Start to finish: creating, producing, mixing, mastering and building a following of loyal customers who come back over and over
SEPTEMBER 12TH, 2021
In our article 5 Ways to Make Money Online in the Music Industry in 2021, we touched on several ways to earn an income in the music industry. Here we’re going to expand upon one of those ways in particular: beatmaking. Let’s explore the process of selling beats from start to finish, beginning with the writing.
Starting your beats
To make your life easier, avoid starting from nothing wherever possible. You can use royalty-free loops with a few virtual instruments and effects and go from there, but you’ll have far more flexibility using one of UJAM’s Beatmakers — all loops are created via MIDI, and you can adjust their timing and sample set to your liking to perfectly fit the beat you’re creating. Simply load up a loop you like, bring the MIDI into your session using the MIDI Drag & Drop feature, and modify it as you like so you get something unique. You can even drop in some of your own samples if you like while still keeping the underlying groove!
Once you’ve got the beat sounding the way you want, it’s time to add in additional sounds and virtual instruments (or instrumental loops) — if you want to create a beat in a specific style you like, check out our article How to Make a Type Beat. It’s an excellent way to get started making beats in the style of your favorite artists and get in front of more artists who may want to buy your beats. If you feel confident with the direction the beat is moving, feel free to follow that instead!
From there, think about different types of instruments you might want to add. Perhaps electric piano or guitar? Then consider synths — are there any sounds you love from other producers, whether they’re aggressive basses, soft supersaw chords, dreamy plucks, or anything else in particular? Get a couple of chords down (4 bars is plenty to start with), then add some different layers to fill things out. You can also use chord loops as well, of course! If it feels obvious that it’s a loop, you can also use your ear to copy the chord progression and record it to the virtual instrument of your choice, where you can tweak it further.
Mixing and mastering your beats
Once you’re happy with the content and structure of the beat, it’s time to tackle the polish phase! Make sure to treat this part separately so you don’t get caught transitioning endlessly between creation and mixing (though a tiny bit of rough mixing is okay when necessary). The fine details of mixing will vary greatly depending on the style, so we’ll just cover the basics to help you get your beats out the door and onto the market.
First, make sure you can hear everything important. Are the bassline, kick, snare, hi hats, and chord instruments all clear? If not, make volume and EQ adjustments until you carve out space for everything by cutting out frequencies you don’t need and gently emphasizing the ones you do. There’s also an important challenge you face as a beatmaker that producers of finished songs do not — when someone buys a beat, they need room in the mix to add in their own magic. Leave room for vocals in the low mids to mids, along with a little space around 4kHz (the frequency where we have the clarity to distinguish individual words). Compress and add effects like delay and reverb as you like.
When everything sounds pretty good, you can switch to mastering. Add a little compression, EQ as needed and gentle limiting. Again, this is not going to be the final version people hear, so don’t squash it — just enough compression and limiting to glue the mix together and tame the peaks. You want plenty of dynamic range so an artist has room to add their own effects and finalize the production as they see fit. Think of mixing and mastering your beats as setting an artist up for a fantastic performance; they’ll buy from you when they feel you’ve given them everything they need to create the perfect song.
Where to sell beats
This is a short section, as the platform you choose is arguably less important than the quality of your beats and your content & promotion strategy. That said, Bandzoogle released this article on platforms you can use to upload and sell your beats. All that matters is that it’s easily accessible and does the heavy lifting for you — while you can use your own website, be careful as you may be responsible for collecting sales tax on certain items. You’re likely better off using a site dedicated to selling beats to handle all the logistics you don’t want to worry about! Try using a service like Airbit, but always read the fine print to be sure you’re not responsible for any extra reporting (which is a good idea any time you’re selling goods online).
Mimicking other styles vs. selling your own
If you grow proficient at re-creating the characteristics of other producers’ music, you can set yourself up for a very profitable career in the music industry. Rappers and other vocal talent are constantly looking for beats in certain styles to make a name for themselves, and if they feel you can help them do that, they’ll be willing to pay you quite well to help them make their way to popularity. Type beats are an excellent way to get started if you haven’t yet found ‘your sound,’ and they’ll give you tons of practice in different styles, helping you become a more diverse producer. Which brings us to a more challenging path, but nonetheless one filled with perhaps even more potential...
Getting artists to pay for your unique sound.
Making a name for yourself in your own style is one of the most powerful branding strategies available to you — and it’s also one of the most difficult. If you make an income mimicking other producers’ styles for some time, you’ll start to see what gets you the most traction and sales. From there, you can start combining the elements of different type beats and gradually adding your own flare, thus ‘branding’ your beats with a sound people will begin to associate with you over time. This is certainly a long-term play, but it allows you to get tons of experience and make sales while ultimately moving closer to creating the type of music you’re generally interested in — while making even more sales in the long run. If you do this all under one producer name, you can still keep doing type beats since they’ll already have become a part of your overall style!
If you see an opportunity to do so, be open to collaborating with artists on a song directly. You can have an agreement where they pay you more upfront and/or upon completion to create a ‘work for hire’ which they own 100% of the rights to, or you can do some sort of revenue share in which you both split the income earned from the song in sales, placements and performances. Rev shares are more complicated legally and logistically since all income sources need to be carefully tracked, so work for hires are a great way to go if you’re looking for something simple.
Promotion and social media
The first rule of social media: it is not a place to blast content and expect people to like it, share it and buy from you immediately. Your job is to share content with entertainment value or utility from the people who are most likely to buy from you, which involves getting to know your market over time. Memes, industry articles, helpful videos and more are all fair game, and you can even release content showing artists how to create a full song starting with purchased beats (using your own to demonstrate, which is a subtle selling technique).
Generally, aim for a ratio of 3 pieces of helpful content to 1 piece of sales-oriented content, which should still be helpful on its own but a little more explicit that you’re selling something. Don’t be too pushy, but don’t be afraid to tell people clearly that you’re offering something that will make their lives easier!
Take screen and webcam recordings of yourself making beats. Show brief self-generated interviews of producers you collaborate with. Create as much content as is reasonably possible in which you position yourself as an expert while making it as fun for your target audience as possible! Over time, they’ll associate this form of entertainment with the beats you sell, and all they’ll need is the right beat at the right time to push them into becoming a customer.
You should have everything you need to begin creating and selling your own beats! Focus on speed, especially at first — your beats, promotion and content will get better with practice and market feedback, so make your work visible as quickly as possible. You’ll naturally improve with repeated releases, and you can always take anything down you don’t love at a later time. Shoot for progress, not perfection; artists aren’t looking for a perfect beat, they’re looking for one they can use to play off of and complete their musical ideas.
To recap: create your beat, fill in the details, mix and master it, and upload it to the sales platform of your choice in that order, all while building a following of potential buyers who can use your beats to accomplish their musical goals. With repeated effort over time and improving based on the feedback from your market, this process will quickly become much smoother. Enjoy the process and keep building up your beat sales, always remembering that your best customers will often buy from you more than once!