The Sneaky Way to Promote Your Music Without Actually Talking About Your Music

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Dave Kusek and originally appeared on the Sonicbids Blog.]

I know it sounds completely counterintuitive to promote your music and raise awareness for yourself as an artist without actually talking about your music – or your music career, for that matter. But it’s being done more and more and has become a really powerful way to make a name for yourself by bypassing the crowded indie-musician market.

Let me explain. The key is to establish yourself as an expert in some related topic like gear, self-releasing music, or songwriting. It’s about sharing valuable information on a topic you have a lot of experience in to draw potential fans. They find you by searching for “how to write a song,” or “how to book your own gigs,” or “guitar pedal review,” and discover your music through that connection.

Push vs. pull marketing

Traditionally, there are two ways to go about promoting your music. You can either push your message out to fans and potential fans (push marketing), or you can pull them in and get them to come to you (pull marketing).

Push marketing is those typical advertisements you see on TV and hear on the radio. They’re just pushing information out about their product to a large audience hoping to reach someone who may be interested.

Pull marketing is about giving out valuable information that you know your target audience is searching for. This valuable information could be exclusive or behind-the-scenes access to you as an artist. This kind of content will pull in current fans and deepen your relationship.

But you could also share advice on something you have a lot of experience with. This will help you reach a new audience who may not even be familiar with your music.

So let’s go through the strategy step-by-step.

1. Find your expertise

The first step is finding something you have a lot of experience and knowledge in. As a musician, you have a few really obvious routes – music, songwriting, mixing, mastering, music theory, gear, instruments, etc. These are the skills that form the very foundation of your career, so you definitely have a lot of valuable information to bring to the table here.

Many musicians, including Scale the Summit’s bassist Mark Michell, have set up online schools to share their musical knowledge and techniques. The key here is to bring this training online instead of doing local lessons. Not only will you be able to reach a much larger audience, you’ll also start showing up in Google searches for things like “online bass lessons.”

Other musicians pull on other skill sets like music business knowledge, booking gigs, or creating YouTube videos. DIY musician Ari Herstand, for example, runs the blog Ari’s Take, where he shares his experiences and the skills he’s learned from booking his own shows and generally running his own career. Other musicians like Alex Cowles share their knowledge on self-releasing music.

2. Find the right platform

If you want people to organically find you, the best option is to go online. Depending on the kind of information you share, your platform may be a little different. So, if you’re creating music lessons, videos may be your best bet. Try making YouTube tutorials, playthroughs, and lessons, and release them regularly to build an audience.

On the other hand, if you’re sharing the things you’ve learned on getting your songs licensed or booking college gigs, a blog may suit your information better. Gear and guitar pedal reviews and demonstrations might use a combination of blog posts and videos.

You could also aim to partner with other media outlets to share out your information. This will help you get your name out to a larger audience. In addition to his own blog, Ari Herstand also writes for Digital Music News. Maybe you could get a regular column in a small online music magazine or music industry blog – start small and grow from there.

3. Show up in search

Now that you have your content up, you need to make sure people can actually find it. There are plenty of SEO guides out there, but basically, you just want to think about what people are actually typing into search. There are also a lot of cool tools like Google’s Keyword Planner that can give you some ideas.

You want the keywords and article titles you choose to be relevant and specific to what you’re posting. So if you’re posting a review of a certain guitar pedal, a title like “Boss Waza Craft VB-2W Vibrato Review” will perform better than “Guitar Pedal Review.” Likewise, if you’re sharing your tips on how to set up good lighting for a music video, something like “Setting Up Good Lighting for a Music Video” will probably do the trick.

Of course, good SEO won’t instantly drive thousands of people to your articles and videos. It’s going to take a lot of work and consistent posting to build up an audience.

4. Create the connection

Here’s the most important part of this strategy: you need to make the connection to your music and drive your viewers or readers to check it out. After all, music is your main gig.

