways:
- Streaming (Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, etc)
- Digital Sales (iTunes, Amazon, etc)
- Sync Licenses (songs on tv, film, etc)
- Youtube (*more info on this below)
- Merchandise (shirts, hats, etc)
- Etc. (With creativity the ways are endless)
As far as Youtube, using leased beats on Youtube can be tricky if not done correctly. Make sure when you submit your music to distribution services (Distrokid, Tunecore, etc) that you DON'T enable any option that submits your music to Content ID. When you submit music that contains leased beats to the Content ID system it causes issues for you and any other artists who have used that particular lease. It's best to just choose the monetization options in your Youtube video when uploading. Only submit your songs to Content ID via a distributor if you own the beat in full (exclusive rights).
When used properly, leases can take you a long way down the road before it makes sense to shell out for exclusive rights. I've seen some artists use leases all the way up to getting a major record deal. A record deal isn't necessary today, but it just shows how far you can utilize leases. The whole point is to use leases to build an audience of people who authentically enjoy your art. Once you have an audience, the ways to monetize that audience are endless. But if you don't have an audience, and you stay in the archaic mindset of only buying exclusives, and only putting out albums/eps, many opportunities could pass you by.
Practical Action Plan
With all that said, I'd like to end things off with a practical example of how to turn this info into action! Before I get into the steps, if you haven't created a website or email list yet, you need to do that first.
Go to Godaddy.com and buy a domain name for your website. Your artist name would be best but if that's not available, choose something as close to it as possible. Then either get your website built professionally or create your own website with services like Wix, Weebly, Bandzoogle, etc. Make sure your site is clean, easy to navigate, and loads quickly.
For your email list, make sure you sign up with a professional email marketing platform like Aweber, Mailchimp, Get Response, etc. Some website building sites have a mailing list feature built in, but a dedicated professional platform will be much more robust with features and deliver your emails in a more reliable manner. Create a sign up form with the platform of your choice and then embed that sign up form on your website. There are tons of Youtube videos and articles that explain how to set up these types of things in detail. Please do your due dilligence in making sure you setup everything properly. Don't rush the process.
Once these two things are in place, you're ready to move forward! Let's say you'd like to consistently release 4 songs per month utilizing leased beats. Here's a way to do that:
- Go to your production site of choice and select your beats. Most producers have discounts and specials so you should be able to get 4 leased beats for a decent price in most places.
- Write quality material and then get your songs recorded at a professional facility if possible. You can most definetely record the songs yourself, but if you don't know what you're doing, it's best to leave it up to the professionals in order to get the best end result. I recommend recording with the WAV or MP3 version of your leased beats unless you're working an engineer/producer who's going to help you arrangement the record. If that's the case, it's a good time to bring the trackouts into the session so you and your engineer/producer can get all creative edits/arrangements needed done at that time.
- Once your songs are recorded, it's time to get them mixed and mastered! Definetely get your songs mixed and mastered by quality engineers as these things will either make or break your record. It's a travesty to spend money and time working on your songs only to have them destroyed at the end of the process. Don't skip getting quality engineers! There are places to go online, but I'd recommend finding good engineers in your local area that you can sit down with and establish a personal relationship with. If you're going to be releasing music regularly, it'd be ideal to have someone who you can build a consistent sound with.
- Make sure to get quality cover art for your releases. Digital store are very particular about make sure your cover art is quality enough to be accepted so make sure and hire a quality graphic designer to do your art.
- Once your completed songs and cover art are in hand, it's time to get the music out to the people! Start with choosing a quality distributor to get your songs on iTunes, Spotify, etc. There are several available, but for the best bang for the buck I highly recommend Distrokid! It starts at only $19.99 a year to upload unlimited songs/albums and you get many other perks like instant Spotify verification and more. If you released 4 songs every month with something like Tunecore, that'd be $9.99 a year per song. Doing that every month, that'd be $480 a year to release 4 songs a month. Ouch! Distrokid works perfect for today's environment of frequent content. Remember when submitting your content with leased beats to your distributor, DO NOT enable Youtube Content ID.
- Once your music is up in all the digital stores, it's time to work on marketing! Upload your music to audio platforms like Soundcloud and also Video platforms like Youtube so your music can easily be found. Create frequent content for social platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc in order to let people know what's going on with your music. Make sure a link to your website is in your bio. Remember the goals is to always route people to your website. To make things neat and easy, I recommend using Linktree (most notably for instagram) to put all your links in one convenience link. When people click your Linktree link, they will be brought to a page that includes all your links (website, contact, mailing list etc).
- If you'd like to take your social media efforts even further, try experimenting with ad campaigns. Setting up campaigns can be a tricky process and cost alot of money if done wrong so please do research on how to setup your desired campaign. I've personally used Facebook's ""Boosted Post" ads, Instagram's "Promote" ads, Twitter ads, and currently experimenting with Youtube display ads for some of my Youtube videos via google Adwords. I've experienced decent results with all of these except for Twitter ads. But your results may be different! Set aside a reasonable budget and experiment with different platforms until you find what works for you.
- Once traffic starts coming to your website and get a few email list signups, start sending out a newsletter every now and then to keep your subscribers engages. How often you send emails depends on your audience and what you provide, but no more than once a week usually works well. If you start sending emails daily or multiple times a week, that can come off as spam and people will unsubscribe or file complaints with your provider. Make sure you only send quality content and only at a reasonable pace.
This is how you start building an audience! Keep making music and repeating these steps over and over again and your audience will grow over time. It's not an overnight process, but with patience it's possible! With growth, you can start to monetize your audience even further by doing shows/tours, selling merchandise, and countless other things. As your brand gets more exposure, you'll start to see more and more opportunities come your way. It's like a big snowball effect. You start small but as you are consistent things grow larger and larger. Eventually, you'll get to the point where you have a fan base in place to properly monetize an exclusive beat and that's when exclusive beats make sense. Producers will be much more willing to sell you exclusive rights when you have a vehicle in place that will generate royalties/publishing on the back end.
I hope this blog post gets a few wheels turning and inspires you take action towards growing your fan base. Thanks for reading and much success! -Tone