I originally wrote this about the rap scene in and around my hometown in Louisiana, but as I’ve traveled more and more I find that artists, especially those who rap or produce rap music have identical complaints no matter the city. This is what led me to share my thoughts with you on the challenge of becoming more than a local joker who raps. The transition into professional musicianship takes time, effort & consistency. Most want microwave (instant) success….but there is no overnight or instant success in the business of music. Music promotion done properly takes time, effort, research, dedication, consistency and (yes) a significant budget.
One of the biggest problems that artists have is understanding how the business of music works. Different people believe different things & it really seems like nobody does any research or has any desire to truly learn why they’re not getting the results they seek. Most artists & indie labels just do what the next person is doing in hopes of getting different results. Twitter has been around for NINE years & everyday thousands of unknown rappers send tweets to @diddy & @russellsimmons & @drdre & countless others asking for deals or to be heard – not even realizing that the music industry doesn’t work this way and isn’t talent based.
Yes, young artists, it’s a myth – a lie – basically bullshit – that a person’s talent is gonna get them noticed online & signed to a deal that makes them rich & famous. Sorry, don’t mean to bust any bubbles, but it doesn’t work that way
Another thing I’ve noticed are the major misconceptions about “unity” in other markets – and the appearance that it’s easier in any other city than the one where the struggling artist currently resides. An Atlanta artist wants to go to New York or LA (where the labels at) – a San Antonio rapper wants to go to Houston (where they show love) – all across the country, artists wanna go to Atlanta (where it’s easy to get on). The truth of the matter is that if an artist can’t dominate in their local market, then it’s highly unlikely that a change of location will alter their fortunes overnight. Too many rappers want to expand their reach before they have a name in their own city. An artist can use “home” as a test market and learn how to master proper promotion & marketing tactics – instead of running to a strange place, getting promised the world, then ending up being raped by a conman. It’s not the city – it’s YOU.
There are many more problems that exist when trying to establish an artist in the business of music – but nothing that an educated, hard working, persistent person can’t overcome.
Breaking a record is not easy….establishing yourself as an artist is not simple….it’s not done overnight. Becoming successful as a rapper or music artist is somewhat complicated and definitely time consuming. There is no quick fix or shortcut that you can buy or pay for that will eliminate the hard work it takes to become an artist who gets paid for their craft. You will need money to promote and market yourself and your music – but money doesn’t replace the need for consistent work. Money is the companion to consistent work & effort.
To speak on solutions……one of the FIRST things an aspiring artist has to accept is that NOBODY owes you a chance or a listen….NOBODY cares but your closest friends & family (& they might not care). Other than a very few ppl who are close to you – none of the rest of us give a fuck about your music or your flow or your style or none of that….we’re not hating….we just DON’T CARE. When you chose to become a rapper/singer/producer or whatever – you chose the job of winning us over. You’ve got to start that long journey of winning us over by being consistent & persistent.
There are 10,000 of you rap niggaz running around any given city – why should I listen to you? What does it benefit me to listen to you? Why should I waste my time listening to you? Why should I give you a chance? Why should I stop listening to my favorite artist to listen to you?
^^^^^^^^^^^^^ That’s the attitude of the average person that you approach with your music. There are too many rappers to take all of y’all serious. Everybody is a rapper or producer or manager or own a record label – blah blah blah blah.
In order for anyone to take you serious you need to be CONSISTENT. You’ve got to reach out to multiple people EVERYDAY – not just on the days you feel like it….and not just online. As an aspiring artist – everywhere you go is a promo opportunity. If you’re pumpin’ gas & see someone in the age range of people who like the kinda music u make – approach em. (Don’t lie to yourself that your music appeals to “everybody” – each kind of music has a target demographic – find yours and market to those people).
I can’t stress enough the necessity of being CONSISTENT. Jf you consistently approach 30-50 ppl per day every day for 1 month, you’ve directly exposed at least 1,000 people to your brand & music career. Going to malls, college campuses, car washes, barber shops, hair salons, hood stores, gas stations, quick marts, parks, projects, apartment complexes, sporting events, concerts etc. will allow you to easily run across 150-250 people a day. When promoting a single I set a goal for myself, the artist and each team member to pass out 100 singles a day hand to hand. Don’t believe that physical cd’s are worth your trouble as a promo tool? Read this: Physical Music Sales Dead? CDs & Vinyl say “Not Quite Yet”!! (If you’re a super cd hater who denies the numbers in that article — look at Taylor Swift — the ONLY artist to go platinum in 2014 — sold 1.3 million copies her first week & over 400,000 of them were CD’s!)
