Friday, December 12, 2008

How To Jerk An Artist

By, Wendy Day ( and

I’ve seen so many people get jerked in the 17 years that I have been pulling artists out of bad deals. And I have been vocal (for free) about how artists can protect themselves from getting jerked by less than savory managers and production companies, greedy labels, and unscrupulous scammers. Yet, every week it seems I get a new request for help. I’m not quite sure how the “protect yourself” information can be out there, and artists are STILL signing bad deals that steal their dreams from them. It’s most frustrating.

So I thought I’d write a tongue-in-cheek article on how to JERK an artist, and then maybe folks will read it and their bullshit tactics will be exposed. I realize that I run the risk of helping the scumbags jerk more people, but that’s a risk I am willing to take. So here goes….based on the numerous ways I have seen artists get jerked…

First of all, you have to be certain you are working with an artist over 18 who knows very little about the music business. How else will you be able to teach him your version of how it’s supposed to work? He definitely needs to be over 18 so a Judge doesn’t get involved and nullify the contract on the basis of a minor not being able to legally enter into a binding contract.

Definitely sign a male rapper. Yes, you run the risk of him becoming violent when he finds out you’ve scammed him, but by then you should have enough money to either be untouchable or hire security. Also, male rappers statistically sell better on average than female rappers, and if you’re going to stick somebody for their loot, it may as well be as much loot as possible. Besides, an angry female will go to further extremes if you piss her off, remember that last shorty you did wrong? She came after your ass, didn’t she.

A solo artist is less risky than a group, as it’s only one angry person to watch out for, rather than many who may team up for revenge. A younger person is often more naïve, and you can sell him some bullshit about the industry only wanting young artists. If you get him to lie that he’s two years younger than he really is, he’ll feel like he shares a secret with you. The more secrets you have on him, the easier it will be to control him. And if he pisses you off, you can tell the world his secrets and he’ll always be the one who looks stupid. He’ll also be too busy dodging the press, to come after you. If you can secretly record conversations that make him look bad, you can especially damage his career so he has nothing left--just in case he manages to get away from you.

It’s good to remind the artist often that you’re family and you’d never do him wrong. If he thinks you’re all sacrificing now to build something for a down-the-road payoff, you can probably get a good 4 years of loyalty out of the dupe. If you are all persons of color, you could utilize the race card to your benefit reminding him that “Black folks have to stick together because the white man has been keeping us down for long enough.” Some people even mention slavery and other assorted history to further the bond. Some phrases you could use to convince him are:
• We are family.
• I got your back.
• We are (a) soldiers, (b) warriors, (c) a team, (d) fill in the blank.
• We are building an empire
• You’re going to be a star
• You’re going to be rich
• You are doper than (a) Jay Z, (b) Tupac was, (c) Biggie was, (d) Eminem.
• You can buy your Mamma a big house
• I’m gonna make your dreams come true.
• There will be plenty for everybody
• Don’t be (a) a hater, (b) crabs in the barrel, (c) selfish, (d) fill in the blank

Make sure your artist has a “manager.” It will make him feel bigger than he is. If the person he chooses is too savvy, make sure you poo-poo his choice and allude that you can’t do a deal if he has this person in his camp. Encourage family member choices, or childhood friend choices, especially if you feel you can control them later through (a) money, (b) manipulation, (c) drug habits, (d) blackmail. An artist manager who secretly works for you is a priceless gift worth his weight in Gold. The major labels were built on this. What manager doesn’t eventually want his own label? You could dangle that carrot in front of him forever.

When the artist is in a position where he’s feeling secure and he believes in you 100%, it’s time to put that contract in front of him with a pen. Have it open to the last page and show him exactly where he should sign it. Act like you’re in a hurry. A time where you’re about to give him money, or right before a show in the parking lot of the club, or when he’s really high in the studio and hearing his boys giving him tons of “you the man” praise, are all good times to offer the contracts. Don’t worry, he’ll sign. They all do.

If he tries to look at the writing in the contract, or even tries to turn a page, snatch it back from him and act hurt. Remind him that you’re all family and if there’s no trust then maybe you should find someone else to sign. Tell him you could get him a lawyer if he really wants, but it’ll have to be in exchange for that (a) gear, (b) watch, (c) car, or (d) cash you were about to give him. If he really pushes the having his own attorney bit, and you can’t manipulate him out of the idea, make certain he has an attorney with no power. It’s important to let him use someone with some music business experience so they don’t run up the bill with your lawyer fighting for stupid stuff.

There are many new, wanna-be, and fringe (outside of the inner circle that exists in the music industry) lawyers who troll the industry for clients and will give love to whomever is paying their bill (you). They come in all colors and all prices. Just remember, a lawyer makes more money working for a label than for an artist, so most can very easily be swayed to do what you want in the deal, even for a reduced fee, with a promise of future work, even if it’s bullshit.

Lawyers get paid to do deals, not to break them, so they will usually finish the deal no matter how bad it is, rather than walk away from making their fee. They console themselves with the fact they got their client the best deal they could. It is important to find someone with reduced, or no, integrity.

Sign as many artists as you want, promising them whatever you have to, to get them to sign. Don’t worry about putting them out or doing anything at all with them. Once they are signed, you own them. Most artists really just want to be signed to a record label and that will pacify them longer than you think. Be hard to find so you won’t have to listen to their bitching. If they can’t find you, it’s not your fault you’re busy-- after all, you are running a business. If they do catch you, sympathize with them and tell them you’ll look into it, or that they are up next. Both of these excuses only work about 3 times, but if you are good at eluding the artists, that’s at least a year.

Make certain your lawyer worded the contract to sign your artists for no less than 7 albums (not years, as 7 albums is about 14 years really), give him little to no advance, take 100% of the publishing and merchandising, get 50% of everything else as his production company, and make the stat rate at 10X, 75%. Have a separate contract that assigns you as his official manager for life, for 25%. Tell him how big you are in the industry and how you can make shit happen at the drop of a hat, in fact, you left Akon or Diddy on hold just now to speak with your favorite artist (him) because he’s so important to you.

Placate him with the lie that you’re going to put him on tour with (a) Jay Z, (b) Lil Wayne, (c) R Kelly (if he also likes his females young) or (d) Plies, and that nobody else would do that for him. Remind him that with his cut of tour income like that, he won’t even notice your manager’s fee of 25%, besides you’re doing all the work: all he has to do is rap on stage for 20 minutes and get head in the limo on the way back to the hotel by the prettiest female. Tough life.

Speaking of shows, if you are lucky enough to stumble on an opportunity, make sure the artist thinks he’s only getting $1,000 to do the show, while the promoter is really paying you $5,000. Then, when the promoter sends you the first half of $2,500, tell the artist the $500 front end came in, and you keep the other $2,000. Or be a sport and tell him since you’re such a great manager you got the whole $1,000 upfront and keep the remaining $1,500 and then keep the whole backend of $2,500. You’ll be his hero. By the time the IRS sends the artist a tax notice (takes about 3 years) for the taxes he didn’t pay on all the $5,000 shows, you’ll be long gone.

A real easy way to make a lot of money is to book multiple shows for the same night and don’t show up to any except one. You can keep all the front end deposits and do nothing because it’ll be the artists’ reputation in the crapper, not yours. By the time the lawsuits come in, again, you’ll be long gone. Your lawyer can stall the suits for 3 years or better. And it’s free money. You could even book all the shows for the same night at $5,000 each and call back all the promoters the day before to tell them you’ll come to whoever is the highest bidder. You might get double the price, and if you were smart enough to ask everyone for open airplane tickets, you can cash in the ones you don’t use and make some extra cash. Again, it’s the artist reputation that suffers, not yours.
The new 360 deals are a great way for you to make even more money than you should (although it doesn’t much matter what you call the deal, you’re never going to pay him anyway). With a 360 deal you can explain to him that you are building his career so he can make a lot of show money, and then you can tap into a portion of that income. Your argument should be that you are taking all the risk financially, so you should be able to tap into all of the income sources from what your promotional dollars create. If he stalls, remember to dangle an advance in his face so he won’t be able to stall you out for long. Keep other unsigned artists around so he feels that if he doesn’t take the deal, someone else will.

It’s a good idea to keep the artist in the studio as much as possible at first, because once he realizes you’re making all the money, it’ll be hard to get him back in there. The studio is really where he wants to be anyway; he’s most comfortable there. Keep him as high and as drunk as possible. Aside from the fact that it will be easy to control him then, the addiction will also keep him coming back to you. He will want to be in the studio all the time anyway, as he will be gung-ho to make his album. Truth be told, rappers really only want fame and pussy, and when everyone thinks he has an album coming out, the women will surround him, and he will feel like a star (even if his record never comes out).

Try to get him to make as many albums as possible, but don’t tell him that’s what you’re doing. Tell him the songs he’s making don’t fit his image, or the production is inferior, or that he is so much better than what you’re hearing. If you tell him it isn’t commercial enough and needs to be more radio friendly, which is the oldest label trick in the book, you may get some static as artists may see this as “selling out,” which will hurt his core beliefs (core beliefs are hard to sway). You may need to lock him out of the studio or cut off the supply of money and drugs, to get him to come around. Once he does though, you can get a good 10 or 20 more songs with this one excuse.

If he has a lot of knuckleheads around him whispering in his ear, or savvy industry folks around him all of a sudden, send him to a studio more than a ten hour drive away. This will instantly put a stop to that crap, and being in a strange place will force him to go to the studio because he’ll have nothing else to do. You can easily control him with money (keeping him waiting a few days for money when he’s broke and hungry will take the fight out of anyone). Never give him too much at once. The stress of bills and starving are excellent incentive for him to act right, especially if he has a baby’s mama and a kid or two. Great incentive. By the time the paternity suits and child support cases roll in, you’ll be long gone.

