Posts Tagged ‘HipHop’

Producing and recording music is one thing.  Promoting it successfully is another.  And if you think using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, SoundCloud, and ReverbNation is all you need to get your music out there, you’re in for a surprise!  How you promote yourself will make you or break you.  So, how will people know you even exist when millions of other artists are using the same sites to promote their music?  And as a broke artist (Admit it! Most up and coming artists are!) how much will it cost you?  This is where effective self-promotion comes in.  Here are the 3 best ways to promote your music for free or on a limited budget.

1.   Create a Media List

Compiling a media list can be time consuming so you should start while you’re still in the process of recording your music. Research all of the websites, blogs, podcasts, program directors, and publications that cater to your particular style of music.  Don’t waste time with those that don’t.  Some sites feature unsigned and independent artists and will have specific requirements as to how they want people to submit their material.  Follow these guidelines carefully or your music may be ignored.  If you’re researching magazines and newspapers that don’t have an online presence, you’ll have to get physical copies of these publications to gather your information.  Look for the “Staff” page and identify the appropriate person or department to send your music and press kit to.  If you’re unsure, contact the publication and ask who to send new music to.  You may or may not get a response (you know how these industry types act sometimes! Just kidding, my industry friends!)  but don’t let that discourage you from moving forward.

Make sure that your list is well-organized and includes names, emails, and phone numbers.  A media list can include hundreds of contacts and should be updated often since new sites, blogs, mix shows, and podcasts are popping up weekly.  Don’t think that only the most popular sites and publications matter.  Lesser known media is just as important when trying to create a buzz. is a great tool to use when creating your list.  It is a blog directory that ranks the top sites of any kind, be it Hip Hop or otherwise, and will help you find many great outlets.

Once your list is rich with contacts, use it wisely.  Don’t spam people or send out poorly written emails.  That’s the #1 way to get blocked!  If used correctly, you’ll realize how valuable your list is once you start getting responses.  Reply quickly, be polite, honor their requests, and you’re on your way to establishing strong relationships with the people who can give you the publicity you need.

But, if creating your own media list sounds overwhelming, you have other options.

2.      Email Blasting Services

An email blast is an email including any content such as a newsletter, press kit, music, pictures, or videos, quickly sent out to a large number of people.  Many companies offer such services to clients looking to target specific audiences.  Hip Hop artists often use email blasts to let fans, blogs, program directors, podcasts, and journalists know about their latest project.  Companies will let you choose who you’re interested in reaching and whether you want the blast to be sent out locally, nationally, or internationally.  You will not have access to their media list but will be given a general idea of who the blast is reaching.  Usually, email blasts are fairly affordable and can be used every time a new project needs to be promoted. is an email blasting service which specializes in urban entertainment.  Their media list reaches up to 300,000 people depending on the audience you wish to target, which can include DJ’s, journalists, consumers, and more.  They can even send out animated blasts which can get you much more attention than boring old messages!  Their services are extremely affordable and it beats standing on the corner, trying to convince people to buy your CD!

Another great service is  They send your music to 843,000 consisting of 65,000 DJs worldwide–radio DJs, music directors, program directors, club, satellite, mixtape, internet DJs as well as music magazines, top 100 music websites, top 200 music blogs, record pools, public relation firms, a-list booking agents, and record label executives.

But if that’s not your cup of tea either, there’s another option.

3.      Press Releases Services

A press release is a written document directed at the media, announcing something newsworthy, such as the release of a new album or project.  Click here for an example.  The release is then distributed to members of the media using a media list or a newswire.  A newswire is a service that transmits news to the media and the public.  Basically, it is an extensive electronic media list consisting of the top journalists and news outlets in the world.

But let me be real with you.  Writing a press release isn’t easy for the inexperienced.  You need to be a great writer and follow a specific format. If you have a hard time spelling and writing cohesive sentences, this probably isn’t for you.  Professionals are usually hired to write press releases since they know exactly what the media is looking for.  I suggest you research this issue in depth before committing yourself to this task.   Still, if you’re confident in your writing abilities, it isn’t impossible.  After all, that’s how I got my start!  There are many websites that can help you write a press release and provide samples and templates for you to use.  Study them well!  Once you’ve written your release, compare it to others to make sure it follows the same format and have it proofread by at least 2 good writers.  Unless your homies fit this description, don’t depend on them to help you with this!  Once you feel comfortable with your work, you’ll need to send your press release to the media list you’ve created or you can get distribution through a newswire.

There are a few distribution services that can help you with this process. is one of the leading newswire for the African American media and can distribute your release for a very affordable rate to over 40,000 journalists and bloggers. Another service, although a little more costly, is  It’s one of the top distribution services in the world and, depending on the package you choose, will get your press release to all major outlets like the New York Times and USA Today.

