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.
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. Most 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.
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 foreshadowing 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 artists: If 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, ghostwriting, 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 invest: Many 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 others that you don’t care and take pride in your music so why should anyone else?
No promotion or distribution: If 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 afterthought once the budget has been spent and very few people actually get to hear the project leaving you further in the hole financially with very little fan base growth.
The I can’t afford mindset: Many 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 for Christmas and birthdays, cut your neighbor’s grass, stop buying things like video games brand new and get them used.
Don’t care about people: I’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 supposed to bow down and worship at their feet. These type of rappers will ignore your facebook & youtube comments, tweets & e-mails.
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 following and who are simply ignoring potential fans. People typically won’t care about you until they see that you sincerely care about them.
Are insecure: You 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 its 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 structure: So 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.
Plus 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 passionate: Some 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 want 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 overnight but they do grow.
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!