Aspiring Artists

DJ Hero

Written by Wil

Drake texts Funk Master Flex and then sends him a new record.

Flex doesn’t need you to tweet him a link to your mixtape.

Sounds basic, I know. But every day, I see people spam megastars links to their mixtapes, as if @iamdiddy is scouring the internet all day looking for the next big thing.

The next big thing isn’t coming from a random link that he sees on his Android smartphone, I promise you. But we’ve already talked about spam. Today, I wanna talk about DJs.

This is some of the more basic stuff that I can tell you, but it’s something that so few aspiring artists actually do well. Matter of fact, not being an expert on DJs or a DJ myself, I’d love to hear from some actual DJs in the comments below, or maybe even a follow up blog entry from one of y’all.

So, you’re a rapper. We’ve already spoken about the counter-productivity of recording your song and then emailing 2dopeboyz and nahright asking them to post it when nobody even knows you exist. Those sites are about generating traffic and increasing revenue, not evaluating songs and breaking artists. Same thing with labels. Any business, for that matter. You need to start with the smaller blogs until you build up some interest. I spoke about that in “True Value”.

The same rule applies to DJs. The internet is great. It provides everyone a platform. The negative is, a lot of artists get so caught up in blogs and websites that they forget what being an artist actually means. Successful artists are so accessible to us these days that we tend to forget about the people who are on the same, or just slightly higher, level than us.

See, your local DJs, your smaller blogs – these are the people who are looking for content. They actually want music from independent artists. You can be an asset to an up-and-coming DJ. See, they can’t compete with Kay Slay when it comes to getting new music. But if they can form a relationship with someone they believe in and get exclusive content in a niche market or from a new artist that others don’t have, then that can be their selling point.

The internet is merely a form of promotion for your music, but it doesn’t make you an artist. To be an artist, you need to perform your music and it needs to be played by DJs in the real world, in front of real people, in real clubs, bars and lounges.

We’ll talk about performing in another post. I have a LOT to say about that.

Your music is buzzing on the blogs. Your YouTubes are getting views, your SoundCloud is getting played. But you still don’t exist in the world. Hopefully, you’ve been performing at open mics and anywhere else that’ll have you. But you need DJs to play those records. And similar to what we said earlier, you can’t send DJ Clue a tweet and ask him to play your song on Hot 97. That’s the shortcut mentality that so many artists have today.

Here’s a good, basic strategy for you. Seek out all the local DJs in your area. Go around and collect fliers from barber shops, record shops and clubs. Create a spreadsheet of all the DJs and promoters, their names, emails, contact numbers, websites, along with a list of the clubs on the fliers that play music similar to what you create. Reach out to these DJs on twitter. “Like” their Facebook page. Start reaching out with small talk, commenting on their tweets and posts. Maybe write a review of one of their mixtapes. Be a part of their social network.

What you can’t do is hit a DJ with spam. Don’t let your first tweet to them be a link to your mixtape telling them to “play this”. But you’ve read my past blogs, so you already know that.

Support what they do. Your local DJs are just like you – they’re grinding. They’re trying to build a name. Be part of what helps make them successful.

This is a whole other topic, but really quickly – you have to learn to look at every situation from the other person’s perspective and not yours. You have to think about what they can gain from the situation, not you. If you approach it as “can you do me a favor and play this record”, you won’t appeal to them.

Using that mentality, try and become an attractive option for them. Give them complete access to you. It’s a lot of work.

First, you’ll have to record drops for DJs. That’s huge. I mentioned in another post how I sat John Regan down in a room for three straight days recording nothing but drops. Drops for radio shows, drops for individual songs, drops for DJs. Sending a new song with an EXCLUSIVE drop (no shortcuts) for their show is a huge plus and will go a long way in getting them to play your song.

If they play clubs, offer to perform a record live.

If they have a radio or internet radio show, offer to do an interview.

If they release mixtapes, offer to give them an exclusive freestyle that mentions the mixtape name and gather up enough fans who are willing to purchase the tape if you’re on it.

They might not want any of these. But you have to offer and be ready to do it.

