Lost Emotional Connection to Urban Music

We are living in an era where music is being “consumed at an all time high!” Or is it? What needs to be said is “Music is being given away at an all time high!” Lets look at this problem that’s destroying our genre at a rapid pace on a business vs. consumer basis….. Lets remove emotions, opinions and what we think is right and focus on the bottom line. In 2012 we’ve seen RCA records absorb all their urban labels and imprints under the RCA umbrella. With this move, Multi Platinum recording artist lost they’re original recording home to go under one big machine, that most likely won’t have the resources to give these deserving artist that we all love the attention they deserve. If you have over 100-signed recording artist under one label, who’s micro managing? At this point, all decisions are made with one staff verses a staff for urban, pop and country. This industry shake up is not the cause of the problem. I for one applaud RCA for keeping the artist they absorbed from the smaller labels. They could’ve easily dropped everybody and called it a day.

We will explore the many reasons urban music is failing here, but first lets take a look at the most obvious reason.


This issue alone is killing us off at a rapid pace. Why are we forcing artists who are not signed to give away their product for free? Lets first break down what it takes to put together a project. First there is the recording process…. The recording process starts with an idea, recording the song, (which can be done in your home to save money) but you still will have too higher a qualified engineer to mix and master your project. Lets just say you’re getting your project mixed and mastered for a total of $650 per song. If your project contains 12 songs, you’re looking at a total of $7,800 for this process, and then lets just add another $300 bucks to master the overall project. Now we are at a grand total of $8,100.00. Hold on! We’re not done yet.

We still have to hire a graphic artist to create artwork for not just the complete album, but you will need artwork for each single you plan to release. Lets just say you hirer a quality designer to do this work for a package deal witch will included Album cover, promotional art work and 3 individual “single” art. With that amount of work, be prepared to spend at least $500.00. Now we are $8,600.00 into you’re budget. Wait we still haven’t factored in hiring a photographer, which can run you another $300-500.00 Bucks. Lets just say the photographer gives you a deal for $300, which includes the photo shoot, location equipment and prints, we are now up to $8,900.00!!! If you think you are finished spending money for your first project, you’re wrong!!!!

Lets not forget that you need that all important video! The average videographer in Chicago starts at $800.00 if you want a high quality product. You will need at least 2 of these videos. So go ahead and add $1,600.00 to your total, which equals… come on do the math with me, $10,500!! Ok so now we got the album done, artwork, photos and a couple videos. We done spending money right? No, no, no… Think again!!! You still have to pay for open mic’s, opening act fees, travel expenses, mass-produce cd’s and pay for that all important PR.

Those 5 items can run you an additional $5000, minus the PR. Keep in mind a Reputable “PR” Person can go for as much as $4500 for 3 months of service. So After you spend close to $20,000 getting your project together independently at the highest quality money can buy, the powers that be (Who ever that is) expects you the artist, to give away your project for free in hopes you create enough buzz for a label to come knocking at your door. Now what I didn’t factor into your cost is you still have to pay a distributor like Tunecore to get your singles on iTunes. After you get a bar code # from Tunecore now you can go ahead and register your music with media base and Soundscan, which also cost money. Again… You gotta give out your music for free!!!!

So after you done all this work and you’ve created the buzz in your city and region, Congratulations!!!! You’ve just created a bidding war and landed your first record deal! Ok so now you got the record deal, what’s next? You guessed it. Put out another free mixtape, with all new original music with possibly some big records that could compete on billboard. Now that you got your second mixtape out, which serves as a prequel to your debut album, your single shoots straight to #1 on the Billboard r/b & rap charts, Your single got the highest radio gainer numbers all year, and your mixtape which features this single are downloaded by the millions and your youtube numbers are record breaking. Success right? Not quite yet…… Ok, you will see a million dollars or two from radio airplay and another million from youtube and vevo views.

Congrats! You Made 3 million dollars, which after taxes, manager and lawyer fees will drop you down to about 1.2 Million or less, Which still not bad seeing you have the typical rages from riches story that most art have. You got 1.2 million in the bank and you’re touring like crazy, living the high life as a successful recording artist. Sound good right? Like I said before, wait before you start planning to buy your mother that house of her dreams.

