Hip-Hop Daily Dose #32: No Excuses (A Real-Life Artist Example)

I'm exploring an email from a hip-hop vet who is retiring his stage name.

First, I should note that I very much respect this man's talent and values.

However, as a digital marketer (and in light of my previous show about how much control you have over your life), I couldn't help but analyze the email from a marketing lens.

Especially because I reached out to this rapper via email at the beginning of the year and pitched my email marketing services (no reply).

I don't think I did my job of properly following up with him.

Hey, no worries.

We can set the record straight on a few marketing topics here.

This was an email sent out to his mailing list, which I've been subscribed to for a few years.

Out of respect for the artist, I'll keep him his identity anonymous.

This is not a diss or a reason to laugh, make fun, or put down a fellow artist.

It's simply a possible learning opportunity for anyone in music who has to market their music.

If no one else learns, well...I will.

#1. The artist starts off by saying he makes less $ from shows due to the downturn in touring.

He's been told that he's too old to get the shows now.

As I said in Hip-Hop Daily Dose #30 ("Are You In Control?")...

If we can find an example of anyone else who is doing what we want to do, then we must recognize that it's possible.

And then, most crucially, we must take responsibility for making it happen.

No one else is going to swing at bat for you the way you will.

No one is as interested in seeing you succeed at a certain task as you are.

If there are other older artists who are able to make enough money from touring, then we have to consider it a possibility for us as well.

This artist has a smaller fanbase than many of the older artists I can think of who are still killing it...but...

A slew of older artists have recently produced albums and successfully played gigs to support them.

Chuck D is 57 and on the road non-stop.

A Tribe Called Quest released a late 2016 album and toured in 2017 to support it.

Big Daddy Kane is still out there performing.

Eric B and Rakim have upcoming dates.

The average music fan has no clue who any of the above artists are, yet they're still booking regular shows.

Kanye West has nearly ruined his reputation dozens of times and just achieved a #1 album.

I'll even mention a virtually unknown rapper, Mr J Medeiros, and his French counterpart, 20Syl...who are completely killing it in France right now.

Now, I realize this artist at hand is in a unique niche market (Christian).

I also know there are OG's in his market who constantly tour and play big festivals...they may not be strictly hip-hop and they may have a larger distribution reach for their records, but the example is there nonetheless...which means it's possible.

Did this artist completely utilize every tool available to him to promote his shows and sell tickets for more revenue?

For instance, he didn't respond when I pitched my email marketing services to him...which I would do for free.

That's constant emails to his base, which are proven to still be highly effective.

As I noted in my email pitch to him, he's had periods of months without sending an email out.

I know because I've been subscribed to his mailing list for years and searched for emails from him to see how often he sent them.

This is just one example of not fully "squeezing the juice" out of a very basic marketing tool available to ANYONE.

This artist probably has thousands of people on his list.

From my perspective, there is no excuse here.

Particularly when trained copywriters hit you up to write for you for free.

(Key takeaway: don't turn down free work from ANYONE - ok, almost anyone. If they're nuts or clearly incapable at basic comprehension, that's another story. There are few people I would turn away.)

Going back to the "Are You In Control?" show...if you are of the 10X mindset ...or if you believe "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" then you MUST maintain the mindset to aggressively go after what you want.

There is no external human force that is truly a gatekeeper; it is an illusion.

It's all within your grasp, but it is up to YOU.

If you want more shows that pay you enough, you must take 10X the action to achieve this.

There's also a common saying: "How you do anything is how you do everything."

If this artist slacked on his email list, my guess is he slacked on other things that led to a lack of well-paying shows.

The locus of control I talked about in "Are You In Control?" explores your belief that you control circumstances vs your belief that outside forces are determining your circumstances.

The only way to be in full control is to believe that you're calling the shots on your career...not the market, not booking agents, not venues.

In this email, the artist takes the stance that outside human forces have dictated his lack of well-paying gigs.

One last common phrase that applies here: "Hate the player, not the game."

#2: The artist has been gypped by organizations that owed him a lot of $ and went out of business or bankrupt.

In addition, the evils of streaming have caught up to him.

Artists don't make $ off streaming and people don't buy records like they used to.

The artist says that "you" reading this email will find all this terrible, but will still not buy his music.

I think this artist has some fundamental issues with his mindset around money.

His income is completely dictated by external forces.

He's left his livelihood and ability to support his family completely in the hands of venues and music buyers...

Instead of taking full responsibility for his music-related income and doing whatever it takes (which most would likely find unreasonable) to make it happen.

Yes, it's true.

It's unreasonable to spin the narrative around...

To find the positive in streaming and how you could use it to market your music....

To research ways to compel your audience to buy instead of blaming and shaming them for not buying...

I've made these mistakes.

We were all upset about streaming in 2015.

This has been the reality for years now.

Instead of figuring out how to solve the problem, the artist has chosen to maintain a victim mentality mindset and shrink into these limitations.

Every artist has to deal with these realities.

Yet, somehow...

There are plenty of artists able to sell music and book shows.

Which means it's possible that he can too.

