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Becoming a successful rapper or music artist is one of those “dream jobs” that everyone believes they can get but most people have no idea how to do so.
In order to become a successful music artist, you need a lot of moving parts to work together. These moving parts include areas such as music creation, networking, marketing, finances, operations, and more.
When looking at all of these moving parts from a high-level view, they can get overwhelming. However, once you start diving into each area – you’ll see that, while not easy, each area is fairly simple.
Despite the simplicity, a lot of upcoming music artists lack the education and “know-how” for becoming successful.
They typically go to the recording studio, create a song, and broadcast it on social media several times per day. This cycle usually repeats itself until the artist runs out of money or burns out.
Instead, most music artists should focus on learning and educate themselves about the different moving parts involved with becoming a successful artist.
Becoming a rapper, singer, or a music artist in any other genre is just like starting a business.
You wouldn’t start building houses if you didn’t know anything about construction. So why would you start a music career when you don’t know anything about the music industry?
So, in this post, I’m going to give you a few tips that I think will help you on your journey to becoming a successful music artist.
Create Good Music For Your Target Audience
While I’m not a big fan of telling artists to just focus on making good music if they want to be successful – making good music for your target audience is a top priority.
Making good music for your target audience will allow your records to emotionally connect with current/potential fans.
Now, when I say emotionally connect with fans, I don’t mean you have to make them cry or feel happy. There are a lot of different emotions that you can make the listener feel.
Some of the emotions you can make the listener feel through music include:
Regardless of what emotions you’d like to make the listeners feel, you need to study your target audience to get an idea of what emotions your target audience is looking to receive.
If your target audience is, on average, joyful and positive – it will be a lot easier to make them feel more joyful and positive than it would be to make them feel sad and depressed.
Here are a few things you should learn about your target audience (on average) to better understand them:
- How old are they?
- Are your listeners majority men or woman?
- What are their hobbies?
- Do they use slang often? If so, what words or phrases are most popular?
- Do they (on average) have a similar problem that you can help them solve? (for example, maybe most of your target audience has a problem getting jobs after college)
And, that list doesn’t stop there. There is a lot more you can learn about your target audience.
The more you know about them, the easier it will be to connect with them. You’ll know all the right things to say that they can relate to and, overall, be able to give them a feeling that they won’t forget when listening to your music.
Focus Your Efforts
You’re not going to be able to make music that everyone likes, it’s not possible. Not because you’re not talented or anything, but because different people have different taste in music.
Instead, you should focus your efforts on a specific target audience.
By focusing your efforts on a specific target audience, it makes it easier for you to make good music, tailor your interest, and perfect your image.
You want to become the number one music artist for that specific audience.
By becoming the number one music artist for that audience, you will not only be able to build a fan base full of loyal supporters but you will also be able to capture the attention of a broader audience.
However, make sure to carefully think about the target audience you plan on targeting. You do not want to jump from one target audience to another (unless they are very similar with only small changes between the two).
Jumping from one audience to another can severely hurt you brand if not done with a smooth transition and enough space between the transition. When done incorrectly, it can make you look desperate for attention and like you have no idea what you’re doing.
Once time passes, if you feel that the audience you’re targeting isn’t a good fit for you and your music after all – rebrand yourself and your music, then go after a different audience.
Goals are one of the harder areas for upcoming music artists to master. Not because setting goals are difficult, but because you have to make a decision on what you really want.
A lot of music artists have several different goals that they’re trying to achieve at one time. This leads them to do 50% of the work for Goal A and then 50% of the work for Goal B. So, instead of being 100% done with Goal A or B – they’re now halfway done with two goals.
Goals are meant to give you direction and purpose. Without them, you’re stuck doing stuff until something major happens or you burn out.
So, before you start buying home recording studio equipment, recording your music, and marketing yourself – create goals.
I’m not sure why this isn’t talked about as much when trying to become a successful music artist, but it’s all a part of artist development.
To get started with setting goals, I recommend you “reverse engineer” your goals or work backwards.
I talk about this strategy in the “How To Set Goals As A Rapper” post but will give you an overview on how you should set your goals here
Figure out what you’d like to achieve and in what time-frame.
Are you looking to build a bigger fan base this year?
Create more songs?
Regardless of what your goals are, the process I recommend you follow goes like this:
Create A Yearly Goal
Your yearly goal should be a milestone/accomplishment that you’d like to hit within 12 months. This goal should also be one that will drastically change your life for the better.
With a life-expectancy of about 71 on average across the world (6 or 7 more years if you’re in the USA), and if we assume you started setting yearly goals at age 21, you’ll only be able to set 50 (57 if you’re in the USA) of these yearly goals before you die.
You only have 50 chances to make your life drastically better than the previous year.
Please don’t waste this goal.
Create Monthly Goals
Once you’ve set your yearly goals, it’s relatively simple to create your monthly goals.
You should dissect your yearly goal into 12 different steps or milestones that, when completed, will accomplish your yearly goal. These steps/milestones will become your monthly goals.
You will have to place these steps/milestones in an order that makes sense for your yearly goal, but every month should be a new step/milestone that you dissected from your yearly goal.
Create Weekly Goals
When creating weekly goals, you’re going to follow the same process as creating monthly goals. The only difference is that instead of dissecting your monthly goal into 12 different steps/milestones, you’re going to dissect it into 4 different steps/milestones.
The reason we’re dissecting our monthly goal into 4 different steps/milestones is that there are only 4 weeks in a month.
Example Goal via Reverse Engineering
Let’s say that your yearly goal was to make enough money from music that would allow you to focus on it full-time. We’re also going to assume that $30,000 per year would be the minimum amount you’d need to live.
Based on that information, your yearly goal is to make $30,000.
