Blowing Up from the Basement is a series of articles and resources written exclusively for the IllMuzik fam, designed to help the bedroom producer/artist increase their exposure and make industry contacts that will get his/her music heard. These articles will run bi-weekly or monthly and will cover the wide spectrum of topics in this business of music from selecting managers, setting up your business properly, networking, and the list goes on and on.
The MOST OVERLOOKED Promotional Spots for Hip-Hop Music
The barber shop is the only professional place of business where music is playing ALL DAY LONG. Your goal is to get your music playing in these shops. Every Hip-Hop artist/manager should be doing barber shop tours on the regular throughout their city, but none do. The shop will ALWAYS give honest feedback. Everybody in the community stops by the barbershop, so your flyers should be circulating through all the shops. Get email addresses at the shops, shout out the barber shops at the end of each of your songs (trust me!)
Most people only view the club as a place to go out and forget about the troubles of day-to-day life. The smart indie artist realizes that the club is a great promotional spot.
The FIRST thing you have to do is separate yourself from the average club-goer. Call in advance, and tell them "I am 'MC Corndog' and I would like to check out your venue tonight for a possible performance". It would help if you offer to send a promo kit in advance. Get contact info and arrive early, it's a well known fact that artists and press don't pay to get into most club or events. Ask your contact about issues such as lighting, possible performance times, and securing a written agreement. The club owner might hook you up with VIP, (depending on your level of smooth-talking) but if he doesn't extend this privilege, tell him you'll be in touch and get on with the next phase of club promotions, working the club.
How to Work the Club
The whole purpose of working the club is to grab contact information to start a newsletter. Email communication is more valuable than phone numbers because it allows you to send one message to many users. When you introduce yourself, make a little small talk, and then hand them the flyer and collect contact info. Remember the person's name and some unique quality about them (write it down if you need to) and keep it moving.
The DJ shout out is the easiest way to spread the message to a group of people. "MC _________ is in the building. He'll be performing Friday night at Club ________, Go out and cop his joint ___________" can do more for you than any flyer can in most cases. If possible, contact the DJ prior to arriving and always bring him promo material. Most DJ's won't play un-solicited material (they have a reputation to uphold!) but if you get him on your side, they are the most influential people to break your new record or single. Many good DJ's have strong connections with your city's urban radio stations, so "getting in good" could take you far.
You should always get the DJ's email address and email him once a week about upcoming things. He/she should also have a copy of your CD and (if you can afford it) a 12-inch release on vinyl too.
Marketing strategies for selling CD's and Merchandise at the shows
You should point out the person in the crowd selling merchandising while on stage. I always tell artists to make him an official member of the group and shout him out in between every song. You should always have people in the crowd selling the songs you are performing. Live shows are the way that indies make the most money. If the club owner allows you to sign autographs after the show, set up a table afterwards and handle your business. Keeping your prices low will increase un-solicited hand-to-hand sales, but the key is to build up a following so that fans WANT to buy your CD, and pay $8-10 for it. In your first couple shows, keep your prices in between the $3 - 6 dollar range, and most importantly do not make any managers, A&Rs, promoters, DJ's, and hosts pay for your CD, these people normally do other events and if you're hot, you will start receiving phone calls.
Building Relationships for Future Shows
This is where your manager earns their money. After you get home from the show, send a separate email to both the manager and promoter. Thank them for hosting a great event and giving your group a chance to increase their exposure. Now tell them that you have a show coming up (if you don't have a show, name an out-of-town venue that you know they won't visit) and after a couple other events you would like to make a return appearance to promote (name CD that you should have given to them last night, or new mixtape) an upcoming release. The promoter will most likely contact you to work out dates and related details.
The Wrap Up
While there are other issues regarding live shows, touring, show money, actually not getting paid, and how to handle groupies (exiting the venue without getting mobbed), this guide (if applied consistently) will actually help you build enough relationships to eventually string together mini tours and get you as far as opening for platinum acts and big festivals in your city. Good luck and get on the road!