Rappers Should Never Sign To A Label?

The Truth About The Music Industry

All the major labels are in survival mode due to the growing D.I.Y Artists. Music services like Spotify and DistroKid have made it possible to release music and build a fanbase without a record deal. To put it simply, independent artists could take over the global market. The reason major labels like Sony are still the global leaders is because they sign a lot of artists every year.  If they were to slow down at their current rate, independent artists would dominate the market.

According to RollingStone, in 2017 major labels signed a total of 658 new artists. They signed 2 new artists everyday on average, spending $11 million every 24 hours. Last year CitiGroup’s financial report showed artists only made 12% of all the money generated in 2017. Labels have a clear understanding that in order to own the global music market, they need to sign new artists frequently. We can only speculate more artists have been signed in 2018 and 2019.

Just imagine all the music being uploaded to streaming services by artists around the world. Its no longer necessary to sign with a label if artists can establish their own fanbase. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube have given the modern day artists the ability to build their fanbase without needing outside investments.

Its not always a bad thing

It can be beneficial to sign with a label, if you need additional support. Major Labels have create a machine. They have  the tools to produce the necessary content in order to maximize their profits. They’ve transformed into a full digital entertainment machine. Labels are also signing new artists for shorter contract terms and will bigger advances. Depending on the artist’s projection and leverage, labels are offering partnerships over the standard deal.

As mentioned in our previous post, major labels are applying the “Law of Large Numbers”. TheY are betting on a large pool of music, instead of investing into a handful of artists. Labels are also profiting off everything from Legal settlements, broadcasting, and “black box” payments. Music is like stock, its a digital asset  and labels own majority.

Check out the RollingStone Article – “Are The Major Record Companies Signing Too Many Artists”

Do Albums Matter? Should I Release Albums or Singles ?

Do Albums Matter? View this post on Instagram A post shared by EPIK THE DAWN (@epikthedawn) on Oct 16, 2019 at 2:47pm PDT Lyor Cohen and Kevin Liles [full video source] The real question is, "Who do they matter to?".  The answer is simple; albums will always matter to the grassroots. The grassroots is your [...]

What it takes to live off Music (2019)

When I first started pushing my music I was about 19 and my son was just born. I remember thinking, "All I need to make is $3000 a month". Living in California has never been cheap but I knew if I made that we would be alright. This is the same year Youtube hit the [...]

How Frank Ocean Finessed Def Jam Out of $20,000,000

For those that didn't know Frank Ocean was a songwriter in the Music Industry before he was known as Frank ocean. At the time he was Lonny and wrote songs for some of the biggest artists like Beyonce and Justin Bieber. While he enjoyed writing for other artists he decided it was time to create [...]

Do Albums Matter? Should I Release Albums or Singles ?

Do Albums Matter?

Lyor Cohen and Kevin Liles [full video source]

The real question is, “Who do they matter to?”.  The answer is simple; albums will always matter to the grassroots. The grassroots is your core audience. They’re the ones at all your shows, buying merch and know the words to every song. Yet when you look at major artists in the industry today, their grassroots only makes up 1-10% of their overall audience. The larger percent are the masses or what we like to call the “sheep”. The sheep are usually focused  more on singles and will probably only listen to an album once or twice. So when you ask yourself, “how often should you release singles ?“. The answer depends on who you’re trying to feed and where you are in your career.

Every aspiring artist starts at ground zero. It takes time to develop your sound but it also takes the same amount of effort to develop a fan-base. When you look at Lyor Cohen and Kevin Liles perspective, its evidence that the most important piece is the music. Whether you produce singles or albums depends on where you are in your career.  Some artists are not as skilled with producing a quality album but can be consistent with singles. These are the artists that Lyor Cohen is referring to, while Kevin Liles is giving you the perspective of a grass-root fan.  Both are important but it takes a certain level of self awareness when choosing whats right for you.

