It’s Saturday morning at 3:32 am. I wasn’t out partying tonight. I am working on my music. But I am not “in the studio” per say. I am doing the side of music that most artists ignore: the actual business.
I have been putting out music since 2011. My music is pretty good. How do I know that? About 3 million+ people have told me. Most of them between the ages of 13-17 & 25-35. The 13-17 age group is mostly females, about 58%. The 25-35 age group is 75% male. A good portion of them are in Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia and Houston.
How do I know my demographic? I think the better question is, how could I not? How can I sell to my demographic if I don’t know who is listening?
The music industry is just like any other business. And it always baffles me having conversations with other artists who have never sold a record in their life that think they know everything about the music industry. I’ve said it before. Most of these musicians are “cocky for no reason, don’t know what they are doing, never sold 10 albums in their life” ass rappers. Peep game.
I have worked with tons of artists in the recording process. Some have been signed to small labels. Some have never been signed. Some are more talented than I am and some are simply awful.
I am one of the only one that makes money off of my music.
The mindset of most people I come into contact with is always the same:
Every song is a “hit song.”
Every album is better than the last.
No other artist is “as good as them.”
They are SOOOO talented they don’t understand how they aren’t famous yet.
This song is the one that is going to get them signed. This is the one that is going to blow up and go viral.
blah blah blah…
The worst part is everyone thinks they’re right and that they have made hit after hit. But a hit isn’t a hit unless millions of people hear it, right? I could throw statistics and logic at them all day, try to help, give them tips, but they continue to shrug it off and keep doing it the way they have always done it. Make a song, put it out, hope it blows.
The truth is, there are so many ways to make money off of music and you do NOT need to be famous or signed to a major label to make it. It’s one of the biggest misconceptions in music right now. The problem is that most people have this notion that if they put out enough good songs, one of them will be good enough to just go viral by itself, and they will capitalize off their fame. They think the formula is make a hit song and 3 million dollars just gets plopped right in front of your face and you are good for life. They hear these success stories about a dude getting found rapping on the corner and getting signed to MMG the next week (true story).
These are rare scenarios. It doesn’t work like that. Songs like “Panda” by Desiigner typically just don’t go viral on SoundCloud. It’s more calculated.
Record labels are not making much on album or single sales right now. People pirate and download music for free. Most record labels are handing out 360 deals (i’m not going to go into details, look it up, because if you don’t know what that is, that is part of your problem.)
Most record labels won’t touch you unless you have a massive social media following and the ability to sell out small to average size venues. Here is the truth that you need to swallow:
IT DOESN’T FUCKING MATTER HOW GOOD YOU THINK YOUR PRODUCT/SONG IS. EVERYBODY THINKS THEY HAVE THE BEST SONGS OR THEY WOULDN’T BE DOING IT. PERIOD.
Your following, business model, and fan engagement mean everything. Donald Trump could put out a rap song right now and would make more in 24 hours than you ever will doing music. His song could be absolutely horrible. But it will sell. Why? Because he’s the President of the United States of America and he has a huge following. He could have done this before he was the POTUS. It doesn’t matter whether or not his following was built on music. It’s there and people watch him every single day because of the brand he has built for himself.
So how do we build this brand & following and get people to listen to our tracks as solo artists? And how does that transform into money? I am going to lay out some tips for you. So pay attention. All the blogs that give you step by step directions are fucking bullshit. “if you pay $400 to get an article on XXL a million people will see it!! If you pay $3,000 to get on the front page of World Star you will blow up.” It’s all BS.
It comes down to a GREAT PRODUCT and a combination of building up your social media while monetizing your product.
First and foremost, yes, you do need a product. And yes, it has to be mixed, mastered and somewhat musically inclined. Genre does not matter. You have to be able to BE SOLD. You have to have a brand. An image. If you don’t, you aren’t going to get anywhere.
Pro Tip: Building your social media following DOESNT MEAN SPAMMING YOUR MUSIC. There is nothing worse than someone you have never talked to or don’t know telling you to check out there new music video or mixtape. No thanks. You need to be on social media engaging fans, getting to know people, asking them questions, and going on live video to talk to them. And you need to do this EVERY DAY. I could talk all day about social media following, but if you have further questions about building, feel free to reach out and I’ll try to answer everyone. Below is what has worked for me and will work for you if you are consistent and have a QUALITY product. If you’re music and brand is shit, you could do this all year and not get anywhere.
#1. Distribute your ORIGINAL music.
