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#LVLUPTOUR Breaking the 4th Wall

Breaking the Artist 4th Wall

 

***Disclaimer***

 What I am about to talk about does not mean I am better then any other artist or you the reader. I am only sharing tips and tricks that I am learning on my journey towards success. To be honest, everything I am about to break down, you can learn easily by reading “Laws of Success” by Napoleon Hill, “Outliers” & “David and Goliath” by Malcolm Gladwell, “The Alchemist” by Paul Coelho, and the “Richest Man in Babylon” by George C Clason. The greatest secrets are hidden in writing.** 

That Guy: “Okay Darealwordsound, I am going to interview you because I just don’t understand how you’re doing it. How are you making it in this digital streaming era? Like seriously. How?”

 

Being an artist in an Internet driven world can seem like your drifting in space praying that you find life while avoiding asteroids. I have seen many artist take the approach of either:

a.) Spam anyone and everyone with a link to their newest song

b.) Pay for views and likes

c.) Flood their page with countless new material

d.) Enter into every competition just so they can get heard

e.) Even walk up during someone’s set and either want to battle or ask to do a verse (this happened to Forcee the kid and I while on tour. No joke!)

The common end result for most artists is frustration and the feeling that there is no hope. If you can relate to anyone of these examples then I have one thing to tell you… DUH!!!!! Of course your going to hit the same walls over and over again. Although music distribution and consumption has switched to a digital and streaming era, it doesn’t mean that a.) You have the right to bother people you have not built a relationship with your music and b.) Just because you have 5,000 plays on soundcloud doesn’t mean you have 5,000 fans that will come out to your show or buy your music. You have to remember this one key thing with everything you do and that is “Why should I give you my time?” From dealing with fans, promoters, blogs, press, etc.…the market is flooded with “The Next Big Thing!” It doesn’t matter what genre of music you do, what matters is how you approach the genre of music you do.

In business, packaging is everything. How the product is presented increases the sale of a product by 25-35 percent. To you that may not seem like a lot but when your still an unsigned artist living off of every sale (which is foolish and I will explain why) you have to maximize your sale anyway you can. So that means that if you have anything; Racist, Overtly Sexual, Offensive, or just over the top ugly, that plays into a huge part of the reason why your not reaching people. I am not saying you must restrict your artistic creativity. Instead I am saying, increase you artistic fan base reach. You can be “Shocking", "Jaw Dropping", & "Vulgar” without scarring your potential fans away. Remember what I said early “Why should I give you my time?” Time is money and money is time. So, if your packaging is unappealing then you’re going to lose a sale and fan at every show or when they browse for music on sound cloud.

 

That Guy: “But Darealwordsound, this is all nice to know and everything but how are you able to tour, engage your fans, and make money doing what you love? Not to be mean but you’re no Kendrick Llamar, J. Cole, Sage the Gemini, but yet you’re getting around? You’re not even a YouTube star like VI Seconds or Token nor that big of a Nerdcore artist like Mega Ran, MC Chris, or Richie Branson but yet you’re popping up in places where I would never expect you to be? How are you doing this.”?

 

Great question. First off let me say that every artist you mentioned I am a big fan off. So what I am going to say is by no means a diss to them at all. Instead, I have been studying them and seeing what they do and figuring out how can I apply some of their success towards mine. I am not talking about stealing lyrics. That is called plagiarism and I do not support that at all. An artist I once respected did that and now his career is over because of it. Instead I am talking about learning from other artist trials and errors. Being an artist is 10 percent skill and 35 percent Live Show & 55 percent Business. Every artist you mentioned has either mastered or built a team to help them master each necessary level so that they can achieve success. Also, “Success” as an artist is not a race but a marathon. The artist you mentioned did not achieve their fame over night. They all had to pay their dues and prove themselves worthy of the fame they currently have.

Now that you have a clear understanding of why I respect these artists I will break down the lessons I have learned from them as well as other books I am currently reading. Please know that I have made my mistakes and there are still some areas I am struggling with but once I began to be willing to fail, I was then able to learn from my mistakes and reduce my errors greatly.

 

1.) Hone your craft!

 If you call yourself an artist then you are an entrepreneur. An entrepreneur knows that before they open their doors, whatever the product is that they plan to sale, the must test the quality in order to make sure it will sell. As an artist, you must make sure that whatever you put out into the world must be up to par since you are going up against thousands of other artist. I know you may not be able to afford a high end studio right now, but if you know how to count bars, write amazing music, freestyle (even singers too!), and can share the stage with others, you are already ahead of the competition. I am not saying your first project needs to be your best, but treat every project that you do with love and care. Take pride in your work and train to be the highlight of the show.

If you cannot afford to go to a high-end studio, then get a job…yes a job…save some money and start building your own. Start small with your gear and learn how to use it. YouTube has tutorials for everything so there is no excuse for your vocals to be way low or the bass to be distorting. Of course the more you practice mixing the better you will get but still make sure you are doing your best.

