I'm an independent hip hop artist, talent buyer, and web designer for music artists. My full time job and career consists of working independently within the music industry. Working independently for myself is great because I get to be my own boss, make more money than I ever made as an employee, and have location independence. Not to mention starting two businesses that basically pay me to make more connections in the music industry benefits my own music career (that has definitely been a nice bonus).
I deal with a lot of new rappers. They try to network with me because of my music, the shows I throw, or my design business. Which is cool. Plus I spend too much time on Facebook and have a friends list full of independent rappers, with new ones trying to add me daily. I see a lot of common mistakes new rappers make. Unfortunately I don't have the time to message every new rapper I come into contact with and tell them about all of the mistakes they are making. And even if I did, half of them probably wouldn't take the criticism constructively anyways.
So here's 5 common mistakes I see made by new rappers; avoid these if you want to get that rap money. But really, they are all under the umbrella of the same mistake: not investing in learning how to effectively operate the business side of their career.
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1. Talking “Like A Rapper” To The Wrong People At The Wrong Time
If you are a new rapper, how you talk on social media, in your music, when you are hanging out with other rappers, at shows, etc, usually should not be how you talk when you're contacting promoters or press people. Especially if these people don't operate exclusively in your genre or if you don't already have a relationship established with them.
There is no universal “best approach” when contacting business professionals in the music industry. However, there is a universal principle that exists: Professional business people can tell when they are talking to or being contacted by another professional business person. The art of the approach and of the pitch is an invaluable networking asset that all independent artists should constantly aim to master.
2. Releasing Music Without A Documented Strategy Or Plan
This one is always painful to see. Artists spending their time and money to constantly create new content, new music, new art to release into the world. Then they feel defeated when it doesn't get the attention or the buzz they thought it deserved. Then they start to blame themselves and the quality of their art.
It's okay to be your own biggest critic and to diligently work to create better content. But that may not be the biggest thing holding your content back from getting more eyeballs. Too often I see rappers releasing new singles, EPs, mixtapes, whatever every week. They share Soundcloud links, tag people on Facebook, and they think that constitutes as a release strategy.
You need a documented strategy and plan for every release and it needs to include effective use of social media, press and blog campaigns, strong visual designs, etc. If you're releasing a mixtape for example, you need to make a plan for that. If you want to rap at more shows, again, plan for it.
3. Trying To Build A Fan Base By Spamming On Social Media
Piggy-backing off of the last point: Don't spam people on social media. If you're going to reach out to strangers online about your music, the only way to do it is through genuine conversations that lead to your music organically. It's time consuming, and their might be better ways to spend your promotional time. But spending it spamming people is wasting your time. It might actually work occasionally, but chances are you are annoying and turning away more potential fans than you are converting.
Spamming includes Facebook and Twitter tagging and messaging. If you don't know someone then don't instantly hit them with a message or link about your music. Tagging might be okay if you only use it to let people know about your new content who have told you that they want to know about it and have told you that tagging them is cool. In this widely under-used scenario tagging can be really useful to let your biggest fans know you are thinking specifically about them.
4. Thinking Now Is The Time They Need An Investor Or Manager
I see “If I only had an investor or manager” posts all of the time from rappers on Facebook. But if you want a partner for your career who has the right level of money and/or connections to propel you to the next level, then you have to build your own career to a certain level of clout first.
Good investors don't invest into something until it's already making good money.
Good managers don't take on artists until they've self managed their own career to the point that is has a fast-growing, organic buzz. When the type of investors or managers you really want to take notice in your career start taking notice, it typically isn't just one of them. When the time is right, you will know because you will most likely have options.
5. Not Having An Effective Online Presence
You should have a website. You should be active on the social networks your fans and potential fans are most active on. You should be building an email list. You should have a plan for digital distribution of your music. You should have a consistent brand identity across your entire web presence. You should have documented goals, plans, and strategies for your online presence and content. You should constantly refine each and every one of these things so that they are continually getting better, more effective, more clear, and more focused.
You shouldn't wait until your web strategy is perfect to get started. You should get started right away and make regular improvements. You should figure out today what the weak spots in your web strategy are and how you're going to fix them.
There is nothing wrong with being a new rapper in the music industry. The cool thing about common mistakes is that you can rest assured you aren't the only one making them. Also, you can take solace in the fact that fixing them will greatly impact your ability to stand out from the crowd.
Are you guilty now, or in the past of any of the above mentioned pitfalls? Can you think of any other common mistakes you see new rappers making? Let me know about your experiences and your thoughts in the comments.