Being an artist or musician in today’s music industry can be “nucking futs”! Everywhere, you turn are self-proclaimed industry experts with two-dollar advice at million dollar prices, when in fact most of these “snake oil salesmen” have never been in the biz or have made little or no money doing the shit they are pimping to you. What do I have to offer? Good old fashion common sense and the fact that I made millions in the music biz despite having little talent and limited resources. How did I do it you ask? I became successful in the music business by adopting the habits of success-minded people!



1. Do everything with purpose.

If you don’t know why you are doing something, find out or stop doing it! Every endeavor you take on in your music career should have a specific purpose with a measurable outcome. There is nothing wrong with wanting to get the most results with the least effort, but don’t confuse this with getting something for nothing.

If Twitter isn’t helping you sell music or increase your fan base, than either take out time to learn how to use it for business or fucking leave it alone, your time could be spent improving your sound.


2. Be benefit-minded?

Unless wasting time is your thing and music is a hobby, all of your work (effort) must result in a benefit to your music career. Whether financial, social, economic or environmental – all of your work must have a benefit. Keep in mind; it’s not always about the money, as long as the “Free” concert your performing at will increase your brand recognition (or the like), then it’s worth giving a kick-ass performance.


3. Find your balance.

There is no shame in working a 9 to 5 until you hit the big time, especially if you have “grown up” bills to pay and a family to feed. You do not have to choose between work, personal, family life, and your music career, you just need to learn how to expertly juggle them all. Always, put your family first (if you are the caretaker), but save some time for you to develop your craft. If possible, find work where you could incorporate your music talent into your professional life…it’s not easy but it is achievable.


4. Your music career isn’t a slave to a time clock.

The only expectations you have are the one’s you set; everything else is bullshit! Your success isn’t on a timetable and some artists make it after being in the music business a short while, while others take years to develop. Sure, sometimes it might feel as if your music career is at a standstill, but you can keep moving if you adopt this philosophy.

You MUST accomplish AT LEAST one thing everyday: what that is, well it’s up to you, so I hope you have taken out the time to write down your music career goals.


5. Self-Manage

You are a “Grown-Ass” man or woman. No one has to wipe your ass for you or tell you to brush your teeth in the morning, do they? It is up to you when, where, and how you work on your music. Choose a schedule that is consistent yet flexible because you never know when opportunity may strike, so be ready when it does.

Not to be confused with hiring a professional artist manager, self-management is about choosing the right path for your music career growth and development.


6. Using your resources wisely

Seriously, read a fucking book! Attend a music conference, hell; you can even learn a lot by just reading a music blog everyday. Some of the most successful indie, DIY, and unsigned artists I have ever met were well read. Be a sponge and absorb all of the free online music business and music theory educational resources as possible.

Likewise, connect with other indie artists who are successful in your city regardless of genre, and pick their brains, share ideas, or collaborate. Maybe you both have the answers to each other’s questions, but you will never know until you ask.


7. Build and maintain a network

Artists and musicians should build networks (not just online) that extend beyond the music business. If you are a business professional, you should be tapped into the folks in your company that handle corporate sponsorships, company events, and promotions. An opportunity to play the company’s annual Christmas party (for ca$h) maybe yours for the taking if you befriend the right folks at the J-O-B.

In addition, you should tap into your local municipalities; they have budgets for large-scale events that pay musicians quite handsomely!


If you are interested in hearing more of my music business philosophies, follow me on Twitter @sahpreemking or check out my book, “Dude, I Can Help You! 18 Mistakes Artists Make and How To Fix Them” at http://www.dudeicanhelp.com

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/weneigh/3138243433/”>weneigh</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>

Freshen Up Your Music: 8 Tips from Multi-Platinum Producer Sahpreem King

Think about the last time you listened to the radio. What did you hear?

Most likely, you heard songs that were copies of copies, unoriginal tracks that are no different from the competition. As an indie, DIY, or unsigned musician, you are on a never-ending quest to sell music, book gigs, and increase your fan base. The question is, how will you stand out from the crowd and get noticed?


As a producer, it’s my job to help artists create new and exciting music, which requires an original approach to music production. Here are 8 tips on ways that I keep myself, and my artists, coming up with fresh ideas to create award-winning tracks.

1. Experiment
If you play a live instrument or are a band, experiment with your music using a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) such as Reason, Ableton Live, Pro Tools, or Logic. If you already utilize a DAW, try mixing things up by adding new audio and midi effects plugins, samplers, soft synths, or even producing music using other DAW’s. Each DAW is unique and offers great built-in effects, grooves, and sounds that can enhance your songs. As far as software synths are concerned, there is a ton of them out there as VST, RTAS, AU, and TDM plugins. One of my favorite soft synth plugins is by Toontrack called EZKeys because it not only features awesome keyboard sounds, but it also allows you to see the notes you’re playing in real-time.

2. Play Live
On the flip-side, if you produce or create electronic music like hip-hop or EDM, try adding in live instruments. If you don’t play any instruments, find artists to collaborate with, or learn an instrument yourself. Outkast’s Andre 3000, taught himself how to play guitar, and the rest is multi-platinum history! Take a piano lesson, work with a vocal coach, or sign up for DJ lessons at the Scratch DJ Academy. If you have, the time and money learn how to use other production tools for making music and you may discover a whole new world of possibilities. Aspiring songwriters should learn how to play the piano or guitar because creating melody is an essential tool for songwriting.

3. Get Social
Rather than randomly spamming social networks with URL links to your music on YouTube and SoundCloud, try reaching out to other artists and ask them if they would be interested in collaborating on a song or writing to a track you produced. This has worked for me many times, especially on Facebook and Twitter.

“Freshen up your music by asking artists you know through your social networks if they want to collaborate.” – Sahpreem King [Tweet This]

4. Listen
If you want to be one of the greats, listen to the greats. Do a little crate digging, and find inspiration in classic rock, soul jazz and funk music collections (your grandparents might even have some of these records lying in their attics). Try listening to music from around the world. Find inspiration in the music that inspires you.

5. Forget Boundaries
Never limit your creativity by setting musical boundaries. Just because no one has ever rapped over a polka beat doesn’t mean you cannot be the first. We all understand the formula for making pop music; however, change the game by coloring outside of the lines. Experiment with new chord progressions, arrangements, and vocal effects. Write songs about new topics. Don’t be afraid to try something outside of your comfort zone.

“Find inspiration in the music that inspires you.” – Sahpreem King” [Tweet This]

Breaking the habit of routine is difficult, so go easy on yourself. Rather than focusing on what you’re not capable of, focus on what you’re able to do, and where you want to be in the next 6 months as an artist. Learn to appreciate and respect your talent and set attainable goals for yourself as a musician and music business entrepreneur.

7. Change Your Scenery
A change of venue can breathe new life into your music. Spend a week or two checking out recording studios in your price range. Pay particular attention to the acoustics of the room, the recording gear, and the audio engineer’s professional experience. In addition, look into recording studios that offer amenities such as spas, remote locations, food service and the like. Make your next recording session a getaway. On the other hand if money is an issue and it probably is, barter with other musicians, producers, and engineers to use their facilities or maybe rent a space for a few days to break up the monotony of recording in your bedroom, basement, or garage.

8. Read
Artists can find motivation by reading articles in music magazines and blogs. For instance, artist/producer UpperCase 5ive learned how to produce and mix music by reading Future Music and Computer Music magazines. Magazines that are production oriented offer great advice from famous producers, artists, and engineers, as well as, tutorials, free loop CD’s, and download links for audio plugin trials. What’s more, magazines like Rolling Stone, Billboard, and Music Connection offer artists, in-depth interviews with labels, A&R people, and music supervisors, who provide valuable music career information. Read books on music by legendary artists, like “How Music Works” by David Byrne.

If you are interested in hearing more of my music business philosophies, follow me on Twitter @sahpreemking or check out my book, “Dude, I Can Help You! 18 Mistakes Artists Make and How To Fix Them” at http://www.dudeicanhelp.com

This post was originally posted on ReverbNation’s blog at http://blog.reverbnation.com/2014/03/26/freshen-up-your-music-8-tips-from-multi-platinum-producer-sahpreem-king/

Can Your Fans Find You Online? Choosing the Right Band or Artist Name

As an artist or musician, the allure to have a cool artist or band name can be powerful, but before you change your name to something like DJ Chedda Getta or Rage Biscuits, be sure that fans can easily find you online.