If you do put out a record for the rapper, keep him on the road as much as possible. Aside from the show scam being a great source of income for you, it keeps him from begging you for money constantly at home. Be certain he has his boy as his “manager” (preferably with no business or music industry knowledge or connections), and has a tour manager that you assign, control, and pay, that will report back to you immediately if there are any suspicions that you aren’t doing what’s right. When you hear rumblings, fly to whatever city he’s in and spend time with him. Buy him little gifts and get high with him. Remind him he’s part of something bigger. Strip bars in any city are perfect locations for meetings. Hookers afterwards are appropriate gifts. You should be seen at all times to be taking care of his needs, especially publicly. This will attract hoards of other artists to scam.

Things won’t get rough for you until about 9 months after his record comes out and he realizes he’s still living with his Mom. If you have multiple albums done, it won’t matter as his “fame” will keep him promoting the subsequent albums. He won’t want to lose that. Without fame he’ll lose all the free stuff, all the gratuitous pussy, all the attention, all the free drinks and free blunts… Fear of losing all this will keep him in line for awhile. Rarely be kind to him. The harder you are on him, and the harder you are to please, the harder he’ll try to please you. Kindness will only be taken as weakness and he’ll control you.

Artists are not loyal. They jump to wherever the money is. If he’s more pimp than whore, he will eventually find other ways to make money: (a) appearing on other artists’ albums for $10,000 (b) shows behind your back for $5,000 which is more than you’re booking him for, (c) bootlegging his own album, or (d) selling T-shirts or drugs at his own shows. If you don’t have subsequent albums to release, it’s important that you keep him broke so you can get him back in the studio as soon as possible with the promise of money--his next advance. If he’s a man destined to be pimped, he will most likely jump ship to another camp with the same game, willing to give up a bit more upfront cash incentive to him. Have a super sharp litigator on board to sue the other company immediately, and either they’ll toss him out like a used condom or write you a fat check to let him go. It’s up to you, since you legally own him.

In general, only give your artist what you have to, in order to get him working. If you give him too much he’ll disappear til it runs out. For the second album, if you promise half now and half when he finishes the album, it’s all gravy. And if you’re slick enough to use the studio excuses again to get even more songs out of him, you’re a star! By now he knows the necessity of radio hits, so that “music needs to be more radio friendly” will go a long way. You can even entice him by getting tracks from his favorite producers, and getting artists he admires to work with him. Both of these options require an outlay of money, but you can trick multiple artists on your label with the same track or the same guest appearance opportunity. Also, you’ll sell more records in the long run, and make more money that way, so it’s worth it. If you have signed more than one artist, you can pit them against each other for maximum effect. They’ll even sabotage each other with little effort on your part. You can sit back and enjoy the show.

If you’re an artist and you’re reading this, don’t get pissed off because you got beat. For 17 years, I have offered numerous free resources that teach you how to NOT get jerked, but that would require time, investigation, and reading skills on your part, and that just always seemed like too much work didn’t it. With the plethora of info out there, and the availability of trustworthy professionals to choose for your team, if any of you do get jerked, shame on you. You have no one to blame but yourselves. You’ve been warned. Enjoy that blunt…

Haters Everywhere We Go

By, Wendy Day from Rap Coalition (

I started Rap Coalition with my own money in 1992 because I got tired of hearing about my favorite artists getting jerked by greedy labels, unsavory production companies, and unknowledgeable managers. I came to rap as a fan—started listening to rap in Philadelphia in 1980. Many of you weren’t even born yet.

I didn’t get into the industry to fuck rappers, or attend parties, or walk red carpets, or get free CDs, or to get interviewed on BET…and therefore, almost 17 years later, I still don’t do any of that shit. That industry glamour shit is fake to me. I care about the deals, the rappers, producers, and DJs getting paid, and enjoying the music (I am still a fan). And here’s the important part: MY ACTIONS MATCH MY WORDS!!

So those folks in this industry who are here to:
• solely get a check (especially those with the bullshit seminars, conferences, showcases, and award shows that are ripping folks off; or the labels and managers who are barely more than just a business card), and/or to
• rub elbows with rappers (I see the same muthaphukkas carrying a camera everywhere wishing they worked for a real magazine, but where do those photos end up besides on their bedroom wall or their Blog that no one reads?), and/or to
• dis folks actually building something and making things happen in this industry (yes, some folks are an angry bi-polar waste of space that no one listens to, and to explain that to them, one would actually have to see value in picking up a phone and calling them—which they are not deserving of…you see, they are so irrelevant that they don’t matter enough), and/or to
• fuck rappers (men and women)
won’t last very long. I’ve watched many folks come and go over the years and most are just a tiny blip on the radar screen of this industry. Some of these losers are even a joke for those in the industry with a real career and a track record of success (“let’s see what this idiot does next since she can’t get clients, and totally fucked up her bullshit award show destroying a bunch of brands along the way”). Yes, I’ve really heard people talk that way behind their backs, and some folks even have conference calls to discuss destroying and blackballing the real idiots in this industry.

While I have always taken the road of letting karma deal with the idiots who are useless in the industry, my powerful counterparts take aggressive action to throw blocks their way. For some people, the only noise they can attempt to make in this industry is by calling out someone who matters, or sending an angry email blast, or sneak dissing them in a blog or an e-newsletter. Fortunately, most of these wanna-bes would actually have to be enough of a force to be reckoned with for folks to read their angry rants, and they are not. Of course, they could always land a column at AllHipHop and take shots….but they’d have to have something tangible to offer, or some real track record of success, to actually do that.

These folks who dis, rant, and complain publicly about others are commonly referred to as HATERS. The one quality they seem to have in common is that they are irrelevant, trying to gain some relevance, not through success, but through attacking folks publicly who are good at what they do and who do have something to offer the industry. Personally, my haters have another quality in common--they are mentally unstable, and it very quickly shows itself when I try to confront them. Additionally, most of them are female.

I’m hated by many of the folks who are bad at their jobs because I actually talk about it and name names—usually in private, one on one. I am very vocal about the wack contracts I break for artists for free, and have no trouble shielding others from going down the same painful road. But every now and again I will use a column to grind an ax about someone’s ineptitude, or stupidity-- usually when I hear many people complaining about the same detractors. I am very careful to be honest and back up everything with fact, lest I be a hater myself.

I may clown someone on stage at their own event when I get the mic…but everything I say will be true-- whether they want to hear it or not is something totally different. If you suck at what you do, be prepared to be told instead of making that come up that you figured you would. Those who are looking to hit a quick lick in this industry instead of putting in time and hard work are treated as such.

With all the backstabbing, the hating, the bad deals, the ripping folks off, the black versus white bullshit (I love you Nutt!), and the unqualified idiots trying to get a quick check (UPS is hiring!)…it comes down to one thing: Most of us who are making a REAL difference in this industry are here because we love the music. What really matters most isn’t what anyone thinks or says, but the rappers, the producers, and the DJs, who ARE truly the backbone of this industry. Sadly, they are usually the last ones to get paid, but the ones who are most deserving of payment.

Maybe those in the spotlight get tired of the same “hater” bullshit that the rest of us do. And they must get it 100 times harder, because they ARE in the spotlight. I am just a tiny blip in their worlds, standing way behind them. I can’t imagine how much it must suck to be in the spotlight and constantly in the line of fire, just because they want to rhyme. B.O.B. sure was right, there are haters everywhere, while T.I. and Maino are embracing theirs and using that power to move forward and excel….”Hi Hater!” But how sad that haterism (don’t hate because I made up a word) is so pervasive that they actually had to devote songs to the subject.

I wanted to write an article about “How To Deal With The Haters,” because it seems like there is so much of it going on these days. Part of me didn’t want to give any attention to the haters, because none of them really have any success, and as I made a list and spoke to the folks in this industry who matter, I realized NONE of the main Haters were even a viable asset to this industry. So rather than give them anymore light (lest they keep it up to get attention), I will write about something really helpful to rappers (who actually matter in this industry). Let me wrap up my hater rant, however, by saying that if someone hates on you, punch them in the mother fucking mouth. Then maybe haters will think twice about saying some bullshit to get attention (since they obviously can’t get it by being good at what they do)…

Rapping is a job, if you want to actually make music for a living. I know that’s kind of obvious, but some artists really need to understand this concept. If you want to quit your day job, and make enough money as a rapper to survive (and maybe take care of a family), your music will need to have value to a consumer who is willing to buy your songs or CDs.

The way you get them to buy your music is to build awareness through promotions (on the streets, at shows, and on the internet). The goal is to build a word of mouth buzz about you, and either you can do this yourself or sign to a record label who will do it along with you. But the key here is that no one will do it FOR you. They may finance it (but more often they do not), but they won’t work harder than you do.

So, here is your job description as a rapper:

You must make music that you believe in, that others will purchase. You must build a movement around yourself. You need to give fans a reason to attract to you (your image, your subject matter, your “swag,” whatever). And it must be believable and relevant. You must believe in yourself and have some degree of talent. If your lyrical skills are lacking, you need to make up for that in other ways.

You need to find the best beats and music to rap over. If you suck at picking beats, get someone on your team that excels at that. Tupac used to openly admit that he wasn’t the best at picking beats, but towards the end of his career he had folks on deck to help him choose some real bangers! You need to talk about subjects that your fans (your niche market) will find interesting and topical. If your fans are intelligent college students, talking only about street shit will limit your market and sales severely. And vice versa. Fans of the real gutter street shit don’t want to hear raps about the Pythagorean Theorem.

