This is part 1 of a multi-part series about rap music marketing.
Confession: I got tired of rappers spamming links on Twitter as the basis of their “promotional strategy,” realized there’s a lack of know-how about marketing in the indie rap world and decided to write this marketing guide.
I’m by no means a marketing “expert” (if such a thing really exists), but I have learned a great deal about the subject as a freelance writer required to market myself to get work and as a music journalist on the receiving end of marketing from artists for nearly 10 years, and I hope to share some of that knowledge in this series. While the info will be geared towards rappers, it applies to most endeavors that require self-promotion.
In this first installment, I’ll lay out a brief overview of marketing and explain the difference between effective and ineffective marketing. Future posts will include information about branding, press materials, using social media effectively, improving the quality of your music, building relationships, staging better live shows, grinding in the streets instead of talking about grinding in the streets, and much more.
If you have questions or specific topics you’d like me to cover, feel free to email me at [email protected] and I’ll try to incorporate the info into a future post.
Marketing is a much buzzed-about but little understood process that is crucial for any independent rapper to master, because it’s often the difference between success and failure. No matter how great your music is, if people don’t buy it, you won’t succeed.
So what exactly is marketing?
Marketing is the process of promoting and selling your products and services. It’s how you create demand, generate interest and close sales. If you’re an artist, marketing is everything you do to promote and sell your music, your merchandise, your concert tickets and anything else related to your artistry.
But not all marketing is created equal. And in the field of rap music, where supply is much greater than demand and knowledge of marketing is often minimal — if it exists at all — a lot of what passes for marketing these days is really just spam. Rappers push low-quality music on people who don’t want it and think they’re “grinding hard.” Nope. Instead of building a fan base, they’re inviting people to block them and report them as spam.
Effective marketing vs. ineffective marketing
The first thing to understand is that effective marketing is enjoyable for the people on the receiving end. It feels natural, effortless. It makes people think about the product, talk about the product and camp outside stores to get it. It’s a funny cat video that happens to promote a brand of cat food at the end. It’s the pizza commercial that makes your mouth water. It’s the smartphone ad that makes you program the new phone’s release date into your old phone’s calendar.
Effective marketing creates desire, so much so that a person will shell out their hard-earned money to satisfy that desire.
Ineffective marketing, on the other hand, is not really marketing at all, but marketing’s obnoxious cousin. It’s pushy, it’s intrusive, and it makes people feel like they’re being forced to do something they don’t want to do. It’s the spam link to a crappy song from a rapper you’ve never heard of before — and hope to never hear from again. It’s the email list you didn’t sign up for and can’t unsubscribe from. (Here’s looking at you, Raynard Jackson.) It’s the junk mail you don’t even bother to open. It’s the stuff you don’t want that just won’t seem to go away.
Ineffective marketing creates irritation and resistance, pushing people away when it should be pulling them in. It undermines your brand and often turns neutral people into borderline enemies if the tactics are abrasive or frequent enough, so it should be avoided at all costs.
The difference between ineffective marketing and effective marketing is the difference between the bugaboo who won’t stop texting you and the guy or girl you’ve had your eye on for months who finally agrees to go on a date. One represents annoyance — something unwanted that won’t go away — and the other represents satisfaction — something you want that you’re about to attain.
If you think back you can probably identify the effective and not-so-effective marketing strategies you’ve engaged in over the years — those tactics that increased your fan base, generated some buzz and made you money, and those that resulted in scathing reactions or no reactions whatsoever. The goal here is to eliminate the ineffective marketing tactics while identifying effective ones and implementing them on a broad scale.
Marketing your music
So how do you effectively market your music? How do you make yourself known in a sea of wannabe rappers and build a fan base that’s actually willing to pay for your songs, albums, merchandise and concert tickets? That’s the subject of this series.
In future posts I’ll go into detail about specific ways you can improve the quality of your brand and your music and specific strategies you can use to market yourself and gain fans.
But for now, I will say this: Don’t push garbage onto people. That means, first off, don’t make garbage music. Raise your standards about 10 levels higher than they are now and focus on creating an amazing product. And two, don’t push your music onto people; pull them in. Don’t spam links to strangers. Build a fan base and make that fan base hungry for your new material.
Look out for the next article in the series, which will discuss branding and explain why if your branding is wrong, nothing else can be right.