1. Scour low income neighborhoods for misguided youth with flashes of talent. Make sure the artist has a strong local following from perpetuating a self-destructive narrative and the charisma to make self-destruction seem appealing. Artists with previous jailtime are preferred for credibility purposes.
2. Ingratiate yourself to the artist by promising them riches and fame. Refrain from admitting the truth, that most artists are in tremendous debt to their record label and flaunt rented jewelry, cars and homes. Sell them the dream that they will be one of the half dozen Hip-Hop artists with legitimate financial security. It shouldn’t be hard to convince a disillusioned youth who doesn’t know the true value of money. Get in good with whoever is investing and/or managing their career to this point so you can have a voice inside their camp.
3. Sign the artist to a 360 deal, but don’t announce it. Set yourself up to get a cut from whatever profits they earn. Speak with their aforementioned investor and/or management and develop a method for them to skim money from the artist’s future earnings, primarily show earnings. Partner with that person as if you care for them, but keep them at arm’s length. This is only about ownership of the artist. Offer no artist development or media training, but ensure you maintain complete creative control over their career. You need to control their album content, album art, music videos, social media profile, and social agency.
4. Afford your artist access to your immense resources. Find the song you believe will be a hit. Don’t worry about lyrical quality, just easy digestion. Make sure the song has a particular line that is fun to recite but ultimately counterproductive. Make sure your artist’s musical content, life story and/or fashion sense is polarizing enough to inspire think pieces. Film a music video. Ensure the video is provocative, memorable, and easily digestible for viral media. A dance would be a good idea. Make everything appear organic and “out of nowhere”. Use your network of artists, executives and media members to talk your artist up. Make them go viral.
5. When the song and video connects with the masses, put the media hype in overdrive. Make sure all the DJs are playing your song. Make sure established artists are “fans” of your artist to build credibility. Get your artist spots on popular radio shows throughout the country. Make sure whatever line or dance you chose to sell your song is firmly established in pop culture and becomes a meme. Encourage other entertainers and athletes to support the meme. In the midst of this, keep the illusion that your artist is unsigned to build intrigue. Encourage a “bidding war” narrative even though the artist is signed to you. Maintain your distance.
6. When the time is right, use your press department to announce your contract signing. Tell your artist to say he was “signed for 2 million”. Let the media run with the speculation. Distribute the press release and incite hysteria and excitement that you created a young black millionaire. You need to preserve the illusion of Hip-Hop being a financial savior for impressionable kids and 36 year old twitter rappers still dying to be signed. Refrain from clarifying that not only was your artist not signed for 2 million, the advance he received is merely a loan from which all album expenses will be taken from. Celebrate the “new” signing with a picture or video, preferably one that reeks of white paternalism and minstrelsy.
7. Offer zero guidance. Ignore the fact that the social insulation of newfound fame may estrange your artist from former friends and family who see him as an ATM. Ignore the possibility of your artist spending well beyond his means trying to support leeches. Don’t advise them of taxes or long-term planning. Let him spend his advance and show money recklessly on car rentals, hotels, clothes, jewelry, groupies, strip clubs, bottle service, pills/weed/syrup and maybe even guns and drugs to sell. Let him remain blissfully ignorant and intoxicated, especially as his manager steals money from him.
As the hype from their initial single starts to fade, the inevitable “beef” with other artists (possibly related to pre-fame street beef) commences, and they finally realize their money is looking funny, the artist will become upset and disillusioned with fame. Ignore their outrage. Don’t offer them any advice. If they confront you, reassure them everything is fine. If you feel the urge, offer them a vanity label which they’ll think makes them a “boss” but is little more than a letterhead that you control.
8. At this point, push for their second single. Offer them considerably less promotion to see if they’re viable on their own. Don’t offer any guidance on what the second single should be, as long as it’s not substantive or uplifting.
9. As their music career starts to flounder, they will get desperate. There will be voices of family and friends juxtaposed against the life they now live and a desperation to preserve their new lifestyle by any means. If music doesn’t provide sustainable income, they will turn to their former life. As a known entertainer and target of police, they won’t be able to successfully transition back into the streets. They will end up entangled in a perilous legal situation.
Their bail may be as high as 2 million dollars. Back a Bondsman and bail them out at a premium of up to 10%, or $200,000. Make everyone think you’re loyal to the artist, even though you’ll receive the premium back after the trial. By law, the Judge releases the prisoner into your Bondsman’s custody. You own the artist even more now. Take the opportunity to drain them of whatever’s left of their freedom and musical relevance. Attempt to make every cent you can from an artist until conviction, at which point you present them a bill for their advance.
10. Repeat Step One.
Andre G is a freelance writer, poet, music producer and co-founder of ColorTheFuture.org, a platform for young artists of color. @melaninaire