There are a few options here. You could obviously host your blog on your band’s site, or share your tutorials or gear reviews on your band’s YouTube channel. That way, your music is just a click away. This works, but it will make it more difficult to get the SEO working like you want.

If you host your content off your music website, you need to make the connection obvious. Include an “About” page that shares your story. Highlight your musical journey and your creative career as an indicator of your expertise on the subject.

You should also mention your career and bring out stories in your articles and videos.Preface an amp review by saying you brought it on tour and recorded some awesome sounding live videos with it. Include the live video to prove your point (and introduce your readers to your music).

If you’re teaching people on YouTube about modes, you could mention that you used a certain mode when writing a new song you have out. Play a short section of that song to show your point and include a card in the top right corner to link to your music video.

Are You Guilty? 4 Ways Indie Artists Are Killing Social Media

[Editors Note: This post was written by Joshua Smotherman, co-founder of Middle Tennessee Music, and it originally appeared on the Cyber PR blog.]

 

In an ideal world I would wake up in the morning to a fresh cup of hot coffee. I would enjoy it as I check my e-mail and skim social networks to check up on friends and my favorite bands.

I would immerse myself in an online community of music lovers, songwriters, and musicians sharing, caring, and building with each other… NOT blasting commands to “check out my new hottest thing”.

I see enough billboards on the interstate.

In this world:

  • Bands would stop acting like rock stars and start acting like leaders
  • They would build self-sustaining tribes
  • They would listen to their fans
  • They would understand that growing organically will always win over view counts

As a music blogger, my inbox would NOT be full of one-liners and YouTube links I only see as distractions. Whatever happened to “connecting” with someone?

Unfortunately, this world does not exist. From where I’m sitting, the average indie band sucks at using social media and its ruining it for everyone else. Most importantly, your potential fans.

What are we doing wrong, you say?

Oh boy…where do I begin?

Me, Me, Me Marketing

You might have been raised in a world of billboards and commercials, but using social media as a one way street is killing your promo game.

It seems too many people are missing the social half of the phrase, social media.

You need to engage with fans and listeners instead of blasting them with links, videos, and nonsense about buying your album.

Sadly, most bands qualify [as what the marketing world refers to] as spammers.

Engaging is easier than you think and should come naturally (assuming you are not a recluse).

  • Share albums, videos, and news about other music you enjoy or local bands you play with. Ask others what they think.
  • Share news related to the music industry or issues that reflect the personality of your band and use them to engage in conversation.
  • Instead of posting links to the same videos and songs repeatedly, post clips of the band working in the studio or upload a demo mix and allow fans to share their opinions so you can take the art to another level. Involve fans in your process(es).
  • Network with bands in other areas to create an atmosphere for gig swapping and collaboration as well as cross promotion of content.

This list goes on but the takeaway here is engage in a way that results in feedback and interaction.

Build a community.

Focusing on the wrong metrics

Your follower count means nothing unless you see conversions.

Huh?!

More important than a follower, view, or like:

  • How many fans have signed up for your mailing list?
  • Do you pass around a mailing list signup sheet at your show?
  • How many people have you met at shows? (You do hang out with the audience after the show…right?)
  • How many people have bought a CD or t-shirt?

Stop putting all your energy into increasing numbers on social sites and focus on converting the followers you have into loyal fans.

Use social media to funnel music listeners to your website where you attempt to convert them into a mailing list signup, song download, or merchandise sale.

Would you rather have 1,000 likes or 100 fans spending $1,000 on music, merch, show tickets and crowd funding campaigns?

Show me the money!

Repeating yourself on every social network

Sending your Twitter feed to Facebook then copying and pasting it to Google+ so the same message appears on every site is a horrible idea.

So is auto play on audio embeds but that’s for a different time.

You are not expected to know marketing, you make music! Allow me to guide you on this train of thinking…

People who use Twitter are different than people who use Facebook and the people who use Google+ are not like the others.

