It is harder to get in the game then it looks like. The artist of today make it look easy but with the internet being a powerful weapon everybody can start a rap career and that can lead to things being crowded. How do you stand out?
If you’re independent and have no resources to how the game works or how to even get in the door as an artist well welcome to a large group of independent artists. A lot of artist now had successful independent careers before they became big time. People say it is the right way to do it but we’ll get into that later. Drake, Dave East and Wiz Khalifa are all artist that had the buzz of being independent before there was a bidding war between different labels to sign them. Reading this won’t guarantee you a seat at the table but it can give you a guide that is all in one place to help you make it.
Build your career on longevity
Lasting is what makes a successful career. There are a lot of artist that can say they made it but they only have one album to show for it. If you want to be a long lasting artist there are several things that you have to do. One is to make sure your beat selection is consistent. If your beat selection is always current, hot and your flow can change within the times then people’s ears will always gravitate to you because you sound like the times. The trap sound is hot now and mumble rap is what is the hottest thing now. People that have had the most success and have been able to make it have changed their sound to what is popular right now. Fabolous is a good example of this. All you have to do is listen to “Holla Back” and then his recent hit “Goyard Bag” and you can see the development. He has remained one of the most consistent artist in the game. Lil Wayne and Jeezy are also examples of people who have been able to withstand the test of time.
Also making a classic album or project will always give you a fan base. I’ll go back to the classic album in second. A fan base is crucial. Think about this, 20,000 loyal fans are better than a million people who just listen to your radio smash. That is why the concept of being an independent mixtape artist when you start out is so important. People listen to your music and they feel closer to you because they can relate to you. You are just like them in their eyes and they feel like they were there when you were grindin. When they see you make it then they feel like they can do it too. You are an inspiration and you have generated respect in the game before you are even big time.
You get the respect then the power, then the money.
They say people forget what you did to make them like you but they will always remember how you make them feel. Nas’ classic album Illmatic is just like this. People remember how they felt when they listened to that album when they were young and that album has started many rap careers. After that album Nas was that dude. Every artist that is still rapping right now that was poppin in the 90’s and the early 2000s has a classic album. Snoop just came out with an album and everybody knows how classic Doggystyle is. Wiz Khalifa’s Kush and Orange Juice was one of the best mixtapes ever made and that was the launching pad for his career.
I’m not saying flood the streets with mixtapes because that would be a bad idea but I’m saying you should always put your 100 percent time and effort into one project because your effort never goes unnoticed.
Make sure you are always promoting yourself
You are the brand and the brand is you. Unless you are in a group then it’s a one man show. Everybody is around you because of your talent and don’t ever forget that. With the little platforms that are around now you have to take advantage of them. It doesn’t matter that you are paying to perform your shows but what does matter is that you do your best when you are on the stage. Shows are where people that weren’t there to see you can see you. They don’t know who you are and they say the first impression is what everybody remembers of you. Remember, how you make them feel is what matters most because they won’t remember every detail of your performance. If you consistently put up good performances people will consider you good at what you do and you build your reputation. Your reputation is part of your brand and it is the most fragile. Protect that at all cost.
Social media is a big key. Build a good enough following and you beat that process of obtaining a loyal fanbase. All your fans at the palm of your hand. Everything has to be crafted perfectly. Letting your fans know special things about you and letting them see special things in your life humanizes you and makes them see you are down to earth. Always remember that everything is not for the public to see and some things have to be resolved privately. Building your brand is the best way to build a fanbase. The music should speak for itself and it the most important thing but you are an artist. You have to be exposed to the public somewhat.
Network, network and network. That is how most people will get those jobs that you wonder “how’d they get this job?” They knew somebody. Make sure you pick a manager with connections. Somebody that can get your music heard. In the book, The Richest Man in Babylon, the wise rich man tells his students that he made a bad investment when he trusted somebody with his money that wasn’t knowledgable on the thing he spent all his money on. Make sure your manager has experience in the music game. Make sure he has a reputation of doing good business. Don’t sign anything without having a lawyer look at your contracts.
Every relationship you form should help you advance not just keep you in the same spot. Getting a feature with a hot artist in your area or that is well known period is big for your career. That person will talk about you to other people and now your name is going around. How do you network though? That is what a reasonable person would ask from this because a smart reader always has questions that they want to know from them reading something. Okay, let’s say you are opening a show for an artist, there is a reason that the artist that is closing is the main attraction. Talk to him or her or get their attention with your performance.
If you are good at what you do then they can talk to their manager and see if they can represent you. You never know who you are going to meet when you are at your 9-5. I met an artist at my job that is signed to a label. A smart artist in my shoes would show him their music and ask if he wants to get on a song with him. Talking to other artist will help you. We are all at different stages in our life. The key is finding who is ahead of you and learning from them. Somebody that is wiser than you will always want to pass down information to you.
A quick story for you about an experience that I had that could help you. I was waiting in the line at a Dave East concert and there was an artist going down the line telling people about his Soundcloud. I was like “you know what? I’ll take a listen.” I was a couple songs in and I was like this is hot. I ended up following him Soundcloud. What was even better for him was that somebody behind me asked if he was good and I was like yeah he is. You just made two fans because you took the extra initiative. Like I said, your effort never goes unnoticed.
Earning respect helps you network. Consistently coming with hot music, a charming personality, and always shutting down your performances will turn heads your way.
You might not be the best rapper alive by the time your are done reading this but what you will be is in a position to make the right effort to achieving your goals.