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Business and Beats


Anyone with a good idea, a few bucks for studio time, and a beat can record a song. Ideas are free, and studio time can be cheap if you shop around. The hard part has always been finding the right beat.

Until now.

Last year’s most-streamed song, “Old Town Road,” used a $30 beat created by Dutch teenager YoungKio and posted to an online marketplace called BeatStars. Inspired by the beat’s quirky banjo line, Lil Nas X put some words together, made a quick run to an Atlanta studio, and the rest is history.

It wasn’t always so easy. Not too long ago, producers were integral members of hip hop bands: Prince Paul, for example, rarely appeared on record, but his production work as a member of Stetsasonic and Gravediggaz continues to influence the scene more than 30 years later.

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That’s all changed. Like recording artists themselves, beat creators are finding it easier than ever to record their ideas and get them in the right hands. Anyone with a laptop and a few pieces of free software can create a beat and sell it online.

Sites like BeatStars, Airbit, and SoundClick let recording artists browse and preview beats before buying or leasing them. BeatStars alone has more than a million users; Airbithas sold more than a million beats in the ten years since its launch.

With more beats available more easily than ever, their terms of use have changed. Non-exclusive licensing allows multiple buyers to use the same beat, which reduces the cost to each buyer. The days of paying six figures to license a brief sample may be over: today’s beats run $20-$200 per use. For less than a tank of gas, vocalists can get beats that match their imaginations.



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