You have to find a way to support yourself until the royalty checks and show money start to come in (if you don’t sell 350,000 or more CDs and you are signed to a Major label, forget about the royalty checks—they ain’t coming). If you are signed to an indie label, there is NOT enough money to support you and promote you, so get a job and opt for the budget to be spent on promotions. If you are entrepreneurial at all (and be real with yourself when you decide this one), find an investor rather than signing to a label. Control and ownership is a wonderful thing when it impacts YOUR career.

Work really hard. We all hear that word “grind” as frequently as we hear “haters” these days. Grind means to work harder than anyone else, and then when you feel you can’t possibly do one more thing, do one more thing. Work the streets: hang posters, blitz flyers in places where no one else is, work industry events networking, befriend DJs and radio personalities in markets working outwards from your hometown, go to every event and be visible, meet and talk to everyone, and get up the next day and do it all over again. Work the internet by appearing in chat rooms and on the social networking sites (there are MANY of them now, and they all matter when you are building a career).

As a rapper, it is your job to make the music and make your career happen, whether you can afford to or not. No one will ever work as hard for your career as you will. But as you start getting that all important buzz, others will flock to you. And then it becomes your job to choose the right people to be part of your team. You are only as strong as the weakest person on your team. The bottom feeders come first (because they are the ones with the spare time to look for new talent to rape) so be very careful. Find legitimate, well connected, respected, experienced people to add to your team. If not, your career will be over before it starts. And keep building your fan base, one potential consumer at a time.

And when the haters come, and they will, just know that for some reason it’s part of the territory in urban music. As long as people are insecure and weak minded (haters), they will always try to pull down the next person instead of building up themselves. Sometimes, it’s all they CAN do because they suck at what they are trying to accomplish. If you focus on them, or the anger or the hate, it will bring more of the same into your world due to the laws of attraction. If you ignore them and keep it moving, you will frustrate the haters by not giving them what they want (which is for you to be as unhappy as they are, and to call public attention to them so they can use your fame to try and get a voice). Just know that the more successful you get, the less you will have to deal with the haters—fortunately, they can’t reach very high up the ladder...


By, Wendy Day from Rap Coalition
(You can now subscribe to RSS feed to this column at Thanks to James Doe for educating me on the technology and making it easy for me to implement!!)

“Success is getting what you want, and happiness is wanting what you get.” -Warren Buffett, Billionaire

Passion is the undeniable love for something that keeps you getting back up every time you get knocked down. Passion is the driving force that keeps you focused and on track when the odds seem insurmountable. Passion is what keeps you going day after day even though it’s hard, and regardless of whether the money comes or not. And if you don’t have passion for what you are doing, it’s hard to compete for any duration, because those who do have passion, will be able to work longer, harder, and smarter than you.

You can’t force passion, either you have it for something or you don’t. It’s better to find something that makes you passionate and to pursue it, because it’s impossible to pick something randomly and then find the passion for it. We’ve all heard the old adage: do what you love and the money will follow. It’s also hard to be passionate about money in itself, although I know many, many people who love money.

The Love of Hip Hop

There are two major underlying reasons people get into the music business: either for the love of music, or for the money and fame. If you are getting into this for the love of the music, your road may be longer to success, but will most likely be fruitful if you can stick it out. The love and passion for the art form will keep you going when everything seems against you. The creation of the music comes more easily when it’s based in love and passion. The artist makes music that comes from inside of him or her, not based on what will sell. Decisions are then based on passion and your career, rather than money and short term goals.

In art, since the beginning of time, all artists have dealt with the issue of art versus commerce. Do you make art that is inside of you, or do you make art that you know will sell? If an artist creates from what is inside of him or her, the creation is pure-- based in emotion, passion, and feeling. But then how does the artist eat and survive? If an artist creates what he knows will sell, the creation is commercial, made with the intention to sell and to reach a wide audience. It’s the difference between “art for art’s sake,” or art for sale. Is music an art form or a business? Very few people have succeeded at both…the Fugees spring to mind from the late 90s. They made music that was classic, artistic, and that sold millions and millions of CDs. Was “Laffy Taffy” art? It’s not about one choice being right or wrong, although some people are very passionate about Hip Hop remaining an art form instead of a business. They are about 20 years too late.

I have a close friend in Detroit who owns a record label. He makes music that he feels good about. When his artists make a song, he’s trying to create a classic. He’s not just trying to make a hit record that will be hot in the club for the next 6 months, or that will get into regular rotation at radio. I have another friend who is a rapper in Atlanta, and he is specifically trying to make a song that will blow up at radio the way Biggie’s “Hypnotize” did. He wants fame and money. His hope is to have a huge song and then capitalize on it by doing endorsement deals for products and commercials. He’s thinking that maybe he can even get into TV and film through the fame his song creates. To him, hip hop is a business, not an art form. He’s not trying to positively impact the culture, he’s trying to feed his kids. Neither of my friends are wrong, they just have different visions.

The Love of Money

Many folks jumped into the music business because they saw it as if it was the new drug game: a legal hustle that brought a high rate of return for a relatively small investment. The risk of failure was kind of high, but if and when you hit big, you hit REALLY big. The urban music industry, in its infancy, used to be run by people who were passionate about the music, cared about the sound of their records, and felt that if the artist wasn’t saying something important that it had no value. Then the industry changed in the mid-90s, and the drug trade encroached into the business bringing deep pockets and lyrics that they wanted to hear: more superficial, entertaining lines (about partying, sex, expensive toys, spending loot, etc). The problem with the industry becoming fueled by money is that the passion began to wane.

Why is passion so important?

Money is a good thing. The love of money is even OK. But being a slave to money is never good. If you can be controlled by money, you are a whore in the rawest sense. People who are controlled by money will do ridiculous things just to get some—things they may even swear that they’d never, ever do…until confronted with the opportunity. Would YOU sell your soul for money?

I used to work a corporate 9 to 5 job, and I was miserable. I made a lot of money but I was not happy. In March of 1992, I started Rap Coalition. It was a tremendous risk and I had to put up half a million dollars of my own money to get started, knowing that I could very easily lose it all. I didn’t care and went for it! I have been happy almost every day since, regardless of the kind of day I’m having, regardless of whether I get paid or not, and regardless of how many hours I work each day (and I work mostly 16 hour days, 7 days a week). But I love what I do, so it doesn’t matter. I remember those unhappier days in corporate America, and I am thankful I am doing something that makes me happy. And I am even more thankful that I can pay my bills from doing this--it took me 6 years to be able to make money in the music industry, and 10 years to get to a level of being able to support myself properly. I am thankful I get paid to do something I am passionate about, and ecstatic that I don’t have to compromise my principles in order to make money.

In the 1980s, when rap first became commercial, no one was thinking about the money. It was exciting because it was a new art form and there were very few rules. The main rule was “don’t sell out.” Others, who were willing to “sell out,” stepped in and made all of the money. Today, the main rule seems to be capitalize and maximize all opportunities while retaining as much control and ownership as possible. Is that so wrong? The flip side to that is to allow someone else to pimp the culture and get rich off of something they don’t give a fuck about (hence the 1980s and 90s in rap music).

And where does passion figure into all of this. Can someone truly be happy making music that is disposable, just so they can earn enough money to buy a summer home in the Hamptons? Can they hold their heads high when their little children are singing along to some mindless dribble that won’t matter to anyone a year from now? Or is the goal to put those kids through private school, by any means necessary, and selling music is really just a job afterall?

I don’t have the answer to this one. But I do know one thing: without being happy, there is no point. Money buys a lot of shit, but it can’t buy happiness. But for many it sure does buy a lot of distractions to keep you from realizing that. Without passion, we can’t go as hard as we need to in order to succeed. Passion is the driving force that leads to happiness. Without it, I may as well just be selling shoes or Carpet Fresh. I, for one, am thankful to have found my passion. It makes getting up in the morning VERY easy. And I remember all too well those days when it was not.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Misconceptions Of Rap AS A BUSINESS

By, Wendy Day (

What is it about the rap music industry that makes people standing on the sidelines assume they understand how it works? Does it look easy from the outside looking in? Are folks so blinded by watching BET and reading a couple of rap magazines that they actually think they understand the ins and outs enough to pursue this shit as a career?

I agree that it’s easier to get into this industry than it is to play professional ball, or be a rocket scientist for NASA (all that pesky schooling), or to be a brain surgeon (again, more years of schooling and actual experience operating on brains). But it’s not so easy that someone can wake up tomorrow fresh off a job at Burger King, and say “I want to be a rap star,” or my personal favorite: “I am going to manage my boy Bo-Bo’s rap career.”

If it was as easy as going to Kinko’s and pressing up some business cards, don’t you think EVERYONE would be doing that? Oh wait! They are!!

One of the saddest days of my life was the day I realized that Hip Hop was no longer a culture, no longer a lifestyle choice, but a business. And a very big business it was. People from outside of the culture were co-opting it and making money from it. I knew that this also meant that the day it no longer was profitable, they’d move on like the fair weather friends they were (we’re almost there, by the way). Lyor Cohen wasn’t tagging subway cars, and his pants weren’t sagging, but his decisions controlled the movement of rap music far more than anyone whose pants did sag. There was a trade off though. For the first time in my lifetime, I was able to see young people of color get good paying jobs in the music business. Some even had perceived power. I was able to see artists make money for themselves and feed their families and create their own companies based on their level of fame. And this was a good thing. This was the 90s.

