"Industry Survival Skills: Maximizing Income As A Hip Hop Artist" was the title of my second annual panel at SXSW. I thought this was an important subject to tackle. In this changing industry there is a lot of positives for indie artists in terms of them being more in control of their destiny, musical content, and connection to their fanbase. That is all great! However, one of the largest challenges is how to maintain a financially sustainable career doing so. The days are nearly gone of depending on major label or even some indie label budgets to do extravagant marketing campaigns, pay for big budget videos, produce endless merchandise, or just pay your daily life expenses. The artist has to find ways to do these things on their own or with their team.
In the hour discussion between Skyzoo, Dessa (Doomtree), Brother Ali, J Bird (Rhymesayers) and Eric Larson (Nevermind Gallery) we covered a lot of ground. They shared some of their greatest successes, ideas, moments of pure luck/fate, and all the factors that play into making it all happen. Unfortunately, in that limited time we could not discuss everything. The biggest missing piece from the discussion is probably without a doubt Licensing. I highly suggest you do some research on how you can maximize in that area! Here's what we did discuss:
"Physical VS Digital Sales": We discuss how physical releases (CDs & Vinyl) are still important in this day an age. J Bird breaks down how physical products are still 60% of Rhymesayers sale. We also discuss how you can maximize sales and compete with the wealth of free music that is increasingly available. Including how to add value to your CD & Vinyl releases!
"Merchandising": We discuss the importance and challenges of merchandising. Some great points are made about the best items to manufacture, finding specialty items that connect with you personally, & how you can best sell that merch when you are out on the road!
"Successful Marketing Campaigns": Everyone discusses a successful marketing campaign they did to connect with their fanbase and maximize sales. Skyzoo explains the personal based campaign to his debut album, "Salvation" and how he put it together and produced it on his own and presented to his label, Duck Down! Dessa talks about a campaign that was done to be funny, but became successful with a call to action to her fanbase! J Bird breaksdown some of the Rhymesayers "Face To Face" and "Hands On" video campaigns! Eric Larson discuss creating various options with limited edition items such as color variants! Brother Ali brings it back to the key factor of the importance of making music that connects with the people!!
"Artistic Options": This is an important one. How you can find other means of making money rather relying on music sales and touring! We discuss lecturing, teaching, consulting, and more!
"Importance Of Day Jobs": Yes, the one people don't like to talk about. We discuss the importance of maintaining a day job and when you should really walk away. Brother Ali, Dessa, and Skyzoo each discuss when they finally felt comfortable to leave their day jobs...
"Crowd Questions": We took a few crowd questions such as Definition of an Up & Comer, Artist Accessibility, Self Promotion, Giving away free product, etc...
BONUS SXSW FLAVOR: On my trip to SXSW 2012 my main goal was networking and talking to people in the streets. I got so caught up in connecting with people that I didn't even remember to pull out my camera until my last day there. In any event, you can get a glimpse of what was happening in the the streets of SXSW from this short clip... Features Astronautalis, Jabee (Oklahoma MC), Czr Prz (Chicago Graf Artist), Kwasar (Distortionists), Jake Schafer (Rhymesayers), and more!
Written By & Video Shot By Kevin Beacham
Video Editing & Titling by Dan Schlueter