Tips for Growing Your Own Platform
I’m going to go off the beaten path here a little bit, because I want to address a few things that were coming across my Twitter feed and my Facebook feed. It started with a Flying Lotus article where Flying Lotus was saying he doesn’t work with rappers that often because they don’t pay him fairly.
That sentiment was echoed by the Justice League. They did a bunch of tweets saying, “Yeah, some of these artists are not paying fairly,” and on top of that, it’s also A&Rs, managers, label executives, there’s a lot of people in the music business who really take advantage of producers.
These sentiments have been echoed by Ill Mind, DJ Pain 1, it’s something we’ve all known for awhile, and it’s coming to light again, which is great, but rather than lament the woes of the music business, because I think that we’ve all done that to a large extent, I want to give you a formula for getting around all of that, or at least a set of goals, and how you achieve those goals, that’s really going to be on you, but at least with some direction, you know what you need to do.
So the core of everything is to develop your own platform. So if you look at Ill Mind, if you look at DJ Pain 1, if you look at Justice League, all of those guys have worked through the label system a lot. They’ve had big hits, they’ve worked with big artists, but all of them also acknowledge that in order to propagate their own career, in order to have their own creative control and their own empowerment, they need to have their own projects.
Justice League has their own label, they develop their own artists, Ill Mind, he has his drum kits, which are amazing, by the way, as well as his own artists, as well as his own — I don’t know if he has his own label, but I know he’s got his own music group, and you know, it seems to be the case of everybody who is a producer in the field. They always get their own thing going.
The reason being is that the real success is the development of your own platform. Your own platform is — that’s the base. That’s what you stand on in order to fall back to or step on to a new path for your career. It’s the core. It’s what’s going to hold you up.
So what is a platform? Well, a platform is a system in which you can either gain income or get your voice heard to multiple people, whether it be people who are specifically taste makers, or individual contacts who are important for your career, or if people — it’s just, you know, a mass of people, like a fanbase, or some kind of a social media network. Something like that.
So for example, I have two major platforms that funnel everything that happens in my career. The first, and the obvious one is The Pro Audio Files! As a content provider for The Pro Audio Files, I’m able to sell tutorials, I’m able to get ad revenue, and I’m able to substantiate some of my own marketing through this particular platform.
So that’s one. The other one, which is the one that’s less seen is my network. My network of A&Rs, of label people, of artists, of other people who are familiar with what I’ve done behind the scenes, and can recommend me to other people.
So that’s another system, that’s my network, and those two platforms make sure that no matter what I’m doing, my career is moving. My career is floating and I’m good.
So how do you develop a platform? Well, as a producer, whether you’re making Pop, R&B, Hip Hop, Rock, whatever it might be. EDM… you have to fall back on the product first. Start with the product, because there’s millions of people out there making music, and if your product does not meet the level of the people who are trying the hardest, you’re only going to get buried under the ashes.
Remember, everybody who is listening to music is constantly having their attention pulled around like this. You have to be able to grab their ears and pull them in, and keep them there.
And that’s a struggle, so you need to make sure that you’re devoting the time and energy to make sure that not only is your music great, but also unique and exceeding the expectation of what you thinks makes something good, because there’s a whole lot of people making above average stuff, but above average is average, and no one cares.
So you have to be better than that. Start with the core product. That takes some investment, it takes some time, it takes a whole lot of effort, but if you start with a really compelling product, and I’m not talking about just a beat or just an idea for a song, but I’m talking about getting the right singers, getting lyrics together, getting a song structure, getting something that’s unique and compelling, make sure it develops from the very first moment that the record plays to the very last moment that the record cuts off, and taking a holistic ownership as the producer of the product. That’s what a producer does. They create the product.
So make sure you start there. From there, it’s a matter of making sure that people are able to hear it, and that’s where marketing comes in.
Now marketing is something where ten years ago, it would’ve been completely inaccessible to somebody who is unsigned and was not born with a silver spoon in their mouth. We all remember that Rhianna single where the marketing cost a million dollars to market.
That’s insane. Really very few people can ever do that kind of a thing, and even scaling it down to $100,000, $50,000, that’s still way out of the realm of most people’s capabilities, but now in 2016, there are social media marketing companies, some of which are very good, you know, make sure you check for recommendations and things like that and their reputation, but they can launch a short term campaign for a couple of grand and it will be succesful.
The thing is you need to make sure that you are on your P’s and Q’s about creating a plan that will work.
