Being an independent musician is tough. Many artists shoulder the creative and financial burden in the quest to achieve their dreams. Publicity, booking, marketing, and sales are areas that the average artist must take a crash course in to even be able to function on the most miniscule level; however, in learning all of these things you realize that there’s not enough time to do them yourself, and you don’t have the money to hire someone to do them for you. I know this because I’ve been there. I am an independent artist, a business owner, a college student, a father, and a husband. The two things I don’t have are time and money; however, I’ve learned how to leverage the little time I do have with these 3 cost effective tools:
I came across Bandcamp about 5 or 6 years ago. It is a customizable online storefront. The normal account costs nothing upfront to set up or upload music, but they do take a percentage of digital sales on their website. It starts at 15% and slides down to 10% if you made at least $5000 in the past 12 months.
Some of the features they offer are:
Hootsuite and Buffer
Social media is the new street promotion. Artists that don’t believe that are delusional, but posting to each of these accounts separately is time consuming and frustrating. Well, that’s fixed. Buffer and Hootsuite are social media management systems that allow you post to all your accounts at once. Both have free options, but, if you want to really get the best out of them, it’s better to get the monthly subscription. Both start at $10.
You can link your Twitter, Facebook profiles and pages, LinkedIn, Google+, and Instagram accounts to both. Buffer also does Pinterest; however, there is a Hootsuite plugin called Tailwind that allows you to post to Pinterest also.
Features offered by both:
There used to be nothing worse than people coming up to my merch table after rocking a show, and asking if I took cards. Luckily that doesn’t happen anymore because I have PayPal Here, which is a free app that turns my cell phone and tablet into a point of sale register. They‘ll also send a free card reader that plugs into your headphones jack. There’s no monthly fee, even though, they charge a processing fee for each transaction.
Some of PayPal Here’s features are:
I’m sitting on a Megabus right now on my way to a show. How did I get here? Well, my dude that I usually perform with, Evaready RAW, has to work. My wife needs our car to transport my 3 children around, and, as you all should know by reading my posts, I’m a determined dude. So I went to www.us.megabus.com and copped a ticket from ATL to Charlotte for $12. The Charlotte to Raleigh (where the show actually is) Megabus wouldn’t work because it would get there after the show; so my DJ, Coach K (who lives in Greenwood, South Carolina) is going to scoop me up on his way to Charlotte. After we perform, he’s going to drop me back off in Charlotte to catch the 6:45 am Megabus back to Atlanta.
This got me thinking, am I unique?
Maybe I’m ego tripping. Actually I’m pretty sure I am; however, that doesn’t mean my uniqueness isn’t true. I have a belief that when I choose to do or commit to something I have an obligation to do everything in my power to ensure that I will see it through. This is true with my music career, my job, and my family life.
Even still, with doing everything in my power, I often fail to achieve exactly what I was aiming for. In failure, though, I’m satisfied that I’ve exhausted all avenues and alleys available to me. Then, I rethink my strategy and go after it again, whatever it may be.
As indie artists, any level of success is due to going the extra mile and doing what the others won’t, can’t, or haven’t thought about doing yet. It is a forever turning carousel of ideas, work ethic, and execution, with the most important being the middle. Failing is part of the process, but quitting is a bunch of bull shit.
A couple of weeks ago I played a show to 7 people...yep, 7 people. Let me rewind a little. I have a tour series called “The Just Bust Tour." What we do is book shows all over with local, regional, and national talent. The purpose is to get independent music in front of crowds that would love it, and present it to them in the right way, as a show with great performances, DJ’s spinning, and dancers (coming soon).
On most occasions, I book 3 shows, then come home and insert myself back into husbandry, fatherhood, and mindless employment. This time, however, there was a little hiccup in the plans. One show fell through, and the other was cancelled. With three weeks to go, that left just the final show, which was 9 hours away. Driving that far for one show was possible, but tough. Very tough. So what would be the logical thing to do?
Right off the bat, one would think to try to reschedule the show; however, with not much time left, it would be pretty hard for the venue and promoter to find another act to book in time. This could have several negative consequences. The most critical of which being that we wouldn’t get a show through that promoter or venue in that city again.
