Rap has become increasingly popular in recent years, not only among listeners but also among artists. Thanks to falling prices and simultaneously rising quality of studio equipment, it has become much easier to start producing your own music.
However, it is noticeable that the work ethic of many artists is insufficient and/or their expectations are too high. They also lack goals and a basic plan for their projects, let alone their careers.
In this article, I would therefore like to give you some ideas, tools and techniques to easily manage these tasks.
Perseverance, bite, tenacity and focus are the most important qualities of a successful artist. Talent is only one side of the coin. If you’re not willing to pursue your goals and keep going regardless of the number of supporters, you’ll give up early and find fault with others. If success in the music industry was that easy, we would have a much wider variety of artists making a living from their music.
Of course, praise and recognition are still one of the most important sources of motivation. As long as you don’t make your attitude or drive dependent on external factors, you keep the course of your career in your own hands, making it easier for you to pursue goals. If you have a team around you that can motivate and support you, even better. Keep at it, keep going, and keep focused on your goals.
Coupled with your attitude, your patience is the second important factor for your success. It takes time for listeners to take notice of you. Many rappers expect fame and fortune after their first release. Since this does not come, the motivation for further projects is missing.
Here we are at the point of the previous section – external factors (fame and fortune) influence the artists’ motivation, drive and attitude. The progression of their career (their other projects) stalls, the music can’t get any better with so little routine and plain practice, and motivation continues to decline. A downward spiral. A concrete plan will help you avoid this. An appropriate saying for this is, “Success is a staircase, not a door.” Take time with your music and continue to develop it. Be patient with the growth of your fan base.
Before the concrete plan come your goals. They define everything you do, so you should take your time in formulating them.
There are great and superior goals such as, for example, prosperity. You must first define this higher goal for yourself. To stay with the example, what does prosperity mean to you? A house, a car, etc.? What exactly? Try to define it as precisely as possible. Then you will have an overall goal that can be measured in numbers (money, time, etc.).
From this overall goal, smaller sub-goals are formed, which can also have sub-goals. The purpose of this is to break down the overall goal until you have concrete, executable tasks that you can plan. This makes the big overall goal more mappable and you can create a concrete plan from the broken down tasks. Think about what your specific overall goal is and what categories and sub-goals you can divide it into. Break down the overall goal until you have concrete actions and tasks that you can use in your planning.
In your plan, you then form three groups:
Think about what goal you want to achieve and when. In the previous example, the prosperity you defined would be your long-term goal.
Medium-term goals for this can be paid shows, features, releases and sponsorships. Since you have defined your overall goal in Euros and can specify here what you want to earn from each action (show, release, feature, etc.), you can also calculate the amount needed for each.
A short-term goal from this would be the production of an album, which can be structured into further subtasks such as songwriting, production, recording, mixing, marketing, video shoots, and so on. In this way, you can take concrete goals and measures from the overarching vision, each of which is a step in the direction of the overarching goal or your vision.
The most important thing with goals and your plan is finding a balance between consistent execution and adapting to changes, such as your attitude, which may change over time. This balance is found over time, the most important thing is to start in the first place and keep at it. Think about goals, break them down into doable tasks, and work out your plan from those.
Who or what is a target audience? Sounds simple at first: people who like to listen to your music. A defined target group mainly contains the characteristics of exactly these people. So the art here is to find the commonalities. These characteristics and commonalities will help you find people who are more likely to become your listeners and, in the best case, fans.
By asking your already acquired listeners what they like about your music, you can better understand what your music does for others. From this you can gain a lot of information for your songwriting and production, which will result in higher quality music.
Thinking about who exactly you want to reach will save you money and get you better results with your ads. Use analytics tools, such as your Instagram and Facebook stats, to find out who your fans are and what makes them tick. Once you have a better definition of who your (potential) fans are, it’s easier to understand what they value and how they act. If you upload your songs to YouTube, Spotify & Co. the statistics there are also very helpful for defining your target group. Monitor and evaluate your stats / insights on streaming services and social media and ask people what they like about your music and what you can do better. Summarize these things and define your target audience from them. More about analytics in the section below.
Most Important Criteria of a Target Group:
When you create your ads (e.g. for Facebook and Instagram in Facebook’s Ads Manager, or for YouTube and Google via Google Ads), it’s also important to have a pre-determined schedule.
Here’s how I solved it for my campaigns:
Here you can find guides on how to create ads on different platforms:
Each project should have its own design. This does not necessarily have to be complicated and elaborate, simple designs also work very well. Even with well-known artists, simple designs are more common. The most important thing is the quality of the design or files.
You can either create the cover yourself with tools like Canva or have a designer / freelancer do it for you on websites like fiverr. Fiverr is for me a cost effective way to get professional designs. Although you have to search and filter for a while at first, it’s worth it in the end.
In any case, make sure the resolution is high enough to meet the quality standards of all platforms. A resolution of 2000 x 2000 px should be fine for all popular platforms.
All graphics for social media should also be designed in the cover design. This is important for a consistent and recognizable look of your release.
The most important social media graphics at a glance:
Content is basically everything you publish. Even your music is content that you can consciously stage and support with other content such as graphics, videos, and text. That’s what we’re going to deal with in this section. You should prepare most of the content before you publish your project.