Search engine optimization or SEO, is about being able to be found online without too much trouble. Sure, having an unusual artists name like the one Deadmau5 has worked out for the superstar EDM artists/DJ, but why not make it easy for your fans to find you online by having a name that is easy to spell?

Artists have found out that in the beginning of their music careers, having an unsearchable name has hurt their music careers in terms of music sales, press releases, performances, and even radio interviews.

In some cases, artists or bands with unique names have spent equal or greater time educating their fans on how to say or spell their name as they did promoting their music.

What’s more, fans will not only have trouble finding you on the major search engines such as Bing, Google, Yahoo, and the like, but they will have even more difficulty locating you on social networks like Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram, which can also limit sales and fan engagement.

Obliviously, none of this advice matters if you have a well-funded marketing machine informing the public of your identity; however, in the case of most indie, DIY, or unsigned artists and bands, having a search engine optimized name is crucial to success.

Before choosing your artists or band name, here are a few things to consider:

Is your name search friendly?

Can fans that want to spend money on your music find you online with minimal effort? If not, you have a problem. Today’s music fans aren’t loyal and have short attention spans, so unless you are easy to find online, they will gladly spend their money on music they can find with little effort.

Avoid common names, words, slang, or hip catch phrases

 During the 1990’s when every rapper on the planet was “keeping it real”, there was an influx of labels, production, and entertainment companies using the same name. When people would search for the name of the “keeping it real” entity they were looking for, they were bombarded with a plethora of companies using the same name, making it difficult to tell, which one was which. In addition, when the name became out of vogue, the few companies that were left doing business were stuck with a name of an outdated catch phrase.

 It is also wise to avoid using names with too many common words like good, happy, best, top, etc. I’m sure that more than one group has decided to call themselves, “America’s Top Band” or something to that effect. Everyday names and simple phrases make it difficult to be unique.

 Lastly, stay away from names that are negative or use stereotypical slang, for example: I was once given a CD from a label called, “Killa Niggaz Muzik”, I can’t make this is up! There are so many things wrong with the band name I don’t know where to begin.

Creative Spelling

Being creative with your artist or band name can either help you or hurt you. For example, the name Lil Wayne may increase your search engine ranking because the word little is spelled, “Lil”; however, if fans search for Little Wayne instead of Lil Wayne, they might find many articles about a short guy name Wayne. The same would apply to the rap duo “Outkast”, but once they became popular, the search engines would point to the correct name spelling.

Let’s explore the many challenges with the name, “Killa Niggaz Muzik”, shall we? Well, even if spelled correctly (Killer Nigger Music), the name contains a negative connotation and a racial slur, which are both bad for obvious reasons. What’s more, every word in the name is spelled uniquely making it difficult for someone who never saw it spelled out to search for on the web.

Name Copycats

Wouldn’t it be cool if your real name was Dave Matthews and you decided to call your band, the David Matthews Band or maybe Dave Matthews and Band? Sure, for a while, you would fool people who were searching for the real Dave Matthews Band and you will certainly temporarily increase the traffic to your website, but it the long run you’d be known as an imposter. Furthermore, you will create a sea of hatred towards your brand, degrade the name of the real Dave Matthews Band, and more than likely be sued for trade name infringement.

The problem with being a copycat or anything original is when people get bored with the original they get bored with you too!


Using Crazy Symbols

What do the names Pokémon and Beyoncé have in common? They both have an e-accute in them, which implies the words are of French origin. What does that mean to search engines, nada!

Not only do search engines not recognize the é character, most people have no idea how to type them on their keywords rendering them useless unless they are in visual form.

Most people screw up when using special characters, so why put your fans through extra steps to find your music.

Before the advent of Twitter, I met a band called @Midnight. Visually this was a cool name because it meant, “At Midnight” and the band had a great backstory to go with the name. When Twitter came about, the band was forced to change its name to “At Midnight’ because the name @midnight was already taken. Plus, the Twitter handle @atmidnight, sounded rather stupid.

Using Two or More Words in Name

Names that are easy to spell are easy to find…commit that to memory!

One word names like Madonna are also cool, but I imagine if the internet was invented when Madonna first hit the music scene in the eighties a lot of fans would have been disappointed when the mother of Jesus Christ kept coming up in the search results. Single word names like Drake can be cool if they are not in use by other artists or are easy to spell, even if the name is spelled uniquely like N’Sync.

Bands and artists with names using two or more words like, 2 Chainz, Vampire Weekend, or Black Eyed Peas are easy to spell and quite memorable.

Trying Out Your Name before You Use it

After an all night jam session in your garage, you and your friends decide to start a band. In an inebriated state, you unanimously decide to name the band, the “Love Muffins”. As strange as it may seem, there might actually be another band with the same name, so be sure to Google search “Love Muffins” to see what comes up.

After checking the results, you may find that a bakery in Palo Alto, CA is using the name, but no one on Facebook, Twitter, or ReverbNation, are using and there is no mention of it on YouTube. Before you airbrush the name on the side of a cargo van or commit to a massive t-shirt order, try Googling the phrases, “the love muffins” or “love muffin band”. If your search results come up empty, go with the name.


Can You Buy the Domain?

Fans will only buy your music if they can find you online. Choose a domain name that is as close to your artist or band name as possible. For example, if you choose the name “Love Muffins” for your band name, then before you fully commit to it, type www.lovemuffins.com into your browser and see what comes up.

If the search results are empty, don’t get too excited because that only means there isn’t anyone using that domain name on an active website. For best results, visit a website that sells domain names like GoDaddy and search for your band domain name. If it is available, buy it immediately. Since dot com domain names are the most popular, I wouldn’t be overly concerned about buying other extensions yet; however, there are a lot of new ones out there to choose from.

Trademark Protection

Over the years, I have heard far too many artists tell me they have copyrighted their artist/band name. When I hear this nonsense, a bell in my head sounds because I know they’re either lying or completely confused, as you cannot copyright a name. However, you can trademark a name, but it’s going to cost you a pretty penny. The reason for trademarking a name is to have protection against anyone attempting to infringe upon your rights to the name. For example, if you saw a vendor on the street selling, “Love Muffin” t-shirts, you could sue the vendor for all of the money made from your name and force them to stop infringing upon your trademark.  If you are interested in learning more about registered ® and unregistered ™ trademarks, visit:

If you are interested in hearing more of my music business philosophies, follow me on Twitter @sahpreemking or check out my book, “Dude, I Can Help You! 18 Mistakes Artists Make and How To Fix Them” at http://www.dudeicanhelp.com

If you would like me to critique your music, you can submit your music to me via http://fluence.io/sahpreem-king

photo credit:

dkshots via photopin cc

Luis Hernandez - D2k6.es via photopin cc

Ass, Cash, or Grass, No One Rides for Free!

Nothing in this world is free! Everything cost somebody something and either you pay now, or pay later, but you will pay. Artists seem to think that just because they have talent, they are a GOLD MINE waiting for excavation.

This is usually not the case when 90% of artists on this planet will go undiscovered, the 9% that achieve minimal fame will eventually be ignored, and the remaining 1% of artists who reach superstar status (Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, Madonna, etc.) will fight tooth and nail to stay rich, famous, and relevant because popularity is a temporary status.

With that being said, as a music industry professional consultant, I listen to over 100 unsigned artists per week, all who I might add believe they are the ONE to change the music industry. Unfortunately, I usually find one artist who is noteworthy out of the entire heap. 

Before you get your panties twisted up your ass, I’m not saying most artist suck; I’m saying that because anyone can now create music at home, there has been a major increase in unsigned artists vying for attention in the open music marketplace. Nevertheless, I now find myself listening to ten times more music than in the past, which forces me to charge for my time. Back in the day, it was great to get a box of demo CD’s from a music conference and listen to them at my leisure, but now everyone has a song on SoundCloud or YouTube they want critiqued and for free.

Part of being an artist in today’s music business is about being an entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur you must run a business and all businesses need working capital to succeed. Without a business plan, a budget, and a marketing plan, you can tuck your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye. Every successful business has a plan and a budget or they go out of business. You may disillusion yourself to believe otherwise, but if you do, then you’re a stupid ass person.