Also, I’d already spent money on flyers and posters. Besides, we’ve played this particular place on more than one occasion, and averaged between 70 to 100 people a show. So there was no reason to think it would be different; however, it was. By the time of the show, which was around midnight, there were 7 paying people who'd come through the door.
Now, I could’ve pulled the “ungrateful artist” role that many indies tend to use as their default and argue with the promoters and ask them now useless questions like:
I chose not to, though. Instead, I stayed smiling and professional, conducting myself the same as if the spot was packed to capacity. Went on stage, rocked our set, and thanked everyone for coming to see us. The promoters came to apologize for the turn out. I told them, “It’s cool, you win some and lose some. We’ll both make sure that it’s a better a show next time." The owner of the spot then came up to me, and said, “I don’t know why the crowd was so thin tonight. I’m sorry. You guys were awesome as usual." Then he gave me money from the bar’s cash register to help cover our expenses, even though we were supposed to have just gotten a cut of the door. That covered our gas up to the show and back home. If I would have acted an ass, I would've walked away with a loss.
The moral of the story is that the professional artist always trumps the asinine artist in the long term.
The other day, I saw the first episode HBO’s Newsroom which is created by the brilliant Aaron Sorkin. For those that don’t know him, I’m sure you know some, if not all, of his works: A Few Good Men, West Wing (my personal favorite), Charlie Wilson’s War, Social Network, Moneyball, etc, etc. This might just be the most brilliant of them all.
Even though I just did, I’m not writing this article to tell you how great he is and highlight his resume. It was more about the Newsroom, or more accurately, the first 10 minutes. Here’s the scene:
Will McAvoy is an anchor on an imaginary show called “News Night”. He is on a political panel at a random college, sitting in between a liberal and conservative arguing with each other about the same shit liberals and conservatives argue over all of the time...everything.
The camera focuses in on him, and, to be honest, he looks like he’s about to have a panic attack. The fade out, he looks into the audience, and as they fade back in the moderator asks if he has anything to add. He replies, “I think we need a more precise definition of perverted”. Crowd laughs.
The moderator then points to the next person to ask a question, ask McAvoy if he is a conservative, liberal, or independent. McAvoy, intending not to offend or take sides with anyone, states that he is a New York Jets fan. Crowd laughs.
The moderator mentions how he always avoids a political allegiance, and asks if it’s because he feels that his integrity as a broadcaster will be compromised? He replies, “It sounds like a good answer”. Crowd laughs.
The moderator tries to press him a little further to find out which side he leans towards to no avail, then moves to the next question.
Enter: The Sophomore Jenny
Her question to the panel is, “Can you say why America is the greatest country in the world?”
The liberal says, “Diversity and opportunity”.
The conservative says, “Freedom and freedom, so let’s keep it that way”.
Mr McAvoy says, “The New York Jets”.
The moderator won’t let him get off that easy this time, and tells him that he needs a legitimate answer. After a little positioning of his words to agree with the conservative and liberal, he then drops a bomb (after brief pause) while being badgered to give an answer.
“It’s not the greatest country in the world Professor, that’s my answer”.
The moderator tries to confirm what he said, and McAvoy confirms. Then continues to go on this rampage where he tells the liberal that the reason that no one likes liberals is because they always lose, and mocks the conservative for talking about freedom is what makes this country great because over 180 countries have the same thing.
He then goes in on Jenny The Sophomore or as he refers to her, “Sorority Girl”.
“There is no evidence that supports the fact that we are the greatest country in the world. We’re seventh in literacy, twenty-seventh in math, twenty-second in science, forty-seventh in life expectancy, one hundred and seventy-eighth in infant mortality, third in median household income, number four in labor force, and number four in exports. We lead the world in only three categories:
Then he scolds her and all of the students that are there to see him by yelling, in the best bitter old man voice that has, that they are part of the worst generation ever. The auditorium is silent.
