Over the course of the past few years I have spent a lot of my time scouring different locations for hidden talents that are waiting to be exposed. The process could have gone a lot smoother had my idea for a radar gun that detects “SupaFly Talent” and “Wack A** Wangsta” came into fruition (my engineers are still working on this). I am all about diversity, versatility and bringing something new to the table, so I’d like to say that I am pretty open minded when artists bring me their work to listen to. But I’ve picked up on this recent pattern. Most artists on the grind today are convinced that they have the material and talents to have people to WANT to push their music out there. Unfortunately, 9 out of 10 times, they are absolutely wrong.
Now I am not saying that this is due to a lack of talent or even a lack of potential. Within the first few tracks of someone’s mix tape, or the first minute of a music video, anyone with an eye for talent can recognize potential even when the material is better used spinning in the air as a Frisbee than on the turntables. The reason for this is clear, and is neither lack of talent or potential, but rather a lack of strategy. People become disillusioned with their artistic personas and are convinced that being “different” is what is going to get them radio play and make them millions of dollars. NEWS FLASH: 2 Chainz already made millions from being “Different”, so that simply just won’t cut it anymore.
Keep in mind I am speaking to the underground that choose to flow with the independent movement. If your boy is promising to get you ‘signed by a major label’ then by all means do what you do. For those of you who understand the importance of gaining credibility before trying to skip the line at the Main Stream Music Box Office, I’ve compiled a quick check list for you. I can’t sell you the store (that would require a consultation) but I can leave you with this bit of advice.
- Avoid an identity crisis – This is basic branding. As an artist, you are not only promoting your music, you’re promoting your image and your lifestyle. This means consistency and authenticity from your rhymes to your threads. You need to live, breath and eat the image you are trying to sell. If you are rapping and singing about ‘Rari’s in your driveway and Rollie’s on your wrist then you should probably stop wearing faded jeans with that knock off Gucci belt, tarnished gold plated chains with cubic zirconia diamonds and a Louis Vuitton hat (side note: being a label whore is extremely tacky. Being a label whore and then mixing them together is just comical). Good or bad, image is everything. It’s what separates the iconic from the temporary one hit wonders.
- Collaborate with caution – Who you choose to work with is an instant reflection of the type of artist you are aiming to be. Whether it is a DJ or Producer that wants you to jump on a track or another local artist trying to get on game with you, don’t be afraid to be too picky. If it’s not up to par or it’s not cohesive with what you’re trying to put out there then take caution. Don’t get me wrong, collaborations are vital. You can’t survive in this industry without support. Don’t ever forget that you get what you pay for. Sometimes seeking out producers with the right sound is more beneficial than jumping on the first free beat that you find.
- Album artwork is your mirror – Many times people forget the importance of the artwork that goes along with your work. Anyone can claim to be a graphic designer with Publisher and Photoshop at their fingertips, but that doesn’t mean that they can paint the right visual that expresses you as an artist as well as your work. Imprints of artistic imagery are usually the first thing people see when you send them your work. Always include artwork, but make sure it is of the best quality.
- Hardly Home But Always Reppin’ – This is the biggest piece of advice I can give any client or artist. Ask yourself this question. If people in my hometown aren’t representing my music and my brand, how do I expect anyone else to take me seriously? The answer is that they won’t. Music hubs like Los Angeles, New York and Atlanta are all great places to make moves and pop off, but it’s a lot more cut throat than people can understand. It starts with your neighborhood. If everyone on your block, or in your complex, are all bumping your beats and copying your swag it turns into an instant domino effect. It takes one person to start the movement and one person to follow before everyone starts to jump on the bandwagon.
- Make your music available – If it takes me hours to Google your name and your work, we have a problem and I am no longer interested in taking you seriously. How do you expect people to push your work if there is no work to be pushed? With the numerous amounts of internet engines to distribute music on (SoundCloud, DatPiff, BandCamp) there is absolutely no excuse. As far as my understanding goes, you are not Hov and I am not anticipating and waiting for you to release something for me to show everyone. Keep your content up to date and music readily available to the public.
If you are reading this and thinking “well this is just common sense.” BINGO! You’d be surprised by the number of people and artists who don’t pay attention to these simple details. Take it or leave it, this advice is standard. It’s just a matter of executing it the right way.
Jessica Rafaeil is a P.R. and Branding Specialist that loves working with young artists, entertainers and entrepreneurs.