For Those Who Can't Sleep On Hip Hop

Forget Piracy, Fight Obscurity: 5 ways any artist can beat being unknown

December 25, 2010

(Photo credit Kainr- used under Creative License on Flickr - Some rights reserved by kainr)

For years, many new artists have asked me, “What do I do about the problem of piracy?” It’s true. Many people are copying music. However, if you’re a new artist, you should be so lucky to have people want to copy and spread your art. Let Gaga, Ke$ha, Katy Perry, and Bruno Mars worry about people stealing their music. Instead, in the new era of immensely saturated music industry, new artists should find ways to get people to want to consume their music in any manner possible.

Interestingly enough, I had an unknown artist and friend explain his quite opposite approach to worrying about piracy. His angle was to let people pirate his music. He almost had it right, but not quite. He said, “My marketing plan is to leak my music to Bit Torrent sites and let bootleggers do the rest.” I told him that this wasn’t much of a marketing plan. First of all, more than likely, a real-life bootlegger is looking to copy music that’s already popular. Secondly, not so devious infringers are also probably illegally downloading music that they search for, which means they’re already aware of it. The key word is “aware.” If they don’t know who you are, it’s unlikely they’ll care enough to actively find you.

Instead of worrying about piracy, sweat obscurity. How do you do that?

1. Perform at any logical occasion that arises. You never know where potential fans lurk.

2. Put music in the ears of people that are likely to enjoy what you do.

3. Promote at every chance you get. Get not only your music, but also your name in the minds of your potential fans.

4. Don’t count out radio. You might not be able to get on rotation on your favorite Clear Channel station; however, Internet, satellite, college, and community radio outlets are more likely to support indie music anyway. (Yes, these outlets might not be as glamorous as play on commercial terrestrial radio airwaves, but listeners of many of those outlets are typically more passionate about a specific niche. Find out who plays that slice of sound, and get on. Remember, anyone can get online, but most artists won’t be on radio.)

5. The Internet is an amazing outlet for building awareness and networking, but don’t ignore real social networking- IN PERSON. And, don’t ignore your own backyard (aka hometown). Look for opportunities to do all of the aforementioned activities within your own town. With few exceptions, this is typically a great way to inexpensively promote and build your fan base and FIGHT PIRACY OBSCURITY. -Israel Vasquetelle

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