Mixtapes Now A Standard Strategy
Releasing free mixtapes may have been a novel strategy a few years ago, but today, they’re standard for the rap music industry. The question is, “Can rap music artists still build and retain fan followings without releasing mixtapes?” Some artists don’t question the strategy much; mixtapes are simply part of the business and a way to put out some music outside of a full album release. Others have deliberately maneuvered around mixtapes and major labels, and have still built a solid fan base.
So, are mixtapes strictly necessary? If you talk to artists like Lil Wayne or Drake, the answer is clear. They both release mixtapes religiously and they’re massively successful. If you talk to artists like Tech N9ne and Odd Future, they don’t release mixtapes and they’re arguably very successful, too.
Part of the answer depends upon how you define “success.” From a business perspective, success is measured in dull fashion, by counting product sales and performance revenues. From a critical perspective, success is harder to define. Do you put on a good show? Do you get a lot of airtime? Is your music standard on the club circuit?
Tech N9ne and other independent artists prove that releasing mixtapes isn’t necessary to build a fan base or keep fans interested. Mixtapes provide a great way to introduce a new artist. For established talent, mixtapes are a good outlet for music that’s stylistically good, but not good enough to be featured on an album. They can also be used to promote upcoming albums without a lot of effort.
Ultimately, the mixtape comes down to this: do you want to swing for the fences on every track, or is a base hit good enough? If you want to be a home run king, it’s best to consider each song’s potential as an album and make sure it’s as good as it can ever get. If you don’t want to work that hard, the mixtape is a good way to publish music that’s better than average and keep the fans interested, but you’ll still need to deliver on your album work.
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