I’ve always laughed when I heard about rappers that asked for free beats, and they think that music producers are just sitting around this magical lab all day, pulling full-fledged and professional beats, right out of a hat. “Here you go, your majesty. A fresh beat for you and your clan, good luck to all”, as you disappear back into your secret music hideaway, off to concoct another splendid production.
What They Think
Don’t get me wrong – there are plenty of rappers that are serious about their craft and would love to buy a beat from you, but there are some that have no clue whatsoever. They think that because you’re in the background and they’re the rapper that everyone will see – that you don’t matter. And if they don’t think that you matter, then they obviously don’t think that your beats matter, otherwise they would be paying you for them.
They think that it takes you 5 minutes to slap together a head nodder because all you do is piece together pre-made loops, copy and paste on your computer for a bunch of bars, until you have a 4 minute beat that is ready for just anyone to spit on top.
The worst part is that they think that by you giving them a beat, it’s like a privilege! Like you should be honored to be working with THEM! Like you have nothing else better to do but to give away free beats all the time and live off of peanut butter and jam sandwiches (which sounds really good right now, actually).
What Really Goes On
I don’t have to tell you this, but you and your beats matter. These rappers don’t realize that you spend a lot of time and money not only making beats, but perfecting your craft. You’re not just sitting there with a pen and paper, but you’re researching online, reading articles like this one, learning new tips and techniques from tutorials, and finding out what the latest products are so you can add something new to your studio.
You then spend hours upon hours every day making beats and trying to better yourself, constantly struggling to make something greater than the last. You spend lots of time networking and hustling, trying to connect with other people in the industry so you can get your beats heard – and sold.
Working For Free
Many times I’ve heard, “never work for free”, and that is a great saying, but not always true. I would say that you should never work for free under certain circumstances, like for example, if you worked at McDonald’s, you’re not going work for free, right? Of course not. But when it comes to making beats, there are times when it’s okay to work for free.
I’ve had rappers approach me and wanted to work with me on their next album. The key is that they approached me and wanted to work with me. Notice how they didn’t just hit me up and be all, “yo hit me with a beat for free”. No, instead they wanted to work WITH me. I liked their work as an MC, so I gave them some beats for free. It wasn’t anything special, but they used a few of the beats and it helped them get along, which also then helped me put my name out there.
This all goes back to networking. In the example I just gave you, I hooked up with a few MC’s, hit them up with free beats, and thus, I made a connection.
I made a new connection.
I was networking.
They got beats that they were able to use.
I got my name out there (free promotion).
I’m not saying that you do this all the time with everyone, because then that would just defeat the purpose of everything I’m saying here. If you meet up with an MC and he (or she) is really good, then why not give them some free beats and work with them? If anything, you could see how it goes and what kind of response you get from your beats and their vocals. It may not work out, but maybe it will.
For those rappers that expect free beats, normally they give you all sorts of excuses. They will ask you for free beats, then once you tell them your prices, they start with, “I’m working with so and so on X label and we’re putting out my album real soon” – like as if by you giving them beats, all of a sudden both of you will become overnight superstars.
“Let me use your beat, then once the album drops and we make enough money back, I’ll hit you off”, is another common excuse. No way, don’t fall for it.
Those types of rappers are all full of it. They will come out with any excuse in the book to get a beat from you. What that tells me is that they’re not serious, and they’re broke. If they were serious about their music, they would have money set aside to pay you for your hard work. When they ask for free beats, they’re just devaluing your beats, as well as themselves.
If you ever do get approached by a rapper that wants free beats from you, kindly tell them that you don’t work for free and then give them your prices. You can gauge their response and see if they’re serious or not, then maybe you could adjust your prices if you think they might actually want to buy a beat from you. It won’t hurt to actually check them out too and see if they’re dope or not. You wouldn’t want just anybody rapping over your beats, would you?
There are times to make money from your beats, and there are times when it’s okay to work for free. When you get approached by someone for free beats, use your head and think before you react. The last thing you want to do is just give away your hard work and let someone use your beat as they see fit. Make sure you either get paid, or end up networking and forming a good connection. Good luck!