A true story of greed, deceit, and how quickly the American Dream can turn into a nightmare…
Words by PHLIP
I am a black man in a gentrified city, areas where certain nationalities live in clusters are still very clearly drawn, in an otherwise pretty progressive city in a state that normally don’t play that shit.
With that said, I am DEFINITELY approached several times a week with an aspiring rapper looking to sell me his “mixtape.” (quotation marks for effect, not emphasis)
Let us first DEFINE what a mixtape is…
As a child of the 80s, a mixtape was LITERALLY that; an assemblage of songs from varying artists recorded to a cassette tape. Commercially, this led to DJs getting exclusive songs from rappers who wouldn’t (or sometimes couldn’t) clear the songs for their own albums or dropping by the studio to freestyle over an industry beat. The common bond is that the ONLY name consistent from beginning to end was that of the DJ, not of the artist.
Nowadays, the only consistent is the rapping over existent beats or using these as an outlet for songs that couldn’t be released due to financial or legal reasons. What is TERRIBLY different, however, is that kids are calling what would be more accurately described as a “street album” as a “mixtape,” sometimes even with no DJ present.
Given this fact, I realize how many people PROBABLY don’t realize that there are things to this shit that should be considered, and that is where I am coming from today…
1. As the salesperson making a cold sell attempt, you should be well aware that YOU are the one dealing with a prospective customer who has not passively or actively agreed to be sold to. You walked up to them outside of a Wal Mart or gas station or something. Customer service had BETTER be the name of the game. They have the right to ask to HEAR your music before giving you money for it. Have your soundcloud, youtube or whatever method of accessing your work readily available. If you don’t have those things, you shouldn’t be approaching people to sell them music. Once they have heard it, they have the right to indifference. You were doing good to have not gotten shot approaching strangers in a parking lot; they might think you were the police and defend themselves. Be gracious and move on to the next sale.
2. Confidence is commendable. Delusion is another thing altogether. You should know, if only based on the reactions you get from people who HAVE heard your work, which side of that line you fall on. This requires that you have some honesty with yourself. It takes a tremendous amount of chest-puffing to will yourself into being the next big thing, but that should never ever EVER supplant the actually BEING the next big thing talent-wise. Work on your craft, young one.
3. There WILL be people who are not as impressed with your work as you have assigned them the task of being. The fact that they do NOT have music out themselves does not devalue their opinion of yours one little bit. They represent your most valued demographic, in “people who might pay for my music” so confronting someone with “WELL WHERE IS YOUR MIXTAPE, SINCE YOU KNOW SO MUCH?” is probably the dumbest thing you find yourself saying more than anyone ever should.
4. Consider your audience and look your part. Trying to look “rich” while you peddle $4 CD-Rs outside of a grocery store will turn off people like me, like to ask “why didn’t you spend that money on a real engineer?”
Conversely, looking too “poor” while rapping about your money, cars, pimping and drug escapades will cause the cynic in me to ask that SAME question, but this time from the angle that you didn’t NEED my $4 in the first place.
5. NEVER should you EVER tag your friends/acquaintances on social media without their EXPRESS consent. It is a simple yes or no question, “look, I am trying to get some exposure and I know you know people. Do you mind if I tag you in some of my posts?” If they say yes, beautiful. If they say no, DO NOT throw personal relationships in the shitter just to try and get a little shine. Untag and block functions DO exist on FaceBook, and you CAN be reported for tagging unwanted parties in your posts like that.
6. There is nothing disgraceful about using a full-time job to fund your rap career until your rap career can fund itself. This one is self-explanatory. I know a few people who have gone from call center jobs to making money on music. Coincidentally, three out of the five of them did it through The Cartoon Network, but that is neither here nor there. Long days at school and/or work, followed by studio and show nights committed them to a different kind of (and much more financially secure) grind. Peddle your wares at the merch table after shows, sell them on weekends you don’t have shows. If you aren’t getting shows to do this soon enough, you likely need to practice or work on exposing your work more.
I am more than sure, that I could do this all night, but I will stop there to combat the inevitable “TL:DR” crowd. As with anything, none of this is absolute, and conclusions similar to these could be arrived to with a simple application of common sense.
Bear in mind, now, I am not telling you NOT to make or sell your music. The first thing to understand is that no one actually WANTS to hear it, you only owe it to yourself to present them with a pitch and a product to change that opinion.
Words by PHLIP
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This is ingenious. Simple yet sophisticated.
No time for song and dance. There will be moments when you don’t have money. Broke. This is a fact. Do not let rap songs and the Internet fool you into thinking otherwise. We all pay bills. Uncle Sam has his fiscal fist up all of our rears, and every once and a while, the struggle becomes real. Shit gets tight. So be it…
At this point, it becomes a matter of survival. But surviving without auxiliary funding isn’t the arduous task that more fortunate folks illustrate it as. Allow us to provide the assist with a few simple dos and don’ts for being broke.
Don’t go out with friends that aren’t broke. The problem here is that you may have limited funds and that can become a problem when going to the movies evolves into grabbing a bite to eat, then hitting a club, or just running the streets. Not to mention alcohol and drugs. If you can’t at least pitch in, you will likely NOT be invited on the next outing. Keep it real with yourself and save some embarrassmembarrassm Hanging out us awesome, but staying home is free.
Do plan accordingly. If there’s something you want to do, and you’re wading in the shallow end of the financial pool, save up ahead of time, if need be. There’s virtually nothing worse than running out of the little bit of money that you really never had in the first place.
Don’t commit yourself to big purchases knowing that you’ll be paying the price for it later. On the real, if you’re broke now, you’ve been surviving without whatever it is you don’t have all this time. What’s a little while longer? Your TV ain’t as small as your drunk homeboys say it is.
Do get regular guy haircuts. Stay away from the latest fad fades and fancy designs. Why? Because there’s a good chance that you won’t be able to afford the bi-weekly upkeep. Those parts and squiggly lines may look trill for a couple of days, 7 at the most, then it’s time to revisit the barber for a freshen up or chop that shit. No reason to look homeless if you’re not homeless. Yet.
Don’t start any new relationships. Poverty is a bad look on new boyfriends. Or worse; she may think your helplessness adorable, in a motherly way, and attempt to rescue you from yourself, inadvertently becoming a domineering empress whose sole purpose is to control your every waking moment. Fuck all that. If you really need a woman to lean on, call your mom.
Do curb your habits. It’s not as hard as it appears. Cut out the wake and bake and watch the difference it makes in your weekly stash reload. Stop smoking as many cigarettes and cut back on the random beer guzzlement. Better yet, eliminate your hab—I’m joking. Do the best you can, though. The transition may not be easy, but it’ll make a difference in the long run.
Survival is a must because no storm lasts forever. Stay tuned. This topic will undoubtedly be revisited.