He then starts part 2 of his monologue by saying, “It sure used to be. We stood up for what was right. We fought for moral reasons. We passed laws, struck down laws for moral reasons. We raged wars on poverty not poor people. We sacrificed. We cared about our neighbors. Put our money where our mouths were, and we never beat our chests. We built big things. Made ungodly technological advances. Explored the universe. Cured diseases, and we cultivated the world’s greatest artists and the world’s greatest economy. We reached for the stars. Acted like men. We aspired to intelligence, we didn’t belittle it. It didn’t make us feel inferior. We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election and we didn’t scare so easy. We were able to do all of these things and be all of these things because we were informed. By great men. Men were revered.
First step in solving any problem is by recognizing there is one. America is not the greatest country in the world anymore”.
In my opinion, the most powerful first eight minutes of a first episode of any show that I’ve ever seen. It made my mind stir and wonder. I saw the argument. I felt his pain and anguish. I understood what was going on in his head, and I knew why he did it.
Then I asked myself...what have I written to inspire that emotion in people?
Does my music, blogs, films, or books inspire people to think about anything other than what they are watching, listening to, or reading by me? I wish it does. Now I’m not of the mindsight that everything that I ever write will be this Shakespearean Masterpiece. I know too many people that try to get deep everytime that lay something, and, to tell the truth, it wears me out to have to listen to that all day. Besides, if you’re trying to be deep all of the time, are really doing it for the right reasons? I mean are promoting thought because you are sincere, or are you doing it so that everyone can say how thought provoking you are?
I’ve been on both sides of that mirror. I’ve written songs on subjects that made me cry while writing them; however, I’ve also written shit for the sake of my own self assurance through the eyes and ears of my listeners. That becomes addictive...and dangerous.
People are influenced, and when I say people I mean everyone. No ideas are completely original and most behavior is learned. The clothes we wear, the computers we own, and the type of phone that we talk on was inspired by something or someone.
Even emotions are at the behest of the influencer. Brooklyn Nets forward Kris Humphries was booed in almost every arena he played in last season because he was being divorced by Kim Kardashian. Biggie and Tupac had entire coasts beefing with each other. Radio commentators, like Rush Limbaugh, influence Republican party policy through his listeners. Dave Chappelle had every White kid in America claiming they were “Rick James Bitch!”
So the question remains..do I inspire people, and, if I do:
I would like to have a positive impact. To think that my words are a call to action for most people. Enlighten them to whatever was in my heart and compelled me to create, and hopefully find their own meaning through what I’ve presented to them.
With all of the information that floats and flows on the 24 hour cycle, who knows whether the things that I put out influence people to do anything but listen, read, or watch my projects. All I can say is that I put my all into it, and will continue to do so until I feel that I’m no longer influenced by myself. At that moment, it would be time to go to Las Vegas and drink myself into oblivion.
I have to make a confession...I don’t own an ipod. I have another confession to make...I don’t want to own an ipod. No... it’s not because I bought a company that manufactures portable CD players on the verge of bankruptcy. It’s because I find them simply to be very overpriced mp4 players with bells and whistles.
Think about it. Who really needs 16 gigs worth of memory in a music player? Before you say you do, understand how much 16GB worth of memory is. A sixth generation (whatever that means) 16GB ipod Nano holds about 4,000 songs. 4,000 songs? Who on earth has 4,000 songs that they want to hear? Hell, while I was researching the numbers for this article. I found out that they also have 32 and 64 gig ipods out as well that hold around 7,000 and 14,000 songs respectively.
Then I found out how much they cost. WTF? I will never pay $200 for any portable device that isn’t a phone. Instead I’d go get a plain ol’ 4GB mp3 player from Amazon for $25 plus shipping; however, I am in the minority on this one. The ipod sales have been off the charts, making Apple billions of dollars in the process. As a matter of fact, I’m the only person I know (besides my wifey) that has never owned an ipod. The road less traveled, I guess.
In the spirit of my precious NBA ending its lockout, I’m going to try something that may or may not work. I’m going to compare the ipod's entry into the market with the year Magic Johnson and Larry Bird entered the NBA.