Running your music career as a business will require costly resources such as the following:

  • Hiring a real music producer-not your boy who has Fruity Loops on his PC.
  • A professional recording studio, including an audio engineer-not your boy who has an Mbox and thinks he can mix.
    • Paying for Tracking and mixing.
  • A Mastering house with a full mastering suite-if they are using bunch of mastering plugins—-then it’s bullshit!
  • An attorney to help you set up your business legitimately.
  • A music business consultant to help steer your career—-some attorneys provide this service too.
  • A Publicist that can help promote your music beyond a few misdirected Tweets and Facebook posts.
  • A web designer that can set up your site as an e-commerce hub and direct traffic.
  • A professional photographer-your cousin with the digital camera is not going to cut it.
  • Music equipment-you can’t rely on the shitty venues you’ll be playing to have quality equipment.
  • Wardrobe—-you gotta look the part, but rappers, don’t spend more money on looking fly than you did on your music production.
  • Merchandise-stickers, t-shirts, download cards, posters, flyers, etc.


These expenses are a reality. Sure, you might be able to save a buck here or there, but be ready to invest in your business or no one else will. Back in the day, these expenses costs in the range between $10k and $25k, but now you can do it for much cheaper, but you get what you pay for…remember that!

If you are not willing to invest in your music career and expect people to magically open their wallets and invest in you, then you hit your head and probably need immediate medical attention.

Every artist I have ever met in 20 years of being in the music industry has told me they were a worth while investment, but I don’t invest in talent I invest in the person and if the person is fucked up, their talent is worthless to me.

Hiring me to consult your music career, cost $200 an hour, if you don’t have your budget together, don’t bother contacting me…I’m not in the music charity, I’m in the music BUSINESS!

Stop Chasing Your Own Tail and Run Your Music Career like a Business

In this narrative, I will address a few obvious points about the state of the music industry and its relationship to the DIY, indie, or unsigned artist. If I was a superhero and not a music industry professional, my name would be “Captain Obvious” because my mission in life is to point out the obvious holes in the way artists pursue their professional music careers. In return, I offer them practical solutions that are from my experiences as a recording artist and expert music industry consultant, as well as, the collective mindset of other music industry professionals I interact with daily.


Although, over the past few years there has been a disruption within the music industry that has primarily affected how the labels do business. On the contrary, the core functions (marketing, promotions, touring, and selling music) of the music business have continued to run as usual. For example, songwriters still write songs, musicians still create music, bands still tour, record labels still sell music, and the producers still produce music. Nonetheless, the most noticeable changes within the music industry are the way fans discover new music (music as a service) and the online music aggregation system (digital distribution). Likewise, before an artist signs to a major or indie label deal, they must already be a proven commodity (brand), which includes an existing touring schedule, online music sales, and an active social network.

The Artist as an Entrepreneur

Indie, DIY, and unsigned artists must divide their efforts between creating music and running their own music company, which is a difficult pill for most creative types to swallow. What separates unsigned artists from artists who have record deals is a team. When an artist signs to a label, the label provides a team of professionals that handles both creative and business aspects of a music career. In some instances, artists who only sing or play an instrument only have to worry about showing up to record a song, written, produced, and mixed by other people. Indie, DIY, and unsigned artists must carry the burden of providing themselves with all the services, staff, and resources of a label.

Today’s artists must wear multiple hats having marketing and promoting chops, as well as, guitar chops. In order to get attention from music labels, an artist must already have an intricate social network in place, fans that buy their music religiously, verifiable sales data, a street team with a working marketing plan, in addition to, tour dates in the cities where their fans live. Hmm, this begs the question, if an artist’s needs to already to function as mini-record label, why would they need a record deal in the first place.

Why Do You Need a Record Deal?

The answer is quite simple, the major and indie music labels have extensive distribution networks and all you have is iTunes (if they let you in directly), TuneCore, and CDBaby. In addition, labels are permanently homestead in the last frontier of the music business—-commercial radio.

It is difficult for DIY, unsigned, and indie artists to get their music on commercial radio stations if it is not backed by a label. If artists want to make it to the top of the Billboard charts, they need radio spins. If they want their music to reach millions of potential fans, they need the “music industry machine” to do it. Access to commercial radio helps promote fan engagement, which is of specific importance to the long-term financial stability of an artist. Fans are not loyal and if you neglect them by not releasing music, they will abandon you like a father who goes out to buy a pack of cigarettes and never returns. Beyond radio, the Internet has allowed artists to become entrepreneurs and do many of the things a label could do for their music career, but on a smaller scale.

Feeding the Fans

You may have created your music, but it really belongs to the fans. Fans are priority one and without them, you don’t have a music career. Fans have expectations that artists must adhere to or perish into a land of obscurity and despair. Artists must know what their fans expect of them in terms of music choice, format, and availability. For example, if you are releasing your music as 12” vinyl and your fans want MP3’s then you are not actively listening to them. Ignoring the demand of your fans can have disastrous results. If this isn’t enough to combat, artists must also earn the right to distract fans from whatever they are doing in order for them to concentrate on their music and brand message.

After gaining fans’ attention, you must convince them to buy your music over the myriad of music choices that flood the web. Getting fans to buy your music is tough because so many of them don’t want to part ways with their hard-earned dollars. I believe this to me the result of conditioning caused by the peer-to-peer file sharing sensation of the earlier part of the 2000’s, whereby, fans have become quite comfortable with the idea that all music should be free.

Expecting free music is problematic for several reasons. One, fans forget that working artists (the 99% of artists who aren’t superstars) rely on music revenue to enjoy the luxuries of life, such as, food, gas, rent, and electricity…how dare they be so opulent! Second, desperate artists are willing to give their entire music catalogs away to their fans in exchange for a Tweet or a Facebook like. Fans believe that if a superstar artist gives away free music, then everyone else should too.

As a result, some fans have an unrealistic expectation of free music, not taking into consideration, the music they’re consuming free, cost money to create. Unbelievably, I have heard other music industry experts argue that the expectation of free music is a myth, but it holds more truth than you could imagine. I believe that fans will pay for music they like, and far too many artists think their music is fantastic and the fans should throw money at their feet.

Music Discovery

The Internet is the largest music library in the known universe. Every person famous or not, who has recorded a song and has access to the digital domain, can upload their songs to the web and add to the clutter and chaos of online music distribution. Everywhere you turn, another music aggregator pops-up out of nowhere promising artists greater royalties, marketing tools, and distribution into online music stores, music streaming services, and print on demand.

Due to the catastrophic collapse of music retail giants and the bankrupting of mom & pop music retail stores, the way music is packaged and distributed has changed but along with it, so has the way fans discover new artists and music.

Are Fans a Little Jaded?

Not to dwell on the past, but fans that bought CD’s, when they were still in vogue, complained that after they listened to an entire CD, there were only two or three songs (usually the singles) worth buying. In fact, some referred to the other 10 or more songs on the CD as album filler. Major record labels heard this cry of outrage, but ignored it. Instead, they continued to stuff their pockets with money they didn’t deserve. Digital distribution began to level the playing field by offering music as single downloads, allowing fans to only buy the music they liked.

Selling music as singles and not albums was a game changer for the fans and heartbreak for the greedy labels. Simultaneously, tech geeks began building torrent websites that allowed fans access to music without parting ways with their cash. This pirate-like rebellion was a hard-kick to the nuts for the music industry, but not embracing this paradigm shift and figuring out a way to make it beneficial to artists and fans, the labels set their attention on suing fans for copyright infringement, which borders unjustifiable insanity. Even though, a few labels attempted to harness the power of free music downloads, none were able to come up with a business model that worked.

Music as a Service

Once music subscription services like Spotify, iHeart Radio, Rdio, Google music, and the like, began to take flight, the idea of music as a service spread through cyberspace faster than the black plague. What’s more, music as a service is a frightening proposition for unsigned, indie, and DIY artists because they are now forced to compete with major artists for attention. Likewise, many streaming services operate with lopsided revenue models that favor labels over the artists.

