Every couple of years, the musical landscape undergoes seismic shifts. As the way people consume music changes, the way artists attempt to delivery it to them must adapt as well. Those transitions mean that marketing moves that once worked for disseminating material from new artists falls on the deaf ears of fans. Methods and means considered successful yesterday end up get ignored today because every artist has tapped into and bludgeoned the marketing strategies to the point of being ineffective.
How do we know what we're about to share is true? Well, we don't know it's 100% accurate. Call it our hypothesis built off countless hours sorting through the worst submissions ever crafted by man, trial and error from experience while consulting along with confirmation from a few artists willing to confirm they wasted a lot of money chasing their dream using the wrong means.
Problem #1: Setting release dates too far in advance
So many things lead to the date never sticking anyway. The artwork's late. The guest artist you were counting on didn't mail in his verse. Your paycheck's short and mastering can't be completed on time. Whatever the case, the misfire only leads to a letdown and building mistrust with fans.
Possible Solution: Wait. That's right, just be patient. It's okay to talk about the project and say "it's coming soon" and "we're finishing it up." But don't set a hard date, at least not until all of the pieces are firmly in place. Then and only then should you run to the top of your city and start yelling out the release date.
Problem #2: Printing an outrageous number of physical copies
The overhead makes this almost illogical but even if you can get them dirt cheap are you really passing all of them out? Do you have the garage space to accommodate those extras Frisbees? Is a plastic slip-case with Kinko's paper posing as artwork what we're calling putting your best foot forward?
Here's a conversation I had with an artist while trying to convince him against spending money he didn't have on pressing up CDs he really didn't need.
Me: Dog, the last time you got a CD when you were at a show or a club, what did you do with it?
Him: I left it there.
Me: Then what the f*ck do you think they're going to do with your CD?
Possible Solution: Instead of hard copies, consider making sure your online portals are in good form. Everything on your Bandcamp, SoundCloud, etc. are in working order and insure everything's optimized for mobile. Then, create a quality business card that includes the url where all of your projects and pertinent info are hosted. A business card is easier for the receiver to carry than a CD. And if you leave an impression, they'll follow up on their own.
Problem #3: Paying for self-promotion
Buying YouTube views, Twitter followers and Facebook likes is the new payola in 2012. Stop it. It's transparent and it all comes crumbling down when you go to rock a show and only a small crowd turns up to support.
Possible Solution: Keep it organic. Not to go all Drake-inspired, Facebook status update on you here but 100 real fans beats 1,000 fake followers. Take those 100 and allow them to grow with you. No, grow together. Interact with them. Reward them. One really cool thing happened a few weeks ago - J. Cole let one of his fans release a song via Twitter. For every Cole detractor out there, Jermaine just gave a couple 100 of his diehards another reason to call him their hero in the form of a mp3.
Problem #4: Paying to perform
Any promoter that charges you to perform isn't looking out for your best interests. The end.
Possible Solution: Every city in the country has a different rap show every day of the week. Pick up the phone, make a few calls, send a few emails and find those shows and perform. Don't drop $40 to open up for D-12.
Problem #5: Buying pre-packaged songs
Remember a few years ago when T-Pain was selling songs that already had hooks and double-dipping on the process? Then every rapper in every major city had the same damn T-Pain song on his new mixtape. As fans we know when you actually collaborated with an artist and when you just bought a copy/paste job. If semi-famous rapper sells a beat that already has his verse on it you can bet he mailed it in and you're paying for name recognition for an artist that doesn't know who you are.
Possible Solution: Just make a hot song. If you believe in your talent then just make a great song. The famous collaboration will come afterwards. If you feel like you need to pay someone thousands of bucks for a short cut to make a hot song, then you might not want to be in the music business.
Problem #6: Paying For radio/DJ placements
The radio isn't what it used to be. While radio play is an important facet of your budding buzz, paying for a #1 spot at the local "Traffic Jam" isn't the same sort of triumph that it was a decade ago. Now, more people are listening to iPods and music they find online so fewer ears are hearing your product.
The same applies for placements with club DJs, especially if the record is mediocre. He'll play the single...but only in your presence.
Possible Solution: Again, build your buzz organically. Have a mufti-faceted approach. Get an online buzz. Get a grassroots buzz through shows and face time. And work to get your song any sort of radio placement for free.
Problem #7: The weekly song release strategy
"Wild Wednesday," "Mp3 Monday," and "Surprise Saturdays." Just make them stop. Here's a cold, hard fact: Crooked I was the be-all, end-all of the weekly freestyle drops. The man took the concept, pulverized it, poured lime on it and buried it next to Jimmy Hoffa. Quit searching for the magic chemistry that he created because nobody's going to recreate it.
Solution: You can still drop songs but make them less strategically planned. And, again, do them for fans instead of making a press blast surrounding them. Ultimately, the method becomes inuring to those who weren't paying attention and makes tune the music out when the goal is to make the songs so strong that fans create a buzz so loud that people want to pay attention.
Problem #8: Stop paying for email blasts
Not saying these don't work but they seem to be the equivalent of shooting into a crowded club and ultimately ending up with collateral damage. They may hit something, but they're ultimately just sloppy work. All that glitters is not gold and when an email blast service says they can "guarantee" they'll get your song or video to "over 100K music industry professionals"...wait, just read that again.
Possible Solution: Seek out marketing. It doesn't have to be a full-fledged marketing agency. There are plenty of effective independents working these days (but we'd suggest checking their referrals). Artist should look for a service provider who can write clean copy and get it to outlets that provide a good fit for the material. No matter who you choose, don't let them send your rap song to a gospel outlet as part of their "100K music industry professionals."