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Rapping: A Business, Not Lifestyle!

By: David H.

This article exposes the underlying truths of a prominent, profitable segment within the entertainment industry. Entertainment is continually changing and receives negative commentary on its destructive potential from reporters, bloggers, and consumers at large. Some social critics describe current popular musical artists as talentless hacks. However, the genre most recognized for its unpolished and obscene content is Rap. Rap music occupied the center of a controversial debate since it became a major influence on many Americans’ daily lives. An examination of the evolution of this musical genre from its inception in the 1970s to the present leads to one conclusion: Rapping is a business, not a lifestyle.

Music has been influencing the lives of people for ages, dating to ancient times. Music occupies a major role in society today because music facilitates the release of emotional pressures from life. Given the current state of America, the Rap genre continues to dominate a large portion of our society. Music has the potential to affect a person’s mood and create previously inactive or vuried emotions. Music is the universal link that ages, sexes, and races alike have in common. Rap music started out as personal entertainment for the musician and listener. Rappers created companies, empires, and home-based businesses to maintain a comfortable lifestyle. However, Rap music is a business, not a lifestyle.

A core marketing strategy in the Rap industry is the use of “Street teams” to jumpstart the awareness of an album's release months before consumers can purchase the album. Advanced distribution of album copies to deejays, “ mixtapes” sold on the street, and the network of relationships, drive consumers’ decisions to purchase the album. Songs pushed by street teams to club DJs result in valuable feedback from hundreds of thousands of targeted consumers. Word of mouth marketing propagates more quickly than waiting for a Billboard review stating that an album is worth purchasing, an effect that social media magnifies. Rappers understand the importance of networking, as well as strong business marketing standards overall.

Marketing of Rap songs also occurs on a much broader scale given the availability of internet-based promotional tools, available on a global basis, 24/7. Artist popularity varies within geographic areas as an artist’s popularity in Japan or Europe might not be matched in North America or the United States. The Rap business follows trends around the world so that artists arriving as the “newest thing” in the United States might have achieved fame in parts of Asia two years earlier. Paid access to magazines, radio stations, and other media help promote perceived popularity that may or may not be global. As expected in the entertainment industry, publicists often drive the dominant media narrative for an artist to generate the target market’s mood and sentiment toward that artist. Public disputes (“beefs”) might be real or concocted to generate sales.

To understand the Rap business, one must envision a network of artists, managers, record labels, and intellectual property connected by contractual agreements. Intellectual property might be a song’s music and lyrics, but also a name or a saying. Artist and manager relationships mirror that of a hierarchy in a corporate organization chart where one person holds a superior position (manager) and the other a subordinate position (artist). After the artist or team of artists completes a “work,” the rights are registered with Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) or any other reputable performing rights organizations so that the collection and distribution of royalties for the created work occurs. Establishing and registering rights ownership could be the difference between the lifelong creation of generational wealth versus one of bankruptcy and financial ruin.

The business of Rap encompasses a structured, but constantly evolving network of artists and managers that expands while certain segments also break off. As an example, Reach Record label is an underground Christian label that houses heavyweight talent but not mainstream artists. Like different qualities and features offered for specific brands (think of the variety of automobile models offered under an umbrella brand), artists pursue multiple streams of income by leveraging their name and image to promote the sale of items unrelated to music. As examples, certain artists act in movies, release clothing lines, and own radio stations, with the goal of portfolio diversification and constant income generation. Singers and songwriters often hold dual roles and function in either capacity. As another marketing avenue, the purposeful placement of specific designer names, consumer products, and labels within an artist visual presence on social media or in any public venue generates sales to the artists as well as the product.

Rap is business before pleasure. It involves promotion, training, time, and hard work, but in the end, it pays off and allows the entertainers that we know and love to provide food for their families. Whether or not a person is working a job from 9 am to 5 pm, Rap is a career that supports the livelihood of the artist and their freedom of speech. Music has a foremost function in today’s society. Music is the liberation of expressive issues in a person’s life. America has allowed the Rap genre to take over a large fraction of our society. Rappers have created companies, empires, and home-based businesses to maintain a comfortable lifestyle while creating an industry as a vehicle for escape from poverty, with a reach far beyond musical entertainment. However, Rap music is a business, not a lifestyle.

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