Then 2000 hit and reality shows were everywhere. Billionaire heiresses became famous for doing nothing but sleeping around and getting high or drunk. The behavior of an Old Dirty Bastard type of character was no longer seen as bizarre or pushing the envelope. Hell, Flavor Flav had his own TV show doing that shit in his sleep!

But somehow the mindset was born in all of this that getting into the music industry is easy. No training, no experience, no relationships….just POOF! I’m a manager! Or POOF! I own a record label. Artists seemingly believe it comes down to “getting discovered” by someone at a record label, but in the 16 years that I have been doing this, I can’t think of one scenario where that was the case. Who is telling these kids from OH and TX and Cali that they can just mail in a demo to a major record label in NYC and they will get offered a deal? That has NEVER, EVER, EVER happened!! The labels don’t even listen to unsolicited material. They send it back unopened. There’s even a question in my mind if most of the A and Rs have the time to listen to the stuff they request…

I get hundreds of emails from wanna-be artists each week asking me to get them a record deal. They have no idea what they are asking me, and they have no idea why they are asking me, but somehow I am a perceived gatekeeper stopping or allowing them to live their dreams. A dream they made no effort to research or learn about. I also get a ton of emails from people complaining that their city has more talent than Atlanta, or Miami, or Houston, or Dallas, or whatever city is the flavor of the minute in the music industry. The PERCEPTION is that the labels get together and decide which city or town will be next, and then they all go there. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha Sorry to laugh, but that is so funny to me. These industry folks can’t even decide which artist on their own rosters to put out next and here are these kids in, say, Buffalo NY thinking they are getting passed over for their only shot at music success.

The reason certain cities develop their own industry is out of frustration. When enough talent in one place (artists, producers, DJs, etc)—Atlanta, for example, gets frustrated enough to say “Fuck the industry!” and start doing things on their own separate from the industry, and when they begin to make a little noise on their own, the industry comes running to see what’s going on. If the industry feels they can make money off of a new movement, they arrive in droves to co-opt that movement, signing anyone they can get their hands on at the price they are willing to spend. If they don’t think it will lead to massive national sales, they leave as quickly as they came (see the Hyphy Movement in the Bay Area for proof of this phenomenon).

Rap music is a business. It stopped being just an artform, very sadly, in the 90s. The view of the music industry "putting on forgotten cities" is very wrong. An artist, or a city, has to create its own movement to attract the industry. IF the established industry thinks it can pimp it and make some money, it’s a done deal.

Being a non-sports person, I am going to try to make a basketball analogy, so bear with me. I went to a Knick's game in NYC a few years ago. In watching the team play (not so well), I decided that I could do that better than anyone on that team could. I had always loved basketball, so I went home and practiced for years. Every waking moment, I practiced. But the Knicks never called me to come play with them. I live in Atlanta, where I think very few ball players are from (it doesn’t matter if there are a lot of ball players from here or not, no one I know is getting put on by the NBA). We have a ton of talented ball players here just in my neighborhood alone—yet, the Knicks never called me. I practiced every day and knew I was better than anyone on that whole team. I wrote letter after letter to the Knicks telling them to come to Atlanta and watch players play ball, especially me. I even offered to fly some team scouts in at my own expense. No one came. Looks like Atlanta is just a forgotten city in basketball because they didn’t come when I called.

Finally, out of annoyance, I went back to a Knicks game, and when the ball came out of bounds over near where I was sitting, I got out of my floor seats and threw the ball and scored a basket—all net! A very impressive shot. When folks came over to me, I explained that I was a great player and deserved to be on the Knicks. But they laughed at me and were angry that I interrupted the game.

What did I do wrong? Why didn't they sign me up on the spot? Was it because I didn't take the time to learn the BUSINESS of basketball? It was my favorite sport, but once it left the b-ball courts in my town, it became a business when the Knicks name was attached to it. I didn't follow protocol--learning the sport, playing through school, playing through college and standing out, and getting drafted to a team (one in a million shot). I just assumed it was about throwing the ball through the hoop because of my love of the sport. And I assumed if they saw me do it well, that was all that mattered.

Realizing this is a half-assed analogy, I hope you understand what I am trying to say. If you want to do this for a living, learn the rules and protocol. It's NOT just about grabbing a mic or about a scout from a label stumbling into any city outside of NYC to discover talent and putting your city on the map. That couldn't be farther from reality.... And how sad is it that we all understand how the business of basketball works, but we think we can mail a demo to someone at a record label and become the next major superstar!!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Business Basics

By, Wendy Day from Rap Coalition (

I never thought I’d ever have to devote a column to this topic, but apparently it needs addressing based upon how most folks seem to operate a business in this industry. Here are some basics:

1. Set up a phone for business calls, KEEP the phone in service, and return phone calls. Changing your phone number every few weeks may be the way you normally operate, but when people can’t reach you for business you lose money, opportunity, and momentum. No one could possibly imagine how many calls I get from retail stores, radio stations, and distributors asking me if I know how to find a certain label or artist because all the numbers they have are disconnected. My tolerance for this is very low. I’m not talking about artists and labels who expand from one office to another and transfer their calls to a new number, I’m talking about the hoards of folks who have even placed ads in magazines with numbers that have been disconnected before the magazine hits the streets. Spend the money for a number that stays on and available, even if you have to forward it to an answering service or check the voicemail everyday. Vonage is $25 a month people—there is NO excuse! They even email your damn messages to you and you can forward the calls to any phone number.

2. This is a small industry. Word spreads very quickly. Major labels know which small indie labels and artists are unprofessional and hard to work with, and rarely do the better major labels approach these unprofessional indies and artists for deals--it makes sense really, they just don’t need to. You’d be surprised what is said behind closed doors about indies and artists. In a perfect world, an indie would have many distribution opportunities from which to choose, but with some distributors not making offers because of an indie’s reputation the choices are severely reduced to mediocre distributors, especially with the amount of labels competing in today’s marketplace. I got a call last week from one of my favorite A&R Research guys (a major label’s frontline to find new artists to sign) who told me about a label that I’ve worked with on and off in the past few years. He explained how he left messages at the label, and never got a return call. He had pitched the president of the major label he works for, why he thought they should sign the indie label’s artist. Meanwhile, no one called him back. Go figure!

3. Pay your artists. It amazes me how someone who thinks they have a good business mind could be stupid enough to not pay the artists who have made them money, but somehow this happens enough that I have to mention it. If you are an indie label, pay your artists and producers. They signed contracts with your label, and in those contracts it stipulates when and how much. This ain’t rocket science. For every unit sold, your artist gets a cut. It isn’t much to begin with, and if you mismanage your money, or spend it elsewhere, you STILL owe them what you owe them. So set enough money aside EVERYTIME you receive payment from your distributor, retailer, or customer, etc. You owe them a percent of sales (usually around 12% AFTER they recoup what you spent making the record and on advances) and mechanical royalties (roughly seventy cents for every album sold). We’ve all heard the alleged rumors of No Limit and Cash Money not paying their artists and the artists leaving; don’t let this happen to you. Contracts keep your artists there; paying them keeps them happy and keeps their lawyers from breaking their contracts. If you’re selling units, it’s because of the music and the artist, NOT because of your logo. A logo brand may help, but a record without a logo still sells, a logo without a record does not. Pay your artists. Get the point?

4. If you don’t know what you are doing, seek help and information from those who do. The music industry can be a very expensive place for trial and error. I’ve seen labels waste $50,000 to $200,000 learning this business. It’s not worth the aggravation. Find someone who has done it before, preferably successfully, and ask questions. Or hire an experienced consultant. Or work with another label to learn the way it is done, or hire someone COMPETANT who has. This game is full of people skilled in the art of hype, however, so do extensive research before hiring anyone!!! I also believe the majority of folks in this business to be inept, so make certain you hire someone competent. Ask for references and check them--every single one. In the past, every label that has ever hired me (and I am expensive) lost a grip of money to some idiot who worked the project before me, unsuccessfully. It’s usually the same few people taking folks’ money, and then I am stuck cleaning up a mess. I no longer clean up messes (I don’t have to-- there are too many new people without drama to work with), and I don’t know anyone else who does either, so get it together on the first try.

This is a business, and although it would be nice to have your boys around you since you trust them, that’s not smart business. Hire the best person for the job. You will make more money and then you can hire your boy to do whatever he’s good at, which will hopefully make you even more money. The earliest lesson I learned was to not try to fit a square peg in a round hole: this means don’t put someone into a position they are not right for, just because they are available.

5. Do what you say you are going to do. Do I really need to explain this one? If you tell someone you are going to do something, do it. If for some reason you can’t, call them immediately and explain the situation. Don’t just leave everyone hanging and wondering. This is a business. A BUSINESS! Act like it.

6. Write shit down. Keep track of important information! I was talking to the guy at Ozone who was booking all of the artists’ flights for their annual Ozone Awards. Of all of the managers and teams that he dealt with, only a handful didn’t lose their flight info or itineraries. Maybe this is why artists miss flights and don’t show up? They have teams that are clueless behind them. You are only as strong as your weakest team member. You are making 20% of your artists’ income. Do the work! It’s not free money. And artists: choose the right people to represent you. Maybe your career is short-lived because you chose idiots to propel you forward. And they couldn’t.

