The Hip Hop game is saturated…POLY-Saturated! Everybody and their mama is rapping! With advances in technology over the last 5 years, it is so easy to record songs in your bedroom, convert them to mp3s, and sell them on iTunes within weeks. The worst part about it, though, is that a lot of rap dudes offer free downloads more than they offer official albums! What kind of career are you building for yourself, when people only know you from having a free download available?
I’m not saying free downloads are an absolute bad thing. It’s just that I see so many rap dudes thinking that just because they offer their music for free, that this is “supposed” to guarantee listeners, and eventually new fans. Free downloads may do this…but think about it….Just because your link is online for someone to download your zip file, doesn’t mean they actually will click the link! And if they do end up clicking and downloading the zip, did they actually take the time to unzip the file, import it into their iTunes, then take time to listen to your music??? Your free download link doesn’t guarantee any of this!
And on top of all that, you generally won’t have any details on who it is that went through all of these steps mentioned above, listened to your release, and actually liked it! Is it more important to have the “number of downloads” figures, or ultimately, a connection with the people who actually enjoyed your material? Numbers don’t mean anything if you can’t build upon them in some form or fashion.
So if you feel you need to put together a release for the sake of releasing it for free, at least try to make that release generate new fans that you can connect with. Set up your own widget with a link to the music, and make sure the widget has an option which asks for an email address. You should be trying to build up a mailing list of those that are giving your music some of their time to listen to. Once you start receiving email addresses, contact them, thanking them for taking the time to check out your material.
If you choose to link up with a blogsite and give them the opportunity to offer your release exclusively on their website, you should be asking to make arrangements so that you can be retrieving email addresses. If you are doing nothing with your project but giving it to someone else to release for you, that’s a bad look! Think about it…Once the release goes live on that website, you will be telling everybody to go to someone else’s site to listen to your music. If you don’t have any details concerning a mailing list, or who is downloading your music, you’ve simply given that particular website more traffic at your expense. Shouldn’t you, the artist, get something in return for offering your music, for free, on someone else’s website? Your music is an asset, right?
When I dropped my first EP, True Links, I made sure I sent a “thank you for purchasing” email to everybody that I was aware had bought the project. A lot of people were happy, and a little surprised, that I had actually contacted them. But I was more than happy to do it. They took the time to buy my music, the least I could do is take a few seconds to say thanks. Most of you know that I’m accessible when it comes to being online, and I value my connections with you all. More artists should be doing the same, in my opinion.
A mailing list will continue to be vital for any artists to further build with their fans. I’m sure there are artists out there that could care less about this, though. If you’re an artist that doesn’t want anything but some online glamour, then ok cool. But if you want to work towards building a career with your music, this is one of a thousand ways to move in that direction.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments. peace.