Want to get your beats placed in big time hip-hop records? Learn 5 tips to get your beatmaking skills noticed, enhance your brand, increase your revenue and be on your way to a production career.
By Charles Hoffman, Black Ghost Audio.
It's easier than ever to produce beats. There are beat-making apps, a seemingly unlimited number of audio loops available online and tons of YouTube tutorials explaining how to make beats. Accessibility has allowed more people to start producing music, which means that it's becoming more challenging to make beats that get noticed by rappers and music fans.
What you need is a strategy that will allow you to cut through the noise and draw attention to your music.
The techniques that we're going to look at include pitching your beats to high-profile rappers, focusing on gaining production credits, creating a mailing list, using licensing websites and hiring a publicist.
1. Pitch Your Beats to High-Profile Rappers
Most people don't listen to beats on their own, which means that you need to get your beats into the hands of rappers. The key to success when doing this is creating beats with certain rappers in mind. For example, if you're attempting to place a track with the $uicideboy$, Pouya, or Ghostmane, you'd want to make sure the vibe of the beats you're creating is dark, hard-hitting and aggressive. In contrast, pitching beats to a rapper like Travis Scott or Post Malone would require more of a pop-inspired production approach.
You can contact a rapper by sending them an email or messaging them on social media. If you can find their email address, sending an email tends to be the more professional approach. Briefly introduce yourself and tell the rapper that you created some exclusive custom beats for them. Do not send beats as email attachments; many people check their emails on their phones – so they can't download them. If it takes them more than a few seconds to read the email and access your beats, your email is going to end up in the trash.
Avoid overloading rappers with beats. Pick 5-6 beats that you've made and upload them to a SoundCloud playlist or Dropbox folder that the rapper can stream. If you send a rapper 30 beats, they're probably only going to listen to a few of them. You're better off trimming the fat and sending a few of your best beats; this will increase the chances that the rapper hears your best work. If they like your beats, they'll ask for more. At this point, you can send them another custom beat pack.
2. Focus on Gaining Production Credits
If you're a new beatmaker, focus on building up a solid portfolio. Assuming that you're able to produce beats at a decent pace and you're putting in the time, you should be able to create 2-3+ beats per day. If you're rocking a full-time day job and you have other things going on in your life, you might only have time to write 1-2 beats per day, and that's fine. Everyone is in a different situation. Keep cracking away at writing beats until you've built up a library of around 100 beats; this might take you a few months, depending on the pace that you're working at.
The reason that you should build a catalog is so that if there's a rapper that likes your beats, but the beats you send them aren't exactly what they're looking for, you have more inventory to show. They might request a few different types of beats that you weren't expecting, and if you have a selection to choose from, you'll be able to send them a new beat pack immediately. You're not going to place every beat from your catalog with a rapper, but you should be able to place some of them.
Sending out beats to small artists is unlikely to help your beats get noticed. Getting one beat placed with a big time artist is going to do a lot more for your career than placing 50 beats with artists that nobody has heard of. You may not have as many big fish take the bait, but you'll eventually get one to bite, and the payoff will be worth it. If you manage to get three huge placements, your list of credits goes from nothing to something pretty significant. Now, when you reach out to rappers you can list your top credits, which will help get rappers interested in your beats.
When you pitch beats to notable rappers, don't mention anything about getting compensated—at least not initially. See if they're genuinely interested in your music before you start discussing payment. The goal is to get credited on the final product by any means necessary. Whether you give a beat away for free, license it exclusively for a small fee, or negotiate a cut of song royalties, make sure that you appear as a producer within the song's metadata. This information appears when you right-click on a song on Spotify and select "Show Credits." For the track "Ricky" by Denzel Curry, FNZ is credited as the producer.
If you're "reaching up" and working with artists with huge fanbases, don't expect to split song royalties 50/50 with them. Rappers spend years building up their fanbases, and if they're going to be investing money in marketing the track, it doesn't make sense to divide royalties into equal portions. If you're offered 5% of royalties from an artist whose songs regularly receive 10 million plays on Spotify, you're going to make around $2,000 for a beat that you probably produced in just a few hours. When you add up the streaming royalties from other platforms on top of this, you're looking at a fair chunk of cash. Once you've built up a following yourself and are on a more level playing field with the artists you work with, you can start asking for a more significant cut of song royalties.
3. Create a Mailing List
Sometimes you'll promote a beat to many different high-profile rappers, but they just aren't interested, for one reason or another. Pitch your unplaced beats to smaller rappers who may not necessarily have access to as many beats as rappers in the big leagues. Instead of manually reaching out to rappers who require beats, create a mailing list to automate the process. You can send out a free, non-exclusive beat to your mailing list each week and include a link in these emails that allows people to browse and purchase exclusive beats from your catalog online.
