Dreams of fame and fortune are often fuel for the drive of many up and coming artists. The idea of super stardom has become a rather fluid concept in today’s industry. Advancements in technology have revamped the entire way we go about marketing ourselves as artists. There was once a time when getting signed to a major record deal was the main goal of an artist’s career.
Enter: the World Wide Web, along with downloading, burning, and other opportunities to privatize the once exclusive role that labels and distributors had. Not only was piracy a problem, but eventually, the layman would have the resources to finance full home studios, study sound recording, mixing, and mastering, and even piece together a full physical album. With this flood of technology, also came millions of aspiring artist who had chosen to take the destiny of their entertainment career into their own hands. Talented or not, anyone with the right business savvy could grab a spotlight and shine. At one time, rappers were community commodities. Now they come a dime a dozen. Rap was once a pivotal part of a larger subculture, and now, it has become a culture within itself. Hip-hop was about equal representation of different forms of expression. However, as hip-hop has begun to be utilized to sell everything from McDonald’s to Reeboks, there is a “rapper dress code” that one can abide by if he or she wishes to perpetuate that image; regardless if talent is present or not. The emergence of YouTube sensations and Myspace wonders eliminated the need for the A&R and record labels began to crumble one by one.
So, what changed? Well… with the rise of social media, people became bored with sheer talent. One now needed personality, charisma, and “swag” to stand out amongst the myriad of artist vying for views and web site hits. As more and more reality TV stars become famous for simply, well… being famous, the American attention span grows shorter and more insatiable. We want shock and awe; superficiality over substance; something digital over something tangible. Merely singing or rapping well isn’t enough. Our culture has always loved star power, however, in modern society it would appear that anyone can become anything they want.
In spite of all the back story I’ve discussed, there have been musicians who have been incredibly financially successful regardless of the industry being turned on its head. Artists like Justin Bieber and French Montana, have made their money using technology to their advantage to put their talent on a platform otherwise unattainable. However, their notoriety did not come from their music, but rather their video footage of themselves. America didn’t buy their music; we bought in to their story, their brand. Beyond the talent, it is a marketing war. Who has the biggest, brightest flashing lights? Who can maximize their 15 seconds in the spotlight… Heck, who can get the spotlight in the first place? It’s all smoke and mirrors. It’s all a façade. At the root of it all, the marketing plan wins.
You may say… “Well Quill, what do I do if I don’t have thousands of dollars to put behind my promo push?” To that I say, “Innovation.” In my experience as a working, up and coming artist, the best advice I could ever give you is “Get fans!” Whether the year is 1920 or 2019, the best way to reach the masses has always been word of mouth. Get the people closest to you talking, and the word spreads. When you work towards gaining a following instead of a record deal, the record deal usually finds you. By that point though, the labels are usually auditioning for you… NOT the other way around. Start a bidding war for your influence. You are the most powerful direct marketing tool on the face of the planet! Stack your social currency and trade it in for cold hard cash! The game done changed y’all, and in the immortal words of Captain Planet… “THE POWER IS YOURS!!!”