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The Rap Market is Not a Pigeonhole

Monday, April 29, 2013 • Eric Gomez
While it's true that today's artists MUST network and build a true fan-base and web of contacts for business purposes; there is more to this business than simply showing up at events needlessly. When is it time to break free from the networking trap?
Far too many times, I have seen posts and tweets from various "industry professionals" warning artists that if they don't network and participate in opportunities they provide; somehow this will derail the artists' career and stump any business growth. While it's true that today's artists MUST network and build a true fan-base and web of contacts for business purposes; there is more to this business than simply showing up at events needlessly. Sometimes SELECTIVITY is more important than a constant "grind;" and sometimes EXCLUSIVITY is more effective than including a whole city into your plans.
In all reality, there is no ONE way to do business or create a structure for success. While there's common points of reference like business ethics, process building and standardized terms regarding business transactions and relationships; anyone who says their way is the ONLY way to make it happen is simply a liar out for self-invested interests.
One of the most common veils in this market is size. Whether it's purchased views and follows or exaggerated crowd counts at shows; the belief a lot of people embrace is that if you make it "appear" big, it will be considered a success. The problem with this view is that it breeds a bit of apathy and doesn't take into account the various relationships it may hinder, the failure of processes that may need correction and the revenue targets missed. It does not account for the true marketing professional who sees past the fluffed numbers and is seeking business relationships with more realistic plans, goals and counts that can be proven. True professionals work with PROVEN numbers and percentages, not wishful ones.
In an effort to clear the air, we've developed an approach to determine whether the networking you're about to do is even worth the gas, time and effort; or if that time would be better spent on your mixes, promotions and planning. Keep in mind that with every minute you take outside of the studio and work relating to your business, it's time you are SPENDING and INVESTING into something or someone else. Is the networking event you're going to attend there to help or hinder your growth? Here are some key points to consider when evaluating your answer:
1. Do I have promotional material or merchandise of my own to bring?
Let's be absolutely clear on this… if you are at a point in your development that you are considering business objectives; there should be NO REASON you do not have promotional items of your music or brand on you at all times. It's great meeting people at events, but if they have nothing to remember you by; you just wasted that time on someone who probably forgot about you as soon as the day ended.
2. Is this event providing anything to add to my current efforts, or is it just "more of the same?"
It's pretty common to have multiple networking events and showcases that all do the same thing. I mean, it's not an overly complex setup to have. Get some artists, get a place with some sound, put out some flyers, FB/TWEET blast everyone and VOILA! The problem with this simplicity is that it tends to create a monotonous tone from one event to the next. At some point in every serious artist's journey; they MUST ask themselves if this is "more of the same."
In all fairness to promoters, it takes a lot of time, energy and effort to put these things together, and it takes VERY GOOD MONEY to get actual professionals who will take it to the next level; but artists who are serious about their career at some point must distance themselves from monotony and make steps toward expanding their knowledge and reach if they plan on surviving the tides of the, often-shaky, entertainment business.
3. Do I have SPECIFIC goals in mind for this event?
Many people overlook this question or never ask themselves it because they are simply flowing along with the tides of their current network, whether local or otherwise. Some artists don't consider actually coming up with a game plan when they go to a show or networking event. Flying blind is probably the one thing you DON'T want to do when investing your time.
Whether it's getting out a certain number of CD's, making a set amount of sales, getting specific types of contacts, or anything along those lines; it's imperative that artists account for their time and continually reach goals, even if they are of the smallest kind. Every goal achieved is a PROVEN step that works. Fill your days with achieved goals instead of aimless fuzzies from "love" you got at shows. It's great to feel good about the day, but feeling good about the day and feeling more accomplished in your business puts things in a different perspective.
4. How will I make the money back that I'm spending on going to this event?
Another common misconception is that being in the music business requires money without the expectation of gaining income. When people go to college, they don't aim on going simply to create more debt; they pay that money in hopes that they can create a career that will pay that money back and then some. Treat events much like college courses, especially once you know the basics of music business. Find events that will make you think beyond what you know today and expect to find ways to monetize on those lessons. If it's a showcase event, set a goal for an amount of merchandise sales. Again, every GOAL you make should be centered on your business growing, whether it's financially or through additional resources and relationships. There's no wrong in that.
5. Is what I'm doing now more important to finish than the event I'm considering?
The biggest flaw we have as an indie market is our bad bout of ADHD tendencies. It's so easy to get distracted by the big event coming up with a bunch of industry-level A&R's (whatever that means). But if your CD is only halfway mixed down and the event is only a week away; it's probably a better idea to finish up your product and prioritize having physical merchandise. Why waste the money, time and energy going empty handed or half-assing mixes to hand to professionals who may discount you for bad quality later? It just doesn't make sense. No matter the inclination to "be down," prioritize business goals over popularity contests and parties. There's no replacement for honest work ethic in the face of retweeted distractions.
At the end of the day, there's no ONE way to gain the success you're seeking if you focus on the right things. Networking and shows are great, but if your goals are not being achieved in the process; you might want to reconsider your steps and prioritize differently. The rap market is NOT a pigeon hole formula that works only if you network tirelessly. It's happens when you market WISELY and adjust steps to sustain your business model's requirements and the demands of your fanbase.
Next Article… It's Bigger Than Hip Hop

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