Publishing royalties still trickle down to the artists just as infrequently as they did before and the artist/songwriter is still getting the short end of the stick. While, the PRO’s (Performing Rights Organizations) ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC are on the case collecting royalties, they cannot be everywhere at once, and if their focus is on the whales, whose looking out for the shrimps? In an effort to fight the issue of bad reporting, too little royalties, or infrequent pay schedules, the digital rights society, SoundExchange has been collecting and distributing digital royalties for over ten years to the tune of $1.5 billion in distributions. In addition to registering their songs with a performing rights society, artists need to register with SoundExchange to collect sound recording copyright royalties from digital transmissions such as, streaming music services, online media usage, and satellite radio.

There is still hope for independent artists!

The advent of digital distribution and publishing royalty collection is a godsend for artists; however, artists without marketing dollars still have a difficulty reaching fans. Part of the challenge is, fans have a myriad of music to choose from. Artists who lack the marketing power to cut through the clutter, get lost in the whirlwind of music choices available online. Marketing is one of the most important business components artists should learn, but far too many artists rely on the limited tools offered by online music distributors or just blind luck.

Perceptive artists become entrepreneurs and take charge of their music careers by educating themselves on how labels and music companies do business. When in the entrepreneurial driver’s seat, artists with strong business acumen thrive. When artists control their own music, marketing, promotion, tours, distribution, and fan engagement, they’re on the road to independent success.

Artists must be willing to control their own destiny!

I’m baffled that in the age of Google, there are still artists who know very little about the business they so vehemently swear they are a part of. Case and point, I recently consulted an artist who expected royalty payments after signing a work-for-hire agreement with a less than reputable music company. The artist was completely unaware that once you sign a work-for-hire agreement, the music you create under the terms of the agreement no longer belongs to you. Whether you produced a track, composed a melody, spit a verse, or wrote an entire song, it belongs to the company that hired you. What’s more, you have forfeited your copyrights and you will never receive revenue from the sales of the music beyond the one-time payment fee illustrated with in the work-for-hire agreement.

Amazingly, I know songwriters and producer who have sold “hit records” for pennies on the dollar and while their song was at the top of the charts, they were riding the bus to work. Likewise, I have also consulted artists who didn’t comprehend why they needed to have a business plan and a proposed budget to successfully plan a national tour. I’ve even argued with artists about the importance of ongoing music business training. As shown by the interactions mentioned above, you cannot teach people who don’t want to learn. Artists must understand that a working knowledge of the music industry is a necessity not an option and must always be ready and willing to learn and act according to the needs of their business.

Operating as a Business and as an Artist Running a music career as a business takes planning, money, time, dedication, and teamwork. If an artist lacks any of these elements, they must seek alternatives. Furthermore, artists must recognize the fundamentals of business and how they correlate to the music industry. I suggest that any artists who want to become music entrepreneurs attend an SBA (Small Business Association) workshop and learn how to manage a business. SBA workshops are given in almost every city in the U.S. and are low-cost and free to military veterans.

If artists want to create a sustainable music-eco-system, they must invest their time and energy into mastering the science of music commerce. Mastering the art of selling music is critical if artists want to pursue music as more than a hobby. Consider this, if labels—-big and small—-are not willing to invest time, money, and resources into developing artists, they are surely not going to develop artists as business professionals.

Choosing the Right Path

There are many ways to have a music career ranging from signing to a major label to starting your own music company. Finding the right music business model is a process that requires an honest assessment of both talent and commitment. When artists choose a music business model that is not commensurate with their particular talent level or career plans, it can lead them down a slippery slope to nowhere.

The only real way to know if you are choosing what is best for your music career is through strategic analysis. Strategic analysis requires honest introspection, but more often than not, artists are too close to their own careers to be unbiased. I recommend hiring a professional music consultant to evaluate your talent, career potential, set goals, and establish a doable plan for success.

If you are not a business minded person, starting your own music company will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. Don’t be naïve or arrogant by thinking it will be a walk in the park, I assure you it is not. The music business is not for lazy people who wait around for things to happen rather than making things happen.

When lazy or under-educated artists try to fill the role of a label or music company, the results can be disheartening, especially when they are trying to be a jack-of-all-trades. If you have difficulty managing your checkbook, you will certainly have difficulty managing a production budget or the like. Please understand, your strengths and weaknesses can help or hinder your career. Largely, artists who fail to see the value in having a comprehensive business education, miss the opportunity to control their own destinies and by no means reach their true potential musically and financially. Exceed your limitations by building a team of people around your music career that can help you grow your business.

In summary, your music business grind (hustle or process) should include ongoing music business education, music lessons, and business training and development. It is a fact that if you fail to increase your knowledge of the music business, you are no better off than a dog that chases his own tail. Unfortunately, the only view of the world a dog that chases it’s own tail has is the view of his own ass!

If you are interested in hearing more of my music business philosophies, follow me on Twitter @sahpreemking or check out my book, “Dude, I Can Help You! 18 Mistakes Artists Make and How To Fix Them” at http://www.dudeicanhelp.com

If you would like me to critique your music, you can submit your music to me via http://fluence.io/sahpreem-king

Photo Credit: http://www.doglistener.co.uk/obsessive-compulsive-disorders-dogs

Promotion and Marketing Advice for Artists Having Trouble Selling Music

For indie, DIY, and unsigned artists, there are a ton of music marketing and promotion resources available online at low or no cost. Many of these resources can help artists turn their passion for music into practical careers. Although there is no one-size fits all solution or any guarantee of success, the information I offer within this article will help artists at all levels increase their opportunities to sell music, gain fans, book tours, and steer their music careers in a positive direction. However, I must add one caveat, you will only get back, what you put in!


The Difference Between Promotions and Marketing

When consulting artists, I often hear them speak of promotions and marketing as if they are the same thing. Although, this mistake is common among people without a marketing background, I thought it would be best to clear things up before we go any further. Promotion and marketing work in concert with one another; yet, they are two entirely separate communication mediums. Let me explain.

What Is Promotion?

Promotion is a communication mechanism i.e. service announcement, introduction, press release, or informational booklet, as an outlet to tell consumers about a new product or service. For example, if Mercedes-Benz creates a new hybrid SUV, they must tell the public about their new creation. In efforts to create public awareness, Mercedes-Benz could promote the new hybrid SUV by offering a test drive at local dealerships, demonstrations at automobile trade shows, web banners on Yahoo or Google. In addition, Mercedes-Benz will hire an advertising agency to analyze the ideal viewing times for airing television commercials targeted at their consumer demographic.

In terms of a music career, promotional campaigns can range from a press release (print or web) to a full-page color ad in a popular music magazine to an Internet radio interview to a contest to a YouTube video. Additional music promotion mechanisms include, co-branding with local radio stations, nightclubs, or television stations as well as collaborating with artists and musicians to promote gigs. Promotions can also range from fliers to posters to community events and fundraisers. Once more, promotion is about making the public aware of your product or service.

Furthermore, as an artist, align your brand (yourself) with charities, organizations, and products that are commensurate with your branding message. For example, if you write songs about the environment, it would be a good idea to become involved with environmental groups or anyone who is eco-friendly. Sure, I agree this sounds quite elementary; however, we sometimes forget about the simplest things and it’s usually the simple things that garner the greatest results. Sometimes, all it takes is meeting the right person or people who believe in your branding message and you can go from unknown to superstar overnight.

In addition, consider launching cross promotion campaigns with companies that offer products or services that share your target audience. For instance, hip hop culture and street fashion go hand-and-hand: therefore, it would be a good idea to cross promote with sneaker companies, T-shirt companies, watches, sunglasses, or any clothing brands that hip hop fans are already buying.

By now, I imagine that you have gotten the point, but remember, promotion is about getting your brand message out to consumers, letting them know you have something to offer.

What Is Marketing?

Marketing is often misunderstood by people who lack practical business experience, marketing education, or artists who are just too lazy or complacent to pick up a book. By definition, marketing is connecting your product or service to consumers by educating them on the features and benefits of your product or service, and why they need your product to solve a problem or fulfill a need.

Educating your target audience on your product or service is not only challenging, but also expensive. Companies must find new and creative ways to cut through the clutter of marketing media. Communicating a brand message requires a ton of marketing dollars to pay for advertisements, commercials, and product placements. Today’s consumers are desensitized to both target marketing and mass marketing, which makes marketing new products or services increasingly difficult.

Bombarded with an influx of music marketing channels, fans have learned to ignore music when marketed through email, social networks, and mobile apps. Focusing on sending fans a clear and concise brand message is priority one for artists. Conveying the benefits and features of their products and services separates them from every other artist on the planet who is fighting for sales and popularity.

Let’s Take a Closer Look

Would you agree that if we removed all the interior features from a Mercedes-Benz it would be just another car or would it? Many would argue that the subtle nuances of any vehicle are the mitigating factors of separation. Case and point, if the media console in a Mercedes-Benz featured Bluetooth integration with the iPhone and other smart devices, wouldn’t it be a benefit to the consumer who desires wireless integration. Of course, it would. The benefit of wireless integration would allow consumers to use their iPhones while driving, reducing the risk of distraction and eliminating the need to hold it to their ear.

Likewise, benefits and features are the key selling points that prompt consumers to make educated decisions about the effectiveness of your product or service and its ability to solve their problem, fulfill their needs, or to satiate a particular want. Additionally, marketing focuses on customer satisfaction.

How Does Marketing Apply To Your Music?

Typically, the average fan (consumer) will consume your music (for free) at least 10 times before they decide to buy it. They will consume in different ways such as hearing it played on the radio, YouTube, streaming radio, in a DJ mix, or a nightclub. Once they take action and buy your music, they are automatically transformed from consumers (user) to customers (buyer).

As I mentioned earlier, consumers are conditioned to ignore most forms of marketing; therefore, artists should question if their product (music) or service (live performance) offers relevant features and benefits to their fans. Do you want to know if your promotions and marketing is effective? Asks fans why they buy your music or come to your live shows. When asked, fans will tell you about how your music affects their lives.

Likewise, artists seeking an even deeper connection with fans should consider fan-focused contest. Fan-focused contest are great promotion and marketing tools because they engage fans and make them a part of the experience. A symbiotic relationship is forms when an artist engages his or her fans. Through music, the artists and fans connect as long as the artist continues to create music their fans enjoy. Another feature of music is emotional transference. Think about how a love song makes you feel when you are in love or how a sad song speaks to your heart when you’re upset. Listeners are emotional connected to music and benefit from its ability to alter their mood state.

The “Suck Factor”

In my twenty plus years in the music business, never have I heard an artist admit they sucked, even if they were booed off stage. Arrogance and delusion are powerful drugs and when artists get high off their own supply of bullshit, they believe their music is powerful it’s life altering and they are the biggest talent in music since the Beatles.

Hundreds of times per day, artists randomly tweet me their music links, send me unsolicited emails, and hijacked my Facebook posts with music they believe is awesome. They believe if I interrupt my life to listen to their music, I would be so mesmerized that I would offer my services free. For the record, nothing has changed; therefore, I still charge for my consulting services while I ignore this foolishness.

One thing I have learned being in the music business for so long is, the artist who toots his horn the loudest, usually has the least talent. In an industry where, “fake it until you make it” is the unofficial mantra, artists are hard pressed to deliver the goods. The suck factor comes into play when your promotional and marketing buzz are not commensurate with your talent, quality of music, or showmanship. As an artist, always focus on the music first because without good music, your promotions and marketing will only be hype that fails to deliver on its promise of greatness!

What Have We learned?

I assume that if you’ve made it this far in the article you have learned something you didn’t already know or I have provided you with a refresher. What’s more, as an artist who is in the business of music, you should grasp the concepts of promoting and marketing music, the differences between the two, how product and service benefits and features help promote and sell music, and most importantly the reasons for staying focused on the content and quality of your music over everything else.

Nevertheless, if that wasn’t enough and you are still hanging on for something magical to happen, might I suggest you go see a magician because there is no magical secret to music business success? Only talent and hard work will earn you a front row seat at the Grammy’s. No shortcut, trick, tip, con, or device is a substitute for critical promotion and marketing evaluation, planning, and execution. Building and implementing effective promotion and marketing plans requires time, knowledge, energy, and most of all patience, a virtue many “know-it-all” artists seem to lack.

In parting, I leave you with a few extra pieces of advice for you to contemplate:

  • Create a marketing plan (write it down on paper)
  • Create a promotions plan (ditto)
  • Identify your target audience (not everyone will love your music)
  • Marketing is a two-way communication between you and fans.
  • Don’t limit yourself to marketing and promoting only online.
  • Only cross promote when the products or services you are promoting compliment your own product or services.
  • Recruit your fans into your marketing and promotions using contests.
  • Read a book or two on marketing and promotion.
  • Be willing to hire a professional marketer or promotions team when necessary.
  • Make sure that your branding message is consistent across all social media platforms, print, and multimedia
  • Raise capital to fund your marketing and promotion plans.
  • Diversify your marketing efforts (spread the money around)
  • Measure your ROI (Return On Investment)
  • Analyze the music marketplace especially your direct competitors
  • Use common sense, courtesy, and professionalism
  • Don’t suck!

In conclusion, you cannot continue to market and promote your music without a proper plan. Rather than winging it, hire a professional music promoter or marketer or at least use some of the artist tools, resources, and opportunities provided by services such as Google, Facebook, Music Clout, PureVolume, SellaBand, Muzooka, TopSpin, FluenceApp, and ReverbNation to name just a few.

If you are interested in hearing more of my music business philosophies, follow me on Twitter @sahpreemking or check out my book, “Dude, I Can Help You! 18 Mistakes Artists Make and How To Fix Them” at http://www.dudeicanhelp.com

photo credit: Kat Northern Lights Man via photopin cc

By Music Business Guru, Sahpreem A. King © 2013 Wealth of Thought LLC

How The Mainstream Music You Listen To Affects The Frequency and Vibration Of Your Life’s Experiences

This post is extremely important because it discusses the vibrational frequency of music and how it relates to mood and consciousness. Many artists, don’t have the slightest idea as to how or why their music affects their fans. This is a re-post from www.lifeisbalanceislife.com

and was written by Chris Wilusz, creator of Life.Is.Balance.Is.Life

Mainstream Music’s Influence on the Modern Era

What musical artists make you feel alive? Which ones inspire you into greatness?

For me, all I have to do is play some Bob Marley in the morning and instantly, my day is set on the highest vibration possible.

The Universe and everything in it is comprised of three main ingredients – Energy, Frequency, and Vibration. Combined, they are the building blocks to consciousness and life itself.

The level or form of consciousness you are at present is directly related to the level of each of these three ingredients.

For example, one and two dimensional objects vibrate on a lower frequency than three dimensional objects and the same goes for all life forms that are conscious. EVERYTHING has these three ingredients. Both living and non-living.

It is becoming more widely accepted through modern science that consciousness has the powerful ability to affect and manipulate matter. For many years, it was thought to be that of its opposite.

So let’s simply break it down…

  1. The Universe is consciousness. Everything in the Universe is conscious on some level.
  2. Consciousness is affected by energy, frequency, and vibration.
  3. Consciousness can then manipulate and/or create matter.
  4. Here’s the kicker! You, my friend, are matter in the combination of solid, liquid, and gas (mostly water!), comprised of atoms which hold electrons, protons, and neutrons.

Which means…

Nikola Tesla – Famous Inventor – Proponent of Free EnergyNikola Tesla – Famous Inventor – Proponent of Free Energy

The matter (form) in which you are experiencing life in the present is manipulated by the energy, frequency, and vibration that you are inviting/creating into your consciousness. Or in other words, you are what you are vibrating!

Also, there are plenty of studies that show the impact of frequency and vibration on water (70-80% of your composition).

For a small video on frequency and vibration’s affect on water…check this out!

“If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.” – Nikola Tesla

So Where Does Music Come Into Play?…


Most people are aware of this…it’s no mystery. BUT DO THEY REALIZE ITS TRUE SIGNIFICANCE?

Music has been around for thousands of years and has been present in every culture on earth (both ancient & modern) from the Egyptians all the way to the Mayans and Native Americans on this continent, and many more!

It is also shared and experienced among the beautiful animals we inhabit this Earth with…such as birds, whales, bats and more – check out these 7 Amazing Animal Musicians and see what they’re capable of!

Music is an integral part of life for all on this planet! And I’m so happy it is. :) I wish everyone could enjoy the sounds of music!

“Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. This is physics.” – Albert Einstein (pretty smart dude)

So now that you can understand the power of music and its impact on your consciousness, let me give you give some modern examples of vibration mastery! And let’s not forget, although vibration may be mastered by these musicians, it does not mean the intention behind the music is always 100% clear or sincere.

Money plays a huge role in the workings and manipulation of what mainstream artists put out into the world. And my judgments of whether they have good or not so good intentions are only my opinions and how they resonate with me. To each his own!

But if you pull down the blinders, you may find some deeper meaning behind the music you listen to.

I will discuss mostly musicians that have influenced my life…but do your own research and introspection and see what you find!

Dark vs Light: Musicians on Payroll

 The music industry plays a key role in the manipulation of our planet’s frequency as a whole. There, I said it!

It is owned and operated by just a few large companies who have billions of dollars and whole shit ton of control. Major record labels get to decide who becomes their next puppet. A puppet that will best fuel their continued control of industry and put billions more into their pockets.

I am not saying they control everything because that is most likely impossible. But these large companies do have their hands in the pockets of probably 75-85% of the music you listen to. It’s just simple objective fact. They have the ability to manipulate the artists you invite into your life.

And they have the power to flood your consciousness with the artists who vibrate on a much less meaningful level.

How? Well you already know…

Mostly through radio & television…a massive avenue of vibration distribution.

Now the illusion of choice comes in the way of American Idol, which has taken over in the last decade.

Through American Idol, people have the illusion that their choices or preferences are dictating which artists are chosen to become superstars. But in reality, these new artists are only being compared, on the subconscious level to the older generation that has paved the way. The older generation that has had to go through the rigors of “making it in the music biz.”

This older generation is pretty outspoken on the inner workings of the music industry.

You can find numerous videos on you-tube of high paid musicians giving confessions that they “sold their soul to the devil” in order to get into/survive the industry. Or the talks of other mainstream music celebs who have “fallen off” like Lauryn Hill of The Refugees or Prodigy of Mobb Deep. They go into extreme detail into how the system works.

If you don’t comply, you are simply outcasted and ridiculed or worse. Michael Jackson and Tupac Shakur were huge tests of defiance to the control of the music industry and they had some pretty poor outcomes. If you read deeper into some of their songs, you’ll hear them trying to break free of the slavery that is the music biz.

Other notables that were amazing in their defiance of trying to spread positivity or contest the control were Bob Marley, John Lennon, Jim Morrison, Aliyah, Jimi Hendrix, and Biggie, to name a few.

Some artists (such as Jason Mraz) have the ability to transcend the darkness because of the amount of light they are shining on the soul level…they become exemptions to the rule for many reasons…

As well, their music, as a positive vibration makes more money for their bosses. So to put it simply, if they sell records, let it be.

But overall, the mainstream music industry has become flooded with garbage for many reasons…

  • To lower the frequency of billions on a daily basis. (using hate, anger, judgment, sex, money, greed)
  • To distract the younger population and create a dumbing down effect for generations to come (older generations of music, especially in the 60′s and 70′s inspired free thinking, rebellion against power, and awareness).
  • Manipulate trends, styles, ideals, and morals which feeds the material market designed for their audience.
  • Creates debate, separation, racism (Kanye & Taylor Swift), prejudice, and drama based conversation.
  • Distract or overpower the talent of artists with genuine messages/intentions.
  • The most important is the first one – LOWERING YOUR FREQUENCY! They use and feed off of your emotions for profit.

For a beautiful example of emotions and their respective frequencies check out this graph on innertranquillity.com. It describes many emotions such as shame and guilt (lowest) as 20-30 hertz frequency whereas love, joy, peace, and enlightenment (highest) are at 500-700+ hertz frequency respectively!

Remember though…

It is not everyone out there like I said. And not every record label has bad intentions. Some artists have no idea that they are manipulated. And some artists have no idea of what they’re actually vibrating. They are just trying to become “famous” or earn a living. But they see what sells, makes their labels happy, and rewards them in monetary and Egoic value. And thus, the billionaires above them reap even more.

Some examples of low frequency vs higher frequency in rap/hip-hop/rock/and country…

Living artists that lower your frequency:

(It doesn’t mean they are not good at what they do!)

  • Lil Wayne
  • P. Diddy (anything he touches)
  • Britney Spears
  • Rhianna
  • Justin Beiber
  • Miley Cyrus
  • Drake
  • Kanye West
  • Taylor Swift
  • Lady Gaga
  • Metallica
  • Jay-Z
  • Eminem and many more…

Living artists that raise your frequency:

  • Jason Mraz
  • Jack Johnson
  • Matisyahu
  • Keith Urban
  • Eddie Vedder
  • Incubus
  • Rebelution
  • Florence and the Machine
  • Mos Def
  • Dave Mathews Band
  • Tracy Chapman
  • Brad Paisley
  • SOJA
  • Darius Rucker

These artists have the unique ability of capturing audiences’ attention and they do it very well! The difference between the two lists in my opinion is the message (vibration) behind their music. Is it fueled by love, peace, happiness, awareness, and positive vibrations? Or is it fueled by greed, anger, guilt, fear, desire, or negative vibrations?

There are so many genres of music that raise the frequency of one’s vibration as well that I did not speak of such as:

  • Classical
  • Jazz
  • Folk
  • Orchestra
  • New Age
  • Soul
  • Opera
  • As well as many others!!

It’s All About The Message…

Music tends to hit people on the soul level and the subconscious. It’s the same reason why when you hear a song and you don’t know who it is or what it is, it just hits you! You FEEL it inside you. It affects your subconscious infectiously and has a lot to do with what frequency you are vibrating and attracting.

If you are feeling or vibrating sadness, you may want to listen to sad songs or lower frequency tunes. Or quite the opposite! When feeling sad, you may need a positive boost and turn on some Bob Marley. :)

Ultimately, if it makes you feel better, listen to it! But consciously be aware of how it truly makes you feel at your core rather than pleasing a superficial Egoic lack or desire.

Ironically, this entire article and my perception of these artists and their music may not resonate with you at all! It all has to do with your frequency and vibration. We just may not be on the same levels – it is what it is. Not good or bad. :) Everyone has their ‘time’ for raising their vibration…

This brings me to my life experiences with music…

In high school and college, my music had a wide variety of vibration but consisted mostly of rap, hip-hop, and alternative/classic rock.

I found my emotions were very imbalanced and erratic like most teenagers and young adults. The music tended to fuel my anger, hate, jealousy, sadness, or greed. I’d find myself listening to old school Eminem and Jay-Z or other mainstream hip hip artists like Nas, Biggie, or DMX while getting heavily boozed up before I went out with my friends.

That vibration was NOT a good way to start off the night because often I would find myself looking to pick a fight with anything that walks. Granted, I had some personal issues going on at the time along with the stress of nursing school but who doesn’t? I do know it was the music (mixed with alcohol) that brought those emotions roaring to the surface.

Or at other times after a long night of drinking and pondering life’s regrets, I would sink into a depression with Metallica or Staind to drown out the noise of my mind and racing thoughts. I don’t feel I was more extreme than most young adults but the music had a profound impact on the frequency I was operating at.

On the contrary, I found some amazing artists to lift my frequency in ways I never thought possible. I could drift off into heaven while listening to James Taylor or Jack Johnson. Or expand my mind and perception with The Beatles, Incubus, and other thought provoking musicians/bands.

Those days in high school and college were highly influenced by the vibrations I invited into my life and on many levels. I am forever grateful to what that music brought me and it has contributed to who I am today. That is why I no longer judge it as right or wrong. I now see them as different levels of vibration and frequency.

Just because a person listens to Justin Beiber or Lady Gaga, it does not mean they are wrong for doing so. I am only implying that they are inviting whatever vibration that artist(s) are giving off!

Vibes That Raised My Frequency Ten Fold…

The 5 major artists who have raised my frequency of peace, love, unity, and awareness are:

  1. Bob Marley
  2. John Lennon
  3. Jason Mraz (his last album entitled LOVE captures the full possibility of how well humans can vibrate!)
  4. Eddie Vedder
  5. Brandon Boyd of Incubus

The number 1 person who has helped me to see the LIGHT has to be none other than Mr. Bob Marley. This man created an amazing culture of UNITY & HIGHER CONSCIOUSNESS, literally and figuratively. :)

I don’t think a conclusion is needed really. I’ll leave you with three amazing quotes.

