Welcome to part two of the ‘How To Make A Mixtape, The Ultimate Guide’ series. This is a three part series detailing good practices and tips on how to make a mixtape and sell it. For those that haven’t read already (Or even if you have but just want to get reacquainted with the basics), you should read:
before you read this. Also once you’ve finished reading this check out:
If you’ve already read that, let’s move on. In part two we’ll be looking at how ethical it is to use other people’s beats for your mixtape, where to get backing tracks for your mixtape, and finally how to make your mixtape stand out from the crowd. So without any further ado, let’s get into it.
Can You Use Other People’s Beats On Mixtapes?
This is still a question without any concrete answers. While everyone has their own opinions on this matter, mixtapes are generally known for musicians vocalizing already well known backing tracks. This practice is very widely accepted, especially in the more urban hip hop and grime music scenes. Many producers and vocalists don’t mind people doing versions of their material as long as they’re not used for commercial release. If you did want to commercially release your version, you’d have to contact and get permission from the original owners of the martial before you could go any further. You’d also have to pay them royalties if you’ll be selling the song.
There are some people that don’t want others to use their material without permission though, whether people are making money from it or not. As other people’s beats are copyrighted, using them without permission could lead to a law suit. However, this is very rare if you’re only using their instrumentals for mixtapes. The most I’ve seen happen from tons of mixtapes I’ve seen been released is an angry email being sent by the original producer (They wanted to cash in on the mixtape’s success, but the issue was resolved by the producers tune being taken off the mixtape instead).
While I’d say using other people’s material for mixtape songs is largely safe, you’re still using copyrighted material so do so at your own risk.
Where Can You Get Beats For Mixtapes
Once you know what type of beats you’ll be using for your mixtape (Original or already popular beats) you have to go about getting them. If you’ll be using already popular beats, most of them can be found by doing a quick Google search. You’ll want to search the name of the artist that sings the song, followed by the name of the song and then the word ‘instrumental’. So for example, you may do the search “Rihanna Rude Boy Instrumental”. This search result will turn up places you can get your chosen instrumentals on the internet. Some will have to be paid for, some will be free. I recommend you only download off trusted website though, as illegal websites may have viruses on them which can ruin your computer.
One really good website I’ve found for getting instrumentals is Karaoke Version. This website allows you to CUSTOMIZE and download popular beats for a low price (£1.50 / $1.99 EACH). Say for example you want to download a popular instrumental but didn’t like the horns in the song. No problem, you can easily edit the horns out before you download it. Or don’t like the drums? You can get rid of that too. This of course is a great customization feature and allows you to get your mixtape sounding exactly how you want it.
If you will be using original beats however, you may have to do a bit more searching. You’ll need to find producers who can make an instrumental you like and will be willing to let you use it for your mixtape. If you’re new starting out in music this can be tricky, but not impossible. An alternative is to buy beats from a specialized store.
One method I’ve found that works is using forums. Forums are a great place for communities to get together and discuss a specific niche, and you’ll often find producers, singers, designers and much more on the more popular ones. So, how do you go about finding these producers?
First you need to find a relevant forum. I suggest you Google search your chosen genre of music followed by the word ‘forum’ which will give a list of the top forums in that genre. Look around the top three for a while, sometimes the producers hang around and post their material in a ‘production’ area of the forum. Other times you’ll have to to a bit more digging. If there’s no select area for producers, try posting a topic saying you’re looking for producers to feature on your mixtape. Leave a sample of your work and a contact email address. This will hopefully have producers finding your post and contacting you if they like what they hear. Note though, it’s always advisable to post a few replies to other topics before you post your own to look like you’re part of the community. You’ll get a much better response if you do this as you won’t look like you’re just spamming the forum.
Another place you can find producers is MySpace. You may already have an idea of some producers in your chosen music genre, but if not, do a bit of research and MySpace message these people. When messaging someone to ask for a beat, make sure you keep the message short and straight to the point. Even if they’re a slightly well know producer they may be getting messages every day, so you’ll need to be able to make your point quickly. You also want to appear professional (No slang or short hand, message fully spell checked etc) and list the benefits of you using their material. Lastly, make sure you give a sample of your material and contact details so they can get back to you if they so choose.
These are some of the main and most effective ways for getting beats for your mixtape, but there are many others so don’t be afraid to experiment with other methods as well.