Thanks for reading this far, I know it was the basics but I see these mistakes being made everyday in this business. People come and go quickly in this business, and although to outsiders this looks like easy money and an easy game, that is so far from the truth. Labels that were at the top five short years ago, don’t even exist anymore--a true case of killing the golden goose.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


By, Wendy Day from Rap Coalition (

The first record I was ever involved with putting out was Do Or Die’s “Po’ Pimp” in 1995. “Do you wanna ride…In the backseat of my Cadillac…” That was 13 years ago. It’s funny because the industry has changed so much, but the work ethic and grind has remained the same—for the smart artists anyway.
Whether your choice of distribution methods is on-line downloads or traditional sales of CDs, one thing has remained the same: The Importance of Marketing. [This month’s column is dedicated to Grand Prix out of Jacksonville, FL. He’s an artist whose grind caught my eye months ago, but his limited budget has forced him into the reality of proceeding slowly and cautiously. He’s very unique, in that he thinks everything I write is talking directly to him—not in a stalker sort of way, but in a mentor way. And he sends me emails telling me where he agrees and disagrees with me (he finds me negative and mean… LOL) and requests certain topics—Marketing being one on them! This one’s for you, baby!]

But that’s the point….agreeing and disagreeing, picking and choosing what will and won’t work for you. Just because something works for me, doesn’t mean it will work for you! I can only show you what I have done, and then you can tailor it to your region, your budget, and your abilities. And let’s be real here…not all rappers are entrepreneurs!! For every Jay Z, there is a Damon Dash. Or there should be! If you are not entrepreneurially gifted, find someone who is to partner with. Choose carefully and wisely as your career will be in their hands. For every Jay Z/Dame Dash success story, there are millions of failures that you never hear about.

If you live in a city where everybody, even the local pet store, has a wrapped vehicle, wrapping a van would not make sense for you because it won’t stand out (unless you plan to take it on the road). If you live in a major city where everyone who has come before you has posted posters on every wall and abandoned building, so that now all that happens is you get an expensive ticket for their removal, then posters are a bad investment for your project. For the projects that I consult, wrapped vehicles and posters make tremendous sense, so they are part of my promotional tool box.

Part of me wishes I had a column somewhere of “Million Dollar Mistakes,” because I have learned more from other people’s failures than I have from their successes. And how thankful am I that folks share their successes and failures with me—especially the failures because it’s so hard to admit where we’ve fucked up. And then of course, I spread the stories to anyone who will listen so they can learn from them too. Hence, this column at AllHipHop…

Well, I’m trying to be less negative and less mean (no, I’m not really), so I’ll focus on the positives today!

Marketing is the overall image and awareness that is put forth by your brand as you advertise, promote, do interviews and basically spread the word about your music (which is your product). One of the keys is to know exactly who will buy your music, and tailor your marketing campaign to them.

Taking it outside of music for a minute, can we all agree that the person who shops at K-Mart is different from the person who shops at Neiman Marcus? The person who drives a Hyundai, may have different interests from the person driving a Bentley? So back to music now—the person who is listening to or buying Souljah Boy’s music is different from the person who supports MJG and 8Ball. Souljah Boy is a younger audience, more pop music and radio and internet driven, while MJG and 8Ball still make music to ride and smoke to—meaning the fan is older and probably more likely to be male. They are also more likely to buy a CD at the local Swap Meet or the Car Wash, while a Souljah Boy fan may be more likely to download his music to an iPod or MP3 player, or buy the CD at the Best Buy next to the Mall for $9.99.

So, if I was marketing Souljah Boy, I might try to book him on Nickalodeon shows and set up a high school or Mall tour. With MJG and 8Ball, I’d probably do more of a college tour, and club dates reaching a 21 and older crowd. So, it’s important to know who is buying your music. My resource for this is a guy in Atlanta called Scorpio. He is a DJ, DJ Manager, has run one of the DJ crews, street promotes, and works marketing for Crunk Juice. He has a wonderful ability to figure out the demographic for a group or a song, and then this lets me know the direction my marketing needs to take. If you are able to determine who your fan base is yourself, even better. But you better be right. If you are making music that appeals to white skateboard kids and you market to young inner city teens, you are fucked in the gate!

When I was out on the road with BloodRaw in February, I kept dragging him to college campuses because he makes anthem type party raps, and he kept telling me, “Let’s go to the ‘Hood.“ It’s not that one is right and one is wrong, but that he knows who buys and listens to his music. In this case, we blitzed the ‘hoods first and then grew out to the college and party crowds. He had a perfect understanding of who his market is.

Once you know who will buy your music, it becomes pretty clear what your image needs to be to reach your market. In Young Jeezy’s case, he’s that dope boy turned rapper who’s about making money, partying in the clubs, buying material items, and driving expensive cars. In Jay Z’s case, he’s that Billionaire Mogul running his own empire and living the life that this brings. Kanye is the intelligent around-the-way guy who dropped out of college to pursue a dream. Lil Kim and Foxy Brown are the ‘hood chicks that every guy knows and loves.

In terms of imaging, Jeezy could rock a suit, but you’d assume he was going to court. He’s much more at home in some Efizu or Red Monkey jeans and a white or black T shirt with some Gucci or Prada loafers. Jay Z is more likely to be recognized in a button down shirt with cuff links or an expensive Italian suit. Image is a big part of marketing. What is your image? What sentence would a fan use to describe you? Is that description unique or does it fit ten other rappers?
Now, as you promote your image to the masses to gain awareness, it’s important that your message is clear, concise, and easy to understand. A flyer with 20 things crowded on it, and no empty space for the eye to rest, is a waste. Having things mis-spelled or grammatically incorrect is terrible too. Photos that are too low resolution that they look grainy and out of focus make you look cheap and clueless. The look of your promotional materials says a lot about who you are as a person. It would be easier for Plies to get away with something grimy and street than Jay Z or Puffy. Image is everything, and yours should be consistent.

If you have no understanding of design or aesthetics, find someone who does. If you suck at writing copy, find someone who has that talent to write the words for your flyers, MySpace page, website, and CD booklets. Find people who are good at what they do and hire them to help you. Know your role and play it. Don’t try to do everything yourself. Teamwork is key here.

When you choose your own lane, try not to bite what has come before you. There is already a Jay Z, already a Lil Wayne, already a Plies. Try not to copy their style or image or sound. Usually the one who does it first, does it best, so be unique.
I suggest to labels all of the time that they use one image of the artist to have consistency in marketing. First of all, you don’t have the budget of a major label who can afford to market Busta Rhymes in a suit as well as street clothes. Pick one image and use that for your CD cover, vehicle wrap, website, flyers, posters, etc. It is very rare that a fan recalls a new artist’s name. There are just too many new artists. So very often they will go into the store asking for the kid who is rapping next to a Lamborghini on his posters, or that kid who is Pimp C’s protégé, etc. Make it easy for people to figure out who you are. Use one strong image that stands out to market yourself, and sets you apart from everyone else.

When I first started working with TMI Boyz, our t-shirts were so ugly that I would never wear them. We gave out like 10,000 of those ugly shirts. Finally, we had the logo and shirts redesigned. We had everybody asking for our shirts and wearing them (including me). We even had folks offering to buy them from us (truth is t-shirts are more expensive to print, so we should sell the t-shirts and give out the CDs for free. Ha ha ha ha).

Your marketing mix should consist of whatever you can afford from the following:
Magazine ads
Cable TV
Radio Ads

Don’t forget to incorporate the internet as part of your campaign. While we still aren’t 100% digital yet in this era, it is a crucial part of your marketing mix. To those of you with no budget who think free internet promotions is enough to build an artist, you are wrong. It is exactly what it is: free promotions, but just one part of your whole marketing pie.

I can’t stress enough the importance of your imaging and marketing. Make sure your messages are clear, well designed, spelled correctly and grammatically correct. And most of all, make sure you are reaching the people who will buy your music, with your imaging, your design, and your marketing mix.

Thursday, June 5, 2008


By, Wendy Day from Rap Coalition (

A very important aspect of selling your own record is getting it into the stores and onto the websites that do the bulk of the download sales. There's no shortcut here; hard work is the only way to do this unless you have an incredible buzz, a recent sales track record, or a fool proof guarantee of record sales to the retailer. The important aspect in this equation is leverage.

There are three things a distribution company looks at when deciding whether or not to distribute an independent record label: The quality of the product (music), the flow of the product into the pipeline (does the label have enough product to release something every few months), and the economics (does the label have enough financing to be a real record label and cause "push" and "pull" through the retail stores). They also want to know that there is someone on the team that knows what they are doing (experience is crucial).

"Push" is getting the retail stores and websites excited about carrying the record so they'll order it for their stores, and "pull" is getting the consumers into the store or onto the website to buy the record. Retailers are in business to sell records, be informed about artists and their releases, create store loyalty, provide a local service (sort of a music industry center in their local area), and make a nice profit. I find that if you treat them as such, and with respect, they are happy. Websites are in business to attract consumers and sell advertising because that traffic is significant.

The stores don't owe you anything as a new label-- bear in mind they've seen many, many labels come and go. It's your job to convince them you are serious as a label: understand their strengths and difficulties (competition in local markets, credit concerns, the internet, etc), and support them financially through price and positioning and through co-op advertising. This is not always financially easy to do as a small label--it's tough to get a better position in the store than Sony or UNI, unless there is some incentive for a local store to hook you up--liking you is good motivation, bringing the artist through on promotional tour to sign autographs is another good motivator.

In a perfect world, retailers want to carry product that will fly off the shelves at breakneck speed regardless of the price they are charging. Read that again, it's important-- retailers want to carry product that will fly off the shelves at breakneck speed regardless of the price they are charging! Just having a good album does not insure this. Proper set up, a strong buzz on the streets, strong awareness of the project, radio play, a healthy budget spent properly and efficiently, added to good music does insure this.