Behind baseball and football, the NBA was a distant third in the world of American sports. Fourth if it was March Madness time, and it could've been fifth if the big names in boxing could have gotten their bodies to be able to fight once a month. Magic and Bird changed all of that with the 1980 NBA draft going to the Los Angeles Lakers (The greatest franchise ever!!) and the Boston Celtics (Busters on all levels) respectively. Playing on so many levels (Black versus White, East versus West, etc, etc), the NBA rose to pop culture status.
In much of the same way, only at a super accelerated pace, ipod became pop status. In no time, it has become the accepted brand of the masses...
...Now that I think about it, the two don't really have many similarities.
Even though Magic and that other guy from the team that I didn't really like blew into the league and took it over, most nationally televised games were still tape delayed until around 1984 because the ratings weren't there. Ipod's impact on the market was so fast and so immense that the music industry still hasn't caught up to and completely figured out how to get the most out of downloads. In fact, it all but sent CD's into obscurity. NBA hasn't managed to overtake its two counter parts as of yet.
Whatever meaningless contrast that I try as a means to show how happy I am that the Lakers are going to have a chance to avenge that lashing that we got by Dallas Mavericks in the playoffs, the one thing that is obvious is that The ipod changed the game. It is to portable music players what Starbucks is to coffee, Kleenex is to tissue, and Pampers is to diapers. It turned the industry on its ear by guiding the next evolution in music with itunes, and without it, i wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be here talking shit about it right now.
There was a man fishing by himself in a small boat in the middle of the ocean. Now, I don’t know why anyone would be by himself in a small boat in the middle of the ocean fishing, and neither did his wife and kids. They had begged and pleaded with this man to stay home, and not to do something so foolish as fishing in the ocean in a small boat by himself; however, he had simply replied, “I’ll be all right. Thank you, though,” and had continued on out of the door with his fishing pole, heading for the docks.
While the man was loading his small boat preparing to leave, a stranger walking past and away from the docks noticed that the man was about to head out to sea. The stranger stopped and said, “It looks like a big storm’s coming. Everyone who was out to sea has come back or will be back soon. You don’t want to get caught out there in a storm with that little boat.” The man looked at the stranger, smiled at him, then spoke. “I’ll be all right. Thank you, though,” and continued on.
As he headed out, the sky went from blue and clear to gray and gloomy on its way to black and abysmal. The waves, which began as ripples, grew higher and higher. For a second, he thought that maybe he should have listened to his family and the stranger. Maybe if he turned around right now he could get back to shore; however, he quickly decided against it because, by this time, he was sitting in a full fledged storm and couldn’t see the shoreline. It would be just as dangerous to head back as it would be to stay. So he continued on.
Winds blowing at Nascar speed, yet he continued on. Rain pouring in so much abundance that one might think God had made the clouds cry. Yet he continued on. The small boat went back and forth, then side to side. Turning and whirling, while riding 20 foot high waves and then crashing down to the ocean floor. Sick, soaked, and scared, the man continued on.
Then something happened. The small boat sprang a leak. The man took off his drenched shirt, which was doing him no good anyway, and tore a piece off to plug the hole. Then another leak started. So he tore another piece of his shirt to plug that one. Then another, and another, and another. Pretty soon the only thing left of his shirt was the cuffs and and collar. He had to use those too because three more leaks came up.
“I’ve seen the worst of it. The waves the rain, the wind, and the leaks. I’m still here,” he whispered. Then raised his fist and looked upward while yelling, “YOU HEAR ME!? I’M STILL HERE! I WILL NOT LOSE TO YOU!”
I don’t think the storm liked his tone of voice, because almost immediately following the man’s fit of rage, the largest wave in the history of large waves came crashing down onto the small boat. The man was flung into the water, struggling to keep his head afloat.
“This can’t end like this. I shouldn’t have been a fool and I should have listened to everyone tell me that I shouldn’t do this.” Dejected and depressed, he began to sink as the storm let out a thunderous roar that seemed like a laugh.
