Monday, July 20, 2015
You ever been to jail or prison? How about anywhere that you felt you were not allowed to do or say what you really felt (raise your hand if you are NOT the CEO at your job). There are many forms of prison, physical and mental. As Indie artist, sometimes you can find yourself in what equates to a "Demographic Prison". Trapped by the same repetitive production, the same money, molly, made up life story wordplay that seems like an inescapable black hole sucking the life out of your grind. The big jewelry you are forced to wear in order to be taken serious has started to feel like shackles instead of "bling".
I did a long stretch in that particular hell hole. The thing is, it's the kind of prison that is relatively INVISIBLE to the eye. But, to the EAR it stands as big as Alcatraz, and it's just a menacing. Now, unlike sitting far off on an island surrounded by shark infested water, its the kind of prison that you can escape easy enough. You don't have to pull a Shawshank Redemption stunt to get free. All you have to do is make a decision that you don't want to be in that prison anymore, that you want to be free to make whatever music YOU like. All you have to do is dare to be different. But, as you well know, for every action there is a reaction.
I'm from the southern State of Florida, and I live in the State of Georgia, metro Atlanta to be exact. I have lived in either of these two places my whole professional recording career as an artist/ producer/ engineer. I grew up listening to most southern artist that were popular, but also music from other areas like the Midwest, New York, Cali and more. For every Poison Clan or 8Ball & MJG CD I had, I had a Mobb Deep, Snoop Dogg, Nas or Bone Thugs CD too. My style as an artist came from listening to ALL kinds of Hip Hop the moment I fell in love with it. That's were I got the crazy idea that when I decided to be an artist, I was going to be a huge name, because I was going to be so DIVERSE. I was going to be so DIFFERENT that I would stand out! I wish someone should have warned me how outright difficult that was going to be.
Enter the title: as an artist, I was "DEMOGRAPHICALLY CHALLENGED". This is a term I use when artists, producers or whatever, live in a region that doesn't normally gravitate to a sound, or style of music they normally create. This in turn makes if far more difficult for the artists to get the local and regional buzz it takes to get to the next level. This is because you must create that buzz FIRST before a MAJOR label will talk to you. It is more difficult to get spins in area Nightclubs, thus making it more difficult for even a cool sensible DJ to break your record there. It makes everything about your career as an Indie artist seem a little harder, because the fans that may really be into your brand of music, may live on the other side of the country. Some of them will be close, but you will have to find them, and they wont be at the most popular places.
There are a few ways to make doing time in this demographic prison go as smooth as having money constantly added on ya commissary and a steady flow of mail. One way is attempting to make the music that that region does like, even if its NOT your style. Either make it by yourself or through collaborating with an artist/producer who's good at creating that "sound". It may not sound like your best work, but it serves a purpose. "Hey BLIZM, that's a fancy way of selling out your artistic integrity", you say? Well, if I had it to do over I would have sold out my artistic integrity about 10 years ago. My stubborn mentality of making music I LIKE, instead of what DJ's can play in the CLUB has more than likely cost me a shot at becoming a household name in Hip Hop. Decisions, actions, cause and effect... I'm still coping with it all.
Being "Demographically Challenged" sucks yes I will agree. It's always easier for the artist to lock down their locale and region if they have a "sound" that is already popular. Breaking a new record and breaking a new SOUND are two very different things. I'm sick of 808 trap beats as much as the next Hip Hop head, but I live in the SOUTH, when was the last time there was a top single out if this region that DIDN'T have that kind of production? In fact, when was the last time ANYWHERE in ANY region in HIP HOP that someone blew up without a beat like that for their "CLUB SINGLE". This is magnified times 1000 when the NATIONAL Hip Hop scene is gravitating to this same regional sound. When people from New York, Philly, California and Chicago are adopting the sound that the SOUTH created, then the CHALLENGE transcends into a far more difficult one.
When it's all said and done, targeting your demographic (people who like the kind of music you make) is key. If you are one of these artist who say to hell with that, I make THIS type of music, then remember you must target THOSE type of listeners. If you are not going to play the "make what's hot" copy cat game, I commend your efforts, I just hope you understand the CHOICE you are making. I hope you understand you can no longer call a DJ a "HATER" if he can't play your record at 1:00AM with a packed floor full of molly popping ratchet chics and wanna be D-Boys. Because guess what, YOUR AUDIENCE ISN'T ON THAT FLOOR. If you are all about the LYRICS, and not the BEAT and the SIMPLE HOOK, you have compounded the degree of difficulty for yourself as an Indie artist.
So happy music making my friends. I would like to tell you that we still live an era where diversity is in, and being different was an asset. But this is called the NO CHASER blog, the straight truth. To keep it K-100, that is NOT the reality. If you really care about content of lyrics, outside the box production, really having your own sound, FIND YOUR FANS (most times they WON'T be in the Strip Club). Online sites, social network groups, music festivals, genre and type specific events and showcases, you know real grass roots target marketing. If you have no idea what that means, "target marketing", please proceed to the nearest Soundclick trap producer site, start downloading, and get to work!
-BLIZM (Program Director, K-100 Radio)