Publicist-turned-author-and-speaker Tamiko Hope shares valuable insight into the music and entertainment business in her second book, “Indie Insider: 5 Key Facts To Building Buzz From Music Industry Insiders.” As the second installment in the Indie Insiders series, this title focuses on 5 keys to building buzz. Hope infuses expert knowledge from industry insiders Janee Bolden (BOSSIP), Fadia Kader (Def Jam), Maurice Garland (“The Art Behind The Tape”), Chris Robley (CD Baby) and Justin Hunte (HipHopDX), along with her own to create an invaluable resource guide on the subject.
Essentially, the book hinges on the asking and answering of this one question: Is anybody talking about you and/or your product? Hope and the “insiders” give readers the 5 keys to garner the attention they seek and more. Readers will understand the importance of how to tell and sell their story, why passion and branding are vital to building buzz, how to stand out, as well as the best strategies to interact with their audience. Her book is now available on Amazon and will soon be on her website: Tamikohope.com
AllHipHop caught up with Tamiko Hope to discuss today's musical landscape, indie vs. major, building an authentic buzz, brand equity, what readers will take away from the book, and more!
What is the number one way for an artist to tell and sell their story?
By being authentic to who they are. People like to believe or buy into whomever they're supporting, so when the artist's story is true to their personality, beliefs, lifestyle, etc., they build a tribe of supporters, which helps create buzz.
In your opinion who are the indie artists with the biggest buzz, and what did they do to set themselves apart?
I really like how Nipsey Hussle built his brand/buzz. I think he set himself apart because he let people into his life almost immediately through his music, videos and interviews. He has also stuck to the same mantra of ownership since he started. After a decade of championing the same message through word and deed, you can assume he believes in it, which is why he has such loyal supporters. Although he's not indie, I like how J. Cole seems to be true to why he started rapping and he always seems to include his fans in his career journey. They both seem to stay connected to the people.
It's important to start now and use what you have, but how do indie artists get around budget issues for building their buzz outside of utilizing free platforms to post their music and free social media platforms?
I think you just have to be really creative and take advantage of every person who is willing to help you and offer their services. Honestly, the less funds you have to work with, the more creative you usually are, which can work to your advantage. It's easy to hire the best and get a quality outcome, however when you produce a quality project on a shoestring budget that gets just as much if not more buzz than the bigger budget project, that creates a conversation within itself. I think it's important that artists know what they're trying to accomplish and then put their funding and energy in that direction. Also, participating in as many events to display your talent and spread your message is also an inexpensive strategy to building up buzz. You also have to be prepared and ready in the event what you're looking to accomplish pops off. And promote your message everywhere and at all times. I've had people approach me about a promotional hat I was wearing, which sparked conversation. And a few times, it led to opportunities. I think artists should also assume the attitude that you gotta do what you gotta do until you can do what you want to do. Don't look for immediate rewards all the time. Some things you have to be willing to invest in and make the situation work in your favor. For example, if you get the opportunity to open for a popular artist in another city but you have to pay your own way, do it. Don't complain about the cost or ask the promoter for money. Use the platform to the fullest by doing your own promotions and hyping it up, as well as perfecting your stage show to cause people to want to know who you are. Set up other events to do in that city or surrounding cities so you are maximizing your time.
What's the best way for an indie artist to build brand equity?
The best way I think for an indie artist to build brand equity is to have something to offer. Be an asset and be valuable. In this business especially, everyone wants you to take something, look at something or listen to something but if you can come to the table with ideas that can help someone else achieve their goals or at least make a deal mutually beneficial, people will be more apt to listen and help you. Also by having good relationships with people is another way to build brand equity. You don't need a lot of people, just a few key people in your corner. But you usually build up your network by first helping others. And constantly be on the lookout to align yourself/brand with an existing event by adding value. If your local station is doing a concert, offer to sponsor a mixtape cd and include your song on the cd or something in that vein. The point is to always look for ways to be of help, while also helping yourself. But be true to your brand and true to your word.
Should an artist have it "all together" when beginning to build their buzz or should they hit the ground running and continue to develop as they go?
