The worst kept secret


Sean Kingston was discovered on Myspace after he sent a message to an industry producer. Lilly Allen’s music grew so popular on her Myspace page that it ultimately resulted in her securing a recording contract. Whiz Khalifa released a Mixtape that became so successful it resulted in him signing a record deal. Big Sean developed the buzz that ultimately led to him signing with Kanye West’s record label G.O.O.D Music after the success of his Mixtapes, so we hear.

Sean Kingston was the grandson of famed Jamaican Reggae producer Lawrence Lindo, – by marriage. Lily Allen is the daughter of the actor and musician Keith Allen and film producer Allison Owen. Whiz Khalifa’s mixtape “Show and Prove” was released by independent record company Rostrum Records that has a roster that also includes Mac Miller. Big Sean was signed and dropped from the G.O.O.D Music label before he released the mixtape “Finally Famous” that got him signed to G.O.O.D Music/Def Jam. His mixtape featured the single “Get’cha Some” that had a video directed by Hype Williams. This is what we don’t hear.

When people are led to believe that one person was chosen out of millions of people it signifies exceptionalism. It compels people to believe that there’s something special about that person that separates him from everyone else. Out of all the music on Myspace people were most impressed when they heard theirs. Out of all the Mixtapes released every year people were most impressed with theirs.

Quick, name a record that received radio spins as a result of Payola…I’ll wait…                      Most of us have no idea. What we’re left to assume is that a record is played on the radio because people want to hear it. Getting spins on a major radio station is impressive because it implies that a song is in demand and somehow better than every other song that isn’t getting spins. How impressive does it sound to hear an artist became successful through paying for an effective PR campaign? People aren’t impressed when they hear an artist was signed to a development deal, where the record company extended its resources to the artist to see if the artist could generate an Internet buzz big enough to justify being awarded a recording contract. People aren’t impressed when they hear an artist paid to have a video featured on a popular video site and that it had nothing to do with selection. People aren’t impressed when they hear an artist paid to be featured on the front page of a magazine or paid for an award nomination. That’s why this part of the game is the one least talked about.

When the cost of producing music went down the amount of people making music went up. I have a friend that runs a talent showcase that doesn’t even bother promoting to the general public because he says “There aren’t any fans. Everybody’s an artist.” Oversaturation is an issue. Anyone providing artists with even the smallest opportunity for exposure find themselves bombarded with submissions. We’d like to accept the idea that the people at these websites, blogs, magazines, and radio stations are in it just for the reward of finding that needle in the haystack that turns out to be a diamond in the rough. These are people with bills to pay and in some cases mouths to feed. We’re disheartened when we find someone wants to charge us to be on their mixtape, feature on their site or blog, or perform at their showcase. It kills our whole fantasy of being one in a million and having that special something that makes us stand out in a crowd. It’s kind of like the girl that’s always dreamed she’d meet a great guy who’d fall in love with her get down on one knee and propose, finding a great guy she loves but has to propose to if she wants to get married to him.

The reason many artists fail is because we refuse to look at music like a business. We want to believe that the cream always rises to the top. We want to be one in a million. We want to feel special. If someone wants to charge us to be on a mixtape, feature in a magazine, or receive spins on their radio station we shouldn’t feel insulted. What we should do is consider it as a business proposition. If a site wants to charge us $500 to feature a video but the site is the number one source for video content in our market and we earn a significant amount of notoriety and exposure from being on the front page, it may be $500 well spent.

Money has become the filter. It costs nothing to submit music to blogs and online magazines so every artist does it. It costs nothing to post links to sites like Facebook and Twitter so every artist does it. Every artist doesn’t have the money to afford mastered music so you find your music has to be mastered to submit to a lot of places. Every artist can’t afford to pay for PR so you find that many blogs and magazines won’t accept submissions directly from artists and require they come through PR companies. Every artist can’t afford advertisements. Money talks and the more money you have the louder your voice. There are sites and services that allow artists to expose their music to large amounts of people without having large amounts of money to do so and I discuss some of those options in my book “Marketing & Promoting Music Online; A Guide to Low Cost Spending”. If you’d seriously like a look at what goes on behind the curtain I suggest you get my book.



  1. I’m no artist…nor do I make music but I am a huge lover of good music and most of the music I love is made by artists that are not “on” yet. I also feel that if you are going to really take your music career serious then you have to invest in yourself. You have to get off the high horse and be realistic when it comes to paying your dues because in the long run who doesn’t want to make. Seems that people forget that the road to fame is not paved in gold. I think this is a well written article and that you hit the nail on the head. Great read 🙂


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here