Remember, listen to the vibrations that make you vibrate on the highest level. Question the ones that don’t. And always be aware that those vibrations affect you on the cellular level subconsciously!

“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds. Have no fear for atomic energy ’cause none of them can stop the time.” – Bob Nesta Marley

“Every road is a slippery slope. There is always a hand that you can hold on to. Looking deeper through the telescope. You can see that your home’s inside of you.” – Jason Mraz

“Are you getting something out of this all encompassing trip?
You can spend your time alone, redigesting past regrets, oh
or you can come to terms and realize
you’re the only one who can’t forgive yourself. Oh
makes much more sense to live in the present tense…” – Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam)


Is Music About Talent or Gimmick or Both?

In this article, I will attempt to shed light on a sensitive topic that many people within the music industry who hold power positions conveniently gloss over, even when they are directly questioned——is music industry success about talent or gimmick or both?


Now, I don’t want to point fingers and name names, but I have sat on many music industry discussion panels where industry experts and taste-makers greater than I, have been completely dumbfounded by this very question. Everyday, there is an artist standing on the ledge ready to jump. It’s not that they are desirous of ending their physical life, but they are on the verge of committing career suicide without jumping to their death.

The state of death, I’m referring is the death of their music career and it manifest itself by taking two distinctive actions. The first action is simple because it requires artist to literally toss in the towel, admit defeat, give up on their life’s dream and quit the music industry forever. I know famous artists who at the end or cooling down period of their music careers put so much distance between themselves and the industry that if you saw them in public, you wouldn’t recognize them.

Quitting the Music Business

Every artist at some point in his or her music career has contemplated trading in the drum machine for a shirt and tie, pawning the guitar for a briefcase, or even giving up the microphone to become the head roast beef cook at Arby’s. You know its bad when artists who have angelic singing voices won’t even take part in Karaoke night with their co-workers. The other action requires what 90’s hip-hop artists called “Selling out”.

Selling out is a dangerous proposition, because it involves submitting to the “man”. Once the “man” has taken a liking to you, it is the beginning, of the end of your music career. As the music industry’s “it boy or girl”, you are now raised to superstar status and all that is left for you is the ride back to the basement. Again, once the man gets his fat greedy little hands around your neck, his pockets get fatter, your ego gets inflated and you begin to part ways with reality. Who is the “man”, I keep referring to, you ask?

Well I’m surprised that you don’t already know, but for the record, the proverbial “man” is the music industry complex that controls every major and minor label within the music industry. To be more specific, if we need to give the “man” a name—-I would say it would be Lucian Grainge—-chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group (one of, if not the largest record company on the planet).

I’m not blaming one man and his company’s stranglehold of the music industry. All of the problems within the music industry are far greater than the deeds of one man, one company, and the actions of all the copycats within the business that follow suit. The problem or should I say epidemic stems from a culture of disposable music and pop idolatry that causes normal fans to become Barbies, Little Monsters, Stans, or even Zombies.


photo credit: riptheskull via photopin cc

Trading Your Soul for Success

The music industry has cornered the market on selling self-esteem and essence they are adding to the collective delusion of fame and fortune, which many artists would gladly sell their souls to gain. Material success is an illusion so strong that when an artist’s star begins to fade, they will lie, steal, cheat, and kill to stay relevant. In recent news, a former child rap star, Lil Bow Wow, was exposed for lying about ownership of a rented Ferrari he drove to the Grammy Awards. To impress other people who don’t really have the wherewithal to afford a luxury sports car, he pretended the Ferrari was his until the rental company removed his veil of deceit.

The moral of this tale is to illustrate the fact, the fame and fortune of most artists in the music business is a charade. You would think, currently, artists wouldn’t be so easily sucked into an endless void of despair, but fame is a sexy beast! When the machine has selected you as the “chosen one”, a feeling of immortality takes over you. Artists have gotten away with things normal people would be thrown under the jail for, and I’m not just talking about musicians either.

Nevertheless, I have been to the party and tasted the forbidden fruit, and can tell you first hand that it is a house of cards. Is there a secret agenda to create pop stars the way an automobile factory assembles cars? Maybe there is a secret factory hidden in the concrete jungles of LA and NYC, but let’s not focus on that. Let’s talk about the drug of music. Yeah, I said drug! A drug is defined as a substance that has a physiological effect introduced into the body.

Music alters your brain chemistry and unlike heroin, it doesn’t require smoking, snorting, or injecting. In fact, music is often used as a form of depression therapy.. Equally as important, music is an invasive drug that enters the mind through the ear canals and without permission. Once it as enters your subconscious, music makes a permanent home within your brain.

Earlier today, while in the grocery store, a Smokey Robinson song was playing over the loudspeaker at just the right volume. As I turned to go down the aisle, I found myself singing the song and as I approached a woman at the far end of the aisle, she was singing to song as well, which further proves that music has a drug like property. Overall, it is easy to see how the music industry capitalizes off the retail value of the psychology of music.

photo credit: Miles Cave via photopin cc

Welcome to the Real Dope Game!

During my music career, I’ve seen way too many talented artists get tossed to the side, overlooked, ignored, or shut out because they aren’t what pop culture deems visually appealing. What do I mean by visually appealing? In order to sell dope, you have to make a convincing argument that the person who ingests the dope is going to get high. People get high to run from their problems, cope with anxiety, or even take a euphoric vacation from the real world.

As a dealer, your product must be attractive to your clients; therefore, your packaging must stand out above the rest. It is arguable that I have made a loose analogy here, but all should agree that I’m fishing in the right pond. The music business is all about visual appeal, if not, music videos wouldn’t be necessary. Having mass appeal sells more records, and this is why artists who if they were ugly, wouldn’t be talented enough to sing in a school play let alone a sell out concert.

Hell, I’m not saying that every homely overweight artist is a music virtuoso, but not every super talented artist is a looker. What’s more, why is it necessary that such mediocre talent’s have outrageous marketing budgets, control over the radio, and broadcasting in such a way that it feels like an anal suppository is being shoved up your ass? It’s because they are visually pleasing or at least, as the industry folks say, “editorial”. Music companies can afford to sell fans the pipe dream because they are counting on selling the sizzle, despite the steak being tasteless.

Force vs. Discovery

I know this article is beginning to sound like a conspiracy theory, which we all can agree exists on some level or another. Likewise, I believe people are force-fed music as a marketing device to push an even greater agenda, which includes total consumer control. Have music companies and labels resorted to using gimmick and device to capture fans attention, sure, they have. It seems the more an artist’s life is spinning out of control, the more popular they become.

The more popular they become, artist begin latch their sense of identity to external attention thereby linch-pinning their self value to the falseness of fame. Chaotic device is the order of the day, especially when the media loves to exploit out of control artists (just ask Kanye). Music companies rake in hefty profits when their artists are in the tabloids, blogs, and TMZ., The world has stood by and watched many artists plummet in the pit of self-destruction, including the late “King of Pop” MJ. Drama and gossip, sell news. Artists know this and so do music companies.

Smart artists seem to know how to pimp the media at will and do so by creating alternate artistic personalities. If this were not the case, why does Beyoncé have the alter ego Sasha Fierce? Isn’t Beyoncé talented enough not to need all the extra attention, certainly? What about Miley Cyrus? We’ve watched her transform from the wholesome, Hanna Montana persona, into a tongue wagging twerk machine that grinds on Madonna (ill, that’s like getting a lap dance from your grandma)? Is gimmick necessary to sell music today, or are music companies pandering to the lowest common denominator?


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Causing Chaos

Desperate to stay in the news, some artists have been known to create rumors about themselves or leak their own music and stories to the press. If they are willing to go to these measures, should we believe everything that we read or hear in the media? As a fan, how do you separate the truth from hype?

The media sets the expectation of belief because controversy is a marketing tool. Whether true or false, their news reports are difficult to decipher. Who do we blame the media outlets, the music companies, or the artists? In some cases, they are all to blame. For instance, let’s discuss the antics of Rihanna. If you formed an opinion about her by what you read in the media, it is easy to believe she is drug addict and a THOT.

