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EXECUTION Producing, Marketing and Releasing My First Hip-Hop/Rap Album (Music Production, Building Fanbase, Diversifying Income Streams)

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Tjkingmc

Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Sep 19, 2020
11
28
21
North Carolina
Greetings All.

I'm starting this progress thread to keep myself accountable and document my experience for other aspiring musical artists/ music professionals on the forum.

Backstory:
I'm in my late 20's. I've been rapping for 15 years and producing/engineering for the last 3. It's always been a passion for me, but I'm at a cross roads:

Is music something that I am going to pursue as a serious business? or chalk it up as a hobby and focus primarily on my other (less exciting) business?

Biggest external problem: Saturation. Finding a niche with less competition.
Biggest internal problem: Lack of inspiration.
Secondary internal problem: Keeping focus / postponing music ideas for unrelated activities that offer more immediate financial gain.

I've released projects in the past with promising feedback. The content of my music tends to lead to higher engagement (encouraging emails, messages, comments) suggesting that I'm hitting on something somewhat niche. Early on I made a push and realized the messages in my music were being negated by poor audio quality so I went back to the lab, learned how to make my own beats and how to mix. I know music is largely "subjective" but like any industry there are standards of quality that are ubiquitous. I'm confident that my music has gone from clearly amateur in quality to professional.

Observations:
The wannabe musician stereotype is a well known, and well dated one. You perform at an open mic, everyone fawns over your amazing skills, the women fall to their knees and a manager from a big label signs you to a million dollar record deal. I'm embarrassed to say that this paradigm wasn't too far off from my mindset about 5 years ago. Obviously, it doesn't work like that anymore... And even if it did, it's not a viable business model, it's a lottery.

I believe my experiences as a young, ignorant musician who failed and subsequently started an unrelated e-commerce business has actually positioned me well to be successful in music this time around. I've murdered my ego and accepted the fact that music and the musician are simply products. The music is just one of many vehicles used to transact with an audience. Hence the reason so many "Celebrities" end up moonlighting as musical artists...Have you heard Vin Diesel's new song? I apologize in advance :happy:

With that being said, armed with my upgraded skill-set and business experience I'm going to give it one more go...

The Opportunity:
After sorting through all my observations and gaps in the market I believe I've targeted several audiences/ niches that I'd like to test:

  • Hip-Hop lovers that are entrepreneurs or interested in entrepreneurship
  • DIY Hip-hop artists
  • Financial Literacy/ Education for Hip-Hop artists
Action Plan:

Produce and release an album/EP (aiming for 6 full songs)
  • Produce/ Release 1 Song each month for the next 6 months
  • Create an extra piece of target-audience related content to release with each song (production tutorial, blog post, helpful info graphic, etc.)
  • Complete website and launch mailing list
In the next 6 months my goals are too:
  • Have a fully completed album that can be given a formal marketing campaign.
  • Collect feedback from listeners to have a better idea of who's listening and why
  • Decide whether or not I've enjoyed the process and make a decision to continue building out a career in music or focus solely on other endeavors.
I have several different ideas on how to monetize the music and process. The reason I'm starting with the execution of creating this album is to garner momentum, awareness, and have a reference point where I can direct fans, potential clients, and just for self-motivation.

I will continue to update this thread weekly with my progress and realizations. Thanks for your time and any insight.

Peace!
 

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AidenRafi

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Read Millionaire Fastlane
Mar 1, 2017
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honestly man, if you really want to level up, I would release a full mixtape every few months.
That's what you are competing with at the moment and thats how a lot of young dudes get hype around them.

I can understand where you are coming from, i have produced music as a hobby for the last 10 years.

Send me some tunes if you want i will check it out ;)
 

James Klymus

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Dec 28, 2018
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First off I wanna wish you luck in your ventures.

Second, I have no experience in the music industry, But I have a friend who managed to become pretty popular in the dubstep community. Playing shows in front of thousands of people, being friends with all of the biggest artists in the niche hes in (And those people are connected to bigger names in the industry (like skrillex, 12th planet, porter robinson etc).

I can tell you that it wasn't about him being the best at his craft, DJing or producing the best music. It's about him being friends with big names in the industry, and the clout that comes with it. He was always reaching out to people and it worked.

What i personally see in the music industry (again take it for what it's worth) It's a popularity contest with being exceptional at your craft coming second. What i'm saying is you should probably focus on making connections and friends with people in the industry who can get you noticed.

