|Photo Credit: @BrainRapp|
I asked indie hip-hopper and friend Brain Rapp to tell me a bit about his plight over the past few years. I also asked him to give some advice to others who may be thinking about pursuing an indie hip-hop career/passion. So, enough of me...Brain, take it away, my brother.
Life as an indie artist is a roller coaster, to say the least. Fortunately, in the two years since our last interview, this roller coaster has always been trending upwards. There have been dips for sure but overall the trajectory has a positive slope. A key to maintaining this direction is a mixture of patience, trust in the process, and my personal motto—do small things right. As an independent artist it's easy to lose focus and get lost in the multitude of hats this life requires you to wear. To me, “do small things right” means prioritize the fundamental aspects of your main objective and make sure they are done to the best of your ability. Instead of doing five shows in a month--effectively spreading yourself too thin--do one and work your hardest to ensure that it goes well.
The biggest thing for me right now is trying not to do too much. It's hard because there's a lot to do and there's never enough time. As people may or may not know, I have and have never had a manager, booking agent, or publicist. I did, however, work with a publicist for a month during Elevator Music's release but that was an open and shut situation. Outside of that, everything I (and we, as Dope Music Village) do is accomplished through personal relationships. On any given day I'm writing emails to try to get booked for a show, updating my website, creating a flier for an existing show, emailing journalists a newly released song, writing a press release for an unreleased song, scheduling photoshoots, conceptualizing music videos, and about a dozen other things. As a matter of fact, the thing I do the least a lot of times is actually make music.
This is what I mean about doing too much. Juggling all of these things is great and keeps me very busy but it detracts from my main object--make dope music. This is the trade off. I spend so much time trying to promote the music in various ways that it takes away from my ability to make music. On top of that, the more pressing issue I'm faced with is how to monetize the entire situation. If I can build enough value doing what I'm doing then I'll look more and more like a good investment. Then, and only then, will I be able to attract someone who might be willing to take some of this weight off of my shoulders. In the music business money talks--if you're not making money or don't look like you're making money, nobody is listening. In the end, I signed up for this, so I can't complain too much.
One thing that does bother me about the business, especially locally, is the lack of assistance offered from people who are in a position to assist. The big game changer in this industry is knowledge. Artists are starving for it and starved of it so that people with knowledge can bust them in their head monetarily for access to it. It's hard being around people that you know could help you tremendously in your career just by offering a piece of information but they won't give it to you. You can pay them for it but that's about it. The issue I have with this is a philosophical one—if you see a person drowning and you have the ability to save them, are you obligated to save them? I witness artists every day who are out here drowning. I know I can't save them all but that's never stopped me from offering any assistance that I can.
If there's any advice I can offer to an indie artist reading this it's this: do your homework. Know all there is to know about this business and go out into the world and forge your own relationships. If you want to get on Pigeons and Planes so bad stop sending them emails and go try to meet Jon Tanners in person. Pull up on people. Become your own plug. Remember that if you ever want to eat off your talents you have to approach music with a businessperson's mindset. It's sad but it's true.
“For the love” doesn't keep your lights on or your refrigerator full.