Last week I said that I’d give alternate suggestions to buying features and explain the “philosophy” behind major labels providing signed artists with features.
Let me start by saying that any major label – any mid-major with major label distribution – will spend upwards of a million dollars on the promotion and marketing of an artist’s single. Additional money will be spent on the promo/mktg of the artist’s album. A major label will often “hedge” it’s bet and stack the deck by adding a hot artist to a new artist’s song to bolster the already hefty budget behind the song.
The logic of adding a feature is lost on most indie labels and aspiring artists. They fall victim to the belief that “star power” makes these songs with features into hits – so they want to buy a feature – a verse – a hook from the ‘flavor of the month’ artist. The reality is that the feature is designed to maximize the reach of the promo & marketing campaign. Most indie labels & artists who buy features don’t have a promo plan or budget. Unknowingly, they assume that the presence of another hot artist will automatically get their music heard. The truth is that a feature from a major artist doesn’t increase the reach or influence of your record if there’s not a substantial budget to promote the song.
For example, it’s an error in logic to assume that French Montana blew up in 2012 because Rick Ross, Drake and Lil Wayne were on the “Pop That” song with him. Millions of dollars were spent on the promotion of French’s single and album. The combination of proper funding, star power & catchy song all added up to a platinum plaque for all the artists involved.
Success is not always the case with features on a major level, for example, Yo Gotti’s “Women Lie, Men Lie” single with Lil Wayne & Young Jeezy’s “Ballin” also with Lil Wayne would’ve done much better than peaking at 81 & 57 respectively, simply because of the presence of Wayne on the record. Both of these songs were released during the time of Wayne’s “prime”, when he was one of the most sought after artists in music. Despite the mega-watt star power of a Lil Wayne feature both singles had very lackluster sales.
There are DOZENS of examples of artists who’ve dropped singles with features that did phenomenal. There are TENS of THOUSANDS of examples of artists who’ve dropped singles with features that absolutely flopped. For an indie, depending on the star-quality of a featured artist to “break” the record is equivalent to throwing the money away. The truth of the matter is this: without the proper promotional plan behind a song, the features alone aren’t enough to spread the music to a wide enough cross-section of the population. It’s all about promoting and marketing the great music you have. I’m a proponent of working your way into position where better known artists seek YOU out, rather than paying them
My point in all this is that a feature is not a cure for your obscurity.
Moving on…..I believe a fair cost investment for artists on a small to medium budget would be to take the money you have earmarked to buy a feature, and instead, buy quality production from a known, yet somewhat new up & coming producer. I live in Atlanta, and for the artists I’ve had the pleasure of working with we often put them in the studio with Sonny Digital or Metro Boomin or Will A Fool or Bobby Johnson or Young Carter. There are a plethora of new, yet known producers whose names are familiar to DJs, Program Directors & most importantly FANS. For less than the price you’d pay the ‘flavor of the month’ hot rapper – you can get some professional production with a hot name attached.
When you’re promoting your lead single, you don’t want Rapper A, Rapper B & ME to be on the song. The song should be JUST ME – produced by: SUPERHOT PRODUCER. An indie label or up&coming artist doesn’t have the luxury and often not the budget to waste your own money copromoting whoever you add as a featured artist. Another artist’s name on ur album or single artwork means the everywhere YOUR name is presented THEIRS is too. Why would you PAY an artist for a feature then add their name and/or pic to YOUR promo material that YOU have to PAY for??? Better to spend that on a quality producer that’s ALREADY selling records, getting radio play & is known as a hitmaker.
Use the affordable producers who have a track record – no matter how small – of filling dance floors, getting radio spins and selling units. Ultimately, the promotional & marketing plans behind the music will get it heard. I can’t express enough how important a properly budgeted promo/mktg campaign is to any record, especially an indie or aspiring artist.
The song – the music itself – must be a great strong. The song is the foundation which you will build upon. The taller the building you wish to build, the deeper & sounder the foundation must be. It takes a very very strong foundation to build a tall structure. If you wish your career to stand head & shoulders above the rest, then it is important your foundation (music) be professionally produced, recorded, mixed & mastered. PROFESSIONALLY. With the right foundation you can build a structure that is as unique and creative as you are – a monument (career) that can be seen and recognized far & wide.
The foundation is the music. The building is made from your promotional efforts and marketing campaign. Just like erecting a skyscraper, if you’re project wastes money left & right on non-effective promo and non-specific marketing, then the quality of what you are building diminishes, the time it takes to build will be longer and ultimately the structure will not be of the stature you wish. Again, the foundation is the music. If the mixdown is amateurish and the production isn’t A1, then you can’t expect to build a skyscraper of a career on that kinda foundation. Make your foundation the strongest that you can possibly make it: that way you can build a career that is as high and as tall as you wish.
You must know HOW to build on your foundation. You’ve got to study which promo materials are effective and which are not.
Is a few hundred styrofoam cups with your label name on them spreading the word about your newest music to multiple people? Or did you buy the styrofoam cups because you saw a major label artist do it? Is your website, download link, artist booking and label contact info on a styrofoam cup?
Will stickers with your label logo help to bring awareness to the ARTIST that your label is pushing? Or should you make artist stickers? Song stickers?
There are hundreds of more examples of ways that money is WASTED during the promo stages of a campaign. At the same time there is no ONE way to promote & market music. The methods you use should be a combination of provenly effective methods and tactics unique to the artist and kind of music that’s being marketed.
Ultimately, the responsibility for knowing what to do is totally yours as artist or label. You must study what actually works and be aware of what is a waste of money. This music industry isn’t rocket science – but it’s not Lego blocks either. To be taken seriously you have to know more than how to make words rhyme. Spending on your rap career costs, while investing in your rap career enables you to be in position to not only make your money back; but also to see a return on your investment that let’s you lIve your dreams.
Tony Guidry is Senior Marketing Manager for A Scratchy Throat. A Scratchy Throat – the brainchild of music industry mainstay Wendy Day – provides professional social media marketing specifically designed for today’s aspiring artists.