Posts Tagged ‘business’

On the 3rd episode of Take No Prisoners Radio, hosts Seb and Camille H discuss the rise of socially conscious mainstream rap, “ratchet rap” and cultural misappropriation. For the second half, Paul Porter, entertainment industry veteran & founder of RapRehab joins the show to reveal the music industry’s dirty secrets. Also, check out new music by Open Mike Eagle, De La Soul ft. Chuck D, RA the Rugged Man and Sa-Roc.


Dear black artists,

We regret to inform you that the need for your services will soon come to an end as we enter a critical restructuring period. Fortunately, after having spent nearly a century meticulously studying your art, language, fashion, and lifestyle, we have learned enough to confidently move forward without your assistance. We thank you for your contributions but have decided to make some necessary changes as a result of your decreasing value. Focus groups show that consumers are looking for more relatable images. While 2013 marked the first time in Billboard’s 55 year history that there were no black artists on the Hot 100 chart, this was a great year for us with Justin Timberlake, Robin Thicke, and Macklemore claiming the #1 spot on the R&B/Hip-Hop chart, proving that market demands are shifting. Consequently, in the next few months, we will be gradually phasing out your positions as we finalize this reorganization. In the meantime, we ask you to continue with business as usual, training your replacements Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber until instructed otherwise.

Your severance package includes a lifetime supply of Air Jordans, unlimited access to reruns of “Love and Hip Hop”, a new 30 piece Tom Ford wardrobe, and the latest iPhone. Your medical coverage will be provided through ObamaCare.

We want you to know that your termination is in no way a statement about the quality of your work with us. As such, we would like to acknowledge your outstanding contributions to the industry over the past decades.

In music, we’d like to thank Kendrick Lamar’s thought-provoking body of work which has opened the door for Macklemore, a shining example of what intelligent rap looks like.

In business, Jay Z’s partnership with Samsung was historical as the Korean mobile company paid the rapper a mere $5 million and his company Roc Nation, another $15 million, a bargain deal relative to their standard annual $4 billion marketing budget and $220 billion net worth.

In fashion, while Kanye West may be experiencing difficulties launching his own brand, his loyalty to European designers continues to add value to an already thriving industry that other entertainers like Migos seem to enjoy promoting for free.

In cinema, “The Butler” and “12 Years a Slave” were Oscar-worthy gems, showcasing the strength and pride of a resilient people. We understand that this year, you will continue this tradition of inspiring historical films with the May release of “Belle” and the History Channel’s forthcoming reboot of the groundbreaking 70′s televised series, “Roots”. Your work did not go unnoticed as it has inspired us to produce new historical movies of our own, depicting our rich cultural heritage. Upcoming releases include:

* “Son of God” produced by reality TV pioneer Mark Burnett and starring Diogo Morgado
* “Noah” starring Russell Crowe
* “Exodus” starring Christian Bale as Moses
* “Mary, Mother of Christ” starring 16-year-old Odeya Rush

Just as your movies depict the struggles and achievements of your best and brightest, these powerful films are meant to inspire and remind us of our glorious past and divine lineage.

In an attempt to capitalize on the recent trend in movies that focus on triumphs of the African-American experience, we have recently begun developing films with similar themes. Channing Tatum has just been cast as the lead in the Nat Turner Story while Scarlett Johansson is reported to have accepted the role of Harriet Tubman in a forthcoming biopic. Like Quentin Tarentino’s “Django Unchained”, both movies promise to offer the perfect balance between shoot-em-up style action and social commentary while boasting two smash-hit soundtracks featuring Eminem, Katy Perry, and Ke$ha.

Again, none of this could have been accomplished without your unwavering commitment and dedication to our mission. We trust that your transition will be smooth and wish you continued success with your new journey into Electronic Dance Music.


The industry

Warning: this is satire.

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Seb pic


In January 2013, I wrote a revealing, soul-baring article titled “Confessions of a Failed Hip Hop Publicist” which expressed my profound disgust with the music industry, my disappointment in the caliber of rap artists soliciting my services, and why I chose to retire. Written both as a cautionary tale and as a form of personal therapy, my goal was to let the universe know that I was done with this crazy industry, once and for all. No longer would I subject myself to working with second-rate rappers whose only goals were to become the next Chief Keef or 2 Chainz.  No longer would I have to put up with self-important media gatekeepers who wouldn’t recognize real talent if it beat them in the head. But as the saying “God works in mysterious ways” implies, the universe had something else in store for me.

