I went to a debate that was entitled "20 years of the UK Hip Hop Connection, so what's next" last night, held by the Urban Enterprise Network. I don't really want to get in to that debate right now but but the title of this post was the best point I heard all night.
One thing I notice the more of these events I go to....For some reason a lot of UK artists feel doors are closed to them before they've actually thought about what they need to do before they even get to the door, let alone how to make it open. Having a good look and finding the right doors would be a start. All of the most successful UK artists I know have one thing in common - and it's not the kind of music they're making. It's their mentality. It's the - doing for self, work hard, hustle hard, if you don't know find out, if you can't do it find someone who can, invest in yourself if no one else is, build and open your own doors, never stop mentality. Business acumen and artistry don't often go hand in hand - but if you only do the things you like doing and are really good at and ignore the boring admin or hard stuff in any line of work you're not going to get far. The fact you've decided to make an album does not then mean it's automatically someone else's responsibility to come and find you, then market, promote & distribute it for you. If you can find someone who will great, but you still might be better off doing it yourself.
With the advent of the internet I've lost patience for anyone who hasn't at least tried to work out how other people are becoming successful and then tried to make it happen for themselves. Online you can find contact details for top radio & club DJs, promoters of great nights, magazine editors, blogs that promote new music, web and graphic designers, music distributors, sites that give you legal advice, photographers - I could go on. Failing that you can get a booking agent & music PR company. Sadly, gone are the days where MCs could rely on talent, not marketing and promotion. Now - if you want to make some money you need both, it's a competitive market, and you need to speculate to accumulate.
If you look at the biggest earners in US hip hop they are all business men. Kanye West is a fairly middle class guy, English professor mother, Black Panther/ Christian counselor father, he went to art school & Uni (but dropped out). He is not a traditional hip hop story. He had to fund his own early videos because he was seen as a producer not a rapper, everyone said When Jesus Walks would fail, he came out and said "George Bush doesn't care about black people", he wrote about diamonds in Sierra Leone, and now he's singing even though he can't sing. This is a man who does whatever the hell he wants to do - he doesn't take no for an answer, he believes in himself, and he invests in himself. He never sat at home complaining Jay Z just used him as a producer, no one thought his ideas would work and no doors were opening - he made them open. I really hope the UK artists who have that mentality don't become discouraged and continue to push, and for everyone else - you better raise your game.