Why Most Rappers Never Make It

What Does “It” Mean?

Rapping has never been more popular than it is today. With new aspiring rappers popping up every day you may wonder how come most rappers
never make it? But first let’s establish what does “make it” mean to you? Maybe you think making it means getting a record deal or being famous. But honestly neither of those equate to financial stability and here’s why.

why most rappers never make it copy

Don’t Believe The Hype

Anyone can sign you to a record deal. Basically a record deal is an agreement between two parties of what they expect from each other. It’s very similar to the contracts you sign when you start a new job. However most record labels may give you some money up front but in most cases this is simply a loan that you have to pay back before you ever make one red cent. Every expense the label incurs for it’s signed artist the artist actually pays for.  For example in 2002 The popular rap group “Dirty” was signed to universal records but was dead broke and couldn’t even pay their monthly bills. The second most popular female rap group “TLC” sold over 65 million records worldwide but only brought home an estimated $15,000 per year and eventually had to file bankruptcy.

Beyond The Means

Most artists that are signed to labels make zero dollars off their music because they don’t own their music the label does. Plus they only get a small percentage of the sales and on top of that many artists are in debt to the label because of the cash advances they have already received. rappers lifestyleMost of their money is made on the road doing shows and selling merchandise. But many artists live beyond their means in order to project the image of success and behind closed doors are fighting off the IRS from tax evasion. Just a few examples are Lil Wayne, Busta Rhymes, Nas, Scarface, Lil Kim & Ja Rule.

Spend Responsibly 

Now that we have broken the myth that making it means getting a record deal and being famous let’s establish what it really means. Making it simply means that you are able to make a good enough living that supports you and your family. This means that you are being responsible with your money and managing it correctly which also means paying the eye are’a ess!

 Why Most Rappers Never Make It

Let’s get back to the main question at hand. How come most rappers never make it? Here are some reasons why.

Talent isn’t enough:  A lot of rappers think that if they can rap good then everything will fall into their lap. This causes them to be very prideful which gives them a false sense of entitlement. They feel like they are owed success because they are skilled. This is often the foreshadowingprideful of bitterness once they realize things aren’t panning out like they think they should. These type of rappers are often lazy because they feel like they don’t have to work hard in order to be successful.

Only are artistsIf you are wanting to be a successful rapper you can’t only be an artist. You also need to be business minded and financially literate “the ability to read numbers”. You need to understand investing and R.O.I “Return On Investment” AKA profit. Think of other ways that you can monetize off your craft such as merchandise, shows, features, ghost writing, artist development, publishing, motivational speaking, licensing/royalties with patented inventions  etc.. Dr. Dre started off as a member of N.W.A, then started his on record company “Aftermath”, and later created Beats Headphones. Dre was reported in Forbes 2014 Hip Hop Cash Kings making $620 million in one year. That’s more than every rapper on the list combined!

Aren’t willing to investMany rappers are not willing to pay for quality and rather jump at the cheapest prices for music production, studio time, album artwork, & music videos. Having a cheap product will convey to rappers_be_likeothers that you don’t care and take pride in your music so why should anyone else?

No promotion or distributionIf all you are thinking about is creating the product but are putting little to no effort or investment on how to deliver the product to the market you are doing you and everyone else involved with the project a huge disservice. Promotion and distribution should be giving much thought before budgeting for studio time and audio production. Sadly this is most often an after thought once the budget has been spent and very few people actually get to hear the project leaving you further in the whole financially with very little fan base growth.

The I can’t afford mindsetMany develop what I like to refer to as the I can’t afford mindset. They say they would like to do things on a larger scale but just can’t afford it. This type of thinking rules out any possibilities. Instead a slight mental shift to “How can I afford” will show you possibilities you may have never seen before. Maybe instead of trying to do a whole album cheaply you could focus on doing 1 or 2 songs in excellence. Maybe you can sell stuff around the house, ask for money on Christmas and birthdays, cut your neighbors grass, stop buying things like video games brand new and get them used.

Don’t care about peopleI’m amazed to see rappers who want to be successful but don’t care about people. I will never understand why someone doesn’t care about the very people who could be a potential supporter of their music. This mindset usually derives from pride as if fans are some type of underlings that are suppose to bow down and worship at their feet. These type of rappers will ignore your facebook & youtube comments, tweets & e-mails.the_office

And i’m not talking about the really famous rappers who are getting tens of thousands of comments on a single facebook post, I can understand that not being possible. I’m talking about the ones who don’t have a large fallowing and who are simply ignoring potential fans. People typically wont care about you until they see that you sincerely care about them.

