Wrap it up den: A 2017 hip-hop story

From the desk of Ru Johnson.

We don’t do smoke and mirrors, so we keep the picture crystal clear. 2017 was a wild one and politics took the center of every conversation. Everyone is worried about the world, the potential for annihilation at the hands of North Korea, the president has lost his mind and many of us had to contend with the imperfection of our heroes. 

It’s always hard to make art when it feels like the world has gone mad but, that’s precisely the time when artists must show up the most. Denver has some of the most talented hip-hop heads I’ve come in contact with but as much as it pains me to say, there was far too much slacking in 2017.

Before the rap constituency prepares to brawl with me about this statement, take into account that I hear more rap on a daily basis than some people listen to in a month. We’re never at a shortage of good music coming out of the town, but in the same year that Kendrick Lamar released “DAMN,” and N.E.R.D re-united for “No One Ever Really Dies,” it’s hard to look at the work coming out of the city and think the playing field is level.

Artists rely on social media in ways that are counter effective to creating longevity with their music, especially in hip-hop. I can’t count how many artists simply send me links to their Soundcloud via Facebook message with no information or greeting that would describe exactly what their aim is.

I’ve seen incredible videos that are simply uploaded to Facebook, tagged to 100 people or more and left there without another thought. The art of the press release is not dead. Unless you’re Beyonce or Kendrick, surprise videos and album releases don’t work.

My mouth drops open every time I speak with or consult an artist who wants to release a project with zero fanfare or promoting leading up to the single, video or album. It’s not a secret, you’ve got to campaign like Barack Obama, maybe harder, after all, we already knew who he was when he announced his run for president.

The point is, releasing music, recording music or spending a month’s wages on a music video you have no idea how to push is the epitome of hustling backwards. You can holler at me for a consult if you want more insight and guidance on how to elevate your movement, book better shows and coordinate press.

In the meantime, below you’ll find five tips I’ve put together that will help you polish up your game before the new year. 

1) Know your audience: The people who will buy tickets to your shows, listen to your music and evangelize on your behalf are by and large not your fellow musicians. Detach from the idea that your peers have to promote your music or even listen to your music, for that matter. See the Drake and Meek Mill “you didn’t tweet my album” beef to realize how silly it is to put your eggs in that basket. I hate eggs. Spend your time building and interacting with your fans.

2) Step your content game up: If I had a dollar for every staged candid photo with jewels flashing and a semi-inspirational quote as the caption I saw, I’d have enough money to give someone a record deal. It’s corny, wack and not convincing to anyone, that because you’re in a city other than Denver that you’re doing anything of importance. Where’s the work? Show us.

3) Emails, press releases and other professional outreach:  By any means necessary artists particularly in Denver have to work on a more consistent strategy for pushing out their sounds. See my point about social media above and remind yourself that 200 likes mean absolutely nothing if no one presses play. Let’s get your press poppin, utilize other methods of distribution other than Facebook or chopped up Snapchat videos.

4) More life, more knowledge: If you don’t read blogs, you won’t have a clue what kind of content they publish, how they prefer to receive your pitches for coverage, or if you’ve got a snowball’s chance in hell of getting on. Let’s work harder and not smarter. The music industry is a cess pool, sure but there’s a method to the madness. Take more time on your plan and you’ll make less mistakes.

5) Keep it short: No one is going to listen to 18 songs on your project. They say they will, but they won’t, and if they do they likely won’t be able to name anything memorable about it beyond the first 45 minutes. Break out the red pen and edit yourself down. What you have to say is important, but let’s get to the point.

All the fronting about doing hard work, flexing in the studio when you’re really just there smoking blunts and nodding your head to beats with the homies, using Facebook to pseudo stunt on people who aren’t even paying attention and being too cool to hustle for the shows you’re booked on…we off that.

In 2018, let’s get serious and make the art that best represents us. Let’s get smart about how we’re releasing this art and let’s make sure we’re utilizing all our resources to get our message to the masses.

You have less time than you think.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *