I am going to start off by saying that I love Soundcloud and the freedom that it gives people to express themselves through the creation of music. It is a tool that I think anyone who likes music should try to take advantage of. I don’t have the talent that is necessary to make music, although if you ask someone who knows me they would tell you that I am always humming or beatboxing some tune that I am just making it up. Nevertheless, I don’t have the talent to make music, so I am stuck here, writing about the people with talent.
I am blessed to be in a position where I am constantly receiving DMs and emails that contain new music and content from artists all over the country and sometimes even the world. I get it from all across the talent spectrum, from kids who have just released their first ever song to established artists promoting a national tour. This experience has opened my eyes to how the lower-levels of the music industry works.
This is why I am here today. I think I am a little bit qualified to give some advice to some of the kids that I see just starting out. Take this advice or don’t… and any of the more “established” artists that I have worked with, I would love to hear what you have to say about this.
I have seen so many kids get into music because of the freedom expressing yourself gives, the ease in which you can create music these days, for a little fanfare from the ladies (or dudes), or just for the sheer fun of it. I can imagine that it is extremely exciting to finish a song or EP or project like that. I would want to shove it in everyone’s face and make them listen just to get a reaction… obviously hoping that they love it and love me and become my groupies and send me hurdling towards a superstar life with millions of dollars and women everywhere and jetting around the world singing and rapping.
My advice would be to do the opposite of that. When you are just starting out, there is a chance that there are some rough edges. You might not have the best equipment for recording and mastering. You might be a little sloppy lyrically or rhythmically. When you are at these stages, my experience tells me to just post the songs on Soundcloud, maybe tweet the link out or something, then put your nose back to the grindstone and make another one. A ‘one-hit wonder’ doesn’t happen on an artist’s first ever release. They might happen early in a career, but not on the first release. I see so many kids pushing their first ever song with videos of the process, tweeting and retweeting themselves with the link, sending it to every website and account that they can find. Meanwhile, they are just leaning on that early music instead of focusing on getting better.
The problem that every Soundcloud artist faces is the stigma of the “Soundcloud rapper”. This stigma comes from the artists that do what I just described. Avoid this by just treating Soundcloud as your main platform. When you do the tweet and retweet thing, you are taking the focus away from the music and placing it on the social media. This looks forced or fake. Everyone can tweet about themselves over and over, but not everyone can make good music. Be the one that makes the jams.
The other thing that you risk by forcing your first rough projects on people is that people can write you off. If you haven’t reached your potential and they hear your stuff, even if you get better later on they can see your name on the track and immediately decide that its gonna be trash. This is totally unfair, but it’s what I have seen happen. It is hard to turn people back on to your music after they have already made a judgement on it earlier.
After all of this, one fact remains.
Music is amazing. It opens up people’s worlds whether they are making it or listening to it. Embrace that feeling that music brings you, don’t get swept up in the sideshow stuff that you see the big artists doing. They can afford to put out videos of themselves in the studio or on tour or whatever. Keep your focus inward, and you will find yourself at the point where you won’t need to promote your own music, people will be seeking it out because it is genuinely good music that they want to listen to. Nobody wants to be told what music is good, they want to find it for themselves. Let them find you on their own.
To any of you out there that have read this and are actually in the boat that I am talking about, DO NOT take this as me saying not to pursue music. Everyone should. That is what all of these easy music-making and sharing tools are for. PMH will always be here to listen and let you know what we honestly think about what you send us, so do that at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will be honest and tell you what I think, and try to help point you in the direction of some of the bigger names that we have worked with and that I have had the chance to talk to. Take a look at this blog I wrote after my interview with Phay for even more advice on getting started.