I had the unique pleasure the other day in running across this graphic that was clearly put together from someone looking for likes, but it had some great points on it that definitely hit home as an independent artist.
It was titled Why Rappers Stay Local. And if I had to guess, it was probably originally posted somewhere in some group or someone’s social media that provided services to help Rappers not stay local. Basically the old marketing trick of let me show you what you’re doing wrong, so you can see what we’re doing right.
And I must say it worked enough to get my attention. But the elementary way in which the graphic was put together didn’t give me much confidence in the original creator being able to help me with my rap career, but they were on the right track.
So I wanted to give my opinion on their reasons, and for the sake of support, I’m going to give my reasons for why I do agree with this list, especially as “rapper” trying not to stay local.
Now without any real in-depth explanation on the graphic, I can only assume the original author meant strictly using Soundcloud as a means to promote your music. I personally think it’s a great way to showcase your music without a web presence, and the embed options for those of us with our own websites works great. However, similar to Open Mics, a lot of my experience with Soundcloud’s base are other artists, not fans.
Plus I heard recently because of the way people have been abusing Soundcloud plays, that the site itself isn’t keeping the credibility it once did for having artists use it as their platform. And I heard they were getting into streaming but were way behind the competition. So if you’re still waiting on Soundcloud to take you to top…you might want to seek other options
2. Open Mics
Now this one is kind of a soft spot for me. I got my performance chops doing open mics. Nothing like learning how to keep on truckin’ through a performance when the crowd is clearly not paying you one lick of attention and even walking out of the establishment as you struggle to tell the DJ to turn your mic up.
I appreciate that the Open Mic exists for the beginning performer. Without such outlets, some independent artists would have no place to get out from behind their computers and actually perform for real people.
But what I think the original author is saying once again is to not use Open Mics as your only source of promotion. Because most of the time, the crowd of a Open Mic is filled with, you guessed it, more performers. That means that your true fan based will still yet to be discovered as long as you keep advertising your talents to others that are selling the same stuff you are.
Now there are some Open Mics out there that do a great job of promoting the event to music lovers in general, and you can every once in a while catch a break and gain some new fans at an Open Mic, but eventually you need to be working on your own shows. Not being the umpteenth person to perform tonight. Yawn.
3. Posting All Day In Facebook Music Groups
I don’t do a lot of Facebook Group posting, so I can’t speak on this from first hand knowledge, but I know that potential fans in general HATE being solicited to check out new music. And that’s essentially what some people will post all day.
Unfortunately social media has made it so simple to instantly put something out for the world to check out, but relationships, credibility, and exposure are still major qualifiers to get people to check out your music.
Instead of posting all day in Facebook Music groups, take some time to interact with some real people in the real world that show interest in you as an individual. Then let them know you’d appreciate them checking your music out online if they have a moment. You’ll get a lot farther than coming across as spam. Not saying all posting is bad, but the original author I believe is saying posting all day in hopes to get people to like your music is a lost cause.
Imagine some new company you never heard of blowing up you texts, feed, emails, and mailbox saying “buy my product, its dope”. That’s how your posts are coming across.
I remember people use to come in my studio and brag about their position in the charts on Reverbnation. They use to have all of these stats on your profile and ways to post content and shows, and I thought they were a great resource once upon a time.
But as time went on, I started to ask some of these artists what else were they getting from their profile. Did they get picked for the show they submitted for? Did the A&R message they got pan out to anything? Did being ranked #1 in their city do anything for them besides inflate their ego?
Now I’m speaking of how Reverbnation used to be laid out, and things may be different now, but I think the original author is pointing out that this site alone isn’t going to help you break out of your local market. And my opinion has been most of these sites for artists are really just money and content grabs and not really concerned whether you make it or not. So either use them strategically, or figure out another way to get your music heard.
5. Bad Management
Now this I can actually speak on from experience. First I gotta say, if you’ve been lucky enough to have management as an independent artist, kudos! It’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re going at this game alone. Having someone in your corner fighting and rooting for you does wonders for your creativity and obviously for your career. That is if the person is actually “on” the job and not just “in” the job position.
The greatest example I have of this is Earn from FX’s Atlanta show. Showing how his managerial decisions affected Paper Boi says tons about the importance of having someone concerned about doing the best for your career. There were times where Paper Boi wasn’t happy with Earn’s decisions, and other times where he felt Earn wasn’t doing enough. I love the way the last season ended with a nod to Earn knowing his time was up. And that it was time to put up or shut up.
Don’t let Bad Management stifle your career. Hire slow. Fire quick.
6. They Already Think They’re Famous
Ah yes…a couple thousand friends on social media. Maybe some notoriety in the open mic scene. Oh, and probably a shout out from the DJ at the club for your last single release party.
