How to Make a Living Selling Beats Online
Writing beats full-time is a dream job for many producers. Working from your home studio or while mobile is a gratifying experience, and it's exciting making money from the art that you create. This guide will explain how to make a living selling beats online and lay out the challenges you'll encounter along the way.
1. Produce a F*ck Ton of Beats
In the world of beat making, you need to focus on quantity. If it's taking you an entire week to finish one beat, don't quit your day job. The sheer volume is what you need to focus on when starting, and it's what will start getting you paid.
You'll eventually develop your music production skills to the point that you'll be able to write 3-5+ beats per day. You should be capable of firing off a beat, that's mixed and mastered, in under an hour or two; some beats will take longer to write and some will take less time.
When writing beats part-time, 1400+ beats in a year isn't an unrealistic goal. Most businesses take 2-3 years to become profitable, and by that point, you'll have 2800-4200+ beats under your belt. This massive content library has value and is going to translate into cash.
These numbers seem excessive, don't they? I must be full of shit. No worries, let's do some math to figure out if you can make a living selling beats on your current trajectory.
Let's say you wrote 30 beats in the past year. Even if you managed to sell every single one of these beats exclusively for $400, that's only $12,000 before taxes. Scrapping past the poverty line isn't my idea of "making a living," and realistically, you'd be fortunate to make $400 total off of 30 beats when starting off.
Don't let this crushing sense of perspective get you down. It's essential to realize the magnitude of content required to make a living selling beats, but it's better that it happens now rather than later, or never at all.
Create a writing schedule that requires you to write 3-5 beats per day, and stick with it vehemently. Writing beats is just like working out at the gym; if you make a habit of it, it's easy to fit it into your schedule every day.
2. Use a Beat-Making Project Template
You're not going to be able to hit your daily writing goal if you don't have a beat-making project template; this doesn't necessarily mean that you need to use the same sounds in every song, but at least provide yourself with access to your go-to drum samples and virtual instruments.
I know that I usually use the same handful of drum racks in most of my songs and that I regularly reach for Bolt, Kontakt, Omnisphere, RealGuitar, Serum, and Sylenth1. For miscellaneous samples, I visit Splice, do a quick search for the samples I'm looking for, and then download them directly into my DAW.
I'm not using every instrument I've listed in all my songs. However, I do have each of my virtual instruments loaded onto a track in my default beat-making template so that I can quickly access them. Treat your beat-making project template like a recording studio full of instruments that are waiting to be played.
Your beats won't all end up sounding the same if you use a project template. The most important thing to remember is that your sound selection doesn't entirely determine the originality of your productions. Your musical ideas play an equally, if not more important part in the uniqueness of your music.
Check out “6 Ways to Speed Up Your Ableton Workflow” for more tips on producing music faster.
3. Push Through The Start-Up Phase
Don't expect to make very much money, or any money at all during the first couple of months making beats. You're very likely going to invest hundreds of hours into this new endeavor of yours before you see any return on your time investment.
Writing beats is fun when you're inspired to do so, but you're not going to be inspired every day. Writer's block is something that everyone faces, and if you don't find a way to deal with it, you're not going to last very long as a music producer.
Learn Music Production On The Go
There are techniques you can use to beat writer’s block, so even if you feel stuck, you aren’t out of luck. Some days, writing beats will feel like pulling teeth, and other days, beats will flow out of you like a waterfall.
If you can push through 2-3 years of working a part-time beat-making job for inhuman wages, while continually struggling with writer's block, you may be cut out to make beats for a living.
I'm sure getting started as a beatmaker doesn't sound that glorious now, but the reality is that the start-up phase of a career in the music industry rarely is. Set long-term goals and expect long-term results.
4. Promote Your Beats
To get people to buy your beats, you need to promote your music heavily. Promoting your beats requires an effective marketing strategy that makes use of multiple online platforms.
I highly recommend you create a website, mailing list, Facebook business page, Twitter business page, Instagram business page, and YouTube channel. It’s also a good idea to set up an account on a dedicated beat store website like BeatStars, AIRBIT, SoundClick, Rocbattle, or Beat Brokerz.
Connect With Rappers
Setting up your social media accounts is easy, but building a following is the tricky part. Who are the people that you want following you? If you're selling beats, you probably want rappers following you and sharing your content.
Hashtags are a great way to find people looking for beats. Search for hashtags like #rapper or #lookingforbeats and reach out to the people tagging their content with these hashtags. A website like Hashtagify will allow you to find trending hashtags related to your primary hashtag searches.
Send rappers a friendly, personalized message and tell them you're interested in their music. Ask to hear some of their work and let them know that you make beats. You don't need to hard-sell your beats to people. Let it be known that you're a beatmaker and work on developing the relationship.
Check out “How to Network in the Music Industry” for some tips and tricks on effectively creating new business relationships.
The Importance of a Website
The reason it's vital to get your website set up is that if the social media websites you use decide to shut down, or they change their algorithms so that the exposure you were getting is significantly decreased, you're screwed.
If you’re looking for more customization options and know a little bit about writing code, Webflow is an excellent alternative to Wordpress.
The Importance of a Mailing List
A mailing list provides you with direct access to the inbox of your subscribers. If you can only invest your time into one thing, put it into your mailing list. Having social media followers is good, but an extensive, niche-specific mailing list is better.
Imagine being able to email 10,000 rappers every week with your newest content — the chances of making sales go up exponentially.
To create a simple mailing list you can use a website like MailChimp. It contains plenty of email templates that make contacting your mailing list a breeze.
A more powerful mailing list option is ConvertKit. It gives you the power to custom code your emails, tag subscribers, and push them through automation sequences.
Schedule Social Media Posts in Advance
What you'll quickly find is that promoting your music can be a part-time or even full-time job; it depends on how hard you're trying to push your content.
At the beginning of every month, I sit down at my computer and schedule all of my social media posts in advance. It usually takes the better part of an afternoon to do this, but then I don't have to worry about social media for the rest of the month.
You'll be preaching to an empty choir for a while, but eventually, people will catch onto what you're selling. You can learn about growing your social media following and mailing list by reading “How to Properly Release Music Online.”
I want to invite you to join me in the Black Ghost Audio group on Facebook; it's full of producers currently working in the music industry who are more than happy to help you improve your productions. Leave a comment below if you have any questions regarding this article. Your feedback is always appreciated, and we'll take it into account when we publish future articles.