Five Things I Learned At A Midwest Hip-Hop Conference

09.29.08 9 years ago 33 Comments

Words By Patrick M.

Last weekend, I attended the Industry Meltdown conference in Madison, Wisconsin. I went hoping to meet like-minded people as the TSS Crew–people who are actively passionate about Hip-Hop and its future. Stupid of me, I know. But nothing’s worthless if you learn something, and I learned plenty. To start…

1.) Industry Rule # 4082: (#4081) Promoters Are…

…Lying scum?

The best way to promote any event is to grab a big-name attraction.

Whoever was running this event figured that promoting Kanye West as a headliner would draw the attention of Hip-Hop fans everywhere. Now, given that Mr. West is a temperamental rap star who does not need the money, it’s not a surprise he “canceled” his appearance. But not letting the paying public know that the main attraction had canceled until the day before the event is fraudulent, even if it may be standard fare in the industry. Of course rather than have to face off against an angry mass of Hip-Hop fans deprived of their hero, the promoters can just write it off, since they can still take advantage of the fact that…

2.) Too Many People Are Trying To Rap.

Rap promoters can get away with screwing over those interested in the potential cultural or educational benefits of a Hip-Hop conference because ninety percent of the attendees are rappers looking for their shot at the big time. With scores of artists from Hip-Hop dead spots like Iowa and Milwaukee, who have limited access to record execs, musicians are forced to pony up the cash and promoters can make their money back. Of course, almost all of the songs performed (and I sat through a good number of them,) are stale and formulaic. The harsh reality is that these people are not good enough rappers, and will never be good enough rappers, to think that they can make a career out of Hip-Hop. Unfortunately…

3.) American Idol Has Ruined The Record Industry.

For instilling in the average American the dangerous idea that they are a star waiting to be discovered. For creating the model of the “15 second tryout,” that devalues musicianship. And for taking the meld between reality television and music to the next level, ensuring that every upcoming artist feels they need to sell their story rather than let their music speak for themselves. Moreover, this problem’s compounded by the fact that…

4.) Hip-Hop Needs More Simon Cowells

As I sat watching train wreck after train wreck perform, the panel of experts, headed by Lenny S. (one of Jay-Z’s “inner circle”) half-heartedly watched along in between emails to their secretaries asking who the fuck sent them to Madison, Wisconsin. Of this group of medium-time players, none had the nuts to call someone out for their shoddy performances. Instead, all that was offered was lukewarm feedback and the repeated suggestion to “think about how to market yourself.”

But that’s not what these people needed. They needed a sneering British poof to tell them how much they sucked and to remind them that you need talent and performance skills to be a Hip-Hop star; not a marketing plan. You need, to quote the absent Mr. West, to spend the time “doing five beats a day for three summers.” Put in the work and get your pen and stage game tight if you can, then worry about the business side.

The last thing I confirmed from my job that…

5.) No One Knows What To Do With The Internet.

We know the net is killing sales and it’s not going away. Therefore, Hip-Hop marketers and record labels are scrambling to figure a way to make the Internet profitable. In the last few ways, we’ve seen the growth of an unparalleled way for artists to reach national audiences and target people through social media. Hip-Hop media (with TSS obviously leading the way) has also been shifting to the online format. Yet no one has really figured out the best way to make money off this. And no one, experts included, has figured out how to integrate the internet into Hip-Hop that balances the need to make money with consideration for Hip-Hop’s cultural background.

But if that’s going to be done, last weekend in Madison wasn’t the place for it. Cause respect for Hip-Hop’s culture was nowhere to be found.

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