Rules Are Meant To Be Broken

Music industry standards have always been about releasing singles, preferably with a feature from a major artists. 10 years ago, record labels wouldn’t release albums unless artists encounter a successful single. As Lyor Cohen voiced, ” It has always been a “singles” business. However artists like J. Cole came along and broke all the rules.

After the release of his mixtape, “The come up”, J. Cole caught the attention of Jay Z and was signed to Roc Nation. He was featured on Jay Z’s, “The BluePrint 3” and went on tour opening up for Jay.  At this point, J. Cole was starting to have a underground buzz and colleges were calling for shows. He decided to go on his first solo tour to different colleges and was releasing free mixtapes. This was when he discovered his true connection point with his fanbase.

After the college tour, J Cole dropped his first single” Who Dat”. This was the first time where J Cole broke all the rules. The single was not commercially viable, and it didn’t perform well on radio.  It was the first time in his career where the media was questioning his ability in the industry. J. Cole explain in a Vibe Interview,

” Instead of shooting for an obviously commercial song, I love [“Who Dat”] because it’s really about the beat and the raps and not much more. It’s an introduction to those that were unfamiliar and also something for my fans to brag about as opposed to hearing it on the radio and being like ‘Ehhh.’”- J. Cole, VIBE

Art > Money

“Who Dat” didn’t perform well, yet when J. Cole dropped his debut album it sold 218,000 copies in the first week. Shocked by the album numbers, the labels realized that J. Cole has developed a grass-root audience off his free mixtapes and tours. He explained to Sway, during an interview that the rules of putting out a single before the album was no longer true. The notion that you need a hit single and features for a album to be successful was no longer the only way.  Furthermore, J.Cole has always catered to his grass-root fanbase over the masses. Examples including his “Dollar and a dream” tour, costing fans only $1 to enter.

“You can do the art first and then build the business around that” – J Cole

J. Cole paved the way for artists like Kendrick Lamar, who put the art before the business. Kendrick’s come up was similar to J Cole’s in regards to putting out free mixtapes and touring. He explained in a interview with “blank”, that he sold out shows before he was ever signed. He focused more on the music and became a master at producing quality albums. The same pressures that every artist had about finding a “single”existed, but kendrick understood his ability to create music for the people. The industry rule that J. Cole broke gave artists like Kendrick Lamar the blueprint to building a successful career without the pressures of producing a hit single.

The Russ Method

After dropping 11 albums on deaf ears, Russ realized that he need to build his fan-base in order to “blow up’ . He uncovered the “Singles Strategy”. He found a way to get his music heard by feeding the “sheep” who then inevitably turned into his grass-root. Russ’s strategy is an example of the “Law of Large Numbers”.

“Its just naive to just think I have 400 followers, Im going to drop an album and its just going to blow up.” – Russ

Russ is an example of the digital era in the music industry today. He understood that music is similar to real estate, its a digital asset. When you apply the law of large numbers to the assets (singles), you then are able to compound your outcome. What Russ did with singles is like pushing a wheel up a hill for it to eventually come down on the other side. He released over 60 singles in a 2 year span, It was inevitable for something to hit at some point. Little by little his audience grew and he continued to feed them new music. On top of that, his old music started to compound, which increased his views and his income stream. He was then able to take that leverage and get what he felt he deserved from the labels. He’s one of the few artists who can sell out an arena by himself compared to his peers.

Create Your Own Lane

 

There is no “One-Trick-Pony” to creating a music career.  The internet has provided all the tools you need to create and build an audience.  The most important of all is the music. In order to grow in your craft you need to put the music out, whether you focus on albums or singles. Lyor Cohen may not believe in albums the way Kevin Liles does, but they both agree that you need a catalog of music in order to grow. It takes 10,000 hours to master anything, but when it comes to music you shouldn’t wait 10,000 hours before releasing it. While you’re mastering your craft, you could also build your grass-root.

