Few genres of pop music better exemplify the power of grassroots support than rap music. Making that power work for you requires mastering the art of self-promotion without spending any money. Online media like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube offer free platforms to promote your music, but are just part of the equation. Freestyle concerts, message board postings and collaborations are equally valid, cash-free ways to win new fans while advancing your reputation as an artist.
Many rap tracks are collective productions that originate from artists posting tracks on their websites, or emailing beats to each other. Virginia artist-producer Lex Luger used both methods to strike up a long-term partnership with Atlanta-based rapper Waka Flocka Flame, "The New York Times" reported in November 2011. In this scenario, both artists essentially work for free until a song becomes popular, which allows them to promote each others' contributions, build a fan base, and attract record labels' interest.
Collective Brand Marketing
Some artists market themselves as part of a larger group to grab attention. One exponent of this strategy is Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, a Los Angeles-based collective of 10 new artists. As "Madam Noire" magazine reported in April 2011, Odd Future maximized its impact by pooling its members' creative resources. This policy allows the release of solo material that benefits from its association with the group's uncompromising shock image, the magazine notes, which also keeps its music in continual public view.
Promoting events that focus on the ability to "freestyle," or improvise lyrics, offers another free promotional strategy to stand out in a crowded field. To maintain his act's momentum, Chiddy Bang's manager convinced lead rapper Chidera "Chiddy" Anamege to set a new world record for the longest-ever freestyle rap, according to "The Daily Beast." Anamege did so at the first-ever MTV O Music Awards, in 2009. The resulting video footage garnered millions of viewers, and led to a deal with EMI's Parlophone subsidiary in 2010.
Message Board Posts
Hip-hop message boards offer unlimited opportunities to interact with like-minded fans. Even so, it's best to introduce board members gradually to your music, since you're trying to build relationships, emcee Praverb the Wyse says. You'll most likely win people over by regularly interacting with them, instead of flooding the board with multiple copies of generic messages. The only exception is your signature message, where it's appropriate to invite listeners to check out your profile.
Viral videos are another free medium that allow artists to connect with fans through email, social media and video sharing sites. One example is the Los Angeles-based rapper Wax, who distinguished himself by uploading slice-of-life footage, song parodies and comedy skits. As the RapGenius website notes, Wax's creation of characters like pitchman Corey Steele gave viewers a reason to hear his music. Over time, that approach is more likely to resonate than worrying only about how many people watch your video.
- Madam Noire: The Collective-Powered Buzz of Odd Future
- Praverb.net: Think Beyond Hip-Hop Blogs, Explore Hip-Hop Message Boards
- RapGenius: Wax: From YouTube to DefJam
- The Daily Beast: Chiddy Bang: From College Basement Gigs to Rap Stardom
- The New York Times: Lex Luger Can Write a Hit Rap Song in the Time It Takes to Read This
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