...So I just got home from Fifth Element and it's 1 AM and I know I gotta be up in a few hours to get ready to head out to Giant Steps. I was trying to think what I could do for today's blog... Then for some odd reason I remembered this piece I had wrote back last year that I never did anything with. Truthfully, I don't even know why I wrote it...ha.
I had a moment last year where I was trying to collect all the DVDs and VHS tapes I could about Hip Hop. Sure, I'm always on the look out for that type of stuff, but I was spent a particular day on Amazon just going thru endless pages of stuff and ordering everything that looked half-way interesting. Among the batch was "Make It Happen In Hip Hop & Rap" on VHS for like $2.30. I immediately had a flashback to all those ADS I would see buried in the pages of the early issues of The Source or even earlier in other Rap Fanzines. All sorts of "How To Rap" or "How To DJ" or "How To Get A Record Deal" VHS Tapes. They always looked so corny. Even then, when I was a teenager eager to find out how to get in the business, those tapes did not look like a real helpful option...ha
I got "Make It Happen In Hip Hop" and spent one Saturday morning laid back in bed checking it. Honestly, it wasn't so bad. It actually might have been pretty helpfully had I really brought in in 1995, so I guess I missed that boat... In any event, it was interesting and it was good to hear some of the artists and bizness peoples break it all down. I figured posting this today was fitting since there will be a lot of the up to date version of this info being delivered today at Giant Steps, which I'm hoping to see many of you at.
Anyway, here's what I had to say about:
Make It Happen In Hip-Hop & Rap:
This is a “how to make it in business video” for inspiring Hip Hop peoples. It features commentary, experience, and advice from established artists (KRS One, Afrika Islam, Joe The Butcher), executives (A&Rs, Presidents, etc…) from Jive, Mercury, Gee Street, Pendulum, MCA, Ruffhouse, & Pay Day, as well as managers & lawyers.
Although it was made in ’95, a decent bulk of this information is still relevant to an inspiring artist. Now I’m not suggesting everyone run out and track down this VHS tape, but it is a cool watch and if you see it lying around in a discount video store for a few bucks…why not? ☺
Of course, the biggest non-inclusion is being out of date with internet and viral marketing opportunities. There is also a heavy emphasis on shopping deals to majors, which is out-dated in terms of its need and particularly that general process.
Beyond that, it covers pretty much all the major parts of the business and a lot of the basics still hold true. Here’s the key points discussed:
Performing: The importance of performing and how it is an artist’s primary source of income.
Networking: How important it is to be out and about connecting with people. Plus how doing so can lead to connections with other artists who may believe in what you do and act as a mentor, in turn giving you guidance and some open doors. They also list contacts and basic info for all the major Music Conferences.
Knowing The Business: The importance of not just being an artist, but protecting yourself by understanding the other side of things. Includes listing of books and magazines where you can obtain some of this info.
A&R: They break down the purpose and process of an A&R
Demos: Great info on the do’s and don’ts of making a demo. Including the differences of solicited and unsolicited demos and the advantages of knowing that difference.
Pressing your own Vinyl/Tape: How to build your buzz and label interest by making your own impact by pressing your own material. They cover who to sell it to and how to go about promoting it, including the importance of DJs and college radio. They let you know if and when you make a mark, the labels are listening.
Managers/Lawyers: This is an interesting section, as there are a few different perspectives on the importance of these two figures, plus when to obtain their services. This is an area where I feel artists still struggle today, particular the importance of contracts.
Publishing: Another key and still relevant section. Learn about the four types of publishing & how getting a publishing deal before a record deal can be beneficial. They also list several Publisher contacts and info on workshops.
Sampling: The topic of sampling and its legal risk and expensive nature is covered. This was the one section where I didn’t completely agree with the perspective. The point is made, “If you don’t have the money (to clear the sample), don’t sample”. It’s not that the comment made was wrong, but possibly over dramatic. Sure there’s some risk in sampling and getting contacted by the publishing holder, but if you aren’t achieving any real success (IE: Sales) from it there are some limits to what the penalties can be. Obviously it goes deeper than, that but my point is there are millions of un-cleared samples out there not being touched mainly because; 1)they have no marketing push behind them as demos or whatever so really no one is hearing them & 2)no one is profiting off them so there is nothing to collect. In any event, do you own homework on the issue and make your own decision on the risk.
That’s the tofu and potatoes of it all. It wraps up with some final comments, a listing of books on Hip Hop culture and a bonus DJ Times Magazine commercial, which seems a bit out of the 80s, making it late even for this VHS tape…ha.
As an added bonus, the represented label also have music video clips as transition points thru out, including videos from King Tee, Show & A.G., etc…
All in all, this was a nice, sit in the bed, Saturday morning watch. That only cost me about $5...