Immediately after my article was published by Pigeons & Planes and picked up by countless blogs and social media platforms, I began receiving thousands of emails, Facebook messages, tweets, and phone calls from people around the world thanking me for having the heart to speak my truth.  My story struck a nerve with everyone ranging from artists and rap fans to bloggers and industry execs. These folks either urged me to stay in the business, expounding on the merits of my professional integrity, or wholeheartedly supported my decision to walk away, assuring me that what I labeled a failure was in actuality a breath of fresh air amidst a rotting industry. More interestingly, I heard from my professional counterparts, many of them high-profile publicists who echoed my sentiments and shared their own nightmare experiences in the field. The feedback I received was overwhelming but encouraging beyond my expectations.

Of course, the haters also had their say.  Some accused me of being a self-righteous jerk; some said I was a crappy writer; others ridiculed my lack of business-savvy.  More interesting were the interactions I had with high-profile executives who, in an attempt to defend their industry, casually revealed their true feelings about the average music fan/consumer.  To paraphrase what an executive at one of the world’s biggest mass media company told me: rap fans aren’t the most intelligent bunch so we can pretty much sell them anything and they’ll eat it up.  Just to be clear, he was one of many prominent decision-makers I spoke with who felt this way about their target audience.  These “gems of human beings” were simply reinforcing my decision to exit the game.

The ironic by-product of my “retirement” letter was the feedback I got from hundreds of extremely talented artists interested in representation, publicity, and plain old guidance.  The caliber of artists I had previously been seeking were now flooding my inbox, one after the other, proclaiming their music to be unique enough to make me reconsider my retirement.  Here I was, boldly giving the industry my farewell speech only to have it laugh in my face with more potential business opportunities!  Some of these artists were complete garbage, the type I was running away from, who must have skipped over the part of my story where I explain how I loathe everything they represent. Others were incredible, though-provoking artists who reaffirmed the fact that great Hip Hop music is alive and well. Nonetheless, steadfast in my resolve, I kindly turned away all artist solicitations and proceeded to pursue my other passion – education.  I resurrected the award-winning educational Hip Hop program I had neglected when my work in publicity took off.  It felt good to be back in the classroom, making a real difference in children’s lives, away from immature rappers and their silly pipe dreams.

At around the same time, I became a contributing writer for RapRehab, an incredible platform that welcomed my no-holds-barred commentaries on a wide range of controversial topics such as the prison industrial complex, institutionalized racism, the state of Hip Hop, corruption in the music business, and pop culture’s influence on youth culture.  My articles were surprisingly well received and allowed me to establish something akin to a fan base, nothing like Justin Bieber of course (sarcasm intended) but significant enough to have me respond to fan mail a few times a week.  However, day after day, I would hear from countless artists looking for publicity, some trying to convince me to get back in the game, others who completely missed the part of my story where I said I quit. So I responded to every request with business advice and constructive criticism of their music, also reminding them that I was no longer a publicist but still willing to share my knowledge…and brutal honesty.  Try telling an artist that you respect them as human beings but recommend they completely reinvent themselves or pursue an entirely different career. Surprisingly, my harsh but sincere words were always welcomed because they were tempered with good counsel. Not one for sugar-coating, I took great pride in challenging the yes-man syndrome.  Little did I know I was slowly beginning to carve out a new professional identity for myself.

The months passed with my educational program going well, my relationship with RapRehab stronger than ever, and my undefined role as an “advice-giver” for indie and unsigned artists growing every day. No matter how much I had initially tried to distance myself from the music industry, my public confessions of a failed Hip Hop publicist had opened a brand new door, one I was now comfortable walking through. I had unknowingly yet seamlessly morphed into a self-styled creative consultant for Hip Hop artists and it was time for me to consciously accept this role.  As a publicist, I hated having to cater to the whims of delusional artists or play pretend-nice with arrogant media heads just because the client is paying.  My integrity had been a huge disadvantage as a publicist but was now my greatest asset as a creative consultant.  As a die-hard Hip Hop head since the early 80’s with more than 20 years of music industry experience under my belt, it became clear that guiding and advising artists is what I was meant to do.  Make no mistake, I’ll never stop working with young people.  A matter of fact, when I’m not consulting with artists, I’m working with incarcerated youth to make sure that they don’t ever find themselves back in the belly of the beast.