The next day, after the storm had passed, the man’s family came running to the docks looking for him. He was nowhere to be found. They even ran into the stranger who described how he had told him that it was a bad idea to head out in the storm. Realizing what must have happened to her husband, the wife fell to her knees sobbing uncontrollably. “Why did he do it? Why did he have to go? Everyone knew it was a bad idea except for him.” Her children tried to comfort her, but when she looked up at them it only reminded her of what he had left behind, all to be a fool.
She had to be strong, though. So she wiped her eyes, picked herself up, and began on her way home with the children. Simultaneously, the stranger called out, “What the hell! Look out there.” As the woman turned in disinterest to the stranger to tell him that she doesn’t care, something out in the distance caught her eye...
...It was her husband coming toward shore in that small boat.
Once docking, the shirtless man climbed out of the small boat full of seaweed and fish, embracing his family and looking to the stranger, and said, “I told you I would be all right.”
I know you may be wondering what happened out there, but does it really matter? A man went fishing and came back with a boat full of them. What adversity he went through to make it happen is really irrelevant.
For decades, artists have used recording studios not only as a means to record their music, but also as a space to be creative in, and generate new ideas inside. The traditional recording studio is not only a room with equipment, but also an engineer (turns the knobs), a producer (provides input regarding song structure and album concepts), and multiple assistants. Today, more and more people are pursuing recording as a hobby, and setting up recording studios in their living rooms, bathrooms, bedrooms, and garages. This is a much more affordable way of recording your music, but doesn’t come without its disadvantages.
If you’re the artist, you have to ask yourself “What do I want to get from this experience?”. Do you want other musicians? Do you want production advice? What’s your budget?
There are many small studios popping up that have exactly what many people are looking for - good quality recordings of their work that they can share.. As you know, it’s easier to get music out to the masses than ever before, and if you have recordings on bandcamp, soundcloud, myspace, or other websites, you can share your music with the world.
That said, larger, more established recording studios can afford more expensive tools to make you sound better than you thought possible. It’s up to you which option is right for you. Larger studios have a greater overhead, and therefore need to pay the bills. Rates at these studios are generally higher than that of small studio rates. Rates at a well established studio can be anywhere from $75 - $200 per hour. Lesser established studios generally charge between $15 - $40 per hour. If you figure that your standard hip-hop album takes 10-12 hours to record, you’re looking at around $1,000 - $2,000 to record at a large studio, and somewhere around $200 - $500 to record at a small studio. It’s a big financial difference, and if you’re happy with the quality from the small studio, it’s the perfect situation.
Another perk of the small studio, is more often than not, really inspired people set them up and work in them, so you know that a lot of love goes into the work. Sometimes in large studios, the workers are just there to put in the hours. Also, since the rates are lower, you get more work for less money in the small studio.
The other option which many people are turning to is home recording studios.. Extra bedrooms or garages make great spaces, and you can get an incredible setup for less than $2,000 that will offer you a lifetime of recording in your own home. For a good hip-hop setup, you need a computer, recording software, a microphone, and an interface that allows you to plug the microphone into the computer. Here are my recommendations priced out -
Computer: Hewlett-Packard, custom built from their website - $800 (Mac equivalent is 3-4k)
Recording Software: Pro Tools 9 - $500 (You pay more, but it’s the
industry standard, and well worth the price)
Microphone: Audio-Technica AT4033 - $200-$300 on the “used” section at guitarcenter.com
Interface: Edirol UA 5 USB Mic Pre-Amp - $289 at soundprofessionals.com
There you have it - everything you need to have a great home studio for under 2k.
As I said before, it’s up to you to decide what you want from a studio. Do you want to build a home recording studio so you can record at your house 24/7? Do you want an affordable professional recording experience, where you walk away with a CD in hand ready to distribute to the masses? Or do you want to go all out and spend the money for the big time recording experience, and have the next platinum single? Choose your own adventure..
What's up indiehiphop101ers. Ghani Gautama here, founding member of Street Temple Emcees, one fourth of United Underworld, one half of Salty Dogs and your sister's favorite hip hop vagabond. Quanstar was kind enough to have me come do a guest article so here it goes...