It is imperative you consider these facts when developing a social media strategy and act accordingly.

Make sure you actually use social media as a music fan before deciding how to market your music using these tools. Follow bands who are in a position you would like to be in and see how they use each network. Notice what works, what doesn’t work, and then perfect your plan of action.

Posting several updates to Twitter every hour (depending on the nature of the updates) is more acceptable than posting to Facebook every 15 minutes.

When you over saturate a person’s FB News Feed, they hide you from their feed. Or worse…unlike your page or mark your posts as spam.

A general guideline is try to retweet, reply, comment, and share relevant content from others more than you broadcast and peddle your own wares.

Sell Without Selling

If you focus on building a community around your band instead of acting as a bulletin board, you will start noticing the true power of social media.

You will not see overnight results.

The key is to stay consistent, focus on creating great music, and communicate directly with your audience.

If you create a community of loyal fans, they will want to support you.

Your community will become your sales force and all you need to do is be yourself and continue giving fans a band worth loving.

Consistency allows you to reach a tipping point where fans begin promoting your music for you by wearing t-shirts, playing CDs at parties, and recommending you to their friends.

It is hard to conceive this when you are starting at zero, but 6 to 12 months down the road you will notice things happening simply because you remained persistent.

While fans are busy promoting your music, you need to seek out gig opportunities, blog reviews or interviews, and other chances to put yourself in the presence of tastemakers who can expose you to their audience.

Bloggers, journalists, booking agents, and other industry personnel will not give you their attention unless you have proof of a loyal, engaged following.

Buying followers or views might help you manipulate chart rankings and other metrics, but they will never replace the power of community. If you have 5,000 page likes but no one is liking, sharing, or commenting on your updates; we all see right through you.

So can the people who can expose you to bigger audiences of music fans.

In closing:

  • Build your tribe
  • Nurture your community
  • Stop acting like a corporate sales machine

You might also be interested in this panel discussion concerning Marketing, PR, and Promotion on a Budget hosted by Indie Connect NYC which discusses mores things indie musicians are doing wrong online.

How Have You Avoided Killing Social Media?

Let us know below what you have done to overcome these four social media killers above (or any others that you’ve experienced) in the form of a comment below!

Utilizing Soundcloud to Drive iTunes Sales

[Editor’s Note: This blog was written by Janelle Rogers, the founder of  Green Light Go Publicity, a music PR firm which helps up-and-coming musicians reach their audience.]

 

There’s no doubt that convincing fans and music listeners to buy music in 2017 can be an uphill battle. For nearly 20 years the music consumer has been conditioned into downloading music for free. Services like Spotify, Pandora and Soundcloud have made it even easier, while making it legal.

You may think the only way to get your music heard is to give it all away for free.

Not so fast.

Like any legitimate business model, you should be looking at how you can market your product to drive sales. A single can be your product to market while iTunes provides the vehicle to drive sales.

How do you do that? Let’s dive into a simple five step strategy to market your music on Soundcloud to drive sales on iTunes.

1. Create a Sales Goal

Before you start marketing your music, you should set a realistic sales goal of what you hope to achieve. Note, I said realistic. If you only have 30 Soundcloud followers and 100 Facebook followers, chances of you selling 1,000 downloads of your album on iTunes within two months are fairly unrealistic. In that case you need to make a compromise, either extend the timeline to where you can realistically sell 1,000 downloads or decrease the amount of sales to reflect your current followers.

2. Offer a Track for Free

If you want people to buy your music, you need to give them a sample of your music to try out. It’s the equivalent of going to your local market, trying that new crunchy snack at the sample table and then buying the entire bag because you can’t get enough.

Determine one single you can give for free off your new album and set a limited time frame to download it. You’re offering a single for a limited time for three reasons. It allows listeners a chance to really hear your music and decide if they want to hear more. The limited time creates incentive to download before it goes away and it keeps fans from solely relying on free music.

