Written by Wil

As fans, we’re quick to point the finger. We point it at the artists for conforming to the mainstream’s demands. We point it at the labels for not signing artists that we consider genuine. We claim that “hip-hop is dead” and there’s no real music anymore.

We almost always forget to blame the ones most responsible for the mess that we’re in: ourselves.

Yep, as music fans, we’ve never had it better. All the music we could ever ask for, all one click away. We have a virtual buffet of music. All we can consume, all the time.

And what do we give back in return? More complaints.

We ask “is his album worth downloading”? That is how little we regard an artist’s creativity.

Let me preface this by acknowledging that there is plenty of blame to go around. But for the purpose of this entry, I’m going to focus on what we can do to improve things. See, all too often, we sit around and look for people to blame when, in reality, we have the power to help change things. So these are the little things that fans can do to help the urban music industry grow.

A label, a producer, an investor, a manager – they’re only going to invest in an artist with whom they see potential. It isn’t so much about musical talent anymore. Labels don’t want to build an artist. They want to partner with an established brand. And that’s fair because, due to the internet, every single aspiring musician has the opportunity to create and build his own brand.

How can you determine if an artist has potential?

There needs to be a buzz around him/her. There needs to be interest in the music. Anticipation for a project. Sales are great. Buying an artist’s album or single is always a pure form of showing support. If an indie artist can show a label that he sold 5,000 of his album without any marketing, it may lead to the label taking a chance.

But investing money is not the only way to support an artist. It’s actually not even the most effective. What an artist really needs from a fan is time. See, what a label can offer an artist is a support staff. A marketing team, advertising dollars, etc. As a fan, you need to become the artist’s team, the artist’s advertisements. Artists at all levels, especially indie, need you to invest your time in spreading the word. Compare it to buying stock in an artist.

Let’s use John Regan, who I managed, as an example.

When we were preparing Sorry I’m Late, the biggest challenge we faced was showing labels/websites/blogs/DJs that people really liked the music. I had plenty of friends at blogs and websites who’d post the music. Then I’d have plenty of people on twitter telling me how much they loved the song. Problem was, they’d listen to it from my soundcloud, download it, then tweet me that they listen to it every day on their ipod.

While that sure made me happy, it didn’t do anything to spread John’s music. Because a couple days later, I’d tweet that nahright posted it, and then allhiphop. I’d tweet those links but nobody would listen to it from there cus they already downloaded the song. Nobody would leave comments because they’d tweet me directly.

Hearing from a fan directly is always a nice thing, but showing the labels/websites/blogs/DJs who are supporting the music is far more important.

For example, AllHipHop will post a song. But their job is to drive traffic to the site. If the song they posted isn’t getting any interest, there’s less of a chance they’ll post any more from that artist.

So as a fan, you need to invest your time. That means, if you like a song or artist, you need to become a mouthpiece for the artist. You need to visit any and all sites that have the music and stream it from each site – even if you already have the song on your ipod. You need to leave comments. Post about the artist on forums. RT links to the music – and not just once, but numerous times, as often as you can (without seeming spammish). You need to leave reviews on iTunes and Amazon. Leave timed comments on SoundCloud. You need to encourage others to do the same thing.

This is beneficial twofold. First, when meeting with a label or prospective partner, you want them to google you and not only find the music posted, but find that people are actually engaged. You need the decision-makers at okayplayer to want to post the artist’s music because they know people will interact with the site. That can make them start seeking out the artist for new music as opposed to the artist constantly soliciting help from the websites.

Secondly, the more marketing you can do for the artist, the more he or she can focus on creating more music. See, the time I spent trying to get people to leave comments on was time that I wasn’t spending on creating new music.

Make sense?

For example, let’s talk about this blog.

Every night, I sit and write out my thoughts for an hour or so in an effort to help guide aspiring artists. I don’t make money off of it. I don’t sell anything. I do it to help. I enjoy writing. Getting my feelings out is very therapeutic.

But what I don’t like it having to spend all day promoting the fact that I’ve written this. The more that I have to do that, the less likely I am to continue writing. I’m providing you, the reader, a service. Your responsibility is to help spread that message. If you want me to keep writing, you have to take some of the burden off my shoulders. I see people RT my tweets, and that helps, but you need to tweet about it often. You need to leave comments on the blog, which will lead others to leave comments, which will then make the blog show up more in searches, which will lead to more readers. More readers will motivate me to write more. Knowing that I have to promote makes this blog seem more like a chore. So as fans, you have the power to help grow the site and keep me writing.

Music is the exact same thing. Urban music is a terrible grind. It’s constant work and not much reward. The fans are what keep artists creating music. The fans have the ability sway what labels eventually support. By tweeting a DJ and telling him that you’d like to hear a particular artist, you’re replacing what a label’s function would be.