Are insecureYou may only think of insecure people as being shy and timid. That’s not what I mean. Micheal Jackson was extremely shy but his career speaks for it’s self. Beyoncé is also very shy and hates giving public speeches so obviously these haven’t held these two examples back. I mean insecure in the way that you are easily offended when someone gives you advice or constructive criticism. This can really hold you back from advancing in your craft if you always take advice personal and aren’t willing to apply the help others are trying to give you.

No structureSo many of us have the misconception that if you have a large following on your social media accounts then you have arrived. But the truth is that only a small percentage of your posts actually get seen by your following especially on facebook and twitter. As these companies have monetized their platforms more you now have to pay for your posts to actually be seen by most of your following.

facebook_post_reachPlus these social platforms could be gone tomorrow and so could your following. It’s important that you have a more direct way to communicate with your fan base such as a mailing list. Having a website is also important as it’s your own personal digital real estate. Having a website has never been more affordable which companies such as Site Ground so there is no excuse not to have one.

Not passionateSome rappers simply aren’t truly passionate about rapping. Once things don’t seem to be happening quickly they get burned out and fade into the sunset. If you wan’t to “make it” as a rapper then you need to truly love the craft. This means that you don’t have to be making money to be happy doing it. Truly loving this craft will give you the endurance to keep moving forward regardless of the circumstances and that’s how real life results are experienced. Trees don’t grow 10 feet over night but they do grow.

Final Thoughts 

The bottom line is talent can only take you so far. But strong sacrificial work ethic, good character and the desire to always learn can open doors for you that skill alone can not. If you want to be successful in anything in life you can with the right amount of determination and knowledge. Learn from others mistakes and successes. If you ever want to know what the path you are heading down is like just ask someone who is on their way back.

How Did I Do?

What did you think of this article? Was it to loooooong? Was it helpful? Got a question? Please drop your 2 cents in the comments section below and I will get right back to you. Cheers to being a better rapper now!


    • says

      Wow thanks so much! I greatly appreciate you checking it out and am glad that you enjoyed it! I was a little concerned with the length of it. Did you feel that it was a little to long?

      • Tom Sigurdson says

        yeah ur rite about the record deals. but me id rather sign to a real record company where u dont have to kiss butt but keep the music real like tupac did

        • says

          Yeah I feel you man but did you know than 2 pac was leaving death row because they owed him tens of millions of dollars? He was in the process of starting is own record label when he was killed.

      • says

        Very well written and it wasn’t long. You managed to put across a lot of info with very few words and yet managed to not rob us of any important information.
        One more this I liked a lot is that you follow everything you preach which inspires me (and hopefully others) to do the same. Like, I’ve seen that you make time to reply to each and every comment on facebook, twitter, intsa, your website, youtube etc..
        Very inspiring..
        Love from India!

        • says

          Thanks so much for all of your kind words Curran! I’m really glad that you enjoyed my article and found it to be helpful! I try my best to respond back to everyone tho it get’s more difficult with the more exposure you get which is a good problem lol! Thanks again for the love and support! Wishing you the best! Much respect! :) – Cole Mize

    • says

      Thanks Matt! You’re feedback means a lot! I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Is there anything in particular that you would be interested in reading more about in the future?

      • Rxxm says

        I think you should do an article focusing on the concepts that certain artist portray, like ASAP ROCKYs dark goth style or Drakes romantic ladies man style or even GEazy with his vintage cool kid style.

  1. says

    Hi Cole,

    I’m a small business owner from Australia and I have to confess to you that as a woman who was traditionally educated and is *mumble mumble* years old, rap is not my preferred musical genre.

    I found your insightfully-written article because someone shared it on G+, and I found the title intruiguing enough to come have a read.

    It’s wonderful to read a piece by a young person who understands that there are no shortcuts to success. Sure, every once in a while someone just ‘gets lucky’ but most of us have a lot of grunt work to do. I wish more people (and it’s not just the very young) understood that true success comes after years of sacrifice, not years of conspicuous consumption.

    Going to go ‘like’ your Facebook page now, and wishing you every success.