Its time to drop you debut album. You got a number 1 single, touring, you got worldstarhiphop on fire and all the publications want you on they’re front cover. Sounds like the perfect set up right? If you answered yes to this, you are wrong I’m about to tell you why.

You dropped your debut album with all the buzz you can ask for. Your first week sales come in and you only move 27,000 units. OMG!!! Time to panic I hope! I sure enough would be!! Why is this? Well for starters you’ve given your fan base free product since the beginning of your humble career. When you obtained your deal, you gave out another free project that achieved over 6 million downloads and you have over 8 million twitter followers, and just as many Facebook and instagram followers. So now we all sitting in the offices scratching our heads thinking “WTF!!!!”

What happened is your fan base has no emotion attachment to you, because they never spent a dime for your songs! Your single that was the #1 record in the country was given away for free on your mixtape that served as the “prequel” to your debut album. Remember 6 million people downloaded your mixtape, so that’s 6 million people who could’ve paid $1.29 for your single on iTunes. That’s millions lost!

Do you think your fan base care? NO THEY DON’T….. Lets take super fan “A.” Super fan A gets her free downloaded copy of your mixtape stolen by her friend out her car, She may Curse her friend out and tell Her “ Bitch Give me my Cd back! LOL.” But at the end of they day she can just go home, ask her brother for a blank disk and burn another copy of your mixtape. Problem solved right? I Bet any amount of money if super fan “A” paid $10.99 for that cd, she would’ve beat the “breaks” off her friend for taking her cd without permission…. But since she doesn’t have any emotional attachment to your mixtape, then it’s not as big of a deal for her.

See When people spend money on items, they become attached to what they spend they’re hard on money on. For example, if you brought a watch out your neighborhood drug store for $11.99 (Not much Money for a watch) you break the said watch, I believe you would be pissed about it. Not just because your watch is broke, but that was $12 of your hard earned money that’s now in the trash.

The idea of “Mixtapes” started as long as hiphop has been in existence. From M.C’s rapping over break beats to jacking your favorite rappers instrumental and creating your own song or free style over the record like it was your own. Of course you can’t sell this product in that form because it contains original works and copy written materials. So what did you as an up coming artist do? You gave these mixtapes out for free to showcase your skills as a rapper. The mixtape may only contain a snippet of an original song that’s intended on being the first radio single for this artist.

In the early 2000’s you seen a lot of artist creating these “Beat jacking” Style mix tapes in hopes of creating a buzz to get signed much in the style of 50 cents

G-unit mix tapes. The Concept was a great idea but like all things, this quickly became the standard for artist to get the attention of labels. This method was quickly changed to included original music because of numerous lawsuits, rap beef and the rap audience becoming tired of hearing 50 artist rap over the same beat. So now we enter the era of buzz vs what will actually make profits. Again we are killing our brand by not attaching a value to our music. If fans paid money for the artist they love, then they will demand that this artist create the best product they possibly can. For example, 3 months ago Beyonce’s fan base (The B Hive) demanded that she put out new music. The B hive never gotten anything from Beyonce for free. The same goes for Eminiem, Jay-Z and Kanye west. None of these artists have given out free Mixtapes. Now you would say that those artists are on an iconic level right? Well that maybe true but these people put out quality music that they know will be paid for by majority of they’re fan base. Again, these artist fans have a true emotional attachment to the movement they’ve created!

Pop And Country Music

In January of 2013 Justin Timberlake shocked us with the release of his single “Suit & Tie” after 6 years gone from the music industry. Timberlake then released the album (20/20 experience) only 7 weeks after the release of the first single and sold 968,000 copies in the first week, how was this achieved? For starters pop artist don’t give out free music!!! The fact that the music was very good helped as well. If people like a product, they will buy it. You mean to tell me these kids will spend $200 on the new retro Jordans but Can’t spend $10.99 on an album? Well if you give people an outlet to gain a valuable product (our Music) for free then they will take advantage and expect to keep being feed with the service of free music. We have changed the priorities of our consumers while Pop and country continue to do big first week numbers. Look at the numbers for yourself, From Katy Perry to Taylor Swift, these artist continue to do big numbers and create revenue for they’re labels. Also New aspiring pop artist don’t have to put out independent mix tapes to get noticed. This is not a requirement for these artists. Look at the history of all the new pop or country artist that have emerged in the past 5 years. Now take a look at the new HipHop artist who has emerged in the past 5 years. Compare history, and then compare numbers. The numbers and history are not a reflection of what Hip Hop has become. This is a problem because we have created these filters to find new HipHop artist, then devalue them by giving away they’re music. The objective is to make a profit. Not Go Broke.

