This year has been a very impressive year for hip-hop. Not just nationally, but in the DMV as well. Some great projects and songs have been released out of here, and more DMV artists seem to be really dedicating themselves to being that next star to come out of the area. I see that by the amount of artists that are seriously asking me for advice on what to do next to further advance themselves. I’ve found that through all the different artists I’ve talked to, one piece of advice remains the same that I share with all of them: FOCUS ON A SINGLE! With all of the great music coming out of this area, DMV artists are making the crucial mistake of either not focusing on a song that has hit potential, or not spending enough time on a single that has hit potential.
So many times I hear DMV artists talk about how Atlanta and other major cities support their local talent more than we do here. Well, let me tell you something that those artists in other cities are doing that DMV artists are not…the artists in those cities are going hard with their singles! They determine what they’re big single is, they build a great promo campaign around it, and most of all, they spend a great amount of time on that campaign and pushing that single until it reaches it’s full potential and more. Let’s dive individually into what I just mentioned in that last sentence:
1. Determine what your single is.
A lot of artists put tracks out. A lot of artists put out full mixtapes. But what truly is that standout track that is going to catch on to the masses and move across the country? For most, it can be easy to determine when you have a song that is strong enough to be a single. If you release a mixtape, it’s usually the track(s) on a project that people say they can’t get enough of and stands out above the rest. You may get feedback from fans, friends, and even DJs telling you that you have a big record on your hand. That let’s you know that you have a single that you need to run with. If you don’t have a mixtape and are just putting out a bunch of songs, pay attention to the songs that seem to have got the biggest response. This again can be determined by feedback from others, Internet buzz and song plays, amongst other things. It becomes almost a no-brainer when you see that you have a song that has the potential to grow big. From there, it’s on to…
2. Build a great promo campaign around the single.
A single is not going to sell itself. You have to market and promote that single. You have to become one with that single. You have to live and breathe that single. When I go out of town, and especially down South, I see independent artists living and breathing their singles. They have their singles professionally pressed up. They have posters. They have t-shirts. They’ve wrapped their vehicles. They’ve made creative promotional giveaways (I’ve seen everything from a deck of playing cards to cigars to promote a single). When I look at the DMV music scene, I don’t see that. It’s rare that you see people in this area with full-on promotional campaigns. Instead of wasting your money on bottles in the club and a slot on Worldstar that doesn’t benefit your career at all, use your money to press up promo items. Even in this digital area, it is still crucial to have your single pressed up. Have them ready to pass out homecomings, school campuses, after the club, etc. Get other promo material pressed up as well to pass out. People love free stuff. Value how far that material is going to spread and get you noticed by other people. Make sure you definitely shoot a great video to accompany the single. Also, do research into the various record servicing companies to get your music spread out across the country. Some great ones that I use are BreakTheCrates, DigiWaxx, and DJServicePack amongst others.
3. Spend a great amount of time promoting the single.
This is by far THE biggest area that artists in the DMV fail at the most. They put out a single, spend a short amount of time trying to get it to pop, and then next thing you know they’re saying they have another single out. They don’t realize that pushing a single TAKES TIME. If you really believe that your single has the potential to be a hit, then spending a few weeks or a month pushing it is not going to work. I tell every artist to spend at LEAST 6 months pushing their single. But for some reason, no one in this area realizes that, or give up to soon. Like I said in my last bullet point, you must live and breathe your single. And when you live and breathe it, that means you must spend a lot of time on it if you’re really trying to get it to move properly. A lot of the hit singles we hear that come out of the South and even the West, the artists spent months and even up to a year pushing it to get it to move to hit status. One example I give to people is the LoveRance song “Up”. I first heard that song a year before it became a hit. A DJ I know from the West hipped me to it. The group kept pushing their single, and here they stood a year later after I heard it with a major record deal and 50 Cent on the remix. All because they didn’t give up on pushing a song. An example of that here in the DMV is the artist I DJ for, Don Juan. He pushed his song “Lookie Looky” for just about a year until it finally landed him a major deal as well. He knew he had a song that had potential to be heard across the country, and he didn’t stop pushing it until that goal was met.
Speaking of across the country, that ties into another reason why I feel that DMV artists don’t push their singles correctly. It’s because they are only focused on making that song a hit here in the DMV. That is a setup for failure. There are 50 states in this country and 1,000s of cities with thousands of radio stations and clubs. Why is the focus only being made on getting airplay on 2 local stations and a few dozen clubs? DMV artists, you must realize that there are other markets/cities out there that you can break your music in. Some of the biggest songs/artists get broken in cities that are not their own. And don’t just think of New York City and Atlanta to break a single. There are smaller cities in those surrounding ares that have stations/DJs/promoters that are more likely to break your record without the constraints of big city media politics. And eventually, the songs spread from those small markets into the bigger markets. Gas up your vehicle, load it up with your promo material, and hit the road to get your single heard!
I can go in on this subject forever and ever, but I hope that those of you reading this got the gist of things on what to do to push a single. The lack of singles being pushed effectively in the DMV is what I feel is one of the reasons that the scene still hasn’t hit it’s potential. All because the artists are slacking on their hit potential. Let’s be wiser with the music being put out and how we put it out. Do it the right way. Feel free to reach out to me for any of your music consultation needs.