Festivals like A3C, CMJ and SXSW provide a bevy of great Hip-Hop performances for fans who come out. Not only that, these engagements also offer a fertile area for aspiring artists to get their music out to potential listeners as well as bloggers and other tastemakers who can help them take the next step in their careers. Unfortunately, due to the sheer amount of madness going on, most artists don’t receive any feedback on what they can do to improve or increase their chances of getting noticed.
If you make music and are looking to set yourself apart from those recording songs simply to spite their microphone, listen in as TSS Crew’s BEWARE and MZ spill the specifics on handling yourself in front of the people that matter.
1. Make Sure Your Music Is Mixed Properly
This is number one for a reason. Whether it’s a CD or some other form of free, there’s nothing worse than playing an album that’s not mixed properly. More specifically, it’s a sure way for your tunes to be quickly glossed over. Don’t invest so much into cover art and packaging that you forget to make sure your vocals sound crisp and aren’t drowned out by the instrumental.
2. Put Your Best Song First
Sure it’s cliché but you really don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Grab the listener’s attention early and get them on your side. Don’t make or expect them to suffer through the intro and couple of freestyles before they find something that resonates. Because truthfully, they may not make it to track five.
3. Carry Yourself With Class
One thing we’ve found very humbling while submitting ourselves to events like this is that you never know who you’ll bump in to. Since half our livelihood is consumed online, many times putting faces on Internet acquaintances, artists or personalities is easier said than done. So, before you give someone you don’t know the cold shoulder, keep in mind they might have the skeleton key to your success. Treat everyone like he or she is the most important person in the room.
4. Stand Out With Stage Presence
When there are 101 rappers on the bill, your live performance has to include more than you standing on stage mean-mugging. Let’s face it, you’re probably far from a hometown crowd and not everyone knows your songs. So figuring out a way to stick out is key. If it helps, go watch Tyler The Creator or MGK perform on YouTube and remember where their stage shows took them.
5. Limit Your CD To 5-7 Songs
As mentioned before, your release won’t be the only one someone will have the opportunity to check out. Instead of 19 tracks for the listener to go through, select the strongest tracks and go with those. If your first track is as strong as you believe it is, there’s a good chance they’ll give the rest of your songs a fair shake.
6. Personal Interaction Is Everything
Sure, everyone is passing out CDs. And, while it may seem like overkill to hand them out one by one to each person you see, it’s going to get you way further than simply setting them on tables and expecting people to care enough to put them in their pocket. Since you’re not in demand, briefly introducing yourself to potential fans and asking if they wouldn’t mind listening is your only option. Otherwise, you’re oh-so-important project becomes a coaster for $5 beers.
7. Consider Passing Your Music Out In Another Format Than CD
Despite us living in a digital age, CD’s have managed to hold on as the major distribution for underground music. Outside of our cars, though, CD’s don’t get a lot of burn. Had we not driven to Atlanta this year, going through these CD’s would have been a much more major ordeal. Business cards with a link to your music or a usb drive will allow bloggers and other technologically inclined individuals to digest your music in their preferred format. Plus accumulating these won’t weigh down a backpack quite as bad.
8. Stay Away From Freestyles On Your Sampler
While freestyling over the hottest beats of today and yesteryear may seem like a good idea, it isn’t helping you. Save that for when you have an identity and a fan base. The best way to gain fans and prove your artistic merit is to craft original songs. No will knock you for rocking over another person’s beat, just make it memorable. For the long run, you’ll fare better by establishing your own sound.
9. Have A Gimmick, But Don’t Be Defined By It
Again, with so many competitors in your vicinity during festivals like these, setting yourself apart is a necessity. But, before rocking the Kid ‘N Play fade or jumping into a pharaoh costume, don’t sore thumb yourself. Sometimes standing out so much will make people forget you’re an artist at all: let alone one worth taking seriously.
10. Limit Face-Time With People
Despite everything said about acting buddy-buddy with potential connections, know when to walk away. Just because you’re talented doesn’t mean Gotty™ is going to miss a cig break to listen to you freestyle. Say your piece, exchange daps and keep it movin.’