Lastly, by only offering one single it gives incentive to purchase more music if they are interested or at the very least streaming from Spotify where you’ll be paid for each listen. If you were to give away your entire album, you’re essentially giving away the entire bag of chips without asking for anything in return.

3. Post iTunes Pre-sale or Sale Link

Next, you need to make it easy for fans to know where to buy your music on iTunes. Post your iTunes pre-sale link or sale link on your Soundcloud profile, any public tracks from the album, and your Facebook and Twitter profiles. You should also include the release date so fans know when it’s available.

4. Alert Soundcloud Followers of New Music

Soundcloud made notification changes in 2014, which make it difficult to communicate when you have a new song available. In the past, when you uploaded a song, your followers would receive an email notification with a link to the new song. Currently, Soundcloud offers no bulk email notification option to alert fans of new music. Without your fans receiving notifications of your new music, what can you do?

First, you’ll unfortunately have to take the time to privately Soundcloud message every follower on your list individually to notify them of a new song available. That’s the good news if you only have 37 fans. It’s very bad news, if you have 10,000. This would be a very time intensive process if you did this every time you released a new single. You need a notification process that is both efficient and in your control. The best way to do this is to also notify your Soundcloud followers of your email list with a direct link to sign up and receive notifications when you release new music.

If you don’t have an email list, that should be your first priority for two reasons. One, you control how your fans are notified and you also don’t risk losing fan contacts on a platform who owns the contact information or controls how information can be sent.

Lastly, keeping your iTunes objective in mind, you should also include that iTunes pre-sale link and call to action in your individual messages and newsletter announcements.

5. Increase Soundcloud Following to Increase Sales

In order to increase sales outside of your base, you also need to increase your following. The best way to utilize this within Soundcloud is to follow those who would be interested in your music and are current Soundcloud users. If you also factor in users who repost tracks regularly, no more than 2-3 times daily, you have the opportunity to grow your base exponentially.

First, think about bands who are similar to you on Soundcloud and follow them. Then take a look at their followers and start following those who fit the parameters in the above paragraph. Soundcloud does limit how many you can follow in one day, so I recommend keeping it to ten per day, which will also make it more manageable as you engage with those who follow you and comment on your tracks.

This brings me to engagement. You should also be engaging with those you follow or who follow you, by liking tracks they post (If you like them) and commenting. This is especially true if you are following a band or someone else in the music industry.

This is also the one area where I suggest NOT sending your iTunes link, keeping in mind you should have it included in your song description. You are building a fan relationship when increasing listeners so you need to make sure the listener experience is a good one. Once you have built that relationship, then you can repeat the above process by releasing another single to support the album and including the iTunes link when you privately message.

This method is the first step in increasing sales for your music. In this day and age, however, you need to be creative and adapt to a constantly changing industry. Album sales are just a portion of revenue for a band. You should always look at how you can build your audience and create an experience they want to be part of, so they will in turn support your every endeavor.

The Business of Making a Record (Part I)

[Editors Note: This is the first in a series of guest articles from Coury Palermo. Over the next few months, he’ll break down what it means to grind it out and write, record, release and promote a DIY album early in your musical career. Coury is a songwriter, producer and musician who is currently one-half of duo love+war.]

I first walked into a recording studio at the age of fifteen. The girl I was interested in at the time and I had written a song together, and she asked me to sing the backing vocals for the track. Green and full of countless hours of liner-note consumption and naïve expectation, I took to this new adventure like a fish to water. After the experience I remember thinking I would do whatever it took to repeat the “Christmas morning” feeling of pure joy I had experienced in those short forty-five minutes.

Fast-forward a hand full of years and thousands of hours working; pursuing the sometimes-illusive art of putting idea to paper and melody “to tape”. If I’ve learned anything in my relatively short career as a singer-songwriter, it’s that rules don’t exist when it comes to creation – especially when we’re talking about the recording process.