I think that if you make it big in music with the business knowledge that MJ teaches, then you're miles ahead of all these other fly by night rappers. You probably won't be screwed by people who want to take advantage of you, and blow all of your record deal money.

Whatever you do, dive into it. Don't be one of these guys who's in his 40's still trying to make it in music while working at chilis. Good luck bro.
 

Tjkingmc

Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Sep 19, 2020
11
28
21
North Carolina
honestly man, if you really want to level up, I would release a full mixtape every few months.
That's what you are competing with at the moment and thats how a lot of young dudes get hype around them.

I can understand where you are coming from, i have produced music as a hobby for the last 10 years.

Send me some tunes if you want i will check it out ;)
Very true. Definitely quantity over quality nowadays. He who pumps out the most content wins.
 

Tjkingmc

Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Sep 19, 2020
11
28
21
North Carolina
First off I wanna wish you luck in your ventures.

Second, I have no experience in the music industry, But I have a friend who managed to become pretty popular in the dubstep community. Playing shows in front of thousands of people, being friends with all of the biggest artists in the niche hes in (And those people are connected to bigger names in the industry (like skrillex, 12th planet, porter robinson etc).

I can tell you that it wasn't about him being the best at his craft, DJing or producing the best music. It's about him being friends with big names in the industry, and the clout that comes with it. He was always reaching out to people and it worked.

What i personally see in the music industry (again take it for what it's worth) It's a popularity contest with being exceptional at your craft coming second. What i'm saying is you should probably focus on making connections and friends with people in the industry who can get you noticed.

I think that if you make it big in music with the business knowledge that MJ teaches, then you're miles ahead of all these other fly by night rappers. You probably won't be screwed by people who want to take advantage of you, and blow all of your record deal money.

Whatever you do, dive into it. Don't be one of these guys who's in his 40's still trying to make it in music while working at chilis. Good luck bro.
Very good insights and I agree fully. Networking is at the top of my priority list, next to content creation.
 

Tjkingmc

Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Sep 19, 2020
11
28
21
North Carolina
Greetings All.

I'm starting this progress thread to keep myself accountable and document my experience for other aspiring musical artists/ music professionals on the forum.

Backstory:
I'm in my late 20's. I've been rapping for 15 years and producing/engineering for the last 3. It's always been a passion for me, but I'm at a cross roads:

Is music something that I am going to pursue as a serious business? or chalk it up as a hobby and focus primarily on my other (less exciting) business?

Biggest external problem: Saturation. Finding a niche with less competition.
Biggest internal problem: Lack of inspiration.
Secondary internal problem: Keeping focus / postponing music ideas for unrelated activities that offer more immediate financial gain.

I've released projects in the past with promising feedback. The content of my music tends to lead to higher engagement (encouraging emails, messages, comments) suggesting that I'm hitting on something somewhat niche. Early on I made a push and realized the messages in my music were being negated by poor audio quality so I went back to the lab, learned how to make my own beats and how to mix. I know music is largely "subjective" but like any industry there are standards of quality that are ubiquitous. I'm confident that my music has gone from clearly amateur in quality to professional.

Observations:
The wannabe musician stereotype is a well known, and well dated one. You perform at an open mic, everyone fawns over your amazing skills, the women fall to their knees and a manager from a big label signs you to a million dollar record deal. I'm embarrassed to say that this paradigm wasn't too far off from my mindset about 5 years ago. Obviously, it doesn't work like that anymore... And even if it did, it's not a viable business model, it's a lottery.

I believe my experiences as a young, ignorant musician who failed and subsequently started an unrelated e-commerce business has actually positioned me well to be successful in music this time around. I've murdered my ego and accepted the fact that music and the musician are simply products. The music is just one of many vehicles used to transact with an audience. Hence the reason so many "Celebrities" end up moonlighting as musical artists...Have you heard Vin Diesel's new song? I apologize in advance :happy:

With that being said, armed with my upgraded skill-set and business experience I'm going to give it one more go...

The Opportunity:
After sorting through all my observations and gaps in the market I believe I've targeted several audiences/ niches that I'd like to test:

  • Hip-Hop lovers that are entrepreneurs or interested in entrepreneurship
  • DIY Hip-hop artists
  • Financial Literacy/ Education for Hip-Hop artists
Action Plan:

Produce and release an album/EP (aiming for 6 full songs)
  • Produce/ Release 1 Song each month for the next 6 months
  • Create an extra piece of target-audience related content to release with each song (production tutorial, blog post, helpful info graphic, etc.)
  • Complete website and launch mailing list
In the next 6 months my goals are too:
  • Have a fully completed album that can be given a formal marketing campaign.
  • Collect feedback from listeners to have a better idea of who's listening and why
  • Decide whether or not I've enjoyed the process and make a decision to continue building out a career in music or focus solely on other endeavors.
I have several different ideas on how to monetize the music and process. The reason I'm starting with the execution of creating this album is to garner momentum, awareness, and have a reference point where I can direct fans, potential clients, and just for self-motivation.

