Rap Coalition

A HOW-TO RESOURCE FOR RAP ARTISTS, PRODUCERS, & DJs. Since knowledge is power, here is your best defense to succeed in the urban music industry...

Friday, May 16, 2008

More advice from Bob Lefsetz:

What if you released your album and no one cared. Worse, imagine that no one even knew it was out.

With the plethora of information floating in bits and bytes and dead trees throughout the universe, the odds of your release making an impact on the target audience are close to nil. If you're lucky, someone will read a review somewhere and be aware your record came out. Chances are, they won't even know it came out.

Then there's the "superstars". Alicia Keys, Mariah Carey, Madonna... To speak in advertising language, their marketing plans are incredibly inefficient. A lot of time, ink and dollars are spent trying to reach their fans, but most of it is wasted. Most people don't care, and those who do are bombarded with the same message again and again. Ultimately turned off.

What's an act to do?

To realize the focus should not be on the media, but the fan. Just like the Internet rid the music business of the need to manufacture and ship, this same Net allows an act to forgo interacting with the media, to go straight to the fan. You must go straight to the fan.

We're speaking of the aforementioned e-mail list here. Yes, you've got to collect names. But how?

By making it a better offer, a better business proposition.

A Website is no longer just a repository of information, it's the front door to your fan club. You may be a musician, but second to that, you're running a club. You have to spread the word on your music, you have to create demand for your tour. This is especially true for so called "heritage" artists.

Elton John laments that he can't sell a record, that no one's interested in his new music. That's not true. He's just going about marketing his music in the old way.

Elton needs to find a track, and give it away for free on his site, for an e-mail address. Sure, said track can ultimately be acquired for free via P2P, but the track isn't the only thing the fan gets... He gets $5 off a concert ticket. Discount merchandise. Hell, you're selling direct, the profit margin is huge already! You've got your own store, developing your own fan base.

The problem is the old acts believe they're too big for this. They just want someone to write a check. And now that record companies are not interested, they want it to be Live Nation or another promoter. These complaining acts are not investing in their careers. They want someone else to do all the work. You wonder why no one's interested in their new music?

New, developing acts, that are not "radio-friendly"... And almost no act deserving of a career is radio-friendly today, listen to Top Forty radio, the only format that really sells tonnage, for edification. Do not look to record companies to do the work. There's no one there to do the work. Sony gutted its Net division. You've got to do the work. There is no man behind the curtain.

I'm not saying you have to give up the old ways completely. There's nothing wrong with radio play or record reviews...they just have less impact than ever before. Shit, people don't even write songs about the radio anymore.

How can you get your fans to feel a connection with you? How can you create a bond? How can you create a base that will always deliver? This is the Marillion model. Getting the fans to pay for the record. Other acts, squeezed out of the system, are attempting the same thing. But, the next wave will be giant artists. The ones who fill arenas and sheds playing their old hits. These acts have to hunker down. They may still think they're stars, but really, stars today are Heidi and Spencer, and they're working it!

Maybe the musician can't do it himself. Maybe he needs a team. But do not focus on radio and print to help you along. The public, your fans, don't have time to wade through the clutter. They've got to hear from you directly. They've got to have a direct investment in your future. They've got to feel like they're INVOLVED!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Bob Lefsetz rants about the internet and artists who are afraid to utilize the new technology:

If I get one more e-mail from a middling artist telling me how tough life is, how the Net has ruined their income, their lives, their careers, I'm gonna EXPLODE!

The Net is the very best thing that has ever happened to everybody but superstars.

We can debate the effect upon superstars at a later date... Or the inability to be a superstar. But if you used to have a recording deal, and you lived off the advances/royalties, and now you've lost your deal or your sales are off...I'VE GOT NO SYMPATHY FOR YOU!

I'm not saying people shouldn't pay for music. Let's legalize P2P, let's authorize new consumption methods, let's cast a wide net... But until that happens, stop crying in your beer and seize the opportunity!

The major labels are freaked out. Because historically they've only made money in the recorded music sphere. They've got opportunities in the future too, if they'd only step into the twenty first century. But they're about amalgamation, you're about...one.

Everything you build comes back to you. Every effort you make enhances your career. Choices may not be as obvious, effects might not be measured instantly, but get in the game for the long haul and watch as dividends get paid.

First and foremost, for the very first time in history, you can know who your audience is. You can collect the e-mail address of everybody who likes your music. Maybe give a track away for free for an e-mail address. Maybe not all of the addresses will be valid, but if they're truly fans, they'd LOVE IT if you contacted them in the future. This is what Led Zeppelin did with their O2 ticket sale, this is what Radiohead did with their name your own price "In Rainbows" deal, this is what Trent Reznor does again and again. You have to harvest e-mail addresses. So when you go on tour, when you've got something to sell, you can ALERT YOUR FANS!

And it's no longer ONLY when you're on tour. You can sell t-shirts while you're at home watching the tube. People who've never seen you live can order a t-shirt or keychain or autographed tchotchke. Hell, you can PERSONALIZE all your merch and sell it at an exorbitant price. Shit, you can even ask your fans for money to record. True fans will give you ALL their dough. They want to support you, they're in it for the long haul... Unlike the label. If your first emphasis track/single fails, the fan doesn't drop you, he redoubles his effort, he's even more committed, because you NEED HIM!

Stop trying to take the easy way out. Looking for a sugar daddy, a bank. Start doing the hard work. Or get your spouse to do the heavy lifting. Or enlist a fan, who will do it all FOR FREE! Doubt me? Then how about all those fans who establish Websites in your honor. They'll do the authorized one FOR NOTHING!

And that site has to be updated EVERY FUCKING DAY! So people will continue to come back, to bond.

Just because music can be stolen doesn't mean you can't sell it. Hell, look at iTunes, it exists side by side with P2P. And sell vinyl, which can't be downloaded and traded. Even if people don't have a turntable, they want the physical object as a work of art, as a totem of their dedication!

Don't tell me you can't get a deal. That advances are low. That publishing royalties are off. That's like lamenting you can't find anybody to fix your cathode ray television. That's all HISTORY! You've now gone cottage industry. Instead of going to the bar, maybe you should get an MBA, because that's what you're running, a tiny corporation...that can throw off MILLIONS of dollars if you think about it and execute.

In the not so distant future, there will be entrepreneurs who will help you do this. Who will pick up the slack for a fee. Just like record labels do now. At first you'll love them, then you'll hate them for having so much power, the same way the labels hate Apple and iTunes. You can do this work... If you'd just get up off your lazy butt and GO FOR IT!

Or maybe the cold hard truth is too hard to take. You're just not good enough. The label that dropped you was right, they made a mistake, they shouldn't have signed you, you're not commercial. Maybe only your mother and best friend truly like your music. YOU ARE NOT ENTITLED TO AN AUDIENCE! You must EARN your audience. Maybe doing some experimentation isn't such a bad thing. Does your audience like vocals or instrumentals? Long or short numbers? Novelty tracks or love songs? Sit down, write and record some material and put it up on your site. See what's downloaded the most. Ask for feedback. Ask YOUR FANS what to do, what they can do FOR YOU! Mobilize your fan base.

You're living in the best era for music creation and distribution in the history of mankind. By complaining, you're just showing your ignorance. Knowing how to play is not enough. Just like you can't survive in today's world without knowing how to type. Don't cling tighter to history and complain, take a typing lesson, do some research, TAKE A CHANCE!