So you want to get into the game? Quit while you ahead and go to college! That's the advice I'd give to anybody starting out right now, get a degree in contract law and go ahead on the business side. But, if you're stubborn like me, and determined to fulfill your artistic vision, you need to condition yourself to start an independent grind.
Step 1:Set Up Shop
Set up an LLC and sign yourself to your company.
Step 2:Build a Studio
Figure out the cheapest way to build a studio, I'd suggest a mac, pro tools and reason or logic. I'd invest in a good mic. You also need to get one of the homeys or get yourself the proper training to know how to record. If you can't do these things professionally, you gotta intern somewhere and find somebody to teach you.
Step 3: Step into the Arena
Get to the business of making music! Figure out how to brand your music, Dip Set got "Dip Set Bird Gang," G-Unit got "G-G-G-Unit," Grind Time is "Grind time rap gang, bang bang bang," Figure out who you want to be and start building that.
Step 4: Connect with Your Audience
I don't like to say the word buzz, a buzz is something can be gone. I'm really talking about building a relationship with your audience. That's what Jay Z did. That's a little different than a buzz. A buzz involves radio payoffs and writer favors. Soulja Boy had a relationship with his audience. The people that bought his record felt like they were supporting someone they knew, so they bought it.
You need to build your brand visually using a viral campaign, through Myspace and Facebook, but it's all for naught if people don't connect with you. People are only gonna connect through musical energy. That part has to come from you.
Step 5: Promoting Your Music
Contingent on the type of music you can do there's a lot of ways to market yourself. If you're doing snap music you need a high school dance type thing. If you're doing what I do, you're pushing at the blue collar working class brother, to be honest, cats that sell dope and college students. You just gotta figure out what your thing is and how to get it exposed to people.
I am a proponent of stickers, flyers and posters. I've found that they're most effective in the hood. Stickers are probably the best, but they can get you in trouble.
If you can get radio to play your music, then go for radio, but if not you go around radio through myspace and internet radio.
Step 6: Pushin'
If you're pressing up mixtape cd's and you think the cd's are dope, package them as a real record that a store can carry. That's the difference between a product that can sell for two dollars and seven dollars. That's the first time I've told people that secret, that didn't come to me for free, I had to pay for that.
Also, direct people to itunes. Set up an itunes account or deal with Hi-Fi or one of the other cell phone go-betweens. If you can get a hot ringtone going in your city, that's 60-70 cents a ringtone.
You should also think about merch. What about your brand is worth buying? You need as many streams of additional revenue as possible. You also want other things (besides music) that your audience can buy. Look at Paul Wall and Chamilionaire. You could still buy tapes from them and they would do your grill. You can build what you talk about and rap about and bring your audience to you. Soulja boy named his album his website, if you go to his website you can buy his merch...that's innovative as s**t, I applaud that young man.
Step 7: Mobilize Your Audience
Now it's time to mobilize your audience. You have to get your audience to come out and see you. Use Myspace and Facebook to let people know when you're coming to town.
Step 8: Bulid a Relationship with Your Retailers
Let's say you're an independent artist. In your neighborhood, you can sell 300 copies of your album, but you can sell 300 more if you expand past your town. You can now direct people in every town via Myspace to a particular store. You go and do a signing and order three pizzas and give out free pizza. If you sell twenty albums, you just paid half the employee's weekly pay. Now you're an asset to that mom and pop store.
Step 9: Communicate with Your Distributor
If you're able to get distribution, communicate with them. When I go and talk to the marketing department at Fontana. I'm educated. I come in like "Help me help you to figure out the best way to market your product." If I need to be at the store then that's what I want to do.