I will continue to update this thread weekly with my progress and realizations. Thanks for your time and any insight.

Peace!
It's been a little over a week since my original post. Here's an update on my progress:
  • Getting back into the habit of recording regularly. Improved workflow. *Set up mic on desk so I can quickly capture ideas instead of having to set-up formal mic stand every time I want to record.

  • Finished a complete song with a friend. I didn't like how it came out. It was nice to collaborate as I only had to write record one verse. However, when I made suggestions on things I wanted to tweak he gave push back.
    • *One of the reasons I've found it hard/unpleasant to collaborate at this level is a lot of hobbyists aren't interested in iteration or improvement. They are doing it because they enjoy the process (which is fine), but this approach doesn't work well when you are trying to create a viable music product for market.

  • Partially finished another song that I do like. I'm going to make this my exclusive release for this month. This week i will be working on writing/ recording the rest of the song. Friend that helped me with other song is very talented, despite our difference in musical taste. I might outsource the hook to him and just write the verse and instruct him on how I'd like it performed.

  • As @James Klymus mentioned a lot of success in the music industry is about networking and building relationships. I've been thinking of ways that I can start to build relationships with the right people despite the limitations of covid. Just releasing music and posting to social might be fine for building a mailing list and fan base (I have a model for that), but I'm almost certain that the right relationships will prove to be much more important when I look to maneuver in the near future.
    • *I've networked in the past but often ended up attracting other wannabe's that were stumbling around just like I was. Those relationships ending up being largely distractions rather than helpful. This time I'm going to make sure I reach out to people who are already doing what i'd like to do at the level I'd like to be before offering value or initiating*

  • A realization I had that may be helpful to others out there: I have a friend who also does music. Talented but very stubborn, inconsistent, and resistant to change. Music is really the only thing that connects us at this point. He showed me the ropes as a beginner but I quickly surpassed him in regards to life and musical knowledge. As a friend, he's not a very good one but I do enjoy sharing music with him. I know that he will never do anything with music or his life and I get the feeling that he wants to attach himself to me for self gain.
    • *Alot of people will see growth and want to ride along but are not willing to pay their dues. It's up to us to be the driver and make sure the people riding with us are there to get to the same destination and boot those who are just trying to ride for free/fun.
It can be hard to stay inspired when you are not collaborating or sharing your art. My hope is that as I start regularly releasing music I'm able to start generating new sources of motivation and inspiration. I'll post a new update next week.
 

mr4ffe

Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Nov 3, 2018
41
28
47
Stockholm, Sweden
Great to see another "head" on the forums! I write/rap/produce music (currently only as a hobby) but I'm studying audio engineering in uni. Just started this Fall at 19 years old. You obviously have more skin in the game, but still feel free to reach out if you need help with anything!

That part about connections someone mentioned is only partially true - at least nowadays. Russ is an example of someone who blew up without industry contacts (allegedly), thanks to the web. He says to just release music continually (especially singles), and once people start to notice, you'll see which songs they like so you know which ones to shoot music videos for and what kind of songs to keep making.

Something I didn't see you explicitly mention in your post but that you might want to think about if you haven't already is why you're doing what you're doing. Do you just want to get rich and flex, or influence people to better themselves, or maybe help them through tough times? Doesn't matter whether it's a selfish reason - rather be honest right now than later down the line when you realize you ended up doing something you didn't want to.

I don't know if I'm making sense, but for me, making music comes from a place of gratitude. I've been struggling with mental issues all my life and if it weren't for Hip-Hop I'd be dead. Now I want to make music to pay back to the culture and help the next generation get through shit I couldn't go through without that voice in the headphones that convinced me not to end it. What I'm saying is: figure out the reason you are doing what you're doing, because it may be easier to adhere to your plans once you know that.

Good luck, and keep us posted!

Protip: Build a team of people with similar visions and ambitions! This is actually way harder than it sounds, but it's worth the effort. You'll motivate each other and build off each other's success (just make sure to keep the leeches off).
 

