GUEST BLOG by SHAUN BROWN
Making music isn’t quite the lucrative endeavor it once was. Musicians are forced to be multifaceted go-getters if they want to have any chance at making a living at creating music. Long gone are the days where they can just simply rely on record sales and tour money to put food on the table. Today’s rappers have become brands that often supersede their music. Music has simply become but a platform, for something bigger economically speaking.
This can be a gift and a curse but we’re going to focus on the gift for the sake of this particular piece of literature. Every entrepreneur, no matter what field you are in, can learn a lot from rappers. As a matter of fact, I would say today’s musician is an entrepreneur’s entrepreneur. The model entrepreneur if you will.
Certain qualities that are must-have for music industry success are also must-haves for success of any kind of entrepreneurial undertaking(s). Or a successful life in general. The average person takes these qualities for granted but none of your favorite rappers do. That’s why rappers are the hustlers of all hustlers.
Here are some of the qualities that today’s rappers must possess if they want any shot at succeed in this cutthroat business and that all entrepreneurs should take note of.
The willingness to get it out the mud
Successful rappers often pride themselves on getting it out the mud. They aren’t afraid to show up for the ‘small things’. Hole in the wall venues etc. They aren’t afraid to pass out mixtapes (in the past). Do blogs.
A lot of rappers who literally came from nothing, pride themselves on their humble beginnings. So much so that even the rappers who didn’t exactly come from nothing boast about starting from the bottom.
The fact of the matter is we see the shine, but many artists have shown up to music festivals handing out flyers or even thumb drives with their music on it. Spent hours distributing music to blogs themselves because they can’t afford their own PR yet.
Many rappers, even while trying to maintain an image work day jobs to sustain themselves. This is the pure definition of bootstrapping any rapper that came up the hard way is not shy about letting you know.
Too many entrepreneurs take this “muddy” phase for granted or may even feel like their above doing certain things to further their business. However, this is where character is built. It’s not a step any entrepreneur can skip. Stop being afraid to struggle.
The networking drive
It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Rappers are networking gurus. I know of so many rappers who invested so many of their own dollars doing everything from buying DJ’s drinks to establish those relationships, to flying to festivals and events such as SXSW and A3C just for the chance to rub elbows with the music industry influencers.
Not only are they trying to reach out influencers and industry insiders, artists are constantly looking to reach out, collaborate and build with artists who are just as hungry that they have a natural chemistry with. This lateral networking has led to many of our favorite collaborations in music. Wale and J.Cole both clicked when they were on their mixtape grind and went on to provide us with several decent collaborative tracks.
Too many regular entrepreneurs get cold feet about going to simple networking events in their city or feel like they just don’t have time to. Furthermore, when they network, they are looking to meet the influencers and insiders whom they think could possibly help them get to where they want to be. Too often we look over the opportunities that lateral networking could afford us. When you find someone as hungry, driven and ambitious as you, you guys can both take each other to new levels.
Multiple income streams
Jadakiss once said, “If you can’t do nothing other than flow. Life’s a bitch like the mother from blow”.
Just think, he said that in 2004 before we had streaming platforms. Let’s face it Money from music is minimal. Most rappers get very few dollars of album sales. Yes for the successful artist tours and publishing can bring in generous profits, but when you pay managers, writers etc it can become pricey. That’s why it has become paramount that rap is only a stepping stone. Many
rappers have become brand sponsors, creative directors and other endeavors that their music opened the door for. Many rappers are brand themselves. Gone are the days you can just look at rappers as just rappers. Get over it. Rappers are a brand now.
Some may argue that this negatively affects the quality of music. Some artists’ brand becomes bigger than the music and it may seem like they just put out music to put out music, with the only intent to stay relevant. There may be some basis to that, but it can also be argued that one must continue to make quality music to satisfy their fans to remain relevant.
This relevance allows for revenue to roll in through streams and sponsorship dollars, which most artists take and invest into other businesses and investments. The fact is no artist can solely be focused on putting out music. Music is only one avenue.
Too many times entrepreneurs get focused on one thing being their entire bread and butter. As a writer, I cannot let writing be my only source of revenue. Writing is my talent which has allowed for other doors to open for me and more ways for revenue to flow in. The average millionaire has seven sources of income. The average successful rapper probably has ten.