Breaking into the music business has to be one of the toughest things to accomplish in any profession. Most anyone can be an amateur rapper. You can record your own tracks with relatively inexpensive equipment, and post them online to any number of streaming platforms. You can listen to other rappers for inspiration and work on your lyrics and style constantly. You can probably even find open mic nights at a local bar or club, either in your town or in a larger one nearby. As a lot of young hip-hop artists will attest, there’s a lot of hustle involved in the early going. For some, that’s the fun part.
But getting beyond the hustle and gaining anything more than a local following is the hard part. And of course, there’s no obvious blueprint for how to get the job done. But looking at what’s worked for other up-and-coming hip-hop artists, as well as some general trends in music marketing, you can at least get a few ideas on how to go about the process.
We just covered some of the ways you can go about spreading your music in your own town. But don’t look at this as some kind of preliminary or semi-professional step. Instead, focus on becoming a legitimate hip-hop name in your town, and gaining a loyal local following. Logic was quoted in an interesting article on this very topic as saying that a fanbase is the new hit single, and that’s advice worth taking to heart. “Hit singles” aren’t quite what they used to be, and even if they were your chances of landing one are virtually zero. But with a loyal home fanbase, you can sell your records, build up your digital following, and even sell out local shows. If nothing else, you can generate a bit of income that can help with your broader efforts in music. Plus, as the article went on to state, if you try to “go global” too soon, you’ll likely find that your music
just gets lost in the vortex.
It’s hard to make a name for yourself in hip-hop, particularly these days, just by writing and rapping about the same things everyone else does. That’s why you’re actually seeing some fairly fresh messaging from some of the younger names in the game. For instance, people have been talking this year about the new “straight edge” in young hip-hop, as demonstrated by the likes of Lil Yachty and Vince Staples. That term is referring to these rappers’ focus on sobriety, which is more or less entirely new in mainstream rap. That’s not to say it’s why they’ve become household names, nor that you should imitate that exact message. But it’s a good example of how a bold voice can help to distinguish even a young, new artist.
Try Other Media
This can be difficult for an aspiring artist, but there are some interesting examples among more established musical groups, primarily in the gaming business. The aging classic rock group Motorhead released a game online just last year, lending its logo, member likenesses, and actual music to a slot reel developer. Guns N’ Roses and Jimi Hendrix have similar slot reels online. And in EDM, Steve Aoki has been connected to a few different mobile games. As a budding artist, you can’t necessarily snag these kinds of deals – but keep in mind that indie filmmakers and even game designers are probably looking to cut costs! Try to find some opportunities to offer your music to people in other media purely for exposure. You never know when you might get lucky.
It’s one thing to gather social media followers simply by virtue of playing shows, selling albums, and giving people a Twitter handle or Facebook page to follow. But it’s another to truly engage those people. Always remember if you’re trying to make it in this business: musical artists aren’t just musicians, but entertainers as well. That’s probably truer in hip-hop than in any other genre. You want to stay genuine, but try to use your social channels to reveal your personality and stay interesting. It never hurts to keep people wondering what you’ll say next.