Kendrick Lamar and J Cole had the opportunity to tour in order to build their grassroots but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it from the comfort of your home. One example is an artist by the name of Marc Rebillet. He uses Youtube to livestream improv songs every Sunday with his fans. I know it sounds crazy, but you have to watch the video below to fully understand. He recently used those livestreams to sale shows to his live improv performance. The key is finding your connection point and planting the seeds in order to grow your grassroots. 

Sources/ Information
Lyor Cohen and Kevin Liles [full video source]
J Cole 2010 Vibe Interview [Article]
J.cole Discography [WIKI]

What it takes to live off Music (2019)

When I first started pushing my music I was about 19 and my son was just born. I remember thinking, “All I need to make is $3000 a month”. Living in California has never been cheap but I knew if I made that we would be alright.

This is the same year Youtube hit the internet and Kanye West dropped “Gold Digger”. The first iPhone wasn’t even released yet. Most of the revenue streams today weren’t available. Its interesting to see how much has changed in the world of music. 

Its no secret that streaming services have changed the industry forever. Independent artists not only have the ability to release music at their own leisure but can now financially benefit. Also what’s interesting is the evolution of streaming service on the everyday listener. In 2019, more people are listening to music then ever before.

“According to Nielsen, the music industry experienced significant overall growth in 2018, with total album equivalent audio consumption up 23% over 2017, driven by a 49% increase in on-demand audio song streams compared to last year.” – Nielsen

Every year the consumption of music increases; but how does this affect artists? While physical album have been on the decline , streaming revenue hasn’t always worked out for artists. Fortunately we are learning in 2019 these streaming services are slowly increasing the payout for artists compared to previous years.

Not all streaming services are equal though!  While Youtube has a massive audience, its payout is the lowest among all services. Napster and Tidal are leading the way when it comes to artists payouts but they do have a smaller listener pool.

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I wanted to break down what it takes to make $3000 in one month as an independent artists. The chart below is based on the amount of streams needed to make 50% of the revenue. If you were to work with a producer or any other collaborator they would make the other 50% of revenue. These numbers can vary.

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In order to make $3k (50% of revenue ) or $6000 in a month with Apple music you need 816,326.53  streams and 1,405,152.22 with Spotify. Lets break down how many streams you need daily.

Apple Music Daily Streams needed to make $3000 in 30 days

1 song  =  27,210.88 daily

4 songs =  6802.72 daily

30 songs = 907.03  daily

Spotify Daily Streams needed to make $3000 in 30 days

1 song a month =  46,838.40daily

4 songs a month =  11,709.60 daily

30 songs a month =  1561.28 daily

 

Artists would need all 30 songs earning their daily revenue in order to make $3000 in one month. While it may seem like a lot, its feasible. The Key is releasing music constantly and growing your listeners over time. It might take 6 months or 3 years but its based on the artists.

 

“Anything you want in life, you just need to set your attention. ” – JAY Z

Russ is a great example of this method. It took him 2 years to build the catalog that would eventually provide him the leverage to secure a lucrative deal. He was one of the only newer artists who made the Forbes list in 2018. Hate him or Love him, he set a path that any artists can follow.

It takes work to have a grass-root fanbase and labels understand the value. Whether you want to sign to a label one day or remain independent, you need leverage. Owning an extensive catalog is a digital asset and there’s nothing better then building a fanbase from the ground up.

A common issue among artists is the ability to create and release songs constantly. It can get expensive when most instrumentals on the market cost around $50 -$200 per beat. Unfortunately, some artists never earn a penny from these records.

This is one of the reason why I decided to start the Elite membership. I wanted to provide a affordable place for artists to download beats and a discord to share the music. I’m also working on a platform to promote music for artists but we will talk more about this in the discord.

I want more artists to create and live off of their music. It is possible because I am a living example. If you have any questions, hit the messenger icon in the right corner or join the discord to chat with me personally.