Tjkingmc

Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Sep 19, 2020
11
28
21
North Carolina
Great to see another "head" on the forums! I write/rap/produce music (currently only as a hobby) but I'm studying audio engineering in uni. Just started this Fall at 19 years old. You obviously have more skin in the game, but still feel free to reach out if you need help with anything!

That part about connections someone mentioned is only partially true - at least nowadays. Russ is an example of someone who blew up without industry contacts (allegedly), thanks to the web. He says to just release music continually (especially singles), and once people start to notice, you'll see which songs they like so you know which ones to shoot music videos for and what kind of songs to keep making.

Something I didn't see you explicitly mention in your post but that you might want to think about if you haven't already is why you're doing what you're doing. Do you just want to get rich and flex, or influence people to better themselves, or maybe help them through tough times? Doesn't matter whether it's a selfish reason - rather be honest right now than later down the line when you realize you ended up doing something you didn't want to.

I don't know if I'm making sense, but for me, making music comes from a place of gratitude. I've been struggling with mental issues all my life and if it weren't for Hip-Hop I'd be dead. Now I want to make music to pay back to the culture and help the next generation get through shit I couldn't go through without that voice in the headphones that convinced me not to end it. What I'm saying is: figure out the reason you are doing what you're doing, because it may be easier to adhere to your plans once you know that.

Good luck, and keep us posted!

Protip: Build a team of people with similar visions and ambitions! This is actually way harder than it sounds, but it's worth the effort. You'll motivate each other and build off each other's success (just make sure to keep the leeches off).
Thanks for sharing. How are you enjoying your audio engineering program so far? Has it been crazy with covid? I've actually gotten pretty deep into the engineering part of it as I started learning production. I love the technical stuff! It's definitely taken my music and understanding of it to the next level.

In regards to connections i agree. I'm already set on doing it myself and I'm building other businesses to fund it and make that possible without really needing to go the industry route. At this point I'm more interested in sync licensing and building a smallish fan base than the traditional artist model.

I have long term goals that i haven't shared here yet, but my WHY is to educate music artists on financial literacy and entrepreneurship. Too many artists are employees when they should be owners as it's their art, and imo the music suffers as a result.

And you're absolutely right. I've learned the importance in having community with like-minded people. I've had to maneuver quite a bit to get myself in a position to pursue the music thing in the way i'd like, but i'm getting to the point where I can make moves towards the music dream (I'm moving to Atlanta within the next year or two)

Cheers!
 

Kid

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Mar 1, 2016
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A thing to consider
 

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mr4ffe

Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Nov 3, 2018
41
28
47
Stockholm, Sweden
How are you enjoying your audio engineering program so far? Has it been crazy with covid?
I meeeean... The program encompasses way more than I expected, like electrical engineering and room acoustics (physics). I've learned a lot in a short time, but as most audio engineers were self-taught or were taught by mentors through internships, I don't know if this uni shit is necessary. I moved 90+ km away to study while people in my hometown keep telling me I should come back home so we can cook up, but when I lived there and hit them up to go record they would sometimes ignore me or come up with excuses not to go. I'm kind of split on that...

Thing is, I'm starting to doubt my decisions. I don't even know if I want to do audio engineering as a main job - I mostly picked this because I didn't know what else to study and I needed to learn more about mixing and mastering to get me and my team's music sounding good (plus, uni is dirt cheap here in Sweden). I've been feeling down for most of the time here after I moved, and I guess I started reading the Millionaire Fastlane to find out what my alternative is. See, audio engineering a highly competitive industry that generally pays somewhere in the low-mid tier. I followed the advice of "do something you love", but if I'm going to do something highly competitive that I no more than mildly enjoy, it better pay well. Also, to get by as a freelancing audio engineer you need to be good at networking with people, which is faaar from my strongest suit (I'm "blessed" with ASD). Not that other jobs require less social engagement...

I don't know, maybe I'll drop out eventually, but I don't want to jump the gun too soon because I want to use this time in uni to set up a business on the side. As long as I stay in uni I have cheap rent with free electricity and warm water. Maybe I could set up some servers at home and rent out server capacity or something, IDK. The CENTS framework changed how I view business, so now I'm starting to think about what gaps there are in various markets.

Regarding the pandemic, it's been hard for the professors to do demonstrations and for us students to do labs because that requires us to be near each other. I think a fifth of my class was sick last Friday. Since this semester started up until now, we've had real life lectures and not virtual ones, but we will start with virtual lectures tomorrow because the pandemic has recently gotten very bad.

What about you - are you and everyone you know staying safe? Sorry for another long post.
 

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