Bear in mind that when a record sells at a discounted price, the retailer is not absorbing this loss, the label is. The label reduces the wholesale price by a percentage often by offering more units for a fixed price to make up the percentage difference-- for example a 10% discount might be offset by offering one record free for every ten ordered instead of lowering the invoice by 10%. By the way, this free "11th" album is considered promotional ("free goods") and the label is NOT responsible for paying artist royalties on that unit (which is a very good rationale for artists to limit their "free goods" in their recording contracts). Sorry labels, gotta look out for the artists!

Because most new labels don't have a track record or the proper financing to have flow of product yet, getting distribution even locally through a legitimate distributor is difficult. The goal is to have enough leverage to negotiate from a position of strength instead of when you need something. And waiting until you no longer need distribution is hard as hell. That means you have to go to each retail store, convince them to carry your record (often on consignment, if they even offer that), and then convince them to pay you for it. Once the record is selling sufficiently, it's no longer a struggle, but it's still time consuming to go to each store to pick up your money and deliver more records. The internet is a bit easier to convince because there’s no storage issues as there are with traditional retail stores. For the clients I consult, we use TuneCore ( It’s one place where you can upload your CD (music and artwork) and then they send it out to the major internet retail sites like CD Baby, iTunes, etc. Of course, it’s up to you to market and promote your music once it’s uploaded to the various sites.

Once the record starts selling, or has an incredible regional buzz, the distributors will become interested and you just need to ask what they can do for you that you can't do yourself. Is what you'll gain worth giving up 20 or 25% of the money? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. A regional distributor (like Select O Hits) can expand your coverage area (provided you can afford to expand your area with promotions). But you must weigh the cost of that service.

When a distributor looks at your company, preferably through a business plan so they can see where you've been and where you're going, they are looking to see how feasible and realistic it is for you to last over the long haul. Do you have proper staff in key positions: retail sales, radio promotion, video promotion, marketing, publicity, street promotions, finance (very key position), etc. These positions can be outsourced as necessary, but the distributor needs to know the company has the potential to last in an industry where most have zero staying power.

Do the artists or owners of the label have experience and connections in the industry? Have they ever sold a record before in their lives? How have they done it? What is the likelihood they'll be able to do it again? Do they understand how the industry works? Will they still be in business down the road or will they fold if things don't go as planned? Are they properly financed or are they in over their heads? Properly financed means enough money to press, create and fill demand, and repeat this process for a few records in a row without depending on immediate income to sustain the company. These are all of the things a legitimate distributor is considering before doing business with you.

It takes anywhere from $200,000 to $1 Million per artist to properly promote a rap record (even regionally) and takes conceivably 90 to 120 days to get paid after the consumer buys the record, less reserves (the amount of money the distributor keeps to offset returns from the retail stores-- usually 25% is kept and then liquidated in 6 to 9 months, depending on who negotiates the deal and your level of power in the negotiation). Can this label sustain that kind of commitment or will they run out of money half way through the first project? What is their reputation in their local home base? Have they sold records before? Do they understand how the music business operates? How hard do they work? Will they continue to work hard or will having a distributor make them lazy? How serious are they about putting out records? What's their vision--where do they plan to be next year? In 5 years? In 10? These are the questions a distributor is asking themselves about you and your project.

If a distributor likes all the answers they ask about the record label (both to themselves and others), they then choose to distribute the records for a period of time (most likely 3 years) and set the percentage they are willing to split (80-20 is great, with 20% going to the distributor and 80% to the label), the length of time in which they are willing to liquidate reserves, and the amount of advance they are willing to part with, if they advance monies at all--most legitimate ones do not.

The more risk they take and the more they give you upfront, the less you will receive on the back end split. The skill in securing a banging distribution deal is how badly they want you and how much power you have when approaching them.
So what’s a label to do? First of all, let’s clear this up out the gate: not every person putting out a record is a record label. A real record label has a small staff, it has more than one release in the pipeline, and it is properly funded. Without the proper financing, someone releasing a record is just that--someone releasing a record. Without being a real record label, there is no “juice,” no clout, and no leverage to insure payment. Please understand the difference between being an independent record label and being an entrepreneur trying to control one’s own destiny (and marketing).

Someone who comes to a distributor with zero experience selling records, one album with no set plan to have others follow, and asks for an advance to market that record, is deluding himself (or herself) into thinking he (or she) will get paid. Without pipeline, it will be difficult to get paid. “Pipeline” is the release of subsequent albums that a distributor would be able to recoup any monies from, if there were returns on a prior release. Therefore it is another form of leverage to insure payment from a distributor.

Distributors have lost so much money on poorly planned record releases over the years that they tend to shy away from new projects now. It is harder than ever to get a real distribution deal from a legitimate distributor, and harder than ever to get paid. It used to piss me off when I saw the bullshit some distributors chose to release, but then I realized that the average distributor knows NOTHING about rap music or what’s hot on the streets, other than “is it selling or not,” so when someone arrives on their doorstep with the “hottest CD in the world,” they tend to take a chance on it. Guess what happens when they lose $50,000 on “the hottest CD” in the world, a few times in a row! It gets harder for everyone, and the distributor stops taking such a high risk on new records. Unfortunately, that’s where we are right now. The market is overcrowded with mediocre music that doesn’t stand out, and doesn’t sell well.

For someone who really wants to release a record, and I am STILL a huge proponent of going the independent route-- it’s not hard to just do it right! This is not rocket science. It’s easier than selling most stuff on the street--and legal. But just understand how it works, what a distributor is supposed to do and not supposed to do, and be able to look at things from the perspective of others: the distributor, the retail store, the promoter, and the radio station. Easy, right?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Radio Spins

By, Wendy Day from Rap Coalition (

I have been consulting independent urban record labels and artists for many years now, and the most misunderstood aspect of this industry is radio. So few understand how radio really works, and an even smaller amount of indie labels and artists understand how to get their records played at radio. Because of the lack of information and knowledge, radio promotion remains an area where one can lose a large amount of money very quickly. And most do.

I have a friend in Detroit who paid $25,000 to a radio promoter on the recommendation of popular radio host at a local station there. My friend did not receive one spin anywhere in the country. He was eventually told the single did not research well and that it was not a radio single. It was too late in the project to hire anyone else. Could he have been told that prior to spending the $25,000? Provided it was true, yes. My guess is that he was taken for a ride and that the radio promoter (whose name I never even heard before), and the guy who had referred the scam “promoter,” made a quick come up on $25,000 for no work. There are two other folks I know who hired a radio promoter in Atlanta who is known for jerking people, and one lost $25,000 and the other lost $15,000. That promoter now works for a major label, so he’s fine financially, but these two labels are out a large portion of their budget for no spins whatsoever. Now they are looking to break bones.

Just last month, I got a call from a guy in the South who has invested in a project, but is totally clueless about the music industry. He name dropped some people in the industry who are excellent at what they do at radio, but not for people like him. When I tried to explain how it all worked, my answer did not fit his vision of how he wanted it to work and he disappeared quickly off the phone. I imagine he will soon be parted from even more of his money by folks who pick up on what he wants to hear, and tell it to him. What is it about this industry that makes folks act like idiots? As I pull up the BDS to see what spins his artist is getting, I see he still hasn’t figured it out. Sadly, the artist has placed his career in this guy’s hands. Who really loses? The artist.

There are quite a few legitimate radio promotion people and companies out there in urban music. I do not understand how the other bullshit names keep coming up over and over again, attached to horrific stories of fools and their money soon parted. Don’t people check references? Are they so new to the industry that they lack any resources to call and ask for opinions? Perhaps there are just that many con-artists out there to make a quick buck, I don’t know.

Radio is a format that reaches hundreds of thousands of people, all day and night. Most markets have at least one urban radio station, and some key markets even have two or three competing stations for listeners and ad dollars. Please understand that radio exists to sell commercials. It doesn't exist to contribute positively to the culture, it doesn't exist to inform the community, and it doesn't exist to break new and innovative music. In fact, it’s anything but. A grip of research has been done by all of these huge wealthy radio conglomerates, and the research shows that when a listener hears a song where they can’t happily sing along, they change the station to hear a song where they CAN sing along. When the listeners change the channel, they miss commercials, and the station's ad price drops because the amount of listeners drops. Simple economics.

Think about it logically for a minute. Lil Wayne’s Lollipop. No one has enough money to have paid for this song to play as much as it is currently playing. The song is a hit record. Radio plays it because kids request it, it researches well, and ad sales will go up. Downloads and ring tones are occurring by the millions.

So how do you get your song played on the radio?

This isn't an easy answer, because the truth is just that many will never get radio play. If an artist does not make music that fits the format of the radio station or if the song is not of competitive commercial quality, their music won't get played on most radio stations. Without a real budget, they won't get radio play. Without a "hit record" today, they won't get radio play. There are just too many other folks with bigger budgets, deeper pockets, and better connections to fill the few slots available at radio today. It's more competitive than ever. The main thing is stop looking at radio for what you WANT it to be, and see it for what it really is--learn the game before stepping on the playing field!

Back in the day, rap music wasn't accepted on commercial radio formats, so no one worried about getting on the radio. Word of mouth was key for spreading rap music, and for a few hours a week, college radio played some. It was easier to get onto college radio back then, than commercial radio today. Somehow, artists felt they were missing something if they could not get added to radio. This increased need for radio play has gotten out of hand today. Now a radio station might have only 4 or 5 available slots to fill with new songs, but there are 50 new records vying for those few spots--with budgets, with well-connected radio promoters pushing them, and with established artists and well-known producers. How will you compete?