How Frank Ocean Finessed Def Jam Out of $20,000,000

For those that didn’t know Frank Ocean was a songwriter in the Music Industry before he was known as Frank ocean. At the time he was Lonny and wrote songs for some of the biggest artists like Beyonce and Justin Bieber. While he enjoyed writing for other artists he decided it was time to create music for himself. He then made his transition into the public eye by joining Tyler the Creator’s Odd Future which lead to a record deal with Def Jam.

Unfortunately things weren’t the best with Def Jam, they didn’t quite believe in Oceans at the time. This lead Ocean to release a mixtape called ” Nostalgia, Ultra”without the support of the label. It was a huge success so the label finally decided to get behind him and released  Novacane as a single.

Frank Ocean then went on to work with Jay Z and Kanye West on  Watch The Throne. There was a little commotion about the song “thinking about you” after it was leaked on the internet. The song was originally meant for Roc nation’s Artist, Bridget Kelly, which did appear on her EP Every Girl.

Lets be honest , Frank Ocean’s was better and  brought anticipation for the album titled Channel Orange. Channel Orange was a huge success and  Ocean gained $2 million for the next album from Def Jam.

This is when things start to get a little weird. The following album was titled Boys Dont Cry but was never released. Its believed that Apple may have footed the two million dollar bill to buy back the rights for Frank Ocean. Ocean still needed to provide an album to Def Jam to fulfill his contractual agreement which brought Endless.

Sponsored by Apple Music, Endless was announced via a 140 min live stream. During the stream, it appeared to be Frank Ocean building a staircase with the instrumentals of Endless playing in a loop. The Album eventually released and his contract was fulfilled with Def Jam. He was now independent and thats when the finesse was revealed.

The very next day after Endless was released, Frank Ocean dropped Blonde exclusively via Apple Music. Blonde was #1 in 7 countries and sold 232,000 units (275,000 with album-equivalent units) in the first week. He went from owning 17% to 70% of his Royalties and Publishing. Ocean also secured a bag from Apple music for the exclusivity(rumored to be worth $20million). Chess moves.

If you are an independent artist like Frank Ocean, check out our beats below!

The Lil Pump Experiment FAILED! What This Means For Upcoming Artists!!

Clout chasing has been a common theme among new rappers in 2018/19. However, we’re learning that it doesn’t always equate to record sales. For Instance, Lil Pump’s most recent album “Harvard Dropout”  debuted at no. 7 on the billboard charts, selling 48,000 units in the first week, with 25,000 coming from physical units.

First, his physical sales its more then half of his overall sales in the streaming era.  Its clear to see that these numbers are inflated because of his collaboration with Young and Reckless which includes the digital album with a purchase of merchandise.

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Lets just keep it a buck, it has never been about Lil Pump’s music! It’s his antics that pulled in a audience. He was the youngest among the new wave of Florida rappers. When Lil Pump was discovered by Tha Lights Global, he had already amassed 100,000 followers on Instagram which made him prime for marketing!

 

“He was the youngest in the wave actually really doing it,” says Battle, “and his look was different than everybody else.”- Dooney Battles, Co founder of Tha Lights Global. Billboard

 

Its unfortunate that out of 17.8 million followers, “Harvard Dropout” only sold  48,000 units. However, this does say something very important, MUSIC DOES MATTER! For all the up & coming artists there’s a lot to learn from artists like Lil Pump and Lil Yachty.

These artists have created a massive following and while it may not pay when it comes to music, I’m sure there’s other ways to thrive (endorsements, commercial marketing, advertising etc) . Either Lil pump will continue to put out music because he truly loves it or you will probably see him on reality TV.

When it comes to this music tho….artists like J. Cole and Logic are great examples of how to build a loyal fan base. Both of them have built their fan base from the ground up in a very intimate way. There’s a reason why J Cole and Logic can sell out arenas without any featured artists. Check out the video below of Logic touring just to play his album for his fans. 

