EDITORIAL: The Saturation of The Mixtape Game
The Free Mixtape/Street Album phenomena is killing the revenue flow in the Hip-Hop game. Artists are not getting paid, producers are not getting paid, etc.. I say, leave the MULTIPLE Mixtapes for the DJs, and the rappers should go back to giving out singles and samplers and creating quality EPs or Albums that they can market and sell.
Rappers have trained their audience to expect free music all of the time with the multiple releases of Free Street Albums...CRAZY!
Stop painting rap fans with a broad brush. Not every rap fan wants free throwaway music. Rap fans are not demanding this free clutter music; it's being shoved on them. Many aspiring Rock & Roll, Pop, Country and R&B artists are building solid fanbases without giving away free albums. Rappers Take Note!
You can put out a free single or sampler, and still spark a lot of interest in your brand. Who told you that you MUST put out a FREE Street Album/mixtape?
Your fans must either want to be you or believe you. You must know your target market, and your music has to resonate with them. As an Artist, you must understand that your Fans don’t just buy your music; they buy your Lifestyle, your Brand, and your Movement as well.
You don't have to keep putting out multiple free street album/mixtapes of original music to attract fans. You can release other free content from your brand like music videos, freestyles, video diaries, audio from radio interviews, video from concert performances, etc. Nowadays, it's no longer just about selling CDs. It's about selling or providing "Content" and conveying the mission of your Brand and your movement.
Try something different to build a fanbase. Look into the possibility of producing and starring in your own short films or long version music videos, and add your music as the score. Think outside of your circumference.
Give away a single or a sampler to attract fans, and then get them excited about buying a full length album or EP from you. Give them something to look forward to. When rappers constantly give away whole street albums of original music right out of the gate, it's like a woman giving up everything on the first date. There is no momentum, no excitement, and no build up to what comes next - because she gave up everything on the first date. And it's the same with artists.
Many upcoming rappers take the mystique and excitement out of their brand by giving away everything up front in the form of FREE Street Albums.
At least 70 percent of the independent rappers who put out multiple FREE Street Albums last year did not make a dime from their endeavors. FACT!
The crazy thing is that my next door neighbor's 10-year-old daughter made more money selling lemonade last summer than many unsigned rappers made all year from their music endeavors - which included Free Mixtapes and Showcase performances. The little girl gave out samples, she advertised, did a raffle, and then she sold lots of lemonade drinks and ices. (Apply basic business principles to your music projects and watch your revenue grow by three-fold.)
The game plan for most unsigned rappers consists of giving away Free Street Album/Mixtapes and paying to be in showcases. And that's it.
The average rapper spends $1,500 to put out his Free Mixtape/Street Album.. Who's getting paid off of your FREE MIXTAPE/STREET ALBUM? LET'S SEE (Count With Me): The Studio, the engineer, the graphic designer for the cover, the CD manufacturer, perhaps the DJ you paid to host it, and perhaps the producers of the original tracks, the mixtape marketing company, and Datpiff or any other mixtape website that posts your mixtape in order to draw traffic to their site with the expectation of selling ads based on that traffic, etc.
I know an unsigned rapper who paid $2,500 to a well-known DJ to host the rapper's FREE mixtape/street album. And the DJ didn't even promote it. Next, the rapper spent $1,500 to get a collaboration on a song with a popular upcoming MC that went on the FREE mixtape/street album. Then, the rapper paid the studio and engineer to record and mix the FREE mixtape/street album, and he paid a graphic designer to design the cover. Then, the rapper spent $500 duplicating the CDs. And finally, the rapper paid $1,500 to a mixtape marketing company to promote the Free mixtape/street album.
At the end of the day, this rapper spent close to $7,000 on a Mixtape/Street album that he gave away for free. He got 12,500 downloads at the end of the day. Was it worth it? I say NO! Most independent rappers are just following Lil Wayne and Drake, and have no idea what they are doing.
Equally important, when you put a Free mixtape/street album on any mixtape site and generate thousands of downloads, do you know the demographics (Sex, Race or Age) of those downloading your mixtape? NO! Can you obtain the email addresses of those downloading your mixtape? NO! Do you know the location of those downloading your mixtape? NO! On these mixtape sites, you don't receive any real stats, and thus, you don't know who your potential consumers are. The only thing that you are doing is making money for the mixtape site. They use the traffic you draw to their site to sell advertisements.
RAPPERS WAKE UP! For many rappers, these Free Mixtape/street albums are just vanity projects and an expensive hobby. And many spend little money advertising the mixtape releases. Most rappers put out multiple free mixtape/street albums just to stroke their ego, but they have no understanding that, in many cases, they're just throwing away money and cluttering up the already saturated Mixtape market.