In September of 2010 I moved from Atlanta, GA (my home for 10 years) to Charlotte, NC. It was a business and personal move and in my short in my new digs (9 months as of writing this) I've been able to keep my show schedule full, acquire professional management and secure a venue that allows me to throw my own monthly events. All of this in addition to maintaining my obligations to my Atlanta cohorts. None of this was by accident. I took some very teachable steps to make this so and I'd like to take this chance to share some tips with you.
There's a lot of reasons and they will differ from artist to artist. Perhaps it's a personal move or an opportunity to conquer a new market. Whatever the reason, it is important to remember that it can be either a disaster or a victory and this all depends on your attitude. Even if it's not an outright business move, if you approach it as an opportunity, it can become a beneficial move. These five tips worked for me and I am confident if you follow them you too can orchestrate a successful relocation.
ONE) Don't Look Back In Anger
One of the factors that went into my decision was the saturation of hip hop acts in Atlanta. A lot of artists go to music hot beds (like I did in Atlanta) to get their careers off of the ground. This can be a good idea, there are lots of opportunities and connections to be made but it also puts you in a BIG pond with a lot of even BIGGER fish. In my case I felt that I had done all that I could in Atlanta without conjuring up some magic money to throw at the situation. Regardless of your reasons for leaving, NEVER and I repeat NEVER do so bitter. Make sure you thank everyone who's helped and supported you while you were in your old location and keep in touch with them. It's easy to say "this town sucks," flip a bird and ride off into the sunset but you will at the same time alienate and anger a city full of supporters (and potential supporters) and severely limit your chances of coming back. If you look at your move as a new beginning and not as an ending it will help you project this positive attitude.
TWO) The Three R's: Research, Reach Out and Reciprocate
Okay, so you've decided to move you know the location, what now? First thing is hit the internet. RESEARCH venues and promoters in the area and see what acts are active on the scene. Then go onto your social networks and REACH OUT to artists that you like and who are doing things that you want to get involved with. Reverbnation.com is a good tool for this. When you contact artists, be sure not to approach them with a hat-in-hand attitude, let them know who you are, give them links to your music and ask them if they have any advice they can give you for breaking into the scene. If you followed tip one you should still have you contact from your last place of residence so offer to set them up with shows down there if they would like. It's tempting to ask them to put you on, but trust me if you have what it takes the shows will come. Artists are busy with their own stuff, if you bring something to the table you put yourself in a position to be viewed as a peer and not some new jack with his hand out. Once you get this info start going out and supporting these people. You can't ask them to help you if you won't support them. Keep showing your face and eventually you'll get your shot and when that shot comes, RECIPROCATE, don't make people regret helping you because the news that you're an ingrate will travel fast and your opportunities will dry up even faster. I'd also recommend adding a fourth "R," RESPECT, this goes for life in general but definitely applies here and should play heavily into the next step.
THREE) Killer Instinct
This is where things get good. You've been out to some events, shook hands, and maybe even got a few chances to shine on the mic. Now it's time to go for the gusto. When you're out at these shows supporting your fellow artists, keep a sharp eye and ear out for the movers and shakers on the scene. Introduce yourself to promoters and venue owners and don't be afraid to sell yourself. You might be new to the area but your entire body of work is your resume. Let them know what you've accomplished and that you are available to work. It's important to remember that these folks don't generally discuss business at shows so get their contact info and contact them through the channels which they prefer. I call it "killer instinct" because it is what sets amateur artists from pros and it's something that many don't possess. It is imperative that you conduct such conversations with confidence and professionalism so don't drink too much and watch your language. That being said don't be stiff or get too exited, as they say in sports, act like you've been there before. Approach these people in a way that reflects that you already have things going on and that if they pass on you someone else will jump at the chance to work with you. In sales they call this "fear of loss," in music you have to be a little more subtle in how you communicate it but the concept still applies. Knowing how to go for the "kill" and get your own events going will allow you to you to repay all the people who have helped you in your new city as well as provide new opportunities for your people back in your old city.
