Just the other day I was talking to an artist (Rapper A) during a meeting in a club here in NYC. We were discussing some rap beats that he wanted to buy and what he felt was a fair price for exclusive ownership. During our conversation, he began complaining about the economic climate and the effect that it was having on record sales. I started to feel like I was watching the news and getting the company line from Sony or Columbia. I could hear a hint of depression in his voice so I thought to write this article and share it with him and anyone else that might be interested enough to read.
For starters, I feel that the passion for the music that you are creating must be present in whatever you do. While it is important to satisfy the needs of clients (record labels, managers, publishers etc) and to meet other people’s expectations, it is important that a substantial fraction of the music that you create be a direct result of your desire to express your musical ideas. As a rapper, choose some rap beats that align with the concepts, image and feel that you want to project along with the beats that you think people want to hear. Remember the market shifts constantly and if you are always chasing trends you will never catch up. Work on expressing what is resonant for you, and when the market comes around to what you are doing you will be poised to take advantage of your depth.
Once you have put honest time and passion into your music you may feel that you are ready to exploit it, but there is one area that needs careful attention – Quality Control. As an artist managing your creative process, it is imperative that you understand the quality of product that you have and you are able to asses the strengths and weaknesses in the production. On what level are you ready to compete? Has your production budget affected the final product? Is the mix exceptional or satisfactory? Did you bother purchasing a license for the track, or are the rap beats riddled with producer tags? Once you can answer these types of questions for yourself you will be in a great position to constantly grow as an artist and continually elevate the quality of your product.
And so here you are with the mindset of understanding – confident in the product(s) and of course satisfied and happy with the time that you have put into the creative process. Are you prepared to perform? Do you have a show? Do you rehearse your show? Do you analyze your show? How do you market yourself? Do you have a marketing budget? Do you have a marketing plan? If the answers for most of these questions are not affirmative or rolling off your tongue then you still have some real work to do. For example doing a performance where you run through a couple tracks as the actual song plays in the background is no substitute for a show where you have tailored a tv track (no lead vocals) added some transitional effects to punctuate your rap beats, choreographed a performance routine, and if possible included some dancers etc. Remember, this is show business, oh and yes marketing too. Most people give very little thought to creating a marketing plan that connects them with buyers. While they know that they wish to sell their music they have not figured out how to hold and captivate an audience interest. They are not consistent with their promotion, or they become frustrated when they find that their efforts are not generating the interest that they desire in the short term. For some the feeling that only a record company and radio play will get them where they wish to go can also create a tremendous amount of stress and ultimately leave one feeling a little gloomy. And this is where our friend Rapper A was – guilty of not creating a workable strategy, guilty of not having prepared his show so that he would wow his audience, and guilty of not objectively assessing his musical product.
Instead of focusing on the economy or worrying about changes in the world financial market outside of your control, instead of regurgitating the jargon of large conglomerates that measure success by completely different standards you need to face the music and do some homework. First, you must realize that there is no historical parallel to the types opportunities that area available to recording artists today. The internet is a new and emerging marketplace with an infinite number of available listeners and potential buyers and they are all waiting for you. So create a sound marketing plan or strategy to get you where you need to go, take time to prepare your show, and of course make sure you have some great music videos, songs, and hot rap beats to share that will touch your listeners, audience, and fans. As long as you prepare there is no need to despair.