    • says

      Hello Aleta,

      Thanks so much for not only taking the time to read my article but also follow it up with a hefty comment. It’s always a pleasure to hear back from those who my articles have reached. You are exactly right about success. It’s much hard work mixed with patience and determination. I wrote an encouraging blog a while back that talks a little more on my perspective of success. It’s called “Effort Trumps Talent”. If you wish you can check it out here.

      Thanks again for your kind words of encouragement, they go a long way! And I am wishing you nothing but the best of success to you and your business! Thanks for liking my facebook page as well! You rock! :) Until next time, take care and keep up the great work! Much love from the states!

    • says

      Hey Mike, I appreciate your feedback. Yeah it was a little longer than I would have liked but at the same time I had a lot of information that I wanted to share. lol the struggle of a blogger. There was actually a lot more I wanted to get into but I figured it was already long enough. I’ll just cover some of my other thoughts in another post. Is there any topics in particular that you may be interested in me writing about in the future? I would love to know. I am always striving to deliver the most helpful content to you guys. Until next time take care!

  2. says

    This is great stuff man. I rap as a form of self expression so I feel fulfilled just by writing. But I am working my way on getting my stuff recorded so people can hear it freely. My only concern is theft. Since this IS self expression, the worse thing that could happen is someone stealing your work AND making money off of it. So I refrain from posting what I HAVE done on the internet as a result.

    But enough about me, great article, helps outline the basics to, at the very least, trying to be successful and in my opinion, putting your heart and soul into getting heard is always a great effort in its own.

    • says

      Hey Paul thanks so much for reading this article! I am glad that you enjoyed it! I totally agree about making music should be about your heart, soul and love for it. I always tell people, never pursue anything primarily based on making money because you will most likely end up burned out and unsatisfied. Instead I tell them if there was one thing that you could do that makes you happy and you find purpose in what would it be? Then secondly find out how to use that passion to help others and solve a problem and then most likely you will begin to have the financial support to do it full time if you invest a lot of time and energy into it.

      And I feel you on the theft thing as well. Anything that is on the internet is able to be downloaded. If it can be streamed it can be downloaded. So I think it’s wise that you are keeping your stuff off the net if that is a concern for you. I would recommend getting your music copy written before placing it on the net. But still a copy write doesn’t prevent others from stealing it just is a sheet of paper that states that you own it. Plus law suites are very expensive and most won’t take it to court unless the thieving party is making a substantial amount of money off it.

      But thanks again Paul for your comment and support. I am wishing you the best with your music! Is there anything in particular that you may be interested in me covering in the future? Until next time, take care!

  3. nsane says

    This was a good article. The length was perfect. If people are really wondering why they can’t make it this is a must read for them. They can learn a lot from you with all your experience, I know I am. Man keep it going. I’m with you, making it is when you can support your family. Just because people don’t know your name does not mean you didn’t make it in life not doing what you love and supporting your family to me is the true meaning of being successful.

    • says

      Thanks Nsane! I am glad to hear that you enjoyed this article and thanks so much for all the great feedback. I was kinda concerned with it’s length but also felt that it was packed with valuable information.

      You and I both share the same meaning of success. Thanks so much for taking the time to read this article and comment as well. I will keep them coming and you keep up the great work as well!

  4. Artur says

    Hey Cole.

    Nice article. Not too long, no. Good, short and straight to the point. Things in this article are explained good. Nothing needs to be explained more. However, I do have a question. When you mention ‘How can I afford’, I say, I’m trying to do the best for what I have, but do you have any good ideas for how to divide a not too big amount for making 1 song great, if I have written the song, without a beat? Percent wise..

    • says

      Hey Artur, I’m glad that you enjoyed the article and thanks so much for the feedback! As far as trying to record a song on a budget I would recommend either leasing a song which can be usually done for 30.00 USD or less or you can look for free instrumentals that producers may be giving away. Then you can either record it yourself if you have a decent recording studio setup or you can search for people with studios in your area and see what their prices are. Let me know if that helps and if you have any further questions.

    • says

      Now that’s a huge question! That requires a ton of explanation :) I would suggest to search google for “how to start a record label” and you will come across tons of information. Wishing you the best in all your endeavors! :)

  5. Chris says

    As a rapper trying to get into the game I found this article to be very informative. Thank you for providing a good source of useful information.

    • says

      Hey Chris, I’m glad to hear that you found this article helpful. If you would like to read more articles I’ve written about the music industry you can check them out here Thanks for taking the time to comment and let me know you found my article helpful. Wishing you the best! and if you have any questions let me know! Take care.