Sure, we can put weight to the notion that recording a vocal in a soundproof room lends to the quality of a final recording, or that the rhythm section should always be the first thing tracked when beginning a new song – but are these traditions set in stone? The unconventional route can sometimes be the most inspiring and freeing road any musician takes.

Recording an album is an endless checklist of pieces that make up the whole. There are producers to pick, songs to write, mixers to choose, and the list goes on. In the ever-changing landscape of the music business, fans and the way we build those fan bases have become an integral part of the record making process. If there is no one listening, why are we recording?

“Where to start…”

This simple statement can be the most overwhelming three words in the English language. When thinking about recording a project, especially your first, you should ask yourself a few basic questions before starting:

Have I laid the groundwork to help make this project a success?

I’m not talking about everyone else’s definition of success – I’m talking about your goals, YOUR process for building YOUR career. We, as musicians, become fixated on what we’re told success should look like – forgetting everyone started somewhere. Everyone’s experience in life is different and unique.

There is no master plan. In short: start small. Write three great songs, record them, build your fan base, play shows, and find unique ways to interact with that fan base. This is how you build, and building is everything.

Have I written some good material? What if I’ve never written a song?

Songwriting 101: Take the pressure off. Stop listening to what other people think your process should be when writing or what they think you should write about. Know your voice. Writing a great song that connects with a listener should always be the goal; not writing “a hit”. The most connective pieces of music are the ones that are honest; songs that reflect the space you’re in or your unique point of view. Your “great” is not everyone’s “great”…and that’s ok.

If they (the songs) aren’t flowing when your pen hits the paper, step back and live a bit. One well-written song is better than a thousand forgotten throwaways. Don’t get caught up in writer’s block. It happens to everyone.

Covers are the perfect way to get your melodic and lyrical feet wet and are a great icebreaker for a new audience. Spend some time with a few of your favorite songs – ones you have a personal connection to. Come up with an arrangement that allows you to showcase your unique style yet still tips it’s familiar hat to the original. It never hurts to have an automatic “friend” in the set people will recognize. Often times, this can be the bridge that keeps them in their seats for your original material.

Is anyone listening?

Once you have your “Empty” (one of the best written songs I’ve ever heard by Ray LaMontagne) or “Toxic” (yes, the one from Britney Spears – brilliantly written pop in my opinion), build that demand. Before a single note is recorded find your audience. Where, you ask? In the dive bar, small club, house-show, backyard-fire pit-summer sing-a-long; anywhere you can find a connection.

We’re told touring has to look grand – be nothing but struggle and a rented van. Yes, those are parts of the equation for some, but there are a hundred different ways to make a fan. Find yours, and everything else will find it’s place.

Over the next few months, I’ll be discussing the grind that is being an indie artist. We’ll talk about making a record from start to finish and how you can better navigate the current state of the industry to get your music to the buds of larger audience. Until next time…


love+war is the brain-child of writer-producer-guitarist team Coury Palermo & Ron Robinson. The two began working together in the fall of 2014 with no other intention but writing material for possible pitches in TV/Film. Once the sessions began, the two realized the collaboration was destined for much more than their original hopes for commercial sync opportunities.

Grounded in the traditions of R&B, pop, and minimalistic electronica, love+war turns the ear with their infectious blend of singer-songwriter soul. Check out their recent video for their Eurythmics cover of “Missionary Man”!

The Dos and Don'ts Of a Copy-and-Paste Music Bio The Media Will Love

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog written by Shaun Letang, owner and editor of Music Industry How To – a site dedicated to offering music career advice to artists/bands, managers, producers, and anyone else involved in the music industry.]

If your bio isn’t regularly opening the door to new opportunities in your music career, it could be that it isn’t as polished as it could be.

Musicians tend to underestimate the value of their bio. They know that they should have one, but they don’t know that it should be more than just a list of accomplishments or a boring, “we started in a basement” type story clichés.

