As you promote your image to the masses to gain awareness, it’s important that your message is clear, concise, and easy to understand. A flyer with 20 things crowded on it, and no empty space for the eye to rest, is a waste. Having things mis-spelled or grammatically incorrect is terrible too. Photos that are too low resolution that they look grainy and out of focus make you look cheap and clueless. The look of your promotional materials says a lot about who you are as a person. It would be easier for Yo Gotti to get away with something grimy and street than Jay Z or Puffy. Image is everything, and yours should be consistent.
If you have no understanding of design or aesthetics, find someone who does. If you suck at writing copy, find someone who has that talent to write the words for your flyers, social media pages, website, bio, and CD booklets (liner notes). Find people who are good at what they do and hire them to help you. Know your role and play it. Don’t try to do everything yourself. Teamwork is key here.
When you choose your own lane, try not to bite what has come before you. There is already a Jay Z, already a Lil Wayne, already a Drake. Try not to copy their style or image or sound. Usually the one who does it first, does it best, so be unique.
Image Matters In Rap
I suggest to small labels all of the time that they use one image of the artist to have consistency in marketing. First of all, you don’t have the budget of a major label who can afford to market Rick Ross in a suit, a sweatsuit, as well as street clothes. Pick one image and use that for your CD cover, vehicle wrap, website, flyers, posters, etc. It is very rare that a fan recalls a new artist’s name. There are just too many new artists. So very often they will go into the store asking for the kid who is rapping next to a Lamborghini on his posters, or that kid who is into skateboarding, etc. Make it easy for people to figure out who you are. Use one strong image that stands out to market yourself, and sets you apart from everyone else.
When I first started working with TMI Boyz in 2008, our t-shirts were so ugly that I would never wear them. We gave out like 10,000 of those ugly shirts. Finally, we had the logo and shirts redesigned. We had everybody asking for our shirts and wearing them (including me). We even had folks offering to buy them from us (truth is t-shirts are more expensive to print, so we should sell the t-shirts and give out the CDs for free. Ha ha ha ha).
Your marketing mix should consist of whatever you can afford from the following--
Retail store promotion
Social media marketing
Publicity (blog, magazine, and media mentions)
Internet Banner Ads
Videos & Behind-the-scenes footage
Don’t forget to incorporate the internet as part of your campaign. While we still aren’t 100% digital yet in this era, it is a crucial part of your marketing mix. To those of you with no budget who think free internet promotions is enough to build an artist, you are wrong. It is exactly what it is: inexpensive promotions, but just one part of your whole marketing pie. You still need the streets, clubs, and real world promotion.
I can’t stress enough the importance of your imaging and marketing. Make sure your messages are clear, well designed, spelled correctly and grammatically correct. And most of all, make sure you are reaching the people who will buy your music, with your imaging, your design, and your marketing mix. This should put you one step closer to success whether your plan is to stay independent or to attract legitimate deal offers from established record labels.
Wendy Day is a label consultant who helps build independent record labels and teaches owners and staff how to sell music and be profitable in today's music business. As a 21-year veteran of the music industry who has managed to do the impossible-- stay relevant, Wendy also runs the not-for-profit artist advocacy organization, Rap Coalition. She has helped discover, build the leverage of, and shop and negotiate deals for No Limit Records (Master P, Mia X, C-Murder), Twista, Cash Money Records (BG, Juvenile, Lil Wayne, Turk, Hot Boyz, Big Tymers, and Mannie Fresh), Eminem, David Banner, and many others.