And recognize that it might not be glamorous. Sure, if you’re talking about performing with DJ Poun who spins at some of the hottest Vegas spots, that’s fun. But DJ Joey Joe from some ghetto area of Wisconsin might be spinning at a club on a Tuesday that holds 30 people and is only half full.

But that’s part of the work.

DJs roll in a circle. They share records, they listen to each other. You need to get into that conversation, into that circle.

Another must – get your music in record pools! Digiwaxx is the most effective that I’ve found, but they’re also the most expensive. I put the record I did with Joe Budden “Dangerous” on Digiwaxx and had a tremendous response. Some of the best money I’ve ever spent. Digiwaxx gives you access to a portal where you can see who has listened or downloaded your record. The DJs have to leave feedback if they download. You get access to their info – email address, phone number (in some cases), what type of DJ they are (radio, club, mixtape), what type of music they specialize in. It’s invaluable. I built an entire spreadsheet of the 950+ DJs who downloaded the song and still work with many of them today. I reached out to each one individually. If they liked the song, I spoke to them about recording drops and sending more music. If they didn’t, I tried to gain insight as to what they didn’t like and then either used that when creating new records or asked if I could send them something with a different feel that they might like. Either way, I was building relationships, expanding my network.

On top of that, I was invited to speak at a media convention in Las Vegas, discussing the use of social media in marketing, and I went to Tryst with a bunch of colleagues. What do I hear while we’re dancing? Dangerous! I met with the DJ after the club closed and found out he got the song from Digiwaxx. I also heard the song spun at Tao and found out the same thing.

Then, I was on vacation with my wife and a bunch of friends in St. Maarten when one of our friends comes banging on my hotel door saying he just heard me on the radio. I obviously think he’s either messing with me or hearing things. Then, we’re all out at a club later that night and hear the song again! Turns out, it’s become a fairly big record over there. It all started with one of the hosts – DJ Outkast – of the morning show at the main hip-hop radio station on the island downloading the song off Digiwaxx.

That’s how records break.

My contact over there, by the way, was Big Yusef. His email is bigyusef@digiwaxx.com.

There are less expensive services, for sure (and plenty of rip-offs – so beware), but this is the one I found to be most effective. If you can’t afford Digiwaxx, determine what fits in your budget and look for a service that has as many of these features as possible.

Don’t get frustrated if a DJ isn’t receptive. Some of them are so inundated with artists reaching out that they just don’t have time to answer. Some aren’t focused on working with new artists. And some DJs are just like some of you rappers – they already think they’re too good, even though they haven’t actually done anything. Don’t let those discourage you. There are a ton of great people who are looking for artists such as yourself. You can build something with a DJ from the ground up. Work with enough lower level DJs and two things are bound to happen (assuming your music is good). Either some bigger name DJs will hear you being spun and will start looking for your music, or one (or more) of the DJs you work with will start booking big gigs. If you’re in on the ground floor, you have a huge advantage.

So stop tweeting DJ Camilo and do some real work. Build real relationships with real people. Then maybe you’ll start seeing real results.

Let’s hear your comments…

About the author

Wil

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  • Amazing. Simply amazing. If I could add one more facet that I’m pretty sure DJs love, it would be offer to help hand out their fliers & promote their club night and practice being a hype man, so you can offer that service to them as well. Skillz is somewhat successful as a rapper but ever since he took over as Jazzy Jeff’s hype man, he’s been able to get money and travel the world.

    I am starting to get the theme now though. Your continuous message of starting at the ground floor and putting in actual physical hard work (do some rappers even know what spreadsheets are?) is inspiring.

  • Pretty solid info. I actually wrote an article that addresses artists, giving them tips to network with DJs specifically on twitter (http://djbrucki.com/how-to-network-with-djs-on-twitter). What gets me is the volume of artists that don’t realize that there are no shortcuts and that it’s going to take a tremendous amount of work and relationship building to make measurable progress ESPECIALLY if budget is the major constraint, which it is for most artists.

  • It seems that even this social networking world we live in, a lot of these artists aren’t that social. They can’t sell them sell or aren’t willing to put in the work.

  • Definitely great advice. I remember firsthand how the digiwaxx DJs responded to the Joe Budden track. That’s dope that you heard it being spun!

    People always want to bypass the local guy and wonder why they get no hometown love.

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