A finely-tuned bio should make people go, “gee, I wish we could bring that band out to our next event”, or “I’d like to hear what that sounds like!”

Before we get into the specifics of developing a great copy-and-paste bio, let’s take a look at how it benefits you.

Why A Copy-And-Paste Bio Is Useful

Everyone is pretty crunched for time these days. Journalists, bloggers and media people are constantly under the pressure of deadlines to complete their latest news piece, which means they don’t necessarily have a lot of time to hunt around for information.

And yet, many musicians shy away from comparing themselves with other known acts. “Our music is 100% original,” they say. Well, if you’re using notes, chords and scales in your music – sorry to have to be the one to break this to you – you’re not 100% unique!

Don’t make any assumptions about what the reader may or may not know about your influences and style of music. They might love what you’re doing, but not have the right words or comparisons to describe it. You can see how that might be a problem if they’re interested in covering you in an upcoming story, but don’t have the necessary information to do so.

If you can tell a great story as a musician, media people don’t have to. It might sound lazy, but if you want to get the most leverage out of your bio, you should consider making it copy-and- paste ready.

What A Copy-And-Paste Bio Is

In essence, it’s just like any other bio. The key thing to remember is that you’re trying to make it easy for the reader to gather relevant information quickly and easily. They should be able to get a good sense of who you are and what you’re about just by scanning your bio.

Think about the keywords to include in your bio: musical style, genre, influences, instruments, names of the band members, and so on. When you think of it this way, it’s not unlike writing a search engine optimized blog post.

A copy-and-paste bio should also be well-written and free of errors. Check your spelling, punctuation and grammar. If the bio isn’t literally ready to run in a magazine or the paper tomorrow, then it still requires some attention.

Don’t forget to tell a story with your bio. Nobody wants to read off a list of facts. You know how most people react to your accomplishments? “Good for you.” Yes, you can highlight that awesome Gene Simmons quote you got, but avoid going on and on about awards, quotes, radio stations, and notable concerts you’ve played. Sprinkle them throughout, but don’t make them the focus.

Copy-And-Paste Bio Do’s And Don’ts

You should have a pretty good idea of what to do to develop a copy-and-paste bio already. However, here is a list of do’s and don’ts to help you in case you aren’t sure what to do.

Do: include all relevant information. Names of band members and the instruments they play, what known acts you sound like, what genre of music you play, where you’re located, and so on. Include contact information at the end so interested parties can get in touch with you.

Do: tell a story. Feel free to interweave quotes and notable achievements in your bio, but only within the flow of an engaging narrative. You can dramatize a little.

Do: proofread. Eliminate spelling, grammar and punctuation errors. Make sure you wouldn’t be embarrassed if your bio ran in the papers tomorrow.

Do: talk about influences, bands and artists you sound like, and what genre of music you play. This is absolutely vital to a successful cut-and-paste bio.

Do: create multiple versions of your bio. Have a tagline, a one-paragraph version, a medium length version (two to three paragraphs), and a long version. For most applications, the medium length bio will do the trick.

Don’t: merely list off the “great things” you’ve done in your music career. Yes, it can help with credibility, but it doesn’t tell a story. Media people are always looking for stories.

Don’t: settle. Work on your bio with your band members and invest a good chunk of time writing and editing it. Have a few people look over it and ask for feedback. Or, if you have a budget, hire a professional to help you put it all together.

Don’t: use too many adjectives. They can make your writing interesting, but music is subjective. You aren’t “the best”, “the most brilliant”, or “the most beautiful” anything, though you might be in someone’s eyes. Let your fans do the talking.

Don’t: deviate from your core purpose, message and communication style. A proper bio should fit right in with your character and image. A professional tone will serve some, while a casual tone will work better for others.

Don’t: expect instantaneous results. Yes, if you do it right, a great bio should make a big difference to your music career, but as with anything, it still takes time and effort to become recognized.

