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The steps to becoming a hip-hop artist in 2017 is still a rather “secret” topic that isn’t talked about publicly. With the number of new hip-hop artists entering the industry every day, you’d think there would be a “standard” for things you shouldn’t do if you’re trying to become successful.
Since there isn’t, I thought I’d put together a list of 7 mistakes that rappers make. If you’re not trying to become a hip-hop artist, don’t worry. These mistakes are universal across all genres.
If you’re making any of the mistakes on this list, there’s plenty of time to recover and get yourself on the right track.
However, sometimes mistakes can turn into blessings – so don’t take everything on this list as 100% the way it has to be. Instead, use this list as a guide to get your music career going in the right direction.
In most cases, you shouldn’t be making any of the mistakes on this list.
1. Not Having a Job or Income
When trying to become a successful hip-hop artist, having a job is typically looked down on. The lifestyle that being a successful music artist gives you is what I believe confuses most upcoming artists.
It’s very easy to think “Why go get a job? Future is in the studio everyday working – so should I” or “Wiz Khalifa never had a job, I don’t need one either”.
The problem with not having a job doesn’t really affect you until you need money for something.
- Who’s going to pay for studio time?
- Going to record yourself? Who’s going to pay for the home recording studio equipment?
- Who’s going to pay for music videos?
- Who’s going to pay for you to simply live your day-to-day life?
Do you get where I’m going with this? You only have 24 hours a day and so many days to live, so make sure to use them as efficiently as possible.
Trying to do everything yourself is ok if you’re a hobbyist. However, if you’re trying to make being a music artist your full-time job, you’re going to need money (or something of value to exchange) in order to hire people who are more skilled than you in different areas.
- Music Producers are better and more efficient at making beats than you.
- Audio Engineers are better and more efficient at recording you than you are.
- Graphic Designs are better and more efficient at making graphics than you.
Now, If you don’t currently have a job – I don’t want to discourage you. If you want to start your rap career with no money, it’s possible. But you’re going to work really hard to make it happen – and it probably won’t be fun in the early stages.
2. Choosing an Unoriginal Rap Name
How many hip-hop artists can you think of that have the same or similar names? If you’re anything like me, probably a few.
In today’s music industry, it seems like most aspiring music artists simply choose the first name that they think of. This is an extremely bad idea.
Your name as a music artist will follow you throughout your entire career. You should spend a good amount of time thinking about your rap name and I’m going to tell you why.
Problem #1: Getting Noticed
Getting noticed as an upcoming hip-hop artist is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome. Why make this harder by choosing the same or a similar rap name as someone else?
If you have the same name as someone else, it’s going to be hard for fans to know which one is you when searching for you online.
You’re always going to be fighting this constant battle of trying to be more relevant than the other guy with the same name as you.
Now, if you’re working smart and hard – maybe this won’t be so difficult.
But what happens if the guy with the same artist name as you decides he wants to go and do something foolish or embarrassing that goes viral.
He now becomes more relevant than you for something bad and since you have the same name as him, you’re going to get people who think you were the one who did that.
It’s not the best position to be in.
But that’s not the only reason why getting noticed would be difficult.
Here are a couple more reasons:
- Harder to secure exact social media handles. One of you will be the guy with the “1” at the end of his Twitter URL.
- Harder to get exact match domain name (www.example.com). You better hope you get it first.
Problem #2: Trademark Issues
Another problem that can come from choosing an unoriginal rap name involves trademark issues.
If you choose the same name as someone who has trademarked their name as an artist, you’re going to have troubles down the road.
The more successful you become, the more of a target you become by the person that trademarked the name. It’s not unheard of an artist to get hit with a trademark or copyright issue soon after releasing a big album or having a lot of success.
Save yourself a headache and don’t put yourself in that position. It’s not worth time investment to handle a legal battle, the money spent on lawyers, and missed opportunities due to not owning the trademark to your name.
And, just in case you’d like to take a few minutes out of your day to make sure you’re safe – here’s how to check if your rap name is trademarked.
3. Spamming Your Music
Artists spamming music might be one of the most common problems in today’s music industry.
This usually happens when an artist doesn’t know how to promote their music. They get this idea that the more they post their music, the more views and likelihood of someone seeing it.
Back in the Myspace days, I remember being able to message everyone on your friend’s list and ask them to check out your music – and they did and told you what they thought about it.
However, in today’s music industry – it’s an unacceptable strategy.