So yes, a good company like Stop the Label is a good one. I’ve done a couple of projects with them, little $500 short run things, and they produce great results, but you’ve got to make sure you have a comprehensive plan in place. You need to have a sequence of, “Okay, I’m going to release this video, and this video is going to gain this attention, and it’s going to reflect my image and brand, and then I’m going to follow it up with this, a music video, a song, a link, something like my Facebook page, or your Twitter or whatever it is.” You use that and you create a comprehensive plan that builds your base, and your base becomes your platform. So that’s the other side of it. Once you do those two things, it’s really just a matter of time. It’s a matter of being persistent and fostering these things, and making sure that you’re always coming with your best in both regards.
If you’re not a marketing genius, that’s okay, I’m not a good marketer myself, that’s why I work with Dan. That’s why I work with the Stop the Label guys. It’s because they know what they’re doing. I can hire a consultant to figure out how to help me make people aware of what I do. That’s what publicists are for.
So you get that together, and then you start creating your base.
Now why do you do this initial investment, especially when, let’s be honest, if we’re trying to make money with music and just starting out, chances are we’re going into the red before we’re going to hit the black, well the reason why we do this is because it’s a long term payout. When you develop that platform, after it grows to a certain point, you no longer have to really rely on anybody else to give you something.
You can always say yes to the things you want to say yes to, or you can say no to the things that you don’t like, and that’s the main name of the game. If somebody comes to me and says, “Hey, this is what I want to do, and this is my budget,” if I love their project and I can figure out how to make it work timing wise, I could still say yes, or if I don’t like their project and that kind of money is not going to justify the amount of work I’m going to put in, I can always say no.
There’s no individual gig coming my way I can’t say yes or no to, and that’s empowering. That’s why everyone develops their own platform.
My suggestion is take ownership of your career, not just of your music, create the best music that’s out there. Be extremely competitive. Be very micro-managing of every moment of a song so that you’re not just making loops and beats and stuff that ten thousand other people can easily do, but you’re doing something that nobody else can do.
Then you know, be mindful of the people around you who are doing the same thing successfully. Check out Ill Mind, follow what he’s saying, DJ Pain 1 has a ton of great advice, Rook — or I’m sorry, Justice League, they’re really good about — all of these guys are really strong advocates for the independent producer, so check those guys out.
I saw the post from the CEO of BeatStars. I’m not familiar with BeatStars so much, but he was saying all of the right stuff, so maybe that’s something that’s good to check out, and always taking these ideas that these guys are giving you, and run with it. Figure out ways that you can expand your platform. Maybe you want to do the tutorial thing?
Fair warning, it’s a pretty saturated market on its own, it’s very competitive, but maybe that’s something that appeals to you, so you go out and you do it. It’s working for me, it can work for you.
Maybe you want to focus really on advertisement and short run, one minute kind of ads, so make it your goal. Say, “Okay, I’m going to go to where the music supervisors and music editors are, and I’m going to do everything I can to kick down the door and make sure that my product,” which remember, is really, really good, because that is the key to all of this, gets heard by them.
And you do these kinds of things to develop your own career strategy and take ownership of where you want to go. That’s how we get around artists who do not pay properly. That’s how we get around A&Rs who do not credit properly.
By the way, the great thing about this is once you have your own empowerment, once you have your own autonomy, you can ignore all those people, and you can just pay attention to the artists who are amazing. The ones who not only take care of you monetarily, but also take care of you in terms of making sure you’re properly credited. You know, making sure that they hop on Twitter to say something cool about you and give you that shine for a moment, because they actually care about what you’re doing.
There’s been a few artists like that in my life, and working with them is amazing. A&R is who love what you do, who follow up with you, the ones you don’t have to chase down, but they know what you do, and they love you for what you do, and actively engage with you, those artists — those A&Rs are a blessing, and they are wonderful people.
They are managers who are amazing, they are on their P’s and Q’s. Once you get rid of the garbage people out there, you realize that the people who really are on top of the game and who are doing this stuff really well are actually great to work with. There’s fantastic labels out there, there are amazing artists out there, there are wonderful A&Rs and managers, and the more you can work with them, the happier you will be, and the better your career will go, but it all starts with being able to say no to the garbage a-holes.
Alright, I hope that you learned something and I hope that you feel inspired to take a new look at the way your career can be handled and not feel like you have to rely on a system that’s no longer even relevant, when you can make your own.
Until next time, guys.