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking to impress the media – and for that matter event organizers, music directors at radio stations and music venues – then having a professional cut-and-paste bio will make a big difference.

I hate to say it, but when you’re trying to break through as an independent artist, appearances really do matter. A fine-tuned bio can make you look a lot bigger than you really are; and that’s what you want!

A great bio has more uses than you might even realize, and can be re-purposed in a variety of different ways. You can get a lot of leverage out of it if you do it right.

If you want to learn more about music marketing as a whole, but sure to check out Music Industry How To’s ultimate guide on the subject.

Now, are you planning to create a music bio? Did the above help? Let us know in the comments below.

Top 10 Keys to Success For Independent Hip Hop Artists

[Editors NoteThis blog was written by Hao Nguyen and it originally appeared on Stop The Breaks, a digital marketing and promotion platform focused on showcasing independent hip-hop artists.]

The independent route is a tough, long grind, no doubt about it.

People look at the top independent hip hop artists in the game today like Tech N9ne, Nipsey Hussle and Currensy and see how they’re balling out of control, but they don’t understand just how much work these artists put into building their lifestyle.

Tech and his business partner Travis O’Guin have been building Strange Music, Inc. from the ground up for close to 20 years. Nipsey got dropped by Epic Records before starting his independent grind. Spitta was hustling and learning about the rap game from No Limit and Cash Money since 2002.

It’s never easy and takes a special type of person to succeed in the independent music industry. Someone who has the entrepreneurial spirit combined with the gritty fortitude to keep going no matter how hard it gets.

As a digital platform focused on showcasing independent hip-hop artists from all over the world, Stop The Breaks has had the opportunity to talk with hundreds of artists about their grind and really get an understanding of what creates success in this industry.

Here are our top 10 keys to success for independent artists. Or as Future would put it “I got the keys, the keys, the keys.”

1. Understand effective marketing

In its simplest form, marketing is raising the profile of a brand and its products or services in the public’s mind. So in that case, I would say all independent artists understand the basics of marketing their music – yes, even those rappers spamming SoundCloud links are doing some form of marketing.

But notice that I wrote “understand effective marketing,” which makes all the difference in the world between success and failure.

You can market your music by hitting up everyone on your Twitter feed with a link to your new single, or, you can effectively market your music by creating a solid marketing strategy and executing it regularly.

2. Relentless work ethic

There’s a saying: “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” You’re not going to be successful at anything in this world without hard work and dedication, shout out to Money Mayweather.

Look at all our case studies on successful artists – whether it’s superstars like Kanye West and Drake or independent grinders like Yo Gotti – and the one constant factor is that they put in the long hours above everything else.

How do you think Curren$y drops some many projects in one year (8 so far in 2016 and counting)? How do you think Gucci manages to flood the streets even when locked up? How do you think Fetty Wap scored a number one album and five top 40 hit singles?

It’s all about hard work guys. But not just about the music.

In addition to putting in the long hours working on your craft; you also have to put in the hours distributing and promoting the music, fine-tuning your live performances, engaging with fans online and offline, and constantly educating yourself on the business side of things.

Which brings us to…

3. Music industry knowledge

Like Rap Coalition founder and music industry veteran, Wendy Day, said: “I think the most important trait is seeking out the knowledge and experience to do this properly. You either hire the right people who have the knowledge and connections to help you succeed as an artist or you learn how to do this yourself.”

Educating yourself thoroughly on the music business will make a huge difference in your success as an artist. Make sure you understand the fundamentals of music publishing and licensing your content, especially if you’re looking to set up your own independent record label.

4. Strong team around you

To Wendy’s point above, if you don’t have the experience or time to learn about the music business, then you need to make sure you build yourself a strong team to address your weaknesses.

Just because you’re an independent artist doesn’t mean you have to do everything alone. There are only so many hours in the day and you have to be smart on which tasks you dedicate your time to and which tasks you delegate.