It's awful that he was not paid $ for his work...that these organizations who owed him quite a bit of $ peaced out and left him standing there empty handed.

That's not okay.

But he's used that as an excuse.

And lumped it in with a "shame on you, music fans, for not being fully compelled by my marketing messages I haven't fully developed" kind of message.

There's only one CEO of your brand...

Of your music career...

Of your life.

You.

In business, the CEO bears the ENTIRE weight of the company.

No matter who did what and what bad choices may have been made by others, the CEO must take 100% responsibility for what has taken place.

#3: People don't know that the artist has new music

This is the most glaringly obvious admission that the artist has not properly marketed himself over the life of his indie career (I realize he was signed to a label before and they should be pulling their weight with marketing purposes).

In reason #3, the excuse he gives is that people are getting worse and worse at paying attention.

He puts the responsibility on the audience to pay attention...

But the responsibility is 100% his to get their attention.

This is literally the most important rule in marketing.

Ok, Rule #1 is "Don't be boring."

Rule #2 is "Get their attention."

After that, keep their attention...

Rule #1 and #2 are almost exactly the same.

How do you get someone's attention?

Definitely don't be boring!

Repeat after me: Other people don't care about you and your work.

They like Drake.

We need to realize we're competing with Drake and not just the artists in our niche markets.

You have to put out a ton of material - and not just music.

And not just social media posts.

The artist writes that social media algorithms hide a lot of posts that we can't see...so it's not completely our fault we haven't seen his posts about new music.

This breaks another big rule: take your relationships off social media as soon as possible.

I talked about this in Hip-Hop Daily Dose #11 and explained exactly why you need to do this.

I'll go into further detail in the future.

Here is a real-life example of exactly why you need to do this!

You can't reach your audience directly through social media.

You reach them directly through email, text, messengers, phone, and snail mail.

By the artist's own admission, much of his fanbase can't see many of his social posts...

Based on his statements, I assume he's been putting most of his marketing priority on social media.

Big mistake.

In this reason (I'll call it an excuse), the artist cements his philosophy that his music sales are solely in other people's hands.

He expects people to buy just because he made new music.

He has severely underestimated the time and effort it takes to market a product, regardless of how long he's been around in his market.

All of his excuses center around a mentality that leaves him powerless...

When in reality, he is the only one in control of this situation.

He says it's the market's fault, the venues don't book or pay older artists, people don't pay attention, social media and streaming are very flawed, he got screwed...etc etc...

I've heard this story so many times from so many artists...

It's an old record playing over and over.

Let me share a quote that has recently inspired me a lot:

"People are always blaming circumstances for what they are. I do not believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they cannot find them, they make them." - George Bernard Shaw

If only this artist had the George Bernard Shaw mentality...

I'd be writing a very different post.

Perhaps it'd be a real-life example of someone who had all these outside forces pushing him away from his goals, lots of people telling him no...but he kept pushing until he figured it out and broke through to the other side.

Like most of us, his scarcity mindset is likely deep rooted in the environment of his childhood.

Adopting an abundance mindset would help him see that there's no "pie" to get a slice from...everything he wants is freely available if he goes after it.

Since he is looking to outside forces for his needs and wants:

Is the Almighty God he believes in not capable of providing him with a sustainable income from music and touring?

I ask that because if you share that faith, you can adopt an abundance mindset based on these principles.

Surely the God that provided for so many in the Bible is capable of providing for you - but you have to push through and see it through.

God may be your spiritual CEO, but you are your human CEO.

You gotta work through the human wiring of procrastination, doubt, finding a scapegoat, and making excuses.

It's the only way.

P.S. On this last excuse, the artist put a call-to-action right after he basically shamed his fanbase for not buying his music...before the call-to-action, he sort of gave them a way out by saying it's not COMPLETELY their fault since social media algorithms hide posts...but if you've read this far, please support the new project...

Hey you!

You're bad at paying attention to me!

I don't know how you made it this far in my email, but...buy my music now!

You wanna lift people up, fam.

Make them feel good, then ask them for the favor.

People buy when they're on an emotional high, not right after shaming.

His last reason was for personal reasons that have nothing to do with marketing, and I don't have much to say on this.

I applaud that he's putting his family and the health of his relationships before his career.

He did employ a valuable marketing concept by listing 4 reasons for retiring his stage name.

The subject line for the email was "3 reasons why I'm retiring [stage name]."

Minor inconsistencies like these are actually interesting to people...

It gets them curious...

And yes, gets their attention.

It's less of a "Wait, he lied!" and more of "That's interesting, I wonder why there are four reasons when he said there'd only be three?"

Curiosity keeps people coming back.

Good job on that.

This artist does write interesting lines in his emails, and as a longtime follower, I find interest in what he's saying...

I just want to take the opportunity for you to learn from this "lacking" mindset.

I can't say he'd be touring and selling music like a Rolling Stone if he did things differently, but I have a sneaking suspicion he'd have a much better shot at it.

One thing is for certain:

Blaming other people for the outcomes of your life is not the best success strategy I've seen so far.

This is a real-life example, in an artist's own words, of the victim and scarcity mentality danger zone.

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