The best way to attract radio attention, is NOT to head up to the station to drop off a CD of your newest song. You need to blow it up in the clubs and at the street level first. Back the record up with other promotion and marketing efforts. Let the radio DJs come looking for you because your song gets so hot on the streets and in the clubs. If you have a truly hot record, it will end up at radio. That is the definition of a hit record. David Banner's Like a Pimp, Webbie's Girl Gimme That, Webbie's Bad Chick, Magic's I Drank, I Smoke, Shawty Lo’s Hello, Rocko’s Ima Do Me, BloodRaw’s Louie, Gorilla Zoe’s Hood Figga, Shop Boyz’ Party Like A Rockstar, Young Jeezy and Usher’s Love In The Club, etc, all started out as songs that hit the clubs and streets hard (mostly because there were no budgets available for radio play initially). But the songs started to grow legs on their own, and radio embraced them. You can't buy that kind of authenticity (and many have tried). But there is no way around the fact that if the radio powers-that-be do not think your song fits their format, sound, or necessary quality, you will NOT be getting any radio play. Period.

So, when you hear the more commercial artists getting spins, and you want the same push for your music, you may have to go back and rethink your sound, your production, and/or your style so you fit the format. Also, it’s important to have a good reason why you are going after radio play. Many stations are interested in knowing that you have a complete plan for your project rather than just wanting to hear your song on the radio. Learn the correct language and use it to communicate your intentions. Are you planning on dropping a CD with legitimate independent distribution? If so, what is your release date? When are you going for adds at radio? Are you backing up your promotional efforts with a complete campaign? Or are you trying to secure radio spins to capture the attention of bigger record labels? [In my opinion, this is a half-assed way to try to get a deal. If it was this easy, anyone with money could secure a deal for a $50,000 radio budget. In my sixteen years of experience, I have yet to see someone become successful from getting a deal solely from radio spins--in fact, I have seen many, many, many fail. Because of this, I do not normally shop deals based on radio play. If you look at the SoundScan chart for any given year, not one of the top thirty or forty rap artists got their deal from getting radio play, yet most did get good deals from selling CDs regionally.]

Is it possible for a regional artist or indie label to gain acceptance at radio? Yes. But it all depends on the song, the timing, and the reasons behind it. And most importantly, it depends on your connections and whether or not you have done the proper research on radio. Every city or town with an urban radio station has people who understand how it works. Find the LEGITIMATE people who can inform you. Do research on the internet. Ask people who have done this SUCCESSFULLY before you. It is my hope that this article serves as a good starting point.

Building A Buzz

By Wendy Day (

In the early 1980s, when rap started, there were few rappers and producers, so they had no difficulty standing out. Today, it seems everyone wants to be a rapper or a producer.

As more people want to get into the rap music business, it gets cheaper and easier to do so. The price of production equipment, recording equipment, and microphones has dropped substantially, making rapping and producing open to more people. And it has become easier than ever to get music to the masses by uploading finished songs to the internet to share them with the world on free MySpace pages, or inexpensive websites. Marketing has become cheaper and easier as one can sit at home and use the internet to market, promote, and drive traffic to one’s website or MySpace page. Because of this, it seems that everyone wants to be a rapper.

The days of needing a record label are over. So why do so many people still want to be signed to a record label?

Regardless, there are less labels, less money in the industry, less people buying CDs, and less positions for artists to get signed to record labels. So if you really want to be an artist, and have your heart set on being part of the traditional music business, you will need to STAND OUT!

You stand apart from all of the others by building a buzz.

As I travel around the country, I meet tens of thousands of people who say they want a career as a rapper (and even more who say they want to be a producer) yet very few stand out. Handing a demo CD to anyone is a waste of time, energy, and has never been very effective at catching someone’s attention. What I do see, are the artists who stand out because they are putting in the work and building a buzz.

Grinding. An artist’s grind is far more important than their talent. Talent is easy to find—people who will work hard are less easy to find. You may think you are the most talented rapper around, but the truth is that talented rappers and producers are a dime a dozen. There are more than 300 million people in the United States.

Not only are you competing with other artists from your area, but you are competing with artists from all over the country. The odds of winning a lottery are probably greater. So how will you stand out?

The best way to do so is to choose an area that’s workable. I suggest taking a map and drawing a circle around your city that extends about a 5 hour driving time away from where you are based. That will become your territory—your marketing area. Your first step is to own the city or town that you are from, and then expand out slowly in that territory (the 5 hour circle around your home).

After you’ve made your songs, you will choose the best one to focus on as a single. It’s best to ask for feedback from strangers (malls, gas stations, and high schools are good places to get feedback) as to which song is your best one. Strangers will be far more honest than people who know you. To build a buzz in your own area, you will work that single locally. That means you will attend all of the open mics, perform as much as you can (if a major artist comes to town, you should be the opening act and you accomplish this by building relationships with the key clubs and promoters in your area), hang posters, distribute flyers—basically get your image and song in front of as many people as possible. Make sure all of the local DJs know who you are (club DJs, mixtape DJs, and even eventually the radio DJs). All of the employees at the local record stores and clubs should also know who you are.

It’s important to promote your song in as many places as potential consumers who’d buy your music will be. So, marketing yourself to retirement homes and nursery schools would not make sense, but college campuses and ‘hood malls make perfect sense. Anyplace where large amounts of your potential fans gather is ideal. As your song and name catch on in your own area, you can begin to expand your buzz within that 5 hour circle. You can also begin to attend the regional conventions and record pools. You should already have some sort of buzz before traveling, unless you are attending to learn more about the business (there are many free websites these days where you can go to learn how the music industry works, however).

On the record label side (I’m talking about the real record labels—the ones that have a track record of success in putting out rap records, not Lil Rey Rey from down the block who printed up business cards saying he’s a record label), the people who sign artists to their rosters are called “A and Rs.” Their job is to help the artists who are already signed to the label make their records, and to find new talent. Since there are tens of thousands of rappers and producers, it’s hard to catch their attention if you do not stand out. Some of the major labels have A and R Research staffs, whose sole job it is to find the artists making noise in their own areas getting radio spins and selling CDs on their own.

I have gone to 12 music industry conventions/gatherings/record pools since the start of this year. I have received over 1,000 demo CDs thus far, and I can’t even sign anyone to a record deal. So someone that CAN sign an artist, how many CDs and MP3s do you imagine they get in a week? The ONLY way you are going to stand out is if you put in the work and effort to build a buzz for yourself. Instead of going to them, you want them to come to you.

The chance of you sending a CD to a record label and getting their interest is so slim that the odds of you getting struck by lightening or winning a lottery are greater. Even with someone very connected in the music business (like me) can’t help you if you don’t stand out among all of the other rappers and producers out there. Great music is no longer enough. You have to have a strong buzz, and you have to be willing to work harder than everyone else—not just in your own area, but in your own region. Without a buzz, you may as well just go get a job and make music to be happy as a hobby. By the way, there is nothing wrong with doing it for the love!!

Monday, March 10, 2008


By Wendy Day from Rap Coalition (

For most of the 16 years of Rap Coalition's existence, we have assisted artists and indie labels with putting out their own records and negotiating major distribution deals for those who’ve done so successfully. In that time we've seen many artists come, and we've seen even more artists go. We've watched artists sell 60,000 units in a few months (at $6 a CD--do the math), and we've seen artists piss away $75,000 in a month to no avail.

One of our goals is to share insights, successes, and failures for those who are inclined to put out their own record. The entrepreneurs; the hustlers; those not afraid to grind. This article is for you...stay strong, stay focused, and keep up the grind. Success is yours, go get it.

Although it started as an alternative for artists who couldn't get a deal, there are two main reasons why someone puts out their own record: 1) to own their own destiny and control their art form by owning their own label, or 2) to get picked up by a larger label or distributor by proving that your music is marketable. You either want to be a Def Jam or distributed by a Def Jam.

Regardless of the reasons, controlling your own project and proving to the world that your music is marketable, while making money, is very attractive. There are many successful examples of self-released artists and labels who have come before: Too Short, No Limit, Cash Money Records, Esham, Slip-N-Slide, E-40, Luke Records, 3-6 Mafia, Big Oomp, Swisha House, Lil Boosie, Webbie, Young Jeezy, and many, many others.

There is a lot of money and prestige in owning your own shit in this industry, provided you have the financing and staff to do it correctly. It isn't rocket science, so provided you have the proper tools and determination, you can make it happen for yourself. That's our focus: doing it correctly-- meaning profitably.

The basis of any successful project is the music. The music must be banging and must have appeal outside your inner circle. That means you don't just play it for your boys, you play it for people you don't know who are most likely to be honest with you about whether or not it's on point. When putting out Do Or Die's first single in Chicago, “Po' Pimp,” we gathered together all the local mix show DJs, club DJs, and some of the local retailers and played a few songs for them. They unanimously picked Po' Pimp as their favorite song, so Do Or Die had reconfirmed exactly which single to press up (and the DJs felt like they played a part in choosing the single). Why spend tens of thousands of dollars on pressing and promotions if you aren't certain you'll have the support of the local DJs and stores?

Once you decide on the first single and press up your record, you market it within a small geographic area that you can affordably control. Unless you are backed by millions of dollars and a flawless major distributor, you don't want to start nationally because you can't be everywhere in the country at once. The larger labels have staffs and budgets to accommodate a national release, but since you don't, start with just your city or town and no more than a few nearby. I usually draw a circle around the city where the artist is based. I make the circle about a three to five hour driving radius, and that becomes the target area.