  6. bryantrpalomino@outlook.com says

    Good article. Very informative. I would have liked if you had more examples of rappers going through what you were describing to better get your points across, but besides that you brought down key points that many “aspiring rappers” ignore. Well done.

    • says

      Hey Bryan, thanks so much for the feedback and I’m glad you enjoyed this article! I’ll keep your feedback in mind for future posts. Thanks again and take care! :)

    • says

      Hey Shine, I’m glad that you enjoyed this article. And a big shout out to India! Thanks for sharing your music video with me. I really enjoyed it :) The question you asked me is a loaded one that requires a lot of explanation! If you want the long detailed version we should spend some time together via my 1 on 1 coaching at http://colemizestudios.com/coaching

      The short answer is to continue to perfect your craft and release as high quality music as possible. Use platforms such as Youtube & soundcloud to host your music and start devoting time week in and week out to using the internet to connect with people all around the world in a sincere and meaningful way and also share you’re music with them but don’t force it on them. Again there’s so many things to discuss on this topic there’s no way I can do it justice in a comment. I hope this helps and I’m wishing you the best on your musical journey! :)

  7. Kush Montana says

    k…let’s just say…you do feel as though you’re A lot better than most of the rappers in the industry and you can prove it….Do you think there is a way to get someone to invest…maybe if I get heard or something….I know for a fact I can do this….and I have so much love for my craft…. it’s just i’m in an area where no one really makes it!! lol

    • says

      Well in order for someone to invest in you you first need to show and prove to them that you can return them a profit on their investment. The music industry isn’t a talent show as you already mentioned lol but I would encourage you to look into doing everything yourself and start growing your following off the internet. Check out my article I wrote on the 1,000 fan theory you can make more money as an independent artist than most rappers signed to record labels and still have full creative control. :) Also make sure you check out my hangout I did where I taught about signing yourself to a record label it’s good stuff!! I hope this helps :)

  8. Kelvin says

    Excellent article. I am a middle school science teacher who grew up on hip hop and i encourage my students to pursue it for the the love of the art form not the cash. In this era of downloading music and many venues not having large hip hop concerts are artists actually able to make money? I feel like the business model for hip hop is rapidly changing.

    • says

      Hey Kelvin, I’m glad that you enjoyed my article! I think it’s awesome that you are encouraging your students to pursue music for the right reasons! You are exactly right! The business model for music in general has changed a lot of the high speed internet and home recording digital audio era. But all the tools needed for artists to make a really good living is now in their hands. I think you would enjoy my article explaining the 1,000 fan theory. If you get a chance to check it out let me know what you think. Thanks again for reading and commenting with such positive feedback! :)

  9. ben says

    Hello Cole,

    As an up and coming artist, I think you hit right on the head. A lot of guys, record raggedy singles, or albums. And just throw it out there, hoping an ANR, or Jay z hear it and sign them. the craft is an investment for all things! Financial, time wise, effort wise…I think most rappers, are too lazy to get a job, stay on long enough to invest in them selves. And romanticize with the idea, cause what they see on T.V, they really don’t know how hard it is now days. and that’s with any thing one wish to pursue. Really enjoyed the article, big ups man!!!!

    • says

      Thanks for reading and commenting Ben! I’m glad that you enjoyed this article and I couldn’t agree with you more! Wishing you the best in all that you do and feel free to stop by anytime and check out more of my articles. Much respect! :)

  10. Carlos Moreno says

    Good article bro, you sound like you have experience with everything you have wrote in this article. Do you rap too and have these things happened to you in the past?

    • says

      Hey Carlos, thanks for reading! Yes I’ve been rapping for around 20 years. No these things haven’t happened to me per say but I’ve witness them happen to many others. Thanks for the positive feedback! I’m glad you enjoyed my article. :)

    • says

      Thanks for the positive feedback Tagir. I’m glad that you enjoyed this article and I’ll make sure to check out your Soundcloud. Thanks for reading and commenting! :)

  11. Mikeecam says

    I did feel the article was a bit long, even so, I read it all and was very happy to do so, since you’re constantly on point. I think you’re initial thought of it being long came through to me and that’s why I felt that. Anyways, thanks for the great advices!