Depending on what you’re missing in your arsenal, consider hiring a manager, marketing director or promoter, tour manager, graphic designer, lawyer and accountant. It doesn’t have to be right away, but you should definitely have a plan to slowly build up your team as you hit new levels in your recording career.

5. Effective social media presence

How many rappers do you know who are really active on Twitter or Facebook, but all they’re doing is spamming their followers with music links? There’s no genuine engagement with fans, no real interaction with followers, just blindly spamming link after link hoping they’re going to be the next big thing.

Don’t do this. Trust me, it’ll do more harm than good.

It’s good to be active on as many social media networks as possible, but only if you can manage them properly and engage with the fans regularly, otherwise don’t spread yourself too thin. It’s better to be active and effective on 3 platforms, rather than on all them and not using them properly.

6. Produce regular content for fans

We’re currently living in a super connected world where consumers are conditioned for instant gratification and trained to get everything, right away. As an artist, you have to try your best to fulfill these consumer needs.

There are only a few major artists out there who can get away with disappearing for months on end and coming back to commercial success. Kanye, Eminem, Drake and Kendrick, just to name a few.

Everybody else needs to be continually creating and distributing content to stay in touch with fans. When I say content, I don’t just mean music. It can be social media updates, email newsletters, tour videos, blog posts, guest articles, whatever you need to engage with your fans.

7. Investing in building their brand

Investing the time and money to build up your brand now is the most important thing you can do for a long-term career in the rap game. Other artists can copy your ideas, fashion, music, and believe me, they will. The only thing they can’t copy is your brand.

Think about the most successful independent artists in the game and how they communicate their brand to their fans. Currensy has his Jet Life movement, Tech N9ne with his insane live shows and Technicians following, Chance The Rapper and his positive, Chicago music.

Everything you put out contributes to building your brand, whether it’s positive or negative. Your new logo has just as much impact on your overall brand as how you perform on tour. It’s a long term investment but it’ll definitely pay dividends if you put in the effort now.

8. Focused promotion campaigns

Marketing is your overall strategy of raising awareness of your music and brand to your target audience; promotion campaigns are more tactical and focused.

For example, releasing an album would be one promo campaign. To ensure you get the most out of your promotion budget, your campaigns need to be planned out and precise. Consider the best distribution channels for this project – will it be online, offline or both? Which platform will you be using – Bandcamp, SoundCloud, iTunes, etc.?

Which publications and blogs are you going to be targeting? It’s better to pick out 10 to 15 to send out personalized press releases rather than spamming 1,000 people with a generic message.

Once you have everything in order, hit the launch button.

9. High quality product

Let’s keep this one short and sweet. To be a successful independent hip-hop artist, you need to have dope music. I don’t mean Grammy-award winning, critically acclaimed music – I just mean music that will build you a fanbase. You need to make music that people want to listen to, otherwise, it’s not going to work, period.

10. Create realistic goals

Being ambitious is one thing, having realistic goals is another. It’s great if you have ambitions to be the biggest rapper in the world, making the most money, winning awards, selling out stadiums, but having pragmatic, achievable goals is a much better way to approach your recording career.

Let’s take a look at J. Cole. He went from posting songs online to standing outside JAY Z’s building, wanting to produce for the legend. Cole dropped mixtape after mixtape and it was only after Hov heard “Lights Please” that he decided to sign the rapper to Roc Nation.

From there, he released a number one album, went platinum just last year, and is now selling out stadiums across the world with his very own HBO documentary and record label, Dreamville Records, financed by Interscope.

Having goals is the best way to not drive yourself crazy, thinking that your career is going nowhere. Start off small – e.g. you want to perform in front of 25 people for the first time in your career, you want to drop a mixtape, you want to collaborate with an artist you like, etc.

Create a list of realistic, achievable goals, then tick them off as you accomplish them. Keep grinding, keep working, keep putting out dope product, keep engaging with your fans and your dreams will come.