If you Google search for images of her, you would find that in most of her pictures, she is doing drugs, drinking, or something sexually inappropriate with a male or female. In this case, the media is not to blame, since almost all of the photos posted on, the “Good Girl Gone Bad’s” Twitter and Instagram profiles are her own handy work. Social networks like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram, allow artists to control their own media. Artists must take responsibility for what is posted on their social networks, because the “my account was hacked” excuse has been over used. In Rihanna’s case, much of the hype and gimmick is due to her own actions.

Sending Negative Messages

I’m not suggesting that Rihanna should be arrested by the morality police, but I am suggesting that as a role model to impressionable young women and girls, she considers the effect her deviant behavior (at least publicly) has on her fans. As a parent, I pray my daughter never follows in the footsteps of Rihanna, but maybe Rihanna is a victim of the fame monster, a puppet controlled by the “man”, or too caught up in the illusion of music business success to feel she can be held accountable.

The question remains, is the real Robyn Rihanna Fenty a bad girl or is her image a product of media hype and gimmick? Maybe if she weren’t good looking, her music career would have been short lived, because God knows she cannot sing. Perhaps, if beauty weren’t the standard of measure for talent in today’s music industry, so many talentless artists would not exist.

A Question of Morality

Never compromise your values in exchange for fame or fortune. For many female artists in a male dominated industry, it is difficult for virtuous women to compete with women who are willing to do anything to gain an opportunity. For the record, this is not just my assessment, but this story has been shared with me by countless female artists I have worked with or counseled in the past.

When a woman is unwilling to shake her ass and show her titties, she can often times find her opportunities limited. If a woman is against objectifying herself or pretending to be something she simply is not, fame and fortune can be in short supply. Remember, LaFace records tried to make the artist Pink into a white female R&B singer, and although she pulled it off, it was very different from how she saw herself or envisioned her music career.

Some could argue that the majority of music superstars implement a gimmick or two into their marketing mix; ranging from Kiss to Madonna to Prince; however, most fans can easily separate gimmick from the authentic persona. Prince, is by no means pretending to be sexually ambiguous, it is who he is.

On the other hand, artists like Rick Ross, are a prime example of an imposter. Rick Ross borrowed his name and rap persona from the infamous drug dealer, Ricky “Freeway” Ross. In his music he makes claims of being a boss-level dope dealer, while in reality, he is a former Miami-Dade corrections officer. Ross’s gimmick is so slick that millions of fans believe him, but even the real Rick Ross made it clear that the rapper was a pretender and filed a lawsuit against him for using his name and likeness.

This flagrant charade begs the question, in what other industry can a former corrections officer pretend to be a drug kingpin? Well, outside of the movie industry, I tend to draw a blank. The truth is, Rick Ross is actually quite talented as a rapper; however, would he have become a superstar, without the gimmick?


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Beware of the Power of the Dark Side

I have spoken with artists who make a compelling argument for having a gimmick and others who feel music should only be judged on talent. What happens when talented artists succumb to the dark side and focus their attentions on creating a gimmick? Well, truth be told, when artists conjure up false personas, create fake backstories, or adopt a Vaudeville element to their live performances, they run the risk of being exposed as a fraud. Sure, some artists experience instant fame and fortune, but it is temporary.

Once the mask is removed and fans see them as frauds, they move on to the next band. Even the artists who feel that “selling out to the man” is a great business strategy find they are only pawns in the game controlled by corporations that promote economic enslavement and control of art.

When the puppet master pulls the strings, you have no choice, but to react to his movements. Sometimes when artists sign on the dotted line, they not only sign away their freedom to create without limits, but they also sign away their morals. I know I have made music companies out to be villains, and some are, while others are not, it’s just a matter of perspective.

When Your Music Career Begins to Fall Off

As the puppet master exhausts all of his options, and he has squeezed every penny out of your music career, the desperation begins. Music companies don’t want to lose money on artists with dwindling star power, so they campaign to keep the artists relevant.

Case and point, it seemed both R. Kelly and Lady Gaga were fading in popularity until they pulled a stunt at the 2013 AMA’s (American Music Awards). Kelly, the impresario of sex and Gaga the queen of drag, performed a duet that can be described as an “old black pervert and a middle age Jewish housewife dry humping on national television”. Kelly, who still writes songs about humping, has resorted to buying his clothes in the same places, as Justin Bieber.

Dude is almost fifty and dresses like a teenage rapper. Lady Gaga, who now is fat and middle-age-looking, gets weirder by the minute. Who thought it would be a good idea to get these two together. Both artists are extremely talented singers, but the two of them together are like mixing Vodka and Vomit.

As difficult as this is to digest, some fans liked their performance, but for me it was another gimmick gone wrong. Kelly and Gaga aren’t the music industries biggest offenders, this outright idiocracy ranges from Miley Cyrus twerking in a mouse costume, to Kanye West comparing himself to Leonardo De Vinci and making threats to President Obama, to anyone from the cast of Love and Hip Hop who is desperately struggling for a piece of an imaginary pie.

Am I being to harsh, perhaps, but if unsigned artists expect to cut through all of the noise and clutter called music marketing, then they better have a helluva show to go with their business or they will be a hiccup in music history or possibly, a future candidate for “Where Are They Now?”


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Change on the Horizon

I’m calling for a reformation of the entire music industry. We need to burn it to the ground and start from scratch. Maybe by taking a do-over, the industry can abandon the gimmick philosophy, which will allow talented artists to stay focused on creating unique and compelling music rather than becoming imposters.

Just as Hollywood continues to tell the same stories year after year, the music industry seems to churn out replicas of what was popular in the past. C’mon seriously? Is “One Direction” not the reincarnation of the Backstreet Boys, which were the New Kids on the Block, who were the white (pop) version of New Edition, who were the 80’s version of the Jackson Five.

I can go on and on, but there are far too many examples to keep this article from becoming a novel. GOD doesn’t always make talented people beautiful or beautiful people talented, which explains why there is so many good-looking people in the music business that can’t sing. Where do we find a middle ground?

Might I suggest that we make artist success more about the voice and musical talent than the beauty of marketing? Wynnona Judd, Kelly Price, and Adele are all plus-sized women with even bigger voices; however, do they receive the same media attention as their skinny, bootylicous, and model-esque counterparts? Women who are outside of what society deems as beautiful, often have to work much harder for fame, acceptance, and recognition than female artists who have store-bought lady parts and aren’t afraid to show some skin. In the music business, image is everything and even males who are overweight or unattractive share the same fate, despite their talents.

Recently, Gwen Stefani took heat for posting a picture of herself as a teenager, where she referred to herself as being chubby. The picture clearly depicted a younger and seemingly heavier Stefani, but she was by no means overweight or chubby. As a result, her fans called her out for her obvious disregard of ethical accountability. As a role model for women, Stefani sent a message that it is not okay to be a little heavy, which could have greatly impacted her fans that suffer from body issues.

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Time to End the Madness

Artists and fans must work together to end unrealistic stereotypes in music, movies, and media. Together we can help to reduce the numbers of young girls who suffer from anorexia, adult women with body issues, or women who are risking their lives to get back-alley breast implants and booty injection shots.

As optimistic as it seems, I do realize this is a pipe dream, as consumers will continue being brainwashed by their favorite artists and continue to desire the fabulous life and equate fame and fortune with happiness. In a world where we make ordinary ego driven people famous for associating with celebrities, we are left with what we’ve created, people who are famous for taking bathroom selfies, sleeping with famous people, acting crazy on television, or public self-destruction.

Maybe, I ‘m asking too much of an industry that gives so little back to the people whose music they market for profit. Perhaps, I’m an optimist, but I hope that artists are aware that many pitfalls await them and heed my advice.

Find a happy medium between selling out to earn a paycheck, your personal morality, and the integrity of your music message. If the music company you sign with forces you to use a gimmick to sell music, hope like hell, that your talent lives up to the hype the marketing team creates.

© 2014 Wealth of Thought LLC | Written by Sahpreem A. King

If you are interested in reading more on my music industry perspective, check out my book, Dude, I Can Help You! 18 Mistakes Artists Make and How to Fix Them, at or follow me on Twitter @sahpreemking.

You can hire me to critique your music or as a expert music consultant at http://fluence.io/sahpreem-king