It makes you look desperate and hurts your brand/reputation with everyone you’ve spammed.
One thing to remember when promoting yourself or your music is that views, plays, followers, or any of these social media metrics don’t make you successful.
The only thing that can make you successful is people (fans/supporters).
Don’t ruin the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with potential fans just because you want more views or followers.
You won’t get far in your career like that.
4. Not Building Relationships
Just like I said above, the only thing that can make your music career successful is people (fans/supporters).
However, there are other people that may not necessarily be a fan or supporter, but they can help you move your music career along further.
As you can see, people should be your main priority. If they aren’t, switch your priorities.
Building meaningful relationships take time and patience. it’s not something that can happen genuinely overnight.
But don’t let the time commitment deter you from doing it. Relationships will put you into positions that you would not have been able to get on your own.
Find as many influential people in your city or closest music scene and figure out what you can do to add value to their life.
What do I mean by “value”? Simply see how you can help them do something that they’re already trying to do.
Here are a few ways you can add value to someone’s life:
- Help them solve a problem that they’re having
- Purchase a product or service from them
- Promote some of their music or events
- Engage with them on social media
- Refer business to them
Now, that’s by no means the only ways to add value to someone’s life. Feel free to do things outside of that list if you feel it adds value to their life.
Overall, you just want to be a genuine and authentic friend. You want to help them so much that they feel like they owe you in some way.
This will cause them to genuinely introduce you to other people and send opportunities your way.
5. Trying to do everything by yourself
When you first start your music career, you probably won’t have a team of people around you to help – and that’s ok.
It’s actually beneficial for you to understand the process and steps, and do the work yourself to take your career to the next level. Because, once you do have someone on board, you’ll be able to better instruct them on what you’d like them to do.
However, after you release your first few songs – you should be able to “sell” your vision to friends or people you know.
This will get you some part-time help for little to no money – but I recommend giving them money as often as you can. I’ve been the guy helping an artist for free and getting some cash, even though we volunteered to help for free, makes us work harder.
Now, depending on the goals you’ve set for your music career, the type of people you have on your team may be different than what you’re used to seeing.
You probably don’t need a manager, but a videographer might be able to help you build more fans.
Maybe you don’t have much money for recording, so an audio engineer at a studio might be able to help you make more music and move your career along further.
You get where I’m going with this?
Recruit people that can help you overcome a specific struggle you’re having. Don’t bring someone on your team as a manager just because you think you’re supposed to have one.
That’s a quick way to keep your music career stagnant and have people give up on you after seeing no progress.
6. Not creating good music
This is one of the biggest mistakes made by upcoming hip-hop artists – and probably for good reason.
“Good” music is completely based on who’s listening.
If you ask a Darius Rucker fan if Gucci Mane’s music is good – they’ll give you a completely different answer than if you ask a Young Dolph fan if Gucci Mane’s music is good.
Since “good” music is so subjective, it’s easy to see why determining if your music is good – is difficult.
If you’re not creating good music, your music career is going to struggle.
I’m a big believer that marketing is more influential to an artist’s success than the music itself – but nothing can save bad music.
So, how do you know if your music is good? Simple – make sure the audience that you’re targeting enjoys it.
It doesn’t matter what you think is good. It only matters what your fans and potential fans think.
If they don’t think your music is good, you have a couple options:
- Improve your music so that they do like the way it sounds
- Change the audience you’re targeting
It’s not easy, but it is simple.
Good music will make your job of becoming a successful music artist a lot easier.
7. Not Learning
I’ve always found it interesting that when someone wants to become a music artist, especially a rapper, they simply give themselves a rap name and start making music.
They don’t do any research or attempt to learn how to actually succeed at it.
They simply believe that if you just make good music, you’ll be a successful music artist – which I believe is one of the biggest lies in hip-hop.
You wouldn’t walk into surgery with your medical outfit talking about “let’s get it”.
You wouldn’t go around telling people that you fix cars and think that they should do business with you.
Why? Because you don’t know how to do that (unless you do – then good job).
If you want to become successful at anything, not just becoming a music artist, you’ve got to put in the time and effort to learn how it’s done.
Learn about the music industry. Get a basic understanding of finance, marketing, sales, communication, and business overall.
This basic understanding won’t turn you into Jay-Z, but it will help give you direction and understanding of what’s important and what’s not.
I believe that the smarter you are in whatever you want to do, the easier success becomes.
Make sure that if one day you lost everything, you’d know the process necessary to get it all back (and more).