For publication on streaming portals, YouTube and other platforms you need a suitable text. In it, you should answer the following questions:
Think about what goal you want to achieve and when. In the previous example, the prosperity you defined would be your long-term goal.
Social Media, Advertising:
The same applies to texts and posts on social media: think about what you want to post in advance. Prepare the texts for your posts and think about a sensible sequence and the time intervals of the posts. I highly recommend Buffer as a planning tool for social media.
If you prepare, coordinate and plan the texts and posts, you increase the impact of these individual actions enormously.
Let’s stay with lyrics for a moment. If you want to send your music to blogs for publication, you should also prepare the text of these emails.
The basic text with the most important data and a short story about the project may always be the same, but you should customize each mail individually.
Do some research and find the right contact person. Show them that you are interested in the blog and briefly explain why your project fits in well. Clumsy copy & paste emails are (almost always) deleted immediately and are more likely to damage your brand.
Prepare an overview of the links to your project. Be it links to Spotify, YouTube, iTunes, your Instagram profile or similar. Save and collect all links from websites where you publish your project.
To give your listeners a good overview, you can use services like Out Now On, Linktree or SmartURL. This way you can offer every listener your release on their favorite platform and increase the total number of your potential listeners.
Music videos usually achieve a higher reach, but are associated with comparatively high costs. If your budget allows it, a music video is recommended in any case. If not, you should still publish the song on YouTube, even if you only use the cover for the video. YouTube is also one of the leading platforms when it comes to music consumption.
Videos are generally good for social media. So create some making-ofs, funny scenes, maybe some kind of interview where you explain the story and the background of the project.
This also applies to photos. Use pictures of yourself, the production of the song, the video shoot if applicable, and other things that have something to do with you and your music. The only criterion: they must be interesting for the listener. Pictures of your legs up on the mixing desk are not.
As the previous sections have made clear, if you stay on the ball and work consistently on your goals, you will achieve subgoals that are important building blocks of the big picture. Your plan will help you stay consistent. This will also help you get much more out of your actions. Carefully planned songs or videos, released at regular and curiosity-raising intervals, are much more effective than all at once. Think about what can be helpful in achieving your subgoals. For example, if marketing your album is a sub-goal, your activity on social media can be an important factor in achieving it. Videos of the creation of the songs, answering questions, asking questions, high-quality photos, and more all fall into this category and belong in the planning of actions for this sub-goal. Once goals and actions are set, your consistency will determine their success. Keep the ball rolling.
With all the planning and the measures, measuring success is mandatory. From this you can deduce how successful your measures were and what needs to be improved.
Streams are the most important statistics because you earn money with them. How often was your song / album streamed on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon and Co. The service provider through which you uploaded your project to the streaming services provides you with these statistics. Spotify for Artists gives you even more insights: gender, location, age and other details about your listeners.
YouTube is somewhat in between streams and social media channels. While you can’t earn money from your videos (by running ads) until you have a certain number of subscribers, you should make your music available on YouTube before then. Music is the most popular and most used category on YouTube. Currently, 9 of the 10 most viewed videos on YouTube are music videos. This means the platform offers great opportunities for musicians that you shouldn’t miss out on. With bonus content like making-ofs and behind the scenes, you can offer your fans even more.
YouTube provides very deep statistics in the Creator Studio Analytics section, such as views, average playback time, and user demographics. You can use this data to refine and customize your audience. Learn more about analytics on YouTube here.
All other social media platforms also provide you with statistics. In addition to the increasingly precise definition of your target group with the help of this data, you can use it to understand more precisely which posts perform well and which perform poorly. From this, you can deduce which types/categories of content work and then focus more on them. Try different categories at first (making-of, song clips sung / rapped live, funny, photo shoots, etc.) so you have a basis for comparison.
Facebook → Page Insights, you can find more info about Facebook Page Insights here.
Instagram → Insights on a business profile (this is how you set it up), you can find more info on Instagram Insights here.
Evaluating your ads is also important, after all you want to know what you get for your money.
The click-through-rate is the ratio of clicks to the number of times your ad is displayed and therefore an indicator of the quality of the ad. If the CTR is poor, you should revise the text and/or the theme of the ad and continue to monitor its performance. You can find more information here.
Try to learn from all aspects and disciplines of your project and identify what works well and what doesn’t.
With these questions in mind, you can get value out of every process in your project. Try to constantly improve the individual processes, such as your release plan or songwriting.
NOTHING IS FREE
Some things in your plan will cost money. Be it beats, recording studios, video shoots, ads, stickers, flyers, graphic design or other things. Depending on the shape of your plan, they sometimes make a big contribution to the achievement of your goals. Investments are important for growth, and this is also true for your music career. The quality of your songs is affected by beats and the recording studio, and the reach and exposure of your music is affected by ads and music videos. If you don’t want your plan to stall (sections patience and consistency), sometimes financial investments are necessary to move forward. This is where your plan again plays a big role: which actions are most important to your overall goal and which are not? By answering this question, you can invest your money in the right things and move forward more effectively. Be willing to invest in yourself and be clear already in your planning which investments are especially important for your goals.