So much as Google how to become a rapper, and ‘type beats’ will soon become part of your vocabulary. An underground slang term that’s very quickly become a mainstream turn of phrase. And that’s because these ‘internet beats’ have very much changed the way in which Hip Hop is produced for good. Only thing is, have they done so for the good?
Reason we ask is because buying instrumentals in 2023 is very much like buying a pair of shoes. You browse your options, cull your favourites and click ‘buy’ – job done. So for many artists (especially rappers) the whole process of vibing with a producer over their sound has somewhat gone out of the window. As you can imagine then, type beats don’t come without a reputation.
Over recent years they’ve sparked fury amongst established artists, who feel they’re being robbed of their sound. Couple that with rampant scaremongering over beat contracts and how the likes of T-Pain & Snoop Dogg have both criticised the use of type beats, and you’d be forgiven for giving them a wide birth. Yes, we saw T-Pain’s legendary rant (link below). But the real question is, should you believe it? Are type beats really warping the future of Hip Hop? Or are they in fact the way forward? Read on and we’ll reveal all.
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What is a type beat? How do you buy one?
A type beat is much like it sounds: a beat that’s created to emulate the style of current artist. You’ll most often find this type of beat across Hip Hop, although type beats are slowly worming their way into genres such as Pop and Rock too. Point being that if you know an artist that you want to sound like, chances are they’ll be some type beats out there that fit the bill.
Youtube is by far the easiest way to get your hands on a type beat, or at least take a listen. Type in something like “Drake type beat” and you’ll be greeted with 100s of beats of that style, that are either for sale, or already sold. If you are serious about buying a type beat, one thing to bear in mind is that what you’ll be listening to on Youtube will be an MP3 – not a HQ WAV file. That’s something you can specify when you go on to purchase a beat.
Typically the purchase of a type beat is done through a website – either a producer’s personal site or a distribution network like BeatStars. You’ll also be given a choice of sound quality, as well as what rights you’ll get with the beat.
To make this easy for you, WAV is the high quality audio choice (MP3s sound whack). And as for rights, if you were to buy a type beat, we’d always advise not cheaping-out & going for Exclusive Rights. What this basically means is that you (and only you) have the right to make a song with that beat. Anything less than Exclusive rights and another artist could jump on the same beat without your consent. Of course this is all subject to the lengthy contracts that come with buying beats.
A sheet of digital paper that we advise you read very thoroughly! Reason? Type beats that are licensed un-exclusively very often come with caps on streaming numbers, sale figures and even whereabouts you can use the beat for profit. So for instance if you were to make a hit with a type beat, and get millions of streams in a matter of weeks, you could be forced to renew your contract. Same applies if the contract doesn’t permit you to use the beat in live shows & suddenly you get asked to perform a set at Glasto.
Renewals that all come at a £$€, especially when your producer has the upper hands and can virtually ask anything they like. This is because there’s very few type beats which you can buy outright. Even with Exclusive Rights, the prod still has the legal right to their part of the composition.
Moral of the story: buying beats is much like buying a house with a mortgage. The size of your downpayment can give you more flexibility, but ultimately the lender (i.e. producer) is the outright owner of the asset – in this case, the beat.
Are free beats really free? ‘Free for profit’ explained…
So let’s dispel a myth – in 99% of cases free beats are not free.
That’s because while producers may hand out beats for free in a competition or just out of good will on the internet, what they’re actually giving away is a licence. Despite the beat being labelled ‘free’, the producer still owns that beat + the legal rights to its composition.
Therefore, if you were to make a hit single – just as if you bought the beat on a cheap lease – you’d then have to approach the producer to upgrade your licence. So while free beats are free in the sense that you don’t initially have to pay the £$€ to get them, in the long run they still could cost you.
The main reason not to buy free beats
Listen to type beats, or virtually any form of modern Hip Hop track and you’ll likely hear what’s known as a producer tag. Essentially a vocal affect that appears at the beginning of a song as a way to credit the producer. These will usually go something like “such & such on the beat” or “ya boy XXX made this“.
Not that it’s anything bad if used once in a song. Have an established producer tag at the beginning of your song, and suddenly you’re a lot more credible. Tags can actually do a LOT for your brand image. However, with free beats, they work in much the opposite way. That’s because with free beats you’ll find there’s about 5-10 producer tags that appear all the way through the song, often conveniently placed to cover up your killer punchline.
Neither does it sound good when the tag says something like “you should have paid for this” or “this is a free beat“. In the end, rap is all about the flex and if you can’t even muster up the cash to buy the beat, then it doesn’t really reflect very well on you.
