Music executives are buying the beats of viral songs

Updated: Feb 17, 2021

According to a report by the Rolling Stone, record labels are buying the beats of viral songs, often without the knowledge of the artist. Some in the music industry find this practice to be unethical and claim it can turn someone's viral breakthrough into a complete nightmare.

Nowadays it is common for beginning singers and rappers to use beats from YouTube or other places to create a track. It's a convenient way to create a song, but some artists don’t realise they don't own the rights to the beats they used. Making them an easy target for sketchy label tactics.

A record label can buy the beat of a viral song prior to negotiations with the artist, given them the right to sue for copyright infringement. Cornering the artist into a deal if the negotiations aren’t in the labels favour. The pre-acquisition gives the record labels a lot of leverage over the artist, who is frequently unaware of this scenario being possible, due to lack of copyright knowledge.

This scenario became real for rappers Lil Xxel and Jaah SLT after their songs went viral and record label ‘94 Sounds swooped up the beats they used. The record label sued for copyright infringement when negotiations hid a dead end.

Because the rappers had licensed the beats from their previous owners, their lawyers argue that ‘94 Sounds can’t file for copyright infringement. But according to ‘94 Sounds; when they buy out a beat, any previously sold non-exclusive licenses become invalid. Thus far a judge hasn't made a verdict on the case.

Caleb Hearn is another artist who fell victim to ‘94 Sounds shady tactics after his song went viral last December. In a TikTok video he explains he feels like he was taking advantage of by the record label and claims that:

“An artist blowing up on TikTok is the most vulnerable person ever.”

Co-owner of ‘94 Sounds, Justin Goldman, claims his company only uses these tactics because they want to work with an artist and “push the song”. He does acknowledge that some managers and artists have been “taken aback” when the beats behind their songs are suddenly owned by his company, but adds:

“It’s not my fault that there is an inexperienced manager or the team of the artist doesn’t feel like [a beat buyout] is just.”

Roy LaManna, whose music-tech company Vydia has helped numerous creators monetise their viral content, told the Rolling Stone:

“Nowadays, songs can go viral and become extremely valuable overnight. While this may be an artist’s dream, they need to make sure they obtain all the proper licenses prior to release or it could quickly turn into a nightmare.”

Source: Rolling Stone