    • says

      I’m glad you enjoyed the article Mikee and thanks for the feedback! When I began writing this article I wasn’t anticipating it being as long as it is but I kept thinking of more points to make so I kept adding them lol Thanks for reading and commenting back I really do appreciate it! :)

  12. Clarence Smith says

    Hey I’m c-lo I find this article informative its good to know a rap career doesn’t rely on Facebook likes even as a youngster i always though getting signed was it . I can see now it falls more on the individuals drive and goals . I think I have what it takes. Just take make one hit and I would love doing it I’m past The era of patiently waiting and not being heard being seperated from society and having mad time go by a lot of hip hop I hear these days seems plain sometimes I think I wasted time but I can’t stop writing cause life is real!!!!

    • says

      Hey C-lo, thanks for the feedback! I’m really glad to hear that you enjoyed reading my article! Life is certainly real and working your creative muscle especially through music is very therapeutic. Keep up the hard work and if you keep doing what you love it will love you back! Much respect! :)

  13. Davidson says

    Hey Cole thanks for what you have deen doing for us…… Most people charge money for some of these things that you post free for us. May God continuing to give you more knowledge and underesting for. All the good works your doing this one cool. The article being too long don’t really matter, what matters is that you just have to do it for those who want to learn and be able to make it…

    • says

      Thanks for your kind words Davidson. I’m really glad that you are finding my content to be valuable and I’m wishing you the best in all you do as well! Much respect! :) – Cole Mize

  14. Fejiro Eforhare says

    Wonderful article, Mr Cole. I really appreciate your efforts and time taken to raise great men. I wanna know, is it better to remain independent like Chance the Rapper and what are the benefits and pitfalls of being independent?

    • says

      Hey Fejiro Thanks for your positive words! I really do appreciate it! In short yes it’s best to remain independent because you have full control over your music and you also make a much larger percentage of the total income your music generates. However it’s much hard work and requires you to not just be an artist but a business person as well. So honestly the only pitfall I would say if you don’t educate yourself on the business aspect of things you could waste a lot of time and money and make unwise business moves. I hope this helps :) – Cole Mize

  15. says

    Cole I loved it. Length was perfect man, I read the whole thing and never got bored. Well done, keep it up!
    I think it’s brilliant advice and imma make sure it’s a checklist I keep checked throughout my come up

  16. angel says

    Awesome!!! Very helpful :) I did notice a typo, on one of the sub headings. It says “Talent is enough”, when judging by what your saying its ment to be “talent isn’t enough”. THanks again.

  17. Jay says

    I started researching what makes rappers become famous, what gives you “it”, what does the audience love? What makes a rapper relevant. Is it image? Not anymore apparently, people like lil yatchy and most of the xxl freshman list look kind of lame and eccentric. Is it lyrics? Nope, for obvious reasons. Is it skill? There’s another no. What makes people really take off? I’ve come to the conclusion that being a rapper in this day and age is like being an entrepreneur. You need something unique, something that will set you apart from the others. You need a target audience that you listen to, and can predict the trends of. To become famous now a days, you need to have something that will get played at clubs, your target audience needs to be females. They are the true factor deciding if you get played or not. You need to be ready to invest, studio time, visuals, branding, image. These all cost money. You need a backup plan. Not everyone will make it. No matter what you do, you just might never get seen. What you can do at that point is have something still related to the industry, for me, I’m working on rapping, producing, visuals, and multiple other things that I can fall back on if I need to cool down on the rapping to let a new wave sweep the nation. You also need to make some good connections.

    • says

      Hey Jay, thanks so much for your comment! You shares lots of great advice! Thanks for reading and commenting. I’m wishing you the best in all you’re endeavors. Much respect! :) – Cole Mize

  18. Erin says

    Hey Cole! absolutely love your advice, website and what you do for everyone, keep it up.
    This article was really great and insightful even though it was only short and sweet, you addressed many often overlooked factors and things I hadn’t even considered, thanks :D

    • says

      Hey Erin thanks so much for all of your positive words I really do appreciate it and I’m glad that you enjoyed my article! I’m glad that you found this article to be short because some people thought it was too long. lol Thanks for reading and commenting I sincerely appreciate it! Much respect! – Cole Mize

  19. Teddy Kelley says

    Lmfao if anyone complains about the length then they should just leave the article tbh because if you don’t even have the drive to read about rap success for five minutes than you sure as hell don’t have the drive to achieve it

  20. Idnam says

    Good well written article .. . I will forward to my son!

    From a mother who’s son refuses to go to college to pursue a rap career.

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