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QOTD: Can I use beats I find online free for non profit use?
This depends on the producer you are trying to download beats from. Usually producers will have some kind of free beat download initiative but always get their permission first and don't just stream-rip music from their YouTube channel or try to jack a beat from their website. Make sure that the producer is actually giving away free downloads and there is an official download link to do so. Always follow the producer's rules for using beats for free. That might entail subscribing to their newsletter, joining their website, or following them on social media. Always make sure you understand their free beat policy so you don't run the risk of being served a copyright strike.
Just because a producer is giving away free downloads to their beats that doesn't mean you can record a song and sell it online, perform with it live or put it on the radio. Free beats are for non profit use only, which means you can record a song and give it away for free or have people stream it on sites like SoundCloud or YouTube. You can't put it on the radio, as that usually entails some sort of royalty payment, and you can't perform with it live as venues usually pay performance fees or have cover/drinks charges at the venue, which means the producer's music is being used in a monetized fashion (other people are benefiting financially). What you also can't do is upload a video or song to YouTube and monetize it with advertisements. In order to do that you need a Synchronization license. When in doubt, always talk to the producer about your intended use of their beats and get their blessing. Always give credit to the producer, whether that's in the song/video title, description, or anywhere else you can fit it.
Let's flip the question on its head for a second; should producers give away free beats to artists?
In my opinion yes you should, but only if you're getting something in return. For example, you could be asking an artist for their email address, you could ask them to register on your site, or you could ask them to follow you on Twitter or subscribe to your YouTube channel before downloading. Always look to get some sort of value out of giving something away for free. Otherwise you're just throwing away your hard work for nothing which doesn't serve anyone and waters down the entire music production industry which doesn't help you or anyone else.
On the other hand, when I first started producing over a decade ago, giving out free beats really helped me to grow my brand awareness, network with musicians and build my future relationships with artists with a lot of potential and talent. For me, a lot of the artists I used to give free beats to, are now the same great recurring clients that are signed to indie and major labels and buy from me regularly. Some are also videomakers who now own huge YouTube channels or make feature films and TV shows using my beats. You can see that potentially there can be a lot of power in giving away something for free and you will get something back in the long term.
So yes, give away beats for free, but make sure you get something in return!
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