How To Make Your Mixtape Stand Out
Mixtapes in some genres of music have become pretty much a standard thing. Even if they wouldn’t define it as a mixtape, a demo with 6 or more tracks if basically what a mixtape is all about. So with everyone having or making mixtapes it’s important for you to make yours stand out. But how can you go about doing this? Here are a few ideas:
- Get Your Mixtape Everywhere
If you want your mixtape to stand out and get noticed, you’ll need to make sure your mixtape cover is seen everywhere. Repetition is a very powerful thing, and even if someone sees (But doesn’t notice) your mixtape the first few times, if they keep seeing the cover they will eventually. Subconsciously they will have built up an interest in your mixtape, and are more likely to at least look into what it’s about. One way of getting your mixtape everywhere is by using an online distribution company such as Songcast. Songcast distribute your music into all the biggest online stores (iTunes, Amazon etc) as well as some more niche online shops. Getting an account with Songcast is currently free, so sign up and have a look round.
- Mix Your Mixtapes
This may sound obvious, but you can mix your mixtapes to make them stand out from the crowd. Many mixtapes are structured in the same way as an album, tune after tune with a small gap in-between each one. Not many people actually make the songs blend together, so doing this will differentiate yours. This will make your CD sound like it’s flowing better, and sound like an overall experience rather then a bunch of songs put together. Be warned though, this’ll make it harder for Djs to use selected tracks easily. A solution for this however is to put all of or the most popular songs unmixed at the end of the CD. This’ll make everyone happy. You can also just send the unmixed tracks to Djs directly if there’s no more space on your CD.
- Create A Talking Point
One great way to making your mixtape stand out it by doing something unique, but not just with your music. How about you call your mixtape something that can’t help but be noticed, or give away freebies to anyone that buys it? UK rapper Bashy is a great inspiration when it comes to making his mixtapes stand out, boosting awareness by getting everyone to talk about them. He did this by: 1: Calling one of his mixtapes “Ur Mum Volume 1”, a provocative title which had people talking about it well before it’s release, 2: Giving away a free lolly pop attached to the side of his second mix CD “The Chupa Chups mix CD”, and 3: Calling his third website “Bashy.com” to promote his new website. Ideas like this can really get people talking about your mixtape and want to give your music a listen, so think about how you can differentiate your mixtape to create a buzz around your product.
- Remix The Backing Tracks Of Already Known Songs
Many mixtapes use well known songs with the musicians vocals, but why not remix the backing track too? A website I mentioned earlier in this post (Karaoke Version) allows you to do just that, taking out any bits of the track you don’t like. Give it a go.
- Do A Mixtape Series
Many people release mixtapes with too many songs on them. They fill their mixtape up with thirty songs / the full 80 minutes of a CD and don’t come with any other material for a very long time (If at all). What people don’t realise is you need to build up momentum in your music career, you can’t just release one mixtape and expect you’ll make a name for yourself just from that. You need to be consistent and release regular material, if you’re constantly in people’s faces they’re more likely to take notice. Release just one CD is not doing a lot to stay in the spot light. As it takes a lot of time to record a 80 minute CD (Which is why people take so long to release their follow up if they haven’t stopped recording by then), why not make those tunes into three separate 25 minute CDs? Or two 40 minute CDs? That way you’ll have material to follow up with every say three months and stay in the public eye. And just for the fact you’re releasing regular material people will talk about you.
Remember, even if you’re first mixtape doesn’t take off that well but your second and third one do, there’s always the chance of re-releasing the first one to make further sales. People may even order your first CD without any promotion so they can hear how you started out or just get more of your material.
If you do decide to do a mixtape series, make sure you keep all the mixtape names the same, differentiating them by adding ‘volume 1’ and ‘volume 2’ etc at the end. This will give your brand continuity and allow people to more easily recognise your material.
- Get Established Features
While this isn’t exactly an original idea, it is effective. If you get a musician everyone want to hear on your mixtape, everyone will have a look even if to only see that musician. If your vocals on the song are good enough, there’s a good chance you’ll convert some of the feature’s fans in to your own. And being associated with a top act also raises the way people see you.
While it’s not always easy to get an established act on your mixtape, once you get the first one it’ll be easier from there (Providing you have enough talent). You can then name drop (This may sound ‘un-cool’ but it is a method that can work very well) and use that name to get other big names to work with you. There’ll always be people who’ll think “He worked with him, I guess that means it’ll be a good idea for me to work with him too”, and the more established musicians you work with the more that will be willing to collaborate.
Parts one and three of the ultimate mixtape guide are now out, so check them out via the below links for some more great mixtape tips!
Well, that’s about it for part two of the ‘How To Make A Mixtape, The Ultimate Guide’ series, in part three we”ll be giving tips on pressing up your mixtape, releasing your mixtape and pricing your mixtape.
Make sure you sign up to email updates at the top of this page to be sent part three directly to your email inbox once it’s available. Alternatively, sign up to the RSS feed below to be notified whenever we have a new post. As always, I’m looking forward to reading your comments.