If you don’t want to learn how to record yourself then save your money up and go to a good studio. Remember you are a business and you have to make sure that every dollar you spend is being spent wisely. Quality is more important then quantity. So shop around for the best price and make sure your getting your money’s worth.

Also, if you are a rapper or singer who writes their own lyrics (sorry we live in a day and age of ghostwriters) you need to start investing into grammar reference material like Idioms, Euphuisms, Analogies, Thesaurus, Dictionary, Rhyming Dictionary, and other books that will help you expand your writing skills. If Coca Cola is always spending money to improve their soda product or come up with new flavors and brands, so should you invest into your skills as a rapper and or singer. Your next song or project should be better then your last one. If your not showing signs of improvement then that means you’re getting complacent and stale.  Never think you are invincible in the music industry. Everyday thousands of projects are being released and out of those thousands only a few make it into the hands of millions.

 

2.) Branding is everything

Your rapper name, singer name, even your band name can either make you or break you. Seriously. If your name sounds either cliché, racist, vulgar, or just lame you will get looked over. People judge artist by their name and what the name message is.

 

Back in college, I was an intern for an indie label. I would go to the studio every night after work or school and help out in the studio wrapping cables, setting up mics, or answer emails. One day the engineers called me into the mixing room and asked me a question. (We will call this guy Tom) Tom said, “Tell me in one word, what does the name Star Killer mean to you if a band told you that was their name?” My response was long and vague and basically ended with “It’s impossible to sum up a band name in one word.” Tom laughed at me and said, “You’re wrong. When you think of the Beatles you think of ‘Love’. When you think of Rage Against the Machine you think of ‘Riot’. When you think of N.W.A you think of “Fuck!” When you think of Public Enemy you think of ‘Injustice’. Any artist of any genre must be able to sum up who they are in one word. If they cannot, they will phase out in about 3 years top.” I looked at him as if he was stupid and asked him how? He said, “The Message. What message are you bringing to the world? I don’t care what it is, but you must know what it is. When an artist or band have a unified message, they can last the test of time because they know what their all about. You could call it their mission statement. Never forget that your name says more about you in word then you can say in a whole album.” I left the studio that night really upset. As an artist I was mad about having to be labeled but when I really thought about it…everything is labeled. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, however it helps you define the meaning of something and if you want that something in your life.  People hold music dear to them, and if the artists message resonates with their soul then they will hold to it, if not then they will let it pass them by. So knowing what your message is in one word will help you be more secure in the music you are making and giving to the world. Good or Bad, Skilled or Basic, people will resonate with your message when you can define it with only one word.

 

3.) Learn how to Budget!

You heard me say it already and I will say it again…get a job! Yes go ahead and boo, throw chairs, and give me the finger, but living off your music when you are still a nobody is impossible. 0 percent of of 0 is still 0. People have been trained into wanting music for “Free” until they see you're worthy of their dollar vote. 

So, if you want to make a living off of music and your just starting off as an artist and your parents are not floating your career, get a job. Why do I say this? Because, every business needs capital in order to survive. Without capital, you die. 

 

That Guy: Okay Darealwordsound let me interrupt you right here. You say “I need a job” but then you refer to me as a “Business”. How can you have a job and run a business at the same time?

 

When I say you need a job, I do not mean that you plan to work for someone else for the rest of your life. Instead, I am refering to you seeing yourself as a Free-Lance/Independent Contractor getting contracted for an assignment. Now of course there is a difference between “Free Lance” "Independent Contractor" and “Employee”, especially when dealing with taxes, but the mentality is what will change your prospective about being an “Employee”.  Meaning, this current “job” is not your end all be all.

That Guy: But aren’t we still in a recession? Also the cost of living is too damn high! How am I going to be able to pay for rent and studio time? Hmmmm?!

 

That is why you have to learn how to budget. Every business has an accountant or book keeper. Their job is not just to count the money but also to make sure the money is being spent wisely and can be accounted for. Everything they purchase, sale, import, export, exchange, or return has to be accounted for so they can avoid going to far into debt. As an artist, you have to start budgeting for anything and everything you want to do.

Companies are always taking in contracts which help give them revenue upfront while they sale products off which generate passive income. So to translate this for artist, by working either a 9-5 or doing free lance work that pays you well, you can then take part of that money and invest it into merchandise, studio time, or save for your tour coming up in the fall while still taking care of your living expenses. Now before you jump in again I already know what your going to say, “But how can I afford to save money when either a.) I have a family b.) I have bills to pay c.) I still don’t have a job.”

Answer A Response: 

A.)  If you have a family, then yes it is going to be very difficult for you to save but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Start collecting cans, pick up some extra hours, or find a corrective way of writing your music while the kids are napping in the other room. Just because you have a family doesn’t mean you can’t make it happen. There are countless tales of artist and entrepreneurs who are even single parents who are driven to make it work even if they only get 2 hours of sleep a day. Your drive determines your success.

