THE DAY REPORT: Building A Buzz

In the early 1980s, when rap started, there were few rappers

and producers, so they had no difficulty standing out. Today, it seems everyone wants to be a rapper

or a producer.

As more people want to get into the rap music business, it

gets cheaper and easier to do so. The

price of production equipment, recording equipment, and microphones has dropped

substantially, making rapping and producing open to more people. And it has become easier than ever to get

music to the masses by uploading finished songs to the internet to share them

with the world on free MySpace pages, or inexpensive websites. Marketing has become cheaper and easier as

one can sit at home and use the internet to market, promote, and drive traffic

to one’s website or MySpace page. Because

of this, it seems that everyone wants to be a rapper.

The days of needing a record label are over. So why do so many people still want to be

signed to a record label?

Regardless, there are less labels, less money in the

industry, less people buying CDs, and less positions for artists to get signed

to record labels. So if you really want

to be an artist, and have your heart set on being part of the traditional music

business, you will need to STAND OUT!

You stand apart from all of the others by building a BUZZ.

As I travel around the country, I meet tens of thousands of

people who say they want a career as a rapper (and even more who say they want

to be a producer) yet very few stand out. 

Handing a demo CD to anyone is a waste of time, energy, and has never

been very effective at catching someone’s attention. What I do see, are the artists who stand out

because they are putting in the work and building a buzz.

Grinding. An artist’s

grind is far more important than their talent. 

Talent is easy to find—people who will work hard are less easy to

find. You may think you are the most

talented rapper around, but the truth is that talented rappers and producers are

a dime a dozen. There are more than 300 million

people in the United States.

Not only are you competing with other artists from your

area, but you are competing with artists from all over the country. The odds of winning a lottery are probably

greater. So how will you stand out?

The best way to do so is to choose an area that’s

workable. I suggest taking a map and

drawing a circle around your city that extends about a 5 hour driving time away

from where you are based. That will

become your territory—your marketing area. 

Your first step is to own the city or town that you are from, and then

expand out slowly in that territory (the 5 hour circle around your home).

After you’ve made your songs, you will choose the best one

to focus on as a single. It’s best to

ask for feedback from strangers (malls, gas stations, and high schools are good

places to get feedback) as to which song is your best one. Strangers will be far more honest than people

who know you. To build a buzz in your

own area, you will work that single locally. 

That means you will attend all of the open mics, perform as much as you

can (if a major artist comes to town, you should be the opening act and you

accomplish this by building relationships with the key clubs and promoters in

your area), hang posters, distribute flyers—basically get your image and song

in front of as many people as possible. Make

sure all of the local DJs know who you are (club DJs, mixtape DJs, and even

eventually the radio DJs). All of the

employees at the local record stores and clubs should also know who you are.

It’s important to promote your song in as many places as

potential consumers who’d buy your music will be. So, marketing yourself to retirement homes

and nursery schools would not make sense, but college campuses and ‘hood malls

make perfect sense. Anyplace where large

amounts of your potential fans gather is ideal. 

As your song and name catch on in your own area, you can begin to expand

your buzz within that 5 hour circle. You

can also begin to attend the regional conventions and record pools. You should already have some sort of buzz

before traveling, unless you are attending to learn more about the business

(there are many free websites these days where you can go to learn how the

music industry works, however).

On the record label side (I’m talking about the real record

labels—the ones that have a track record of success in putting out rap records,

not Lil Rey Rey from down the block who printed up business cards saying he’s a

record label), the people who sign artists to their rosters are called “A and

Rs.” Their job is to help the artists

who are already signed to the label make their records, and to find new

talent. Since there are tens of

thousands of rappers and producers, it’s hard to catch their attention if you

do not stand out. Some of the major

labels have A&R Research staffs, whose sole job it is to find the artists

making noise in their own areas getting radio spins and selling CDs on their


I have gone to 12 music industry

conventions/gatherings/record pools since the start of this year. I have received over 1,000 demo CDs thus far,

and I can’t even sign anyone to a record deal. 

So someone that CAN sign an artist, how many CDs and MP3s do you imagine

they get in a week? The ONLY way you are

going to stand out is if you put in the work and effort to build a buzz for

yourself. Instead of going to them, you

want them to come to you.

The chance of you sending a CD to a record label and getting

their interest is so slim that the odds of you getting struck by lightening or

winning a lottery are greater. Even with

someone very connected in the music business (like me) can’t help you if you

don’t stand out among all of the other rappers and producers out there. Great music is no longer enough. You have to have a strong buzz, and you have

to be willing to work harder than everyone else—not just in your own area, but

in your own region. Without a buzz, you

may as well just go get a job and make music to be happy as a hobby. By the way, there is nothing wrong with doing

it for the love!!