And, some rappers are even going as far as to buy Mixtape Site downloads and manufactured stats.
Fake Downloads On Mixtape Site X + Fake Views On YouTube + Fake Followers On Twitter + Fake Fans On Facebook = FAKE MOVEMENT.
Just about every independent rapper has a FREE Street Album/Mixtape cluttering the market place. Try Something Different. Be Unique. Stand Out
It would make more sense to put the mixtape on your own website and draw traffic there. You can set it up so that people must enter a name and an e-mail in order to download it. Also, you can put a traffic tracker on your own website, and gather analytic demographic data of the unique visitors who visit your site. Moreover, you can also sell advertisements, bonus singles, merchandise, etc. on your own site, based on the traffic you draw there.
The bottom line is that many rappers are just following a trend. Instead of having a plan, most indie artists just make music, and put it out like they're throwing darts against the wall hoping to get lucky.
If Lil Wayne comes out tomorrow and states that the Mixtape game is dead and he will no longer deal with it, then watch how many rappers follow his lead...SMH.
What worked for Lil Wayne, Drake and Wiz Khalifa as it relates to giving away Free Street Album/Mixtapes of original music will not work for every indie rapper out there.
Furthermore, if Rap Music Songwriters and producers understood the importance of publishing revenue and copyright ownership, they would not be giving their original music away for free so easily. Your music catalogue is an ASSET, and it has revenue generating potential. I can understand giving out free samplers or free singles. But CONSTANTLY giving away whole street albums of original music to try to build a fanbase doesn’t make sense.
ATTENTION INDEPENDENT ARTISTS: Are you receiving publishing Checks? Do you sell merchandise? Do you sell digital downloads? Are you getting paid from shows? Have you generated revenue by licensing your music? Have you obtained funds from Endorsements or Sponsorships? Do you get paid from doing features? Who is your target market? What is your distribution network?
Do you have a marketing plan and budget in place? Do you keep track of money you spend and money you take in regarding your music? Do you pay taxes based on income generated from your musical endeavors? How much did you earn last year from your music endeavors? How much do you expect to earn this year? How much did you invest in Promotion last year? How much do you plan to invest in promotion this year?
One hit single can generate millions for an artist via digital sales, publishing, paid shows, endorsements, ring tones, etc.
It is very important that every aspiring artist and producer know and learn the multiple revenue streams in the music business. Some of the Music Biz Revenue Streams include CD Sales, Digital Download Sales, Merchandising Sales, Tour Income, Licensing Revenue, Publishing Income, Ringtone Revenue, Endorsement Deals, and Sponsorship Revenue.
The key is to ATTRACT the masses to your music. Convert folks into fans and capture them by being unconventional. As an artist, you have to get out there and meet with the people, engage your supporters, hand out flyers, T-Shirts etc..
Don't be a backwards hustler. What dude you know in the streets who gives away all of his product and is able to grow in the streets?
Big corporations give away free SAMPLES to attract buyers, but they also invest in advertising and marketing to sell the products as well.
PepsiCo is boosting its overall marketing budget this year by as much as $600 million. SUCCESSFUL COMPANIES INVEST IN PROMOTION. FACT!!
If you believe that nobody buys music anymore, then you've already lost. You're just basically stating that you're music career is a hobby.
There's a big difference between FREE music and GOOD music, and some rappers confuse the two. Most Rap fans don't want FREE music. They want GOOD music that appeals to their emotions. And they will pay for it if it's marketed right.
Forget about putting out three (3) mediocre FREE mixtapes in a row, and concentrate on creating one (1) CLASSIC ALBUM that you can market and sell.
The music business is NOT the LOTTERY. That "Dollar and a Dream" mentality will not cut it. Get a Budget! Get a Plan! And, Get To Work! Do Remixes, Do Music Videos, Do Video Logs, Do Contests, Do Shows, Do Interviews, Get your own Merchandise, Connect with DJs and your fans.
There are millions of aspiring artists and producers. So how do you expect to STAND OUT if you look, talk and sound just like everyone else?
The music game is all "Smoke and Mirrors." Don't get caught up in the illusion and slight of hand. Study and learn the biz for yourself.
MONETIZE YOUR MOVEMENT AND MAKE YOUR MOVEMENTS MAKE SENSE.
Contributor Jesse Atkinson is CEO of Urban Threshold Inc. and founder of the Underground Music Awards and The A&R Power Summit.
Photo courtesy of EverythingEsteban.com