TuneCore and CD Baby are two distribution sites that allow you to release your music independently and keep the profits. YOU NEED TO DO THIS. It baffles me how many people just put out music on SoundCloud and YouTube over and over again. They record tracks over already famous beats. They refuse to put out original work. YOU CAN’T MAKE MONEY OFF OF YOUR MIXTAPE UNLESS YOU ARE LITERALLY SELLING IT ON THE STREET. AND IF YOU ARE USING INDUSTRY BEATS & INSTRUMENTALS, IT’S ILLEGAL!
Tunecore and CD Baby automatically distribute your music to every major streaming platform in existence, from iTunes to whatever the hell they use in every other country to stream. This will get your music in the mix with every professional artists that puts out music. It will also distribute your music to Spotify automatically. They will also give you statistics as to who is downloaded and who is listening. It is important to know this so you can spend your marketing and promotion money wisely.
I currently make more money on Spotify than I do on any other platform. When I released my first album, The Contradiction, (which you can find on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, etc … shameless plug) I had one track on the EP that was very relatable. The beat was epic and the song connected with my audience. The song is called “Enough.”
People started to compare me to other artists and I could see based on this information where my fans were coming from. I started getting added to major playlists with artists like Big Sean, G Eazy, Drake, and J Cole. When people do that on Spotify, it is GOLD.
GET YOUR MUSIC INTO BIG PLAYLISTS ON SPOTIFY!! THIS IS HUGEEEEE!
How? Reach out to people you know. Find the big playlists on Spotify. Reach out to Spotif curators. Find music bloggers with big playlists. Send emails. Make phone calls. DO RESEARCH. When you finally get in contact with these people, don’t go in for the kill immediately, Engage them first. Then, give your best sales pitch. If they like your music, they may give you a shot. More streams = more revenue. If you would like a step by step guide to this check the link below. I advise giving your email because the information CD Baby provides you about Spotify playlists is unmatched by anything else I’ve read on the internet:
#2. Create good album/single covers and great YouTube visuals.
You want to find cover art that draws attention. Hire a good graphic designer. EVERY FUCKING RAPPER IN THE WORLD PUTS TOGETHER MIXTAPE COVERS AND ALBUM COVERS THAT HAVE CARS AND JEWELRY ON IT. How do you expect people to take you seriously if you are an unknown artist doing the same exact thing? Make sure the quality of your cover doesn’t look like it was put together by your brother or cousin.
Music Videos and skits on YouTube are huge. Be creative. The best part about this is you do not need to just have music videos that you are shelling out hundreds of dollars per video on. Simply previewing tracks from your phone, singing live, video blogging, or doing something fun or controversial on YouTube can generate thousands, even millions of views. Monetize those views and you have another source of income. Read up and google how to monetize your videos to increase profits. You can find a story of a teacher who started twerking on YouTube and was able to quick her job because from simply twerking she simply makes over 100k per year. Good stuff.
#3. Collaborate with artists that have similar following or bigger following than you.
You will trade fan bases and draw their fanbase to you. Even if you only have 100 fans each, collaborating will give you 200. Do this over and over again with different artists. More fans=more sales. Period. Find someone that fits the mold of your business plan, reach out to them and let them know you are a fan and really like their music. After engaging, see if they’d like to collaborate. There has to be an incentive for both people.
#4. Remix popular songs.
Want to know how I eclipsed 2 million views on SoundCloud? I took a song early on in it’s discovery that I KNEW WAS GOING TO BLOW UP. The song was Russ’s track “What You Want.” I loved it and the beat fit my style. I downloaded the beat, chopped up Russ’s vocals, and made a section for myself to rap over. I put it on SoundCloud/YouTube. The song started getting added to major playlists all over SoundCloud and I am now getting 10-15k spins per week.
YOU CANNOT MAKE MONEY THIS WAY unless you get clearance to either remix or cover a song. However, there is a much bigger chance of these types of tracks going viral if done right because the song is already popular and people are already searching it. They accidentally stumble upon you and your remix of the track.
Doing this will help you generate more fans in your genre and even outside of it. There are a lot of YouTube stars that get famous off of doing covers and make money doing it as well. Do this every week or two to keep fan retention. It keeps audiences engaged and relates you to some of their favorite artists. Can’t beat that.
#5. Collect your fans emails using a site like Constant Contact or MailChimp.