What Happens When You Sign a Music Contract

Most artists dream of being signed to a major record label. They think all their financial problems are gone and they can just focus on the music. The problem is that the industry is setup to always benefit the label over the artists.

According to Citigroup, musicians only made  12% of the $43 billion made in the music industry in 2017. Most of the revenue was generated  from touring which explains why  most new artists are entered into 360 deals. These young artists end up signing away their publishing for an advance check and don’t full comprehend what’s in the contract.

How the Music Industry Works

The New Age

Fortunately in 2019, more artists are educating themselves and opting to remain independent. Russ is an example of an artists who built his brand independently and leveraged it for a lucrative record deal. He is the only new artists who was featured on Forbes 2018 Hip Hop Cash Kings list.

Signed artists are now renegotiating their contracts or leaving major labels.  Chris Brown  just signed a new record deal which makes him the youngest artist to own his masters.The internet has provided all the information and tools creatives need, there’s no need to sign to a label. Artists should focus on developing their brand and reaching their audience.

The D.I Y artist is the future !

You no longer need a label to distribute your music when you have companies like Distrokid . You don’t need a label to push your music  when you have instagram, facebook ,and youtube. Everything that you need is right there in your phone.

If you’re an artists that feels like you need help or would like to further the conversation, please feel free to CALL ME. Drop a comment below and let me know what you think about signing to a label verses staying independent.

Soundcloud Opens Monetization To More Independent Artists

soundcloud-opens-up-monetization-to-independent-artists

Soundcloud has decided to open up its direct monetization program, SoundCloud Premier, to all Pro and Pro Unlimited Subscribers who are eligible. This means that hundred of thousands of independent artists will have the ability to monetize their music.

Some believe Soundcloud is responding to Spotifys New Feature that allows artists to upload music directly to the platform. Either way , this is great news to all independent artists. Not only does Soundcloud meet and beats all other streaming services when it comes to revenue but they also will be sending out monthly payments. The service come at no extra cost and is available immediately.

VIA SOUNDCLOUD 

So, how do you know if you’re eligible?

You must be an independent creator and a Pro or Pro Unlimited subscriber. For now, we’re opening the program up to original music content only, but stay tuned for more details as we continue to expand.

We’re starting out by inviting creators with 5,000 plays in the past month (from SoundCloud monetized countries: US, UK, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Ireland, The Netherlands, New Zealand), then scaling over time to as many creators as possible. So we recommend you keep creating and promoting your original content, and engaging with your fans in the process. You’ll receive an email and in-product notification once you’re in.

If you’re interested  in signing up head over to Creator Guide for more details.

 

NEED INSTRUMENTALS? Click Here for the best quality Beats/ Instrumentals online as well as FREE Downloads for independent artists.

Is Chance The Rapper an Independent Artist?

Chance The Rapper sits down with Joe Budden to discuss whether he is considered independent. He explained from his perspective of what makes an artist independent and warns against artists signing away their masters and publishing. Joe then expresses why he felt Chance wasn’t an indie artists citing the Apple Music deal; which Chance The Rapper was paid $500k for a 2 week exclusive release.

All artists should consider their intellectual property and how signing away their rights could impact their future. As mention in a previous post, most new artists are signed into a 360 deals and may not fully understand the consequences of that decision. Artists like Prince and Michael Jackson fought hard for this right and we as creatives have take the time to understand why its important.

Epik The Dawn has been vocal about why he doesn’t, in his words “F*#$ with the music industry. He has explained countless times that artists don’t need labels anymore. Labels are like an loans, everything is recoupable and they take the rights to the music. In todays time, the resources are available and the audience is at your finger tips. Epik has made it his mission to provide independent artists with the best quality instrumentals online as well as passing down the knowledge he has used in order to live off his music and remain free.

Chance The Rapper is only one of the many artists out their doing it themselves and we believe their will be more to follow. Stay #DFRNT