The rap music industry is as developed and sophisticated as any market. You need to have a strong advertising campaign to go with your beats and rhymes. Marketing yourself as a rap artist is a matter of building your own personal brand. You will need a thorough understanding of the music industry, strategic partnerships and successful utilization of the latest social media tools. On top of it all, you have to remember to keep making great music that sells itself.
Know the industry. The music industry in general has seen a dramatic downturn in record sales due to the proliferation of online piracy and the shift from CDs to the digital downloads of singles. Be realistic and don’t wait for a big record deal. Market yourself on an online distributor, such as MySpace Music (see Resources) and build a compelling website with links to purchase your music. Sell your music on DIY sites like Pandora, CDBaby and Tunecore (see Resources).
Develop your niche. You might be able to rap in every style imaginable but a hip-hop artist needs to get himself known through his own unique style. Traditional niches include gangster rap, freestyle, West Coast hip-hop, East Coast hip-hop and Crunk music. Look to your roots but develop your own style and look. As with any business, don’t put out the product until it’s ready. Craft your own style over time and develop it by performing at local freestyle battles and shows.
Form partnerships. A common practice in rap music is featuring other artists on the songs of popular rappers. You get your name alongside a well-known artist, giving the appearance that you are an up-and-coming rapper. Network with managers and record labels of known artists at industry events, such as The Western Conference and the BET Hip-Hop Awards. Go to as many shows and after-party events as you can. Put out “mix tapes” to get your name, skills and style on the street. Sell yourself to the mainstream.
Rap music has increasingly crossed over into the mainstream. Research the history of rap to see what successful rap artists have done. Large corporations such as Reebok and Glaceau built major advertising campaigns around the music and persona of hip-hop musicians such as Jay-Z and 50 Cent, states BrandChannel.