FOUR) Be Prepared
It's the Boy Scouts' motto but you should make it your own. Technology has made things extremely easy for hip hop musicians. I keep sets of 10, 15 and 20 minutes on the mp3 player in my phone and always carry a eighth inch to quarter inch audio cable and USB cable with me whenever I go out to anything. There's also a myriad of compact USB storage devices available so there's no excuse for being without your set, at the very least, burn a few CDs of different lengths and never leave home without them. You never know when an chance to play will fall in your lap and-especially when you're new to town-you never want to have to turn that chance down due to lack of preparation. I mean, really, a $10 jump drive that weighs less than an ounce can open so many doors.
FIVE) Humility, Humility, Humility
I say this thrice because it is that important. It is important to be confident, but never forget that the people who can help you the most have more than likely been building their business in the area for a long time. Even if it isn't the most crowded show or you don't get the best time slot, ALWAYS say thank you, not just on stage but in person at the show and again after the show by phone or e-mail. The same applies to your fellow artists, even if you don't personally care for their style of music, dap them up and tell them "good show." When people pay you compliments, look them in the eye and give them sincere humble thanks. This is always important but even more so when you're new in town. People are going to be more inclined to help a person who is humble and grateful more so than someone who isn't. It's also important to remember that whatever dues you paid in your old town don't mean anything in your new one so pay them with the same humility and vigor that you did back when you first started. Paying dues should actually be easier the second time around because you will have a clear cut strategy on how to move up in the game unlike when you were a young buck flying by the seat of your pants.
I hope this helps, it's important to note that there is no magic bullet to doing anything in this crazy business but these pointers helped me out a lot. My most recent relocation has been a swimming success and that is in no small part because I utilized all of these tips. If anyone out there has any more tips to add PLEASE post them in the comments.
Stay Thirsty My Friends,
Ghani Gautama firstname.lastname@example.org
A couple of years ago at The Hip Hop Congress Conference, I walked in on a few folks talking about what people at these conferences talk about:
"The State of Hip Hop and what we can do to save it."
Under normal circumstances, I'd immediately change course and run for shelter to protect myself from all of the bullshit that's being shot out of people's mouths; however, the conversation was taking place in the hotel room that I was staying in, and I was waiting for the pizza that I had ordered to be delivered. So, I found a seat on the other side of the room with the television and turned to ESPN.
I can't remember who the anchors were, but they seemed to keep me interested in the show enough to ignore most of the hullabaloo on the opposite side of the room despite the fact that The Lakers, Dodgers, Angels, USC, or Serena Williams weren't the constant topic. I mean, I still heard the usually blurt points like, "Hip Hop is dead" and "Kids listening to Hip Hop nowadays don't know the histrory." For the most part though, the ignorance of the "Hip Hop Elitist" was stopped by my sports filter.
What is a Hip Hop Elitist, you say? They are those hip hop fans that usually listen to songs from artists that you wouldn't normally hear on your local "mainstream" radio stations, with the exception of Common, Nas, and Kanye West. They are immersed in the culture, usually being an emcee, producer, DJ, B-boy or girl, or something that allows them the credentials to be overly critical of what they listen to.
Being that I'm describing most of you reading this blog right now, including myself, it is a safe assumption that you think that there is more to this Hip Hop Elitist thing. You're right. See, the Elitist goes a step further than just mere taste and preference. They actually believe that they own the keys to the gates of "Hip Hop," and anything that they don't like is not getting in that gate and, therefore, is not hip hop.
Back on topic. Almost two hours after stepping in the room, I'm sitting there at the TV listening to NASCAR Today, still waiting on my pizza, clinging desperately to the words of Brad Daugherty when my concentration broke (probably because I realized that I didn't know anything about NASCAR, other than Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart) and heard "All radio plays is that wack shit," which was true; however, they took it further by saying that, "people don't know what real hip hop is, and the radio and record companies don't want to give it to them."
"Every time I think I'm out they drag me back in," I thought. So I took a deep breath, sighed, and said, "That's not true."
