Yo, TJ Bear here. It's never been easier to be a rapper, and the over-saturation in the rap scene is a testament to this fact. There's more rappers floating around per capita than ever before. Why wouldn't there be? The cost and difficulty of resources and accessibility to the rap game is at an all-time low.
This is mostly a good thing, I think. That said, it has created it's own set of drawbacks for aspiring artists in the midst of all of the opportunity it provides. It's become extremely difficult for artists to stand out and cut through the clutter in such a crowded and competitive marketplace. On top of that, the low costs and ease of access have allowed a generation of “lazy” artists to emerge and further cloud the scene. What do I mean by lazy? I mean artists that don't take the time to develop their craft or business skills have access to all of the same resources and are able to exasperate and pollute them.
For the most part, these “lazy” artists pile up at the bottom of the scene and end up as “local rappers” perpetually. The good news is, if you avoid the pitfalls they fall into you can climb yourself out of the bottom they dwell in. It's actually not that hard to stand out once you realize that most of the artists who don't are making the same mistakes.
Here's a few tips to help you avoid being a local rapper forever. Tips brought to you by TJ Bear of Mind Under Mohawk, so check that out for more related advice and services for rappers.
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Popular Rappers Are Open-Minded And Willing To Switch Up Their Strategy
I could spend a small amount of time studying and researching a local hip hop scene and figure out which artists are building rapid momentum, which are slowly progressing, and which are stagnating. Most savvy industry players can also makes these same distinctions just as quickly and easily as I can. It's how press, promoters, managers, booking agents, and labels know who to pay attention to.
Part of the reason lazy artists end up stagnating at the bottom and staying local forever is they just the copy-cat the failing strategies of their peers that have been stuck down there longer. They see all of these rappers spamming them and they just join in.
Not the artists that it make it out, though. They see the trap. They see the overused strategies that don't work, and there's really no excuse not to anymore. There's a wealth of free knowledge out there and learning just a basic understanding of effective music marketing online can help you avoid tons of bad strategies.
Here's a basic principle to always guide you: if something isn't working then don't keep doing it. Whether it's a strategy you are already using or it's one you see others using. If it doesn't get the results you want, try something else. If it is working, figure out how to improve it. Keep focusing on the strategies that are turning results and cut the strategies that don't.
Smart Rappers Don't Invest Their Money Into The Wrong Opportunities
It takes money to make money, right? True. Learn from bigger rappers, they invest in all sorts to get themselves out there. Having some capital to invest can definitely give your rap career some nice boosts. Be careful though, because not all opportunities are equal. But if you let them tell it every opportunity offered is a game changer, and if you let your emotions dilute your business sense you'll wind up putting your money in the wrong place.
You can pay for publicists, designers, photographers, studio time, engineers, producers, manufacturing, printing, tour “buy-ons”, features from bigger richer artists, Facebook ads, YouTube views, Twitter followers, and a million other things. But should you pay for it all?
Are they all good investments? How much of your budget should you allocate towards what? Those questions usually need to be answered on a case by case basis, but they are definitely what you should be asking yourself and figuring out.
Start thinking like a business person (more on that in a second), start thinking about your ROI – Return On Investments. Here's a good rule of thumb before making any investment in your music career: Ask yourself if this investment could get you a better return elsewhere. It's not always easy to measure. You need to weigh how the investment is returned, in what amount, and how fast. But when you start thinking about those things with every decision you're a lot more likely to notice potentially bad investments and avoid them.
Develop Business Acumen And Professionalism
I've dealt with local rappers a lot. I've also dealt with people who deal with local rappers a lot. A common problem that plagues the rap scene, especially at the local or indie level is the lack of business acumen and professionalism from artists. If you want to become an artist that business professionals in the music industry want to work with, you should become one of the exceptions to the norm.
You need to speak the language and understand the right concepts and terms. Not only to improve your ability to make and nurture right the connections, but also to avoid the wrong connections. As mentioned previously, there's no shortage of “business opportunities” to invest your money in. Developing a sense for the business and a professional image will help keep you from attracting and spending your resources on the undesirables.
Nothing brings out the wolves and sharks faster than an obviously easy target. On the flip side, nothing brings out the movers and shakers faster than a professional, business-minded artist already building a career the right away on their own. Be the artist the right business partners will want to align with.
Don't Be A Local Rapper, Conclusion
Pay attention to your local scene and see if you can pinpoint the artists building momentum the fastest. Also see if you can pinpoint the artists that are stagnating (hint: there will be a lot more of these). What promotional strategies are they using? What social media strategies are they using? How are they investing their money? How do they correspond with people in the industry? Spend some time figuring this stuff out. It takes effort but it also rewards results, unlike taking the lazy route and copying what other lazy artists are doing. Feel free to share your thoughts, or your own tips in the comments!