Make certain you've done the research in all of the areas you choose where the record will sell. Choose areas where the artists can travel cheaply and easily, since they may need to travel often into those areas to support the record. For example, it would not be a wise decision to choose New York, Houston, and the Bay Area for simultaneous release because the airfare alone would kill you financially every time your artist needed to travel to support the record at radio or retail or with a show.

Once the record hits, however, it will spread naturally and you can't control this. When Twista released his first single, Emotions, even though we tried to contain it to Chicago, Milwaukee, and St Louis (all within a few hours driving distance from Chicago where he lived) the record spread naturally to Louisiana, Atlanta, and Cleveland. By the time that happened, we had enough income from record sales to send Twista into those markets.

Cash Money Records focused on Louisiana and Texas for all of their releases until they decided they wanted major distribution and then we expanded slowly throughout the South and up into the Mid-West. At this point they had enough money from their record sales to be taken very seriously by a regional distributor. The success they experienced with this expansion gave me enough ammunition to get them a banging distribution deal with a major, allowing them complete ownership of their masters and their company.

Master P focused on Oakland and the surrounding areas prior to signing to his distribution deal, even though he was getting sales in his hometown of New Orleans. He was not distracted by that and kept his focus on his target area (everything beyond the Bay Area and Northern California was gravy).

Timing is a key element for the project. Once you choose a release date, everything works backwards from that date. All aspects of the project's set-up is worked simultaneously so that everything happens at once on that all important release date. In other words, if a local newspaper writes about your artist or publishes a review of the record, it's important that it comes out at the same time the record is released. It does no good to have an article published four months before the record drops, or four months after. No one will remember it. The street team needs to blitz the streets before the project drops to build anticipation for its release but in a timely fashion. How many times have you gone to a store to buy a record you've been hearing about for months only to find out it's not out yet?

Make certain when choosing your release date that it's a realistic time frame to accomplish the art work, the printing, the pressing, the street blitz, and local press. Don't worry about national press, you'll need that later. Why would you want someone in Oakland to read about a record that can only be bought in Houston or Pittsburgh? As you grow, the national press will come. It won't help you to have a write-up in the Source or XXL in October when your project is local, because when you go back to them in May with a national story to tell, they've already written about your artist and won't do it again. So go for what you need, when it does you the most good.

Don't focus on getting a distributor right away. You'll get a better deal once you can prove your record is selling. You can put your product in stores on consignment, meaning you give it to them and when it sells they pay you. Once your product has a demand and they start to sell units regularly, it will be easier to get paid. If your record becomes a hit and sells quickly, it will be very easy to get paid in advance, and you'll have the distributors coming to you to do a deal. Remember this is a business. As long as someone thinks they can make money from you, they will. If they know they can, the terms will be more favorable for you. The less risk involved for a store or distributor, the better the deal is for you.

Once the distributors start making offers, the best way to find out if a distributor is right for you is to look at the type of music they distribute to see if it's similar. Then ask the other labels they distribute for their experiences regarding the distributor and if they get paid on time. Local retail stores who buy from that distributor can give you great insight as well. If they don’t sell a lot of successful rap CDs, and your record is a rap record, avoid them. They won’t have enough leverage with the retailers to make it worthwhile for your release.

It is important to create a plan and stick to it. Focus and determination are the only things that are going to get you through the chaos of putting out your own record. Many offers will come, most of which are from people who can't do much more for you than you can do for yourself. It's important to weigh everyone's reputation, check on their accomplishments and successes to be certain they are legitimate and true, and be patient and wait for the opportunity that will bring you exactly what you want.

You will not get what you deserve, you will get what you negotiate. The music business is not fair, and seems that one who holds out for what one really wants, usually gets it! Do the research and study the industry so you can figure out what it is exactly that you want. The best part is that you control your own destiny.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

All Record Labels Are Not Created Equal

By, Wendy Day from Rap Coalition (

The term “record label” stands for many different types of companies that put out music. It can signify a conglomerate like Sony or Universal which are huge well-established multi-national corporations with offices in many countries around the world, or it can indicate a small artist-owned company with a staff of one or two, putting out their own CDs, like Killer Mike’s GrindTime Records. Therefore, an artist who just wants to sign to a “record label,” ANY record label, is doing him or herself a real injustice unless they do the proper research and have a solid understanding of how the music business operates.

Back in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, we could all feel sorry for the artists who were unfairly exploited and taken advantage of. But with all of the information available today in books, and on-line (much of which is free), it’s hard to feel sorry for folks who get jerked because they didn’t take the time to understand what they were doing before they jumped in with both feet. Action is a wonderful thing, provided it is backed up with the proper research, planning, and understanding. Greed and quick, uninformed decisions have never been a good thing.

Here is some of that free information of which I speak.

The Major Labels

A major label is a large company that has numerous departments that are involved in propelling an artist’s career forward. All of the major labels are international, and all of them are publicly traded corporations-- which mean they answer to stockholders. Companies that have stockholders, often focus on the bottom line financially because they depend on people to buy and sell their stock, therefore many of the decisions they make are influenced by stock prices and dividend payments.

Most of these companies also have other businesses that make up the corporation, so selling CDs is just a small part of their money making operation. Major labels are huge. If the marketplace is an ocean, major labels are cruise ships. They are big and heavy, carry a lot of people on board, and take a long time to stop or to make turns in the water. Because of their size, they are relatively safe, but also because of their size it can take a lot longer to accomplish anything, like releasing a CD for an artist into the marketplace.

The major labels are:
• Warner Bros, which consists of Warner and Atlantic Records, two separate companies. They also have an “incubator” called Asylum, which signs artists that they don’t feel are able to go Gold or Platinum yet, or possibly at all. They are a place for smaller labels without extensive experience in the marketplace, to “incubate.”

• Sony, which consists of Sony, Epic, Jive, and J Records. Their indie distribution arm is called RED Distribution. They are a good distributor for independent record labels who are properly financed and have some experience in the marketplace.

• Universal Records, which consists of Motown, Republic, Interscope, and Island/Def Jam. Uni’s “incubator” is called Fontana.

• And the last major left is now a combined effort of EMI and Virgin. They just had a large round of layoffs and I am closely watching to see how they restructure and resurface in the marketplace. This has affected EMI, Virgin, and Capitol Records. Their “incubator” is called Imperial.

The Mini-Majors

There are also two large independent rap distributors/labels in rap that must be mentioned. Folks in the industry usually refer to them as “Mini Majors” because they are quite large. The major labels don’t necessarily consider them competition, but in the past 5 to 7 years, they have made quite a bit of noise in the rap marketplace: Koch and TVT. Both labels/distributors usually offer splits that are more favorable than the major labels because they have a different business model than the major labels. Both have smaller staffs and can react in the marketplace more quickly than a major label.

Also, with the former New York Attorney General, Elliott Spitzer, coming down on the major labels for payola in the past few years, this opened up radio a bit for radio spins for independent labels. Both TVT and Koch fall into this category, allowing them increased airplay at radio today.

The Sub-Labels

A step removed from the major distributors and the large independent distributors, are the Sub-Labels. These are the companies picked up by the major labels because they see them as closer to the streets and more effective at finding and nurturing talent. Some of the more successful sub-labels include:
Under Def Jam:
Ludacris’ DTP, Young Jeezy’s Corporate Thugz, etc.
Under Interscope:
Dre’s Aftermath, 50 Cent’s G-Unit, Eminem’s Shady Records, Mr Colliparks’ Collipark Records, Polow Tha Don’s Zone 4, Akon’s Konvict Records, etc.
Under Universal:
Steve Rifkind’s SRC, Cash Money, etc.
Under Atlantic:
T.I.’s Grand Hustle, Poe Boy Records, Ted Lucas’ Slip N Slide, etc.
Under J Records:
Bryan Leach’s Polo Grounds, etc.

Hopefully, I haven’t left anyone out of my Major, Mini-Major, and Sub-Label examples (if I did, it wasn’t intentional).

Indie Labels

The remaining record labels make up the largest portion of the businesses putting out rap CDs: independent record labels. This includes successful labels like D4L, SwishaHouse, Thizz Nation, etc; as well as small labels like Killer Mike’s GrindTime, TMI Boyz’ TMI Entertainment, XVII’s Major Entertainment, JAG’s On Tha Grind, etc. If the major labels are cruise ships, the indie labels are jet skis. They can move quickly, dart in and out of obstacles in the water, change direction quickly, and turn around in a very small space. Being able to react to the marketplace and change quickly to meet new demands is important. Major labels are not able to do this.

Having said all this, just signing to any “record label” is not a smart move. Any person with a little bit of money can press up business cards saying they are a record label. Anyone can spend three grand to wrap a van and call themselves a record label. If an artist is short-sighted enough to sign to someone who can’t afford to market or promote them, or someone without the proper experience to put out a CD, then what? Recording contracts are for 5 to 7 years in length. For some artists, that’s an entire career. If the label can’t afford to work the record properly, it’s not as if the artist can walk away and go elsewhere. A contract is binding. There are a million rappers stuck in bad deals who will never see the light of day.

If this business is going to be your career, whether you plan to be in the spotlight (like a rapper, producer or DJ) or behind the scenes (like a manager, lawyer, publicist, or street team member), it’s important to learn the industry, learn who’s who, and do business with those who are worthy of your talents, those who pay properly, and those who are good at what they do.