An   Answer B Response:

B.)  If you have bills to pay then you need to sit down and account for how much you owe. Seriously, stop and look at how big your debt is. This isn’t to scare you but to make you finally deal with this problem before you start investing into your music. If you cannot be responsible with your living situation now, it will only get worse when you do start making a lot of money with music because you are still not paying your bills on time. If you want to learn how to take better care of your debts read, “Your Broke Because You Want To be” by Larry Wignet. Debt stems from lack of financial knowledge. So in order to get out of debt, increase your financial understanding.

An    Answer C Response:

C.)  If you do not have a job, then act like you have a job. What I mean is, get up everyday as if you’re going to work and create a plan. If that means you spend a day gathering applications, a day filling them out, and then a day delivering them until something happens, you do it. I know the job market right now is still slim pickings but it doesn’t mean you cannot find something. Remember, this is not your career choice but away to make some money so you can invest into your music. When you see yourself as a “Free Lancer” you understand that this is only temporary until you land the gig that you really want. 

A good rule to apply to your finances is the 80/20-rule meaning only live off of 80 percent of your paycheck and save 20 percent. The 20 percent you save you break that up into 10 percent long-term and 10 percent short-term. Long Term savings would be for personal savings, home emergency, or anything that you plan on getting later in life. Short Term Savings would be for merchandise, reference books, tour, studio time, or anything else you need immediately for your music.

 

4.) Map it out

Now we get to the golden goose. Touring! How was I able to plot two out of state tours…Map it out. I recommend creating a Google email account, because Google drive is amazing. Create an excel spreadsheet and write down what states and cities you want to go to. From there you can then start plotting what venues you want to reach out too.

Here is the thing about booking out of your local area code. Unless you are buying onto another artist tour who has a fan base who will come see them perform, asking for a guarantee is not always guaranteed. A "Guarantee" means that you will be paid for your performance. So unless you have a radio single that is giving you a fan base all across the US, be flexible with the promoter. I am not saying bend over backwards for the promoter and not ask them questions. What I am saying is be willing to split the door fee with them and bring merchandise for you to sale. Also find ways to promote your "venue shows" by locating an open mic night. You might not be able to do that for every location but if you can squeeze in a few, you will be surprised with whom you might meet at these locations and you might make some new fans along the way.

**Side-Tangent: For the record, I personally do not agree with any form of "Pay to Play" meaning that I pay a promoter to perform. However, I do agree with "Investing into the Bill" meaning that if I do have to pay a cover fee, can my merch/vendor fee be waived so that I can sell my merchandise to make up for my lost and can I get additional advertisment when they are doing their press release. In addition, my performance time should be close towards the headliners so that I can be infront of more people.

I believe artist should be paid for performing but I also understand how promoters base their gross profit off of how many tickets are sold. A majority of artist do not understand the importance of ticket sales or attendance. If people don’t show up, then the venue loses money. If people pack the place out, then the venue makes money. But if tickets are being sold, the headliners are getting their cut, and I am only getting "Experience"...pass. I can get experience performing at an Open Mic Night's. If I do take a financial lost, I make sure to get fan emails so that I can retain those new fans. By retaining your fans, you can then ask them to refer you to their friends and family. An effective fan mail list can help boost your digital downloads and streams by 10-15 percent at minimum. So as a business man, I may lose money at this "Free Show" we are hosting, but I am retaining every fan that comes in and signs the email list for future events and album releases.If we put on a great show and have a tip jar out, we will make money thanks to fans wanting to support us on the spot.**

As you begin to fill out the venue locations you want to perform at, you can then try to plot out the rest of your tour so that it forms a giant loop or a straight line and hit some places in between. While your plotting your route, start registering with different hotel sites to earn points for every night you stay and I recommend getting yourself a Costco Card and a Sam’s Club Card to help you save money on gas and food. They cost $50 a year but the savings on gas is worth it. Another thing to bring while on tour is an ice cooler so that you can bring your own water and drinks while on the road.

That Guy: “Wow…now I see how you’re getting around. You truly are a unique artist. You’re not waiting on anyone to validate you and your going to where the people are. I take back what I said about you. You are a true artist and a great performer as well. Thank you for breaking this down.”

 

You’re more than welcome. I wouldn’t be able to do what I am doing if it wasn’t for my mentors and peers sharing knowledge with me. I honestly believe that if more artists stop seeing each other as enemies and start seeing other as allies, we will all make it in this music industry. A golden rule when you tour is “R.T.F” (Return the Favor). If someone hooks you up with a show, place to stay, some food to eat, or gas money, pay him or her back when they come your way. Even for shows, if you are not hosting an event, point them to someone who can help them and introduce them. The journey of an artist is a long marathon but if you can make a few friends a long the way, the journey becomes a lot more fun. Keep breaking the 4th walll. Nobody said you had to play by the rules in order to get fans and book shows.

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