Buying beats online is confusing AF – there’s a bunch of different options (mp3, WAV, trackout stems) each with their own terms (limits on streams, videos, public performance and so on) for different prices (usually between $40 and $500) and all while the YouTube video you found thew beat on says FREE.

Here, I break down what all this means and what I think is best to do.

File Types

MP3s are small audio files (roughly 10% of the original WAV file), designed to cut out anything that’s “not that important” to the song so they don’t take up so much space.

WAVs are audio files that will play back exactly what the artist/producer/beatmaker made in the studio.

Trackout Stems also called multitracks or just stems are WAV files of the different elements of the final production (bass, 808, drums, piano etc.)

Purchase Options

FREE some producers will offer a free download of their tracks in exchange for your contact information so they can market to you when they have new beats out. These beats tend to be MP3s and have the producer’s tag on them.

Its is also possible to download tracks straight from YouTube. These will always be MP3s (even if your converter says its converting to a WAV, this is just an MP3 that takes up extra space on your computer!) As they are from YouTube these beats will have lots of different tags on them (often the producer’s own tag plus something saying ‘purchase your tracks today’ or similar). NOTE: using beats (or any material) downloaded straight from YouTube and releasing it on any medium is stealing and therefore illegal (even though it happens all the time). If someone finds that you have stolen their creative output they can have your version taken offline in a matter of seconds.

Licence – the most common way of getting buying a beat online is to buy the lease. This means you don’t actually own the beat but are allowed to use it for an agreed number of streams, physical copies, music videos and live performances.

Its hard to find out how it works if you exceed the number of streams allowed under your licence but if you have 10,001 streams of a song with a beat licenced for 10,000 streams the producer can have your song taken down immediately so you need to renew or extend this licence as you approach the stream limit.

Unlimited Licence – this is the same as above but there are no limitations on number of streams, performance, radio plays etc.

Exclusive Licence – once you purchase an exclusive licence the beat will be taken off the beat portal and no one else can get a licence to use the beat. NOTE: anyone who already has a licence to use the beat will be allowed to continue to do so until the terms of their licence is up.


Spending money on beats can be daunting with so little paid out to artists by streaming services and promoters asking people to perform for free. On top of that you have to pay for studio time and promotion, so…BEFORE YOU BUY A BEAT download it for free, record a demo version of your song to the beat and see if you and your friends think it is worth releasing. Then, when you’ve got a track that you’re happy with, pay for a licence and release the track officially.

New Artists – With no or few followers you don’t necessarily need to shell out for trackout stems or licences which allow for 100,000s of streams but I would suggest, if you can afford it, go for the WAV licence. MP3s just aren’t great and their time as the default file type is limited as quality is becoming more and more important and bandwidth and hard drive sizes increase.

Up and Comers – You’ve got a couple of tracks under your belt and they’re starting to get thousands of streams on Spotify or YouTube, now’s the time to hit your listeners with quality. Buy the trackout stems and get creative with the mix and arrangement of your tracks. The flexibility of mixing with stems allows for much more interesting productions – you can cut everything but the bass and drums from a track for a darker bridge, or just leave the melody in the intro so when everything comes in it BANGS.

Established Artists – You’re hitting 100,000s of streams on your top hits. Its time to buy the exclusive licence. The last thing you want is for your latest banger to come out and a week later another artist drops a single with the same beat – its not a good look.

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