And if you can’t afford it, use GMAIL. It really doesn’t matter. Just build your email list!! When I first started, I built my following by simply sending my friends emails. The tracks were good and I started gaining traction due to word of mouth. You need direct communication with your fans and you need to keep them up to date, send them new material, show them your blogs, etc. Over the span of 2-3 years you will have so many emails that you will be able to find super fans. These fans will engage with you every single time you post and email and they will buy your product. THIS IS HUGE FOR PRODUCERS THAT SELL BEATS!!! You can have competitions that engage fans, sell merchandise, announce album releases, etc.
#6. Play Live Shows
Practice performing! Small crowds first, big crowds later. If you leave an impression and bring merchandise and physical CDs, people will buy them. Even if it’s for $5 a pop! Shows are memorable and give you an opportunity to create a fan for life. And guess what? If you have 500 fans after 2 years of promoting, and all of those fans pay $10 an album… well….you do the math.
Pro Tip: Make a list of venues that play to your demographic. Search for and make a list of emails and phone numbers of managers and venue owners. You will need to put together a press kit and send it out to those people. If you do not know what a press kit is, please google it. It makes life much easier and gives venues the opportunity to see your brand and listen to your music conveniently in one place, quickly. If they like you, work something out and put a show together.
Side Note: You will have to play some free shows to start. But DO NOT EVER PAY TO PLAY.
I REPEAT, NEVER PAY TO PLAY! NOWHERE! THIS IS A SCAM.
There are so many bullshit showcases where people say major A&R’s will be there and you could get signed and blah blah blah. They are selling you a dream. They give you tickets, you sell the tickets and put up money and it goes right in the A&R’s pocket. They don’t care about your music because they don’t sign artists at these shows. If anyone even gets a 2nd look, it’s rare. The only way you have a chance at pay to play showcases is if you literally sell out the entire venue. But if you were already selling out venues, you wouldn’t pay to play anywhere.
Once you have generated a buzz, you can book your own shows and set your price or even hire a booking agent to do so on your behalf.
Also, never oversell yourself to the venue to cash in. You do not want to burn a bridge by asking for $1000 bucks on a Wednesday promising you can pack the venue and have 6 people show up. They will never hire you again.
#7 Submit Your Music To Pandora!!
How do you get people to listen to your tracks accidentally? Pandora. You have to submit to Pandora and your songs may or may not get excepted. They put your submissions and tracks into what’s called the “Human Genome Project.” The system and curators take a listen to the lyrics and the beats and all the factors that go in to making a song. They want to see if you sound relatable to what songs are currently hot.
Be patient because it can take a couple months for them to get back to you. Pandora is strict with who they accept, and unless your song sounds like what is currently trending, it may get rejected. But if the quality is there and it is in line with radio standards, they will put you in the mix with similar artists. I regularly show up on Drake, J Cole, & G Eazy radio. People find me by accident. They look me up. Then, they may either stream my songs or albums on Spotify, or, if they like it enough, they will buy my songs on iTunes or Google Play. Tons of possibilities once you get on Pandora.
#8. Respond to your fans.
Do not think you are bigger than your fans. They are the reason you exist. Respond when they email. Respond when they comment on YouTube or IG. Respond when they DM you on Twitter. They take time out of there day and are reaching out to let you know they enjoy and relate to what they heard. The least you can do is thank them and let them know you appreciate it. They will continue to listen if you do so. Be genuine.
#9. If something isn’t working, change it.
Down the road, changes will need to be made. This is all trial and error. If you are not gaining traction, the product simply isn’t where it needs to be. It isn’t good enough and that is a hard truth to swallow. Try a new style. Try something different with your voice. Make a new image for yourself. It won’t happen overnight. Most successful artists are a decade in the making.
#10. You might not be as good as you think.
I can’t stress enough that music isn’t for everyone. If you have been putting everything you can into the business side and aren’t getting anywhere, the cold hard truth is your product is not good. Which simply means your brand and your music are bad. Mom is not going to tell you and neither are your friends. Your audience will dictate your worth. If you are doing your job and getting the music out there and nothing is coming of it, you have to be able to accept this truth and move on.
What to do now?
This is what has worked for me over the span of 8 years of trail and error. I know it can work for you as well. Stick to your guns. Distribute original music. Remix major songs. Engage with fans. Change what isn’t working.
You need to concentrate on the business side of the music industry if you want to be successful. All the tools are out there for you to succeed. The internet can be your best friend.
This is a business. It is your baby. You need to be active DAILY. Not weekly, not monthly. DAILY. There are millions of artists out there. Nobody is going to care about your business as much as you do. So take it seriously!!!!
Make it happen!
– That Boy A.B.