I'm a big believer in building your foundation first. I think an artist should know why they're doing what they're doing, have specific goals of what they're trying to accomplish (daily, weekly, monthly, yearly goals) so they know where they're going and are prepared to make decisions that will best benefit their movement. By having a solid foundation, an artist will also know where best to allocate funds and when. You don't want to hire a publicist without having anything to promote. I always think of big brands like Nike. They're all about "Just Do It" and their campaigns is built around that motto. An artist should find their motto and build around it and keep all messaging, including social media, consistent to the motto. Lastly, part of having it "all together" includes your name. Give intentional thought to your professional name and your company name. I've seen a ton of artists and companies dump money into reserving domains, building sites, branding promotional items, only to do a search after the fact and realize they should've gone with a less popular moniker or the name doesn't fit their purpose. It's also important for an artist not to wait on everything to be perfect. If you do, you'll never put anything out. You have to do the best you can with what you have and continuously improve as you move forward.
How have grassroots music campaigns grown/changed from the past to today?
When I was doing PR at the beginning of my career, we controlled a lot of the messaging about the artist. Now, fans have direct access to the artists, which also gives the artist the ability to communicate directly to their fan base. Fans want to know all about you and if an artist can find a way to connect to their core audience, they can build an incredible buzz on their own. I think that's why story is so important. We all can relate to stories because we all share common experiences as human beings. Grassroots is also about word of mouth and getting people to tell a friend who tells a friend. I've gone to shows of artists whom I've never read about in Billboard or seen on MTV, but they've built a name through grassroots marketing and that was largely done by being out touching the people through shows and social media. And their movements are enormous.
In your own words, how has the landscape of today's music game changed? How does this affect building a buzz?
I think the power is in the hands of the people. You have to be a people person to win now. There are no barriers any more. People have always liked to be talked to and not at. But being so accessible can work against you too if you're not truthful about your story, which affects credibility. People are always watching and if you slip up, you have to be prepared for the aftermath.
You've worked on the label side and the indie side... in your opinion which is a better business move for artists today?
I think it depends on what an artist wants. If you want other people to handle a lot of the aspects of your career, go with a label situation. If you want to control (or appoint who's in control) of every aspect of your business, remain independent. But keep in mind, just because you sign to a major doesn't mean instant success or an album on iTunes. There's still a lot of work an artist has to do on their own (as if they were indie). Unless there was a bidding war for an artist's project, you might not necessarily be priority, which means you're still left doing your own promoting, although you'll have the title of being on a label attached to your name, which might garner some interest. But either way, it's going to be hard work.
Who else other than indie artists can benefit from reading your new book?
I think any creative professional or emerging creative, because at the end of the day, the principles of buzz building are the same across the board.
Why should people purchase the book?
This book has information from industry professionals who've been where a lot of other people are trying to go. What better way to learn than from other people's experiences? Also, these are "insiders" within the business who are sharing information that would cost a great deal of money if you hired them to consult although many of them don't even offer that.
What do you hope readers leave with after reading your book?
I hope readers are left with more clarity on what they want, who they are and where they're going and also inspired and encouraged. This is a tough business, so there's always a need for motivation to keep going. The book offers some quotes from top artists and thought leaders who give great perspective on buzz building and more.
How do you feel about the state of Hip Hop & R&B? Why are artists with less than quality music able to garner a buzz easier than those with it sometimes?
It's a singles world now, although that's why I appreciate the J. Cole's, Nipsey's and Kendrick's of the world. They give full albums. When it comes to R&B, so much of it sounds like slowed up rap music; the lyrics are similar. You do have artists like Tamia who continue to push the genre forward without sacrificing being inventive. As for why some artists are able to garner a buzz easier than more quality talent, I think they've found a way to connect with a segment of the population that responds to them in a favorable way. That's why it's not just about talent, but about having that like-ability factor, too. It's like in any business where you may be a repeat customer based solely off of how the business makes you feel, even though you can get a better product somewhere else.
Any last words for people who may be considering purchasing the book?
I really enjoy helping other people become more knowledgeable, as well as inspiring them in some small way. I feel like I'm giving back what people have given me over the years, which is education and motivation.