"What's not true?" someone replied.
"Your entire statement is bull shit." I was setting him up.
"What are you talking about? Hip hop has changed. It used to be about reporting what you see going on. It used to mean something. Now they disrespect women, make up dances, and talk about being in the trap all of the time." Of course, his fellow Aristocrats nodded in agreement.
"First off homie, hip hop changing has nothing to do with what you just said before. Days change, people change, and music changes. Does Chuck Berry sound like The Beatles? Do they sound like Jimmy Hendrix? Did he sound like Rage Against The Machine? Do they sound like Creed (please excuse me for comparing Rage to Creed)? Does Creed sound like Mars Volta?" I think I lost him with Mars Volta, but I'm sure he got my point.
"That's not the same thing. Hip Hop is more than music. It's a culture."
"Do you really think that hip hop is the only musical genre that was developed out of a culture or vice versa? The music always defines the culture and the times. Woodstock defined the times, and the music reflected that.
"Furthermore, you have to understand that record companies are corporations and the only thing that matters to corporations are profits. They profit by giving people what they want. People want what they like. If a radio station is playing a song, it's typically because their listeners are responding positively to it."
"So you're saying that makes the music good?" he cut in sarcastically.
"Nope. I personally don't like most of the things that are played on mainstream radio or on most of the music video channels, with the exception of VH-1 Soul."
"Then why are you arguing with me about this? I don't understand. You must be playing Devil's Advocate."
"No, sir. I legitimately think that you're wrong." He frowns and I continue, "Just because you don't like something or think that it's wack doesn't mean it's not hip hop, it just means that it's wack to you.
"Whether you like it or want to admit it, hip hop is Bentleys, booties, dope dealing, and dancing (truthfully it has always been, but I didn't say that because I was closing a door and had no interest in opening another dumb ass conversation) as much as it is graffiiti, breaking, Djing, and freestyling. It is a reflection of what our society is. If you want to change the music you have to take on the task of changing society; however, that then brings up the question of what you would change about society. Frankly, that's a discussion that could last for years.
In my opinion, you should be interested in how you could get the Bentleys to listen to the graffiti. In other words, instead of exorcising wack music from hip hop, you should be figuring out what makes that wack music resonate with the people that like it."
Well, that conversation went on for another hour until my pizza came. I'm pretty sure he didn't agree with anything that I said, nor did I expect him to, which is why I tried to avoid the whole conversation in the first place.
However, my point was valid. Too often we in the music industry hear something that we don't like or relate to and brush it off as BS. We feel that it's beneath our music and tastes to subject ourselves to it. That's fine. This is America, you can like or love or whatever you want.
The issue is that when people don't respond to our music like they respond to the BS, we get upset and defensive when we should be objective and analytical.
Why is my music not resonating with an audience like I feel that it should?
Is my music as good as I think it is?
What can I improve about it?
Am I pushing it to the right audience and demographic?
Do I have a sound marketing plan?
Am I taking advantage of all avenues available to me?
Does what I expect to get out of this in the short term reflect the time and money that I'm putting into this?
And then comes the most important question..."How are these wack cats getting all of this pub?"
Answer: They hustle, and they hustle hard. They are everywhere people are with CD's and fliers in their hands, most of the times giving them away for free. They are in everyone's face and at every radio station trying to get their music on. They eat, sleep, and drink getting put on. Eventually, they do.
So, the next time you hear another stupid song on the radio about the newest dance or how someone's Maybach is looking clean as hell with half naked strippers hanging out of it, think about what they did to get their wack asses where they are. Then, apply it to you.
PS- I just wrote this whole article on my Android.
Quanstar is an American underground hip hop artist, indie filmmaker, comic creator, and self published author from Atlanta.
WHO IS QUANSTAR?
Quanstar is an American indie hip hop artist, filmmaker, and writer born in Compton, Ca. He is most known for his wordplay, live shows, and DIY attitude.
Since 2001, he's built a career on drive and work ethic that's led to over 1000 international tour dates, 15 albums, a comic series, book, documentary, and a feature film.
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