But that fame can get in the way of you trying to actual break into a worldwide industry instead of being local. Remember, all the love you may be getting locally, you gotta kiss those same babies to make it globally, but on a different scale. Don’t let your ego make you feel like you’ve made it because you’ve got off the first rung.
I remember working with a local group who had a hot single playing on the radio in regular rotation. They were clearly the hottest independent group in the city. Everyone knew them by name when they would travel around town and of course the shows would be packed.
And so we got ready to shoot the music video for their new single and instead of them being focused on actually making sure this video was going to turn out great (because we were going to submit it to MTV and BET), they were more concerned with making sure everyone there continued to feed their egos. And the video wasn’t as great as it could have been. I mean, how can you give direction to someone who doesn’t feel they need it.
The group end up breaking up and the hype died down super fast afterwards. It was literally here today and gone today. Don’t let a little street cred get in the way of you seeing the bigger picture.
7. No Budgets
Yes my independent artist friend that means you. The one hoping to get a meeting with the A&R of their favorite label or go viral on YouTube without understanding that this is the music business. And remember when I said earlier this was probably originally posted on someone’s site who wanted to sell you services to not stay local? Whoomp, here it is.
Being an artist is an investment. From studio time, to clothing, to design work, or even just our time we spend on our craft. There is always a transfer of time to money. So it’s really unrealistic to expect to have a music career without spending some money.
I absolutely loathe seeing posts on Craigslist asking people for their services but offering NO PAY as if that person’s time isn’t worth the talent they are bringing to the table. Don’t be that artist that is always expecting people to do stuff for free for you on the off chance you’re going to blow up and remember them. Respect that person’s time and talent the way you pay your cell phone and internet bill to do all this posting to social media. And if you don’t pay the bill, someone is paying that bill. So they are contributing to your career.
So don’t expect stuff for free, but DO figure out how much money you have to invest in whatever you need to do for your next step
8. Buying Fake Likes & Views
Now before I get into the meat of this, I gotta blame the fans, media, DJs, promoters, bloggers, etc. for this unfortunate phenomenon. Back before buying likes was a thing, people weren’t checking for new talent unless they had what we call a “presence” on social media. As soon as you go to check out someone’s YouTube video, you’re peeping the views. As soon as you got to someone’s Instagram/Twitter profile, you’re checking the followers. And we all know Facebook is the land of “likes”.
So unfortunately what happened is that independent artists couldn’t break into getting taken seriously until they already seemed to be poppin‘. That creates a problem if you’re trying to use social media to promote and no one is taking you serious until you no longer need social media to promote.
So here comes the big bad pay-for-likes guys and they made a killing. Just like that you could go being a nobody to all of a sudden getting an email back from a promoter or blogger because your social “presence” was up to snuff.
It’s too bad because I’m sure there is a lot of great content out there just waiting to be discovered, but we’re stuck in this social media numbers game. What you can do instead of paying for the fake likes is actually building your presence the old fashioned way. One by one. Interacting with people. Posting your social media on all of your graphics and branding. Let people know they can connect with you and that way when you do, you got real people who mess with you. So when you do put out the next hit single, real people will listen. Not fake ones.
9. No Real Promotions Or Marketing
I think the original author was ready to reel it on home with this one. In my experience you can’t be a successful independent artist without a real promotions and marketing plan. And no, posting to social media every couple of hours isn’t a plan. It’s a hobby.
I love hearing stories of local artists getting a big break and getting signed, distribution, world tours, etc., and the one thing those stories all have in common is that there was some plan in place that lead up to that meeting, that phone call, or that opportunity.
If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail. You really have to take a serious approach to your career if you want to be taken serious. I know it sucks to actually “think” about how you career can unfold, but it has to be done if you want to stop being local.
10. No Talent
Now here’s another one that’s sort of objective I guess. Because there’s a boatload of entertainers right now I don’t believe have talent to first, but are making a ton of money. And not to mention people who just got lucky their video went viral.
So I’ll phrase this reason with a lesson someone gave me when I first started rapping. He said if I want to see if a song is good enough for release, play it in the middle of a bunch of songs currently out that are in the same vein. If it fits in and sounds like it belongs, it’s a keeper. If not, go back to the drawing board.
As artists we are sensitive about out shit. No doubt. But it’s ok to shop a song out to potential listeners, seeing if it’s good enough. Figuring out if it needs some changes. Or if we as artists need to work more on our craft. Nothing wrong with realizing that something we make could and should be better than what it is.
And if the continued consensus is we aren’t hot enough, remember it’s just someone’s opinion, but be true to yourself. This game ain’t for everybody.