If you put in the work and manage to get 1,000 rappers to subscribe to your mailing list, you can probably expect an email open rate of around 30%. Three hundred people checking out your content each week and potentially browsing your catalog is excellent. If you manage to sell three exclusive beats via your mailing list weekly, you're looking at making anywhere from $300-1,200+ depending on how you've priced your exclusive licenses.
The real challenge is getting rappers to sign up to your mailing list. How are they meant to hear about it? One option is to contact rappers directly, hook them up with a free beat pack, and then ask them if they'd like to receive more free beats from you in the future. By signing up to your mailing list, they'll get new content every week. To sweeten the deal even further, you can give existing mailing list subscribers a free beat pack when they refer a friend to your mailing list—you can set this up using a newsletter service like SendFox.
Another option is to start up a blog, YouTube channel or Twitch stream that focuses on producing beats. Within your content, you can give away free beat packs to readers/viewers. You want to use the free beat packs as an incentive to get people to sign up to your mailing list. Once they've subscribed, you can start introducing them to the idea of purchasing exclusive beats before attempting to push a sale.
4. Use Licensing Websites as a Backup
Consider using a licensing website like BeatStars to host your catalog and allow rappers to license your beats, either exclusively or non-exclusively. When someone licenses one of your beats exclusively, it means that nobody else is allowed to use the beat. If you license a beat non-exclusively, it means that a rapper can use your beat, but so can other rappers who pay for the non-exclusive license. Exclusive licenses tend to sell for much more than non-exclusive licenses because the supply is limited to one. Upon uploading a beat to a licensing website, you need to decide if it will be exclusive or non-exclusive from the start.
Rappers can search for beats on platforms like BeatStars, so some of your beats might show up in search results if you've spent time tagging them appropriately. However, many of these beat platforms have users with catalogs containing thousands of songs. As a new user, your content will likely get buried beneath a sea of beats; therefore, it's crucial to develop a mailing list that allows you to contact rappers directly.
Licensing websites should be used as a last resort when you can't place a beat with a high-profile rapper. Depending on how quickly you write beats, you might not have time to heavily market all the music that you create—pick your favorite beats and upload the rest to your online catalog. Kenny Beats produces beats at a pretty average pace (1-2 songs per session), but he gets the beats he creates into the right hands, contributing significantly to his success. When taking an approach like this, focus on quality marketing over mass beat production.
5. Hire a Publicist to Secure Media Coverage
Once you've locked down some notable track credits, it might be worth seeking media coverage—such as making podcast appearances. You may not have much of a following yourself, but if the fans of an artist learn that you produced one of their favorite artist's beats, they'll instantly want to learn more about you. By associating yourself with hot-shot artists, you can piggyback off their success and develop a following of your own.
Try contacting podcasts like Dead End Hip Hop, Hip Hop Uncensored Podcast and Hip Hop Raised Me. You can find plenty of podcasts on Spotify, ranging in size from small to large. With notable credits under your belt, don't be afraid to reach out to sizable podcasts. Do some research to find out if the podcast you're targeting has a dedicated website. If it does, there's likely a contact form or email address that you can use to pitch yourself.
If the thought of pitching yourself makes your skin crawl, consider hiring a publicist to organize a promotional campaign for you. A publicist has connections to media outlets that you may not have yourself, and they'll set up interviews for you. You don't need to hire a publicist full-time. Artists often get a publicist involved before launching an album to make sure that they're marketing their album effectively. If you wanted to run a self-promotion campaign, a publicist would help you figure out the best angle to approach something like this. Based on the scale and duration of your campaign, the cost to hire a publicist will fluctuate significantly. Reach out to publicists online, let them know what you're looking for, and they'll provide you with a quote.
The key to getting your beats noticed is working smarter, not harder. Building up a catalog of beats is a good idea when you're getting started, but you need to begin contacting notable rappers to find placements at a certain point. Focus on developing a solid list of credits so that you can start pitching yourself as a person of interest to media outlets and charging a higher rate for exclusive licenses. Build up a following of beat-hungry rappers using a mailing list to upsell exclusive licenses, upload your unplaced songs to licensing websites to make extra cash on the side, and work with a publicist to fine-tune your self-promotion strategy.
Charles Hoffman is the owner of Black Ghost Audio—a website that provides free music production tips, tutorials, gear roundups, and premium online video courses. Visit Black Ghost Audio to learn how to produce music online.
Want to learn more about music marketing? Check out these 7 MARKETING TIPS for young producers.
Want to get more tips straight to your inbox? Subscribe to our newsletter here.