The promotion of music is a numbers game. You’ve got to reach enough people with your music in order for it to start to resonate.
It takes MONTHS to break a record to the people and win them over. You’re going to live thru many rejections – be forced to accept the fact that not everybody is going to like your music or vibe with you. You gotta jump over the hurdles and thru the hoops to separate yourself from the rest of the lazy, babified, wack, heartless, spineless, coward, playtime rappers.
Everybody ain’t built for this business…..the business of music is for the self-motivated, self-inspired, super hustling, never say quit type of person. Most rappers are just attention seeking lames who feel the world owes them something…..but the truth of the matter is that as a rapper – YOU owe the people consistently jamming music that you consistently push & promote & market. If you’re not out there head first behind your own musical career then you can’t expect to have real fans. If you’re not physically meeting people every day of your life trying to expand your brand, then you can’t expect to have a career in music. The business of music requires more work than 99.99% of you realize.
You’ve got to win the people over BEFORE you get played in the clubs….BEFORE you run and try to get on the radio…..you gotta start with the PEOPLE…..when the PEOPLE in the club start asking the DJ for your music back to back to back to back – bugging him to play your music — then he’s GOTTA give u a spin……then when there are 20, 30, 40 or 100+ ppl in the club that know the lyrics because they have been jamming your music for weeks — the DJ notices…..he knows now that you’ve been puttin in major work behind that song…..he also knows that if he plays that song it’s gonna get the club turnt up…..and he’s gonna play it on the regular — because a DJ’s job has nothing to do with breaking YOUR record. A DJ’s job is to keep the people in the venue dancing. They’re not gonna dance to a song they never heard before and so the DJ isn’t gonna play your song that nobody has heard before…….your new & unfamiliar song kills the vibe of the crowd. The DJ ain’t hating on you – you just need to give him a reason to play your music – this requires WORK!
It’s YOUR job to make your music familiar to as many people as possible….whether they hate or refuse to listen or whatever excuse you try to make for yourself….if you stay at it, you’ll start to convince people to give you a listen — and that’s when your music gotta resonate and speak for you……..if you’ve got great music and a solid work ethic, there are no limits to what you can accomplish in music. To win over fans you gotta be consistent…..
The last thing that I”ma say to struggling rappers is this……..shit that magnet out….don’t act like you don’t understand – shit out that magnet shoved deep in ya ass that won’t let you go over 30-45 minutes from home. Unless you live in one of the 10-15 biggest cites in America, the population of your city isn’t big enough to get you the buzz and accolades you seek.
When you’re buzzing locally – you’re NOT getting more than $2,000 a show…..you can’t garner significant sales JUST in your local area. Quit trying to be the king of your hood and expand and branch out – but only AFTER you dominate your immediate area. Once you have momentum begin to travel….beyond 25 miles…..beyond 50 miles…..beyond 250 miles.
Rappers are quick to say that artists from a certain city make all the money in their area. 99 times out of 100 that’s because they travel and promote themselves….just like they go different places building their followings……you gotta GO to the places where you wanna be hot and put that work in. It starts from block to block, neighborhood to neighborhood, city to city, town to town – working, establishing a following, meeting people, networking, growing…..over and over and farther and farther.
At the end of the day – the problem with “homegrown” rap is the rappers. If you wanted to succeed as bad as you claim to, you wouldn’t have time to complain and gripe and cry about how hard it is to win support, or get dj play, or get shows, etc. If you are a rapper reading this – there is no excuse for your lack of success except the person you look at in the mirror. You are SOLELY responsible for ALLLLLLLLLL your losses. You’re not about to give anybody credit for helping you win – so when you’re losing, run straight to the mirror and point at the person you see. That person in the mirror is the reason your song not catching on – that person in the mirror is the reason everybody hate on you – that person in the mirror is the reason no promoter wanna book you —- everything negative that happens to you in the music business is the fault of the person in the mirror……because they’re not working hard enough & smart enough & strong enough & long enough to make your dreams come true.
B.G. said it on a album….and the saying was so true that he needed 2 volumes to remind you: IT’S ALL ON YOU
Tony Guidry is Senior Marketing Manager for A Scratchy Throat. A Scratchy Throat – the brainchild of music industry mainstay Wendy Day – provides professional digital marketing specifically designed for today’s aspiring artists & indie labels. Tony is also owner of Authentic Artists Alliance and exclusive booking contact for Trouble (Duct Tape Ent/2 Tru Ent), O.Z. Mr. 28 Grams (Fratt Boi Muzic Group) and Racked Up Ready (Bow Ent). For digital marketing services or booking inquiries email: OGTonyG@gmail.com or Tony@aScratchyThroat.com