In the past, aspiring musicians had to work with an agent who, at least in theory, fought through all the red tape and connected talented musicians with record producers. The ability to self-produce music, combined with the pervasive reach of the Internet has upended that whole arrangement. To be sure, there are still music producers, record companies and agents on the prowl for the hottest new acts and the best rap beats.
On the other hand, new artists no longer have just a single route to music production. Sophisticated software like Sonic Producer enables even novice musicians to create professional sound recordings using nothing more advanced than a personal computer. No additional equipment is needed, and Sonic Producer even provides an extensive library of rap beat samples that musicians can use royalty-free.
The software contains a 16-track mixer so when I say that nothing additional is needed, I really mean nothing! Once a track is complete, you can export your music to MP3 format for storage or sharing. Make mixtapes to distribute at no cost, or sell your works on sites like iTunes.
The Internet allows you to make a name for yourself by yourself. You no longer need the “music production apparatus” that has been in place for years. You no longer need a professional recording studio and a recording engineer to make your own music. You also don’t need a production company, because you can promote your own work to the people who are most interested in your artistic creations.
You can even combine your own music with videos and self-publish them on your own Web site or on YouTube. If you’ve used Sonic Producer as a source for your music samples, you can rest assured that your music is yours. No royalty payments, no splits, no licenses needed. You can get to business on self-producing rap music and finding your audience.
Photo Credit: Harry Sherman, via Flickr
Rap beats pop in at least one category. Last month, rapper Eminem accumulated more “Likes” on his Facebook page than pop star Lady Gaga. As of this writing, Eminem has about 29.7 million Facebook fans, compared to Gaga’s 29.4 million Facebook followers. In comparison, pop king Michael Jackson has about 29.6 million Facebook fans.
Here’s a look at the Facebook popularity of some other famous rappers. The numbers are rounded because they change all the time:
Lil Wayne: 20,800,000
Chris Brown: 8,800,000
Nicki Minaj: 7,700,000
Snoop Dogg: 6,900,000
Kanye West: 6,000.000
Wiz Khalifa: 3,800,000
Waka Flocka Flame: 3,100,000
Dr. Dre: 1,100,000
Busta Rhymes: 457,000
Lil Kim: 404,000
Biggie Smalls: 413,000
Rick Ross: 289,000
There’s no doubt that Facebook is just one measure of a rapper’s popularity, and Facebook numbers don’t necessarily convert into sales – a truer measure of how much fans really “like” a rap musician. However, it’s also hard to diminish the importance of social media when it comes to building a rapper’s career.
Eminem probably doesn’t need Facebook for career-building purposes, but having a fan page is a great way to engage those people who are truly interested in a new musician’s career. Monetarily, we that Jay-Z is the most successful rapper. Much of his income comes not from his rap music, but from other businesses related to rap, his nightclubs, product endorsements, and his work as a producer for other rap musicians. Because his income stream is diverse, he probably doesn’t need to worry much about his music sales, or contact with music fans.
Eminem is the most successful vendor of rap beats in terms of album sales, but he ranks well below other rappers in income because he doesn’t build many other income streams. He needs to have much more contact with his fan base because his fans are his income. If you look at the rappers highest on the list, you see that the vast majority of their income is fan-driven. Rappers farther down on the list may make more income, but do so from diverse sources (e.g., Jay-Z, Dr. Dre, etc.)
For new rappers who have not yet made a name, getting a good Facebook following is a way to earn name recognition. This name recognition can lead to other income streams. Facebook is also a great way to distribute self-produced music and mixtapes, which can also drive recognition and grow your fanbase. If you’re producing your own rap beats and you want a good way to take off, create a fan page and push your best stuff to it. You may find that you’re “giving away” your music, but if that helps you build a loyal fan base and earn name recognition, you can promote new material more easily to a fan base who already knows and “likes” you.
Photo Credit: marcopako, via Flickr
If successful, Smith will become one of 50 members of Chicago’s city council, replacing incumbent alderman Willie Cochran who earned 46 percent of the ward’s vote, but not enough to avoid a run-off election in April. Smith says that people in his ward are ready for change, and he’s prepared to deliver it. Smith garnered 20 percent of the vote, compared to Cochran’s 46%. Smith says that the presence of another Smith – Andre Smith – on the ballot may have confused voters, and he’s looking forward to being the only Smith on the ballot in April.
Smith has already made his mark in rap music. He co-wrote and won a Grammy for Kanye West’s “Jesus Walks.” He’s unapologetic for his lyrics, which are in many cases coarse, and says that they shouldn’t be used by the voters to judge his political ambitions. His desire to improve the 20th Ward, which is located on Chicago’s South Side, stems from the high rate of poverty and minimal employment prospects in the district. His campaign includes plans to bring green and sustainable companies to the area to provide jobs for the 20th Ward residents. Rhymefest has the support of the Chicago Teachers’ Union, and says that the runoff, which takes place on April 5, gives him the opportunity to distinguish himself as a man of the people.
Smith isn’t a stranger to the challenges of the people he hopes to represent. Aside from his musical career, Smith has also worked as a bus driver a janitor and a prison guard. He also has misdemeanor convictions for domestic assault and weapons possession. That doesn’t change his desire to be a positive force in the lives of his neighbors and doesn’t think that should keep him from representing them at the city level.
Whether he wins or loses, Rhymefest says he won’t put his music career on hold. He still has plenty of rap beats to offer, but he says that he’ll use his rap beats as a teaching tool, and he will hold himself to a higher standard when it comes to his lyrics and his purpose as a rap musician.
Photo Credit: JuggernautCo, via Flickr