Independent Vs Majors.

I hear this argument a lot….. I honestly feel that people say you don’t need the majors cause its the “cool” thing to say right now. For me this statement is Bullshit. I’m going to explain to you the only reason why. If you don’t have the capital to fund an independent label, the resources and

press connections, guess what? You need a label. I hear people saying labels are “just the bank” right now. Well that’s only true if you allow your contract to be drafted as such. The truth is you need a label to focus on the machine to work, You the artist…. focus on the music! Of course you need to have your business in order and know what’s going on. However, if you’re on the phone trying to set up shows and booking interviews then how are you effectively focusing on your craft? We need the labels. If that wasn’t the case, then why are the top artists in the business who are worth hundreds of millions signed to labels? Yes you can do it. But if you’re a talented kid who can make magic with every song you make while struggling financially, what do you do? Go see Nino Brown the “Dopeman” to manage you and fund you? Or go to some crooked real estate investor who only see’s dollar signs and expect quadruple the profit in return from what he’s given you to fund your project? For legitimate reasons and preventing becoming a victim or crime yourself, I would rather have that poor artist sign with a major label. We’ve seen this a lot with new artist being caught up with drug dealers and two bit investors. Have we not???

Bottom Line & Profit

In any business, the objective is to make money. In our genre the supporting cast, the Bloggers, journalist, independent A&R’s and some Dj’s have become vultures of new artist, Charging artist hundreds of dollars to become featured in they’re publications and mix tapes….. I thought journalist and now bloggers are supposed to find the new artist that the general public are sleeping on or never heard of? Not to only write about artist who are fattening up they’re pockets! Correct me if I’m wrong, but now your becoming a gatekeeper once your blog or publication becomes “All about the money!”

I attended a DJ Conference last August in Atlanta. A certain program director from a certain radio station told an audience of thousands “You can have the hottest record in the world, if I don’t hear your record in the Strip Clubs, I’m not placing your record in research on my station.” Now lets talk about that statement… Sounds like a smart business move because you’re representing on your radio stations what the people are vibing too in the streets right? Well what if I told you that in the city of Atlanta if you don’t pay a certain coalition of Dj’s a Minimum of $7,000.00, Your record is not getting played in those popular strip clubs that are world famous and people from all over the country visit on a weekly basis? This is true! If you don’t believe me, Google coalition dj’s In Atlanta, which was featured on global14.com.

Now this practice has proven to work because artists have gotten signed in a 4-month time period using this method. Atlanta is the #9 market in the country but also the most influential market. What Atlanta Radio stations play, The Top 3 Markets follow and so on. So after you shell out this $7 grand for club spins, yes you will get radio play using this method but you still will have to release your music to the public for free. Again? Where are you making money? If your doing shows as a new artist, I’m sure your getting paid, but are you getting paid enough to make back a profit from what you have invested?

When companies debut a new product, they often give out samples of the product. This practice is only done on a small scale. Remember these companies are multi million dollar industries, so they can afford to give a few free samples of a new product. What you don’t know about this practice is that those samples are only given away in selected areas in very small amounts. For instance if Dial soap has a new body wash they want to market to the consumer, Dial already plans for you to buy the product after you sample what was given to you for free! Mainly because it was such a small amount and if you like it you have to buy it. That’s what Radio use to do for our artist. A single was a sample of things to come. Now we give away a body of work for free with false hopes of gaining profit.

This practice will never work. We need to stop our artist from releasing these mixtapes for free and give the consumer a product they will enjoy! Giving away Free goods is an act of desperation and not good for your business or bottom line. Once you give people free product, that consumer will expect for every product of your description (rap music) too also be given away for free. If a rapper as great as Pusha T or Rick Ross Give away free music then why should an unknown artist sale their product? That’s the mentality we have creating with the consumer.

Lets rebuild our genre by first reestablishing the emotional connection with our fans. Don’t give away your product fro free because it will not result in strong album sales!!!!

History has proven that!

By Marcello Siggers