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
Quanstar is an American underground hip hop artist, indie filmmaker, comic creator, and self published author from Atlanta.