Now that we know what your yearly goal is, we can create the month goals. Like I said above, to create your monthly goal – we have to dissect your yearly goal into 12 different steps/milestones.
$30,000 divided by 12 is $2,500.
Based on our calculation above, your monthly goal should be to make $2500 per month.
Now that we know what your monthly goal is, we can create your weekly goal. Like I said above, to create your weekly goal – we have to dissect your monthly goal into 4 different steps/milestones.
$2,500 divided by 4 is $625 per week.
In order to hit your yearly goal and focus on music full-time – your weekly goal is to make $625 per week.
You could go into more detail and create daily goals but, to keep this simple, we’re going not going to focus on those.
However, you have to figure out how to make $625 per week.
Maybe you already have 200 true fans that support most things you do. In order to hit $625 per week – you’d need at least $3.13 per week (or $12.50 per month) from each of those true fans in order to hit your yearly goal.
Maybe you already have thousands of fans that like listening to your music. In order to hit $625 per week – you’d need 85,035 streams per week (12,148 per day) from Apple Music (based on 2016 streaming data).
You see, while in no way is it easy, it’s very simple. By creating these goals, it will give you direction and help you focus.
Improve Your Social Media Presence
Social media is an area that most people, regardless if you’re a music artist or not, can improve on (including myself).
A lot of upcoming music artists have several different social media accounts that haven’t been updated in a month, full of spam from promoting the same music every few hours, or filled with a lot of memes and irrelevant photos/videos.
It’s extremely easy for your social media platforms to get out of control. One minute you’re posting content daily, the next minute you realize that you haven’t posted anything in weeks and spent all of your time liking photos from fitness models and celebrities.
If you find yourself doing the above or simply not posting consistently, you may need to reduce the number of social media platforms you use.
This may sound counter-intuitive. You may be thinking “Shouldn’t I be on as many platforms as possible so that I have a better chance of getting fans?” – but the answer is no.
It’s much better to have a good looking brand on 1-2 social platforms than it is to have a lackluster brand on 10 different social platforms.
By having a good looking brand on 1-2 social platforms, as your engagement and followers increase – it will make transitioning into an additional social platform much easier.
So, how do you decide which social media platforms to use?
Figure out which platform will allow you to reach and connect with your target audience the quickest or cheapest (depending on if you have more time than money or vice-versa).
Now, I recommend you start with 2-3 social media platforms.
But Darius, you just said that I should focus on 1 or 2 social platforms? Yea, I know. But the reason I’m saying to start with 2-3 of the social platforms above is that they will serve 2 different purposes.
One of the social media platforms will be used as a “profile”. What I mean by this is that the “profile” platform will be used to display you as a person/music artist. It allows potential fans to not only get to know you better but also engage with you.
Social media platforms I recommend using for a “profile” (choose one to start):
The other social media platform will be used for “artist discovery”. What I mean by this is that the “artist discovery” platform’s main job will be to build your audience.
These types of platforms usually have a high percentage of users searching for new content or a relatively higher probability of content going viral.
Social media platforms I recommend using for “artist discovery” include (choose one to start):
- Apple Music (Playlists)
Now, I’m a big fan of using YouTube as a starter “artist discovery” platform. It’s free, is the 2nd biggest search engine online (meaning more people search YouTube than almost anywhere else – except Google), and since it has similar features as a “profile” platform – you can get extra benefits from it.
However, you’re free to choose whatever “artist discovery” platform you feel will best help you.
Have A Website
Every rapper/music artist should have a website that showcases their music and brand.
Your website is the only property on the internet that you actually own. It’s your headquarters – it will allow you to take your marketing to the next level.
After installing an analytics software like Google Analytics –
you’ll be able to track everyone who views your website and determine how they got to your website, their age, location, and so much more.
And, once you start incorporating paid advertising and remarketing into your marketing strategy, that data will come in hand.
If you don’t already have a website, you can learn how to create a music website here.
Network With Influential People
Networking is one of the most important things in the music industry. Regardless of what stage you’re currently at in your music career, you should be networking. The opportunities that become available due to being in the right circles are incredible.
Networking with the right people will put you on the fast path to success.
You should attend as many events (both local and national) as possible and spark up conversations with as many people as possible. While networking online is great and can yield some of the same results – there’s something about putting a face to an internet profile that makes in-person networking a lot more effective.
If you can’t attend a lot of events due to age, transportation, or whatever – prioritize internet networking. Social platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube make it easy to spark up a conversation with anyone.
Also, make sure you’re always on the giving side of the relationship.
The more you’re able to help someone – the more likely they are to look out for you and send opportunities or new contacts your way.
Building long-term relationships are essential – and networking with a selfish intent will not help you build long-term relationships.
Learn more here: How to make connections in the music industry
Pay Attention To People, Not Stats
Focusing on stats instead of people is a big problem that a lot of upcoming rappers/music artists have. They’re paying attention to the wrong metrics when it comes to deciding if they’re moving forward in their music career.
Some of the metrics that music artists tend to focus on to validate their music career include:
Now, there’s nothing with paying attention to these metrics. The problem starts when you begin to value these metrics over people.
You can have 10+ million views on YouTube, 5+ million Soundcloud plays, and a combined 2+ million followers on Twitter and Instagram – but if you can’t sell tickets to a live show or move your merchandise, you’re not a successful artist – regardless of what your stats say.
However, if you focus on building a fan base for your music career that consists of real people that genuinely like and support you – you’ll be able to consistently get views, downloads, and song plays – while being able to sell out shows and build a sustainable career.
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My Question For You:
What has been the biggest problem for you when trying to be a successful hip-hop artist? Leave a comment below and let me know. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.