So take it from us, don’t believe the hype about free beats. Yes, they’re great to download and freestyle to in your spare time (as practice). But when it comes to recording, we’d always say it’s worth putting some money behind you and your brand. Otherwise your tight pocket could actually work against you!
Here’s the pros and cons of type beats…
As you’ve probably already fathomed, for artists type beats have their upsides, as well as their downsides too. All things you should be fully aware of before investing in a beat licence with your hard earned cash. Otherwise you could end up spending £100s on a type beat that pulls you into a sticky financial situation, or worse, scars your rep.
So to avoid this from being the case, here’s the lowdown on the pros and cons of using type beats…
Pros of type beats
|Put simply, most wannabe rappers don’t have the fanbase they need in order to generate a decent amount of money from their music. So investing major money into beats may not be the wisest business decision. Hence why in this situation, type beats seem to make sense. For the quality of production, you’ll struggle to find better value beats for beginners. You can usually lease a beat with decent streaming restrictions for under £100.
|As reiterated earlier, getting your hands on a type beat is a walk in the park. In fact, you could probably find a beat and buy it within just a couple of hours. Even less if you’re clued up on what you’re after.
Just be sure to only buy beats through genuine retailers – either BeatStars or a prod’s own website. If you get asked to wire people money via IG, see it as a red flag.
|It’s fair to say that just as type beats have changed the way in which sound is used, they’ve also had an effect on its evolution. With the ever-growing network of type beats bringing producers and their ideas closer together, it’s fair to say that the type beat has sped up the evolution of sound. It only seems like yesterday that Drill music came about (a micro-genre of Hip Hop) and yet today you can get type beats of everything from RnB Drill, right the way up to House Drill and even Jazz Drill.
|Aside from allowing artists to get their foot in the door for a relatively low cost, type beats have also helped many a producer to make music their career. So much so that these beats have opened up the music business to virtually anyone, opposed to being the hush-hush type of trade it used to be, where you needed ‘connections’ to be recognised.
Cons of type beats
|Let’s face it, making a song with a type beat is in essence jumping on someone else’s sound. Now don’t get us wrong – there’s nothing wrong with that. But if your goal is to stand out from the pack, then type beats might not be the way to go.
You see, music labels are on the lookout for artists that stand out and are original in their approach. Key word there: original. Something that you’ll find it a lot harder to be with a type beat, as it’s not your bespoke sound.
Just a heads up, it’s this ‘lack of originality’, which is why established rappers claim that modern rap all just sounds the same.
|Yep – you could say that type beats are sapping the music industry of creativity. Why? Because with beats readily available on demand, the music game is heading towards becoming more a numbers game, with less of a focus on creativity.
Now we know that’s a strong claim, but ask yourself this – what songs over the past year really stood out to you? Struggling? That’s because music today (especially Hip Hop) is quickly becoming more commercialised. So really, you have to adopt one of two strategies. Either spend months on a project and hope it sticks, or spew out multiple songs every month (usually using a type beat) to build any sort of momentum.
|Now , you don’t need us to tell you that leasing type beats can be restrictive. Buy a type beat and you’ll likely be capped on the amount of streams, sales and where you can use the beat.
Want to make any changes and you’ll have to upgrade your licence. All of which comes at a £££.
Are type beats really worth it in 2023?
Really whether type beats are worth it, all comes back to your situation.
If you’re a new rapper who’s looking to make a mark without the backing of a label, then yes – type beats would most likely be a good option. They’re affordable, high quality and despite the restrictions, a good way for you as beginner to get your head around working with producers.
What’s more, type beats are also help you get your head around the legalities of a contract, as you’ll have to sign many of these through your career. So making the mistake of buying a £50 type beat that isn’t perhaps what it said on the tin, is all good experience. That way you should be more clued-up for signing those bigger (and slightly more important) contracts further down the line.
However, if you’ve already got the backing of a label or strong finances, then a type beat isn’t perhaps the way to go. In which case, we’d suggest spending that bit extra to get a bespoke beat and develop your sound. Do so and you stand a good chance of zinging out from the crowd, as not only is your sound original, but it’s pushing the genre forward. Something that we @ Music Lowdown think = serious street cred.
Enjoy this review of type beats & eager for more? Don’t miss out on all our latest Vocal Advice, as well as all our Guides on Making Music. Recently, we also did a rundown of the Best Rap Mics + another on the Best Audio Interfaces, which (if you’re making music) may also be of interest!
Or if you’re here purely to learn about type beats and still have a burning question, keep reading to discover even more about why types beats could (or could not) work for you…