Do you have to do this? No. You can just hit download on your megaupload link and listen in your headphones. That’s your right as a fan. But once you do that, you forever lose your right to complain about what artists you hear on the radio or why your favorite artist is performing at some non-descript bar on a Wednesday evening. You can’t expect to get without giving first. It’s a give-and-take now.

Fans have a responsibility. We have power. We are what makes the labels and websites profitable and we must use that to our advantage. We have the power to effect what they support. We need to attend shows and buy t-shirts. We need to RT links, post music on our facebooks, use word of mouth. Is it time consuming? Yes. Is it a bit of an annoyance at time? Yes. But the payback is well worth the effort. If we want our favorite artists to flourish, these are the sacrifices we must be willing to make. Or, we can accept our free music and give up our right to complain.

Please leave your thoughts, rebuttals and comments below. I’d love to hear your opinion.

About the author


Leave a Comment

Add Comment

  • Thank you. I thought I was doing what I could as a fan of Skyzoo, Elzhi, Black Milk, etc, but I see now I need to work just as hard as the artist to see my favorites get the spotlight that they deserve.

    I think another point that can be added to this entry is, above all else, just let yourself be a fan. Don’t be a fan so you can get a random retweet, or be a fan so you can say, “I liked ___ before they got on.” Be a fan because you like the artist’s music & message. Letting the artist know you’re a fan is not “dickriding”, it’s telling them that they have at least 1 person who appreciates what they’re doing and that they can count on you to rep them.

    Kudos to you Culture, you know I’ve been waiting for this post.

    • Thanks! And I think that’s an excellent point. I don’t think you need to buy every shirt they put out or every book they release. It goes beyond financial support. It’s the time. It’s almost like the old adage “give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he’ll eat for the rest of his life”. Buying an album helps him eat today. But becoming a mouthpiece for the artist can help him for the rest of his career. Sure, we get free music now, but it should cost us something. That’s time and effort.

      So next time you see Skyzoo release a song, go to a bunch of the top blogs and websites and comment on it. Stream it a few times. Leave a comment on YouTube. All that stuff helps him rise in the searches and will show that there is an interest in him.

      Thanks for reading!

    • Yea unfortunately I think a lot of fans think that way. A lot of what of most fans do is for personal satisfaction and not for the benefit of the artist. We have the power to make a difference, but we don’t use it. We’re too caught up with getting a high-five after a show instead of helping ensure the artists get MORE shows.

  • 2 for 2 homie! I just started reading your blog yesterday and you’re dead on again. I blog myself and I feel like its a burden to have to promote the blog as well as provide content. I also promote parties so I’m always pushing new songs from artist I like on the DJ and the guests so I know the importance of giving something whether it be a blog, song or artist your time. Giving the time is what promotes and pushes more of what you like into the world. I’m glad you shared this.

    • Yea it’s definitely a necessary evil. Everybody hopes to one day get to the place where they can JUST focus on their art and not all the extra stuff. I hope you get there some day!

  • I think your absolutely right fans should be held equally responsible for the decline of urban music. People in general love to complain about things but never actually get involved, just look at politics for instance. Your “fan dumb” theory is not just exclusive to music, we as people have become a fan dumb society. Getting back to music though I don’t think we should place so much of the blame on record companies because the music business is just that, a business. The labels are set up to generate revenue for THEMSELVES and their shareholders first and then artists, which means they’re going to do anything to generate sales and profits. In this current climate MC’s like Nas, Jadakiss, Raekwon, Talib Kweli, etc aren’t selling like Gucci Mane, Waka Flocka, and so on so why would a label put out a album from said artist? Doesn’t make sense right? Don’t quote me on this but I believe Jadakiss’ “I Love You” mixtape/album sold around 5,000-10,000 units (first week) but Waka Flocka’s first album sold around 50,000-60,000 (first week). See what I mean? Now you would expect a legendary MC like Jadakiss to crush Waka Flocka sales wise and that speaks volumes. It says to the labels that Waka Flocka is hotter than Jadakiss, arguably not as talented but the numbers don’t lie. My point is that if you like an artist’s music go to those concerts, buy those fuckin t-shirts, show up to meets and greets, etc or else in 10 years Waka Flocka will end on BET’s Top 10 MC’s of the decade or whatever, and who wants that? LMAO Seriously though it is our jobs as fans to show them what we want because at the end of the day we dictate what is hot in the streets and on the net not Lyor Cohen, Doug Morris, or L.A. Reid so the the choice is yours people. I’m out Peace

    – ALO
    Follow me @followALO

    • Damn you could’ve written your own blog with all that! I agree tho. A person or business is only going to invest in what it sees as profitable. We have the opportunity to effect that if we’re willing to put in a little work. Hopefully we can open some eyes.

  • I am really taking all of this advice in. In fact, this comment is part of that. I woulda felt like an asshole to take this advice and try to have my supporters do it without doing the very thing i’m asking of them.