Retiring from publicity was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I would have never imagined that revealing my failures would bring on bigger and better opportunities. Today, I run a successful business as a creative consultant, using my experience to lead developing talent in the right direction.  While there are tons of fly-by-night artists who only get in the game to make a quick buck, there will always be those whose genuine passion for music truly shines. They deserve better than what this twisted industry has been feeding them.  Fortunately, I’m now in a position where I can guide a new generation of gifted artists on their way to becoming tomorrow’s legends.

What a difference a year can make!

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As a creative consultant, I spend a lot of time giving advice to up and coming artists.  As we head into the New Year, I’d like to share 4 things aspiring artists absolutely need to STOP doing in 2014 and beyond.

STOP claiming you have a movement

If no one knows you except your friends and family, you do not have a movement.  Even if you have a few hundred followers on Twitter and Facebook, you still don’t have a movement.  You don’t get to label something a movement; it just happens organically when, 1) a growing number of people start to develop a genuine interest in what you bring to the table and, 2) those people begin to show real support by attending your shows or downloading/buying your music.  Until this happens, your “movement” is just a dream.

STOP saying you’re different

If I had a dollar for every artist I met who swears that their music is different from everybody else’s music, I’d already be retired.  You cannot flat-out copy everything from your favorite artist, down to gestures and mannerisms and have the audacity to say you’re original.  You cannot rap like Drake over actual Drake instrumentals while trying to sell me on how you’re going to change the game.  Develop your own style.  It’s ok to be inspired by successful artists but it shouldn’t make you want to actually be them.  And that goes to the guy I bumped into a few weeks ago with the painted-on Drake unibrow.

STOP expecting free things

You’re going to have to invest in your career.  Giving your music away on ReverbNation, SoundCloud, or Bandcamp while promoting yourself on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram will only take you so far.  At some point, you’re going to need a solid branding/marketing plan.  Without a doubt, you’ll need a budget to pay for those services only a professional can offer.  If you’re serious about taking your career to the next level, you’re going to need to pay for videos, photography, mixing and mastering, websites, publicity, and more.  However, if the thought of spending money on what you claim to be passionate about turns you off, you should probably…

STOP pretending you really want a career in the music business

If you’re not willing to work your ass off to pursue your dream, don’t expect Kanye to magically knock at your door and sign you to his label because he heard the music you posted on Twitter.  If you’re serious about your career, you’re going to have to make compromises and sacrifices.  Are you ready to work on your craft tirelessly? Are you willing to let go of X-Box, Play Station, girls, weed, and hanging out with your boys and replace these distractions with productive activities that will get you closer to your goal? If not, stop pretending that you’re “about your business”. Keep doing your music as a hobby and find another career goal that suits you better.

I hope these 4 points will give aspiring artists something to think about as they plan for the coming year.  Most importantly, I hope 2014 brings us artists with original, inspiring, thought-provoking music.  Fortunately, something tells me a change is coming.

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So you want to be a rap superstar?  Join the club. You and a billion others share the same delusions. You’ve been spittin’ your little corny bars to your homies who got you believing you’re the next (fill in the blank) so you think you’re about to blow up. You got FL Studio, Garage Band, and an old mic so you’re now working on a mixtape and telling everyone that you’re what the game’s been missing. Wake up lil’ homie! Here are 6 reasons why you’ll never make it as a rap star.

1. You have no talent.
Just because your friends big you up doesn’t mean you’re good. They’re just as clueless as you are. After all, they think Chief Keef has skills so how can you trust their opinion.  Find yourself one honest person who’s not afraid to rain on your parade to give you the reality check you so desperately need. You might find that you’re better suited for a career as a comedian rather than a rapper.

But let’s say that you do have talent…

2. You don’t study the art of rap.
You may be able to name the top 10 rappers in the game right now but do you know anything about those legendary artists who paved the way for your favorite rappers? How can anyone take you seriously if you don’t take pride in your art and dedicate yourself to learning as much about it as possible?

But let’s say you’re taking the time to learn about those who came before you…

3. You don’t know a damn thing about the music industry.
You think that having your music on SoundCloud and a video on YouTube is going to help you get discovered.  You think that getting your mixtape on DatPiff is gonna bring you thousands of fans. You think that Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are the best way to promote your music.  C’mon son! You’re embarrassing yourself. You’re going to have to learn this industry by reading, researching, networking, getting advice from people who work in the field. No one is going to put you on or hook you up with a deal overnight.

