So you want to rap? That’s cool, but are you a hobbyist or serious about turning it into a business? If it’s the latter, continue reading. As a journalist, I am always open to hear what’s hot, what’s next, who’s on their grind. I may not always find accurate information or even online visibility of an artist simply because the artist doesn’t have their package altogether. Rappers are a dime a dozen, and with the internet, rap music is superfluous and over-saturated. So, how do you standout? Or at the very least, look like you’re ready to turn your raps into a legitimate business.
1. HAVE A WEBSITE
Too often, I find rappers without websites. This is a tragedy. If I can’t find in you in one click, the likelihood is you’ve lost my attention. Buy a domain name that says your rap name. ie., rappername.com. Don’t be cheap and be OK with rappername.wordpressblogwhathaveyou.com. Take pride in owning your name, having a website with an email address. Your website should feature: music, biography, social media links (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Soundcloud or Bandcamp), recent professional photos, contact info, touring info, and possibly merchandise. Journalists will appreciate you even more.
2. WRITE A BIO
How are journalists or audiences supposed to know who you are? Your music doesn’t entirely tell your story, but your biography will. Take some time to figure out who you are, where you come from, what you want us to know about you. When you have a polished bio, you’ll be able to use it time and time again in your email introductions to music journalists, A&R’s, music executives, and fellow musicians.
3. DON’T BURN BRIDGES
Being a b-girl, I overstand beefs are natural to hip-hop and rap music. But, they became really uncool when Biggie and Tupac died. One thing all successful peopple have learned the hard way: Don’t burn bridges. In public, keep cool with each other. Show love and respect. Most successful rappers big or small have learned to work with others because there’s money to be made. Look at Nas and Jay-Z. Look at Ice T and the police … well, you know what I mean.
4. CREATE MUSIC VIDEOS
Do yourself a favor, if you got a hot song, make a hot video. Step up your visual creativity and enlist a local videographer/director that shares your vision and love for your music. You may even find yourself getting a pro bono music video just because they love your music that much. When creating a music video make sure you’re on time and on point with everyone so that people want to continue working with you. Making a music video is time consuming, so make everyone involved feel valued. And film rule 101: Always feed your crew.
5. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
How can you promote your music when you don’t know your audience? It’s easy to find out who you’re target audience is by reading the analytics of your YouTube and Facebook channels. It will tell you your audience’s gender, age, and location. You might be surprised that who you thought loves your music doesn’t even live in the same city you live in. That tidbit of info can help you decide where you should book shows. It’s also important by engaging with them on social media by either saying thanks or promoting new music. Don’t be annoying by posting the same thing every hour. Stick to 2-3 postings daily tops, unless you’re tweeting random thoughts that coincide with daily news, ie., #JusticeforEricGarner tweets that will help us get to know your views, too.
6. DESIGN A LOGO FOR YOUR NAME
Branding is so important for an artist to be recognized. Decide on an official graphic design of your name that you can own and use forever. It should be used seamlessly on everything you produce: music packaging, stickers, website, business cards, etc. Logo recognition is key.
I joke about this all the time: There’s C.P. time, but there’s something even worse, Rapper Time. You’re not in the big leagues, so there’s no reason for you to be late and worse, have no follow-through. If you say you’re going to make an album, finish it. If you say you’re going to meet someone at 9 p.m., meet them at 8:45 p.m. If you say you’re going to email a response the next morning, complete the task. Don’t be that jerk who sends it two days later after the deadline. Stand out from the rest by showing initiative and follow-through.
8. DON’T GET MAD AT THE GAME
If you’re not getting any press on your new music, blame yourself. Did you really reach out to the right people at so-and-so blog or website? Research is key. Learn the history of music and the organization’s key leaders and the people who can possibly help you out. Did you invest enough in your marketing strategy through time, money, and effort? There’s always, always room for self-improvement. Spend more time researching and building a network of successful people and less time hating on people though subtweets.
9. INVEST IN YOURSELF
Like I said before, you’re not in the big leagues, so don’t quit your day job. And if you don’t have a day job, get one. You need money to invest in your music period. We do live in the information age where so many things are free, but understand: There’s no such thing as free. You may not have to spend $100,000 like artists used to do back in the day. But, you will need that $14.99 to pay for your domain name. You will need $300 for that new mic because you dropped bong juice on it. You’ll need new gear for an upcoming photo shoot. You’ll need $200 for gas to get to the show that is 3 hours away. You’ll have to pay your primo to care for your kids while you’re away. Get the picture? Have a J.O.B. until things start popping for you.
10. SCHEDULE MUSIC-MAKING TIME
A serious rapper makes time to write rhymes and put it down in the studio. Schedule times into your calendar and make it happen. This includes, recording and rehearsing with your DJ. The rappers that get booked gig-after-gig from town-to-town are the ones who put on the livest shows. Are you that emcee?