But let’s just say that you’ve done your research and learned everything you possibly can…

4. You don’t have any money to invest in your career.
You’re going to need the services of professionals to help you package and promote your music. Do you have a budget to mix and master your album? Do you have money set aside for a publicist?  Do you have the means to pay for a professionally shot video and photography? Or were you just going to trust one of your homies who can’t even spell his own name to become your “manager” and handle all of your business? And please don’t depend on anyone who tells you that they’re going to invest in your project. You’re a nobody and no legitimate investor is going to put up money for your pipe dreams. You better save up your own paper if you mean business.

But let’s just say that you do have a budget to invest in your career…

5. You don’t have the discipline to stick it out.
There’s less than one chance in a million that you’ll become successful as a rap artist. The field is saturated beyond belief. You’re going to go through thick and thin on your journey to pursue this almost unattainable goal. You may lose friends. You’ll waste time and money. People will make you empty promises. You’ll feel like giving up. You’ll see a side of people, even those closest to you, that you never imagined possible. And through it all, you got to be willing to stick it out to eventually achieve your goal. Do you really have what it takes to go the distance knowing that you may never reach your destination?

But let’s just say that you do have the determination to move forward…

6. You’re competing against millions of other rappers who are hungrier than you.
The numbers are stacked up against you. At any given time, there are about 20 rappers who are at the top of the charts, exactly where you want to be. With millions of aspiring artists around the nation all competing for the same few spots, the chances of you making it are slim to none. You have a better chance of becoming an astronaut!

This may be harsh but I’m trying to help you out with a dose of cold, hard truth. The music industry is not for the weak. And if it sounds like I’m trying to discourage you, that’s because I am. There are way too many people trying to get into the industry who have no business in it. The last thing we need is yet another dreamer wasting time chasing something that will undoubtedly prove to be in vain. Do yourself a favor and stay focused on your education, get a career, have a family, and live happily ever after.  And stay the hell out of the rap game.

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Producing and recording music is one thing. Promoting it successfully is another. And if you think Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, SoundCloud and ReverbNation are the only platforms you need to get your music out, you’re in for a surprise! How you promote yourself will make or break you. How will people know you exist when a million other artists are using the same overcrowded sites to promote their music? Sounds like you need a publicist!

A traditional publicist generates publicity for a variety of clients ranging from celebrities and new artists to businesses, authors and entrepreneurs. A Hip Hop publicist (that would be me) does the same but specifically for Hip Hop artists. Although most decent publicists can garner general publicity for any type of client, few specialize in Hip Hop culture and understand the particular needs of a rapper, producer, DJ or any other Hip Hop based clientele.

A Hip Hop publicist knows how to write a bio that appeals to Hip Hop media outlets. Remember, a bio is your calling card, your introduction to the world. It should tell a compelling story and make readers eager to learn more about your music, business or product. A bio is what helps you make a good first impression in the eyes of those whose can give you the exposure you need. You don’t want to hurt your chances of making a positive impact by having a sloppy bio written by your 93 year old grandmother, your homie who brags about his “C+” average in English class or anyone else who doesn’t have professional experience. No offense to grandmothers by the way!

A Hip Hop publicist knows how to create a press release that generates interest from Hip Hop media including blogs, websites, magazines, radio, podcasts and more. What’s a press release, you ask? A press release is a written document directed at the media, announcing something newsworthy, such as the release of a new album, project, video, product, business or anything else being promoted. The release is then distributed to members of the media including bloggers, writers, editors and journalists. It’s ultimately up to them to determine if what you offer is interesting and unique enough for them to publicize. A Hip Hop publicist will make sure that the odds are in your favor. Still, at the end of the day, it comes down to how well put together your overall game plan really is.

What a Hip Hop publicist will do that no traditional publicist can is help develop an artist or counsel a client. Ok, I made up that last part! Truth is, this isn’t even part of a publicist’s job at all. It’s simply what I’ve chosen to do because I love Hip Hop culture and I want to see quality Hip Hop prevail over the current sad state of mainstream rap. But I digress!

One thing’s for sure, NO publicist will work for free, no matter how much they love the job. So if you’re serious about your career, you’ll need to hire one. Basic services such as bios and press releases range from $125 to $200. Consultations or artist development can range from $50 to $100 per hour depending on your particular needs.

The ball is in your court. You can sit around and wait to miraculously get 10 million YouTube views of your latest video, hoping that some big name star discovers you, or you can invest in your dream and step up your game. The choice is yours.

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