Please understand that no distribution service guarantees that the media will write a story about you once they receive your release.  All they do is send it out.  It’s up to journalists to decide if your story, music, video, or whatever you’re promoting is interesting enough to write about.  Having your release state that you’re the best up and coming artist in the world will NOT get a journalist’s attention!  They receive hundreds of releases a week and have seen it all.  If your budget doesn’t allow you to spend 2 to 3 bills, there are many free distribution services out there but don’t expect miracles.  They’re free for a reason!

Of course, if you have a budget to work with, you can hire a public relations agency to do all of the things listed here so you can stay focused on your music.  Public Relations agencies create press kits, write and distribute press releases, maintain relationships with the media, create campaigns for your projects, plus a dozen other things that usually come up when promoting your music.  Some PR agencies work with artists who have limited funds while others only deal with high profile clients.  As an up and coming artist, your best bet is to find an affordable agency that understands your music and vision and is willing to work around your budget.

Whichever method you choose to use, this advice will take your promotional hustle to another level.  And isn’t that so much better than begging folks on Twitter and Facebook to buy your music?! Remember though, if your music is wack and your package poorly put together, no amount of paid promotion will make you a star. Bottom line, it all comes down to your art and the time you put into creating a professional presentation.

Until next time…PEACE!


Sebastien Elkouby is the co-founder of S&H Public Relations, a boutique PR agency which specializes in promoting quality Hip Hop artists and related projects.  Our website is currently under construction so for more information about our services, reach us by email at  Connect with S&H Public Relations on Facebook at and Twitter at @SNHPR.


Q-Tip said it best back in 1991, “Industry Rule # 4080, record company people are shady!” Starting in the early days of the music business with Blues and Rock & Roll, payola was once the most popular underhand practice. Record companies and managers would bribe radio DJ’s to give their artists radio play.  Although illegal, this practice has never stopped and continues to be used today, albeit in more subtle forms.  Rule # 4080 still applies and the methods industry execs use have evolved over time.  With the rise in new technology and the dominance of the internet threatening the music industry’s outdated business model, new “questionable” tactics have been developed to help labels stay afloat.  Here are just 5 secrets the music industry doesn’t want you to know!

1. Views, Likes, and Followers

Have you ever checked out a YouTube video only because it had a lot of views and you were curious to see why?  Are you more likely to follow an artist on Twitter who has 324,687 followers rather than one who has 54?  Are you the type of person to be first to “Like” an artist on Facebook or would you check to see that this artist already has a lot of “Likes” before you join in?  While you may think that looking at numbers is a ridiculous way to evaluate an artist’s worth (and it is!), millions around the world feel otherwise.  Sad as it may be, high numbers often propel artists to celebrity status.  Young and impressionable minds, which the industry targets since they’re the largest consumer base, often assume that if a video has millions of views, it must be good.  And even if they don’t really like the video, they support it anyway because everyone else seems to.  But here’s the dirty secret: YouTube views, Facebook “Likes”, and Twitter followers can be bought for a moderate fee. There are now dozens of companies who specialize in increasing numbers.  Some companies use special technology to achieve their goals while others claim to be able to get thousands of “real” followers.  If that weren’t crazy enough, “positive” YouTube comments supposedly written by real people can also be purchased!  This kind of practice is deceptive as hell and makes it difficult for aspiring artists who have to compete against those who have the means to buy such services.  I guess quality doesn’t matter when you can just buy your way to popularity.

2. Buying the # 1 Spot

Once YouTube Views, Facebook “Likes”, and Twitter followers have been bought, it’s time for the label to really go all out and buy thousands of CD’s and downloads to help the artist get to # 1 within the first couple of weeks of release.  Since sales have been declining due to free and illegal downloads, it’s become more and more challenging for artists to hit the top of the charts.  This is why some labels are buying their own products (often with the artist’s money), in hope that achieving # 1 will generate publicity and result in more sales and touring opportunities.  The idea is that the average fan is more likely to support an artist who appears to have a large following. It’s all about image and perception, and for today’s mainstream music fan, this counts more than talent.

3. Professional Reviewers

Ever read customer reviews on Amazon or iTunes?  Some are brief, misspelled, and poorly thought out while others are thorough and clearly expressed, almost as if a “professional” had written it.  Shockingly, that’s exactly what’s happening!  Writers are paid to act like customers and write positive reviews.  Sometimes, these writers are simply part of the artist’s team, other times, they’re professional writers who get hired for their review services.  Companies have gotten in trouble for this kind of practice but this hasn’t stopped it from happening.  Again, this makes it difficult for new artists who don’t have the means to compete against this kind of deception.

4. Wardrobe Malfunctions, Nude Pics, and Sex Videos

Every week, there seems to be another naked celebrity in the news: Nicki Minaj and Kelly Rowland’s wardrobe malfunctions a couple of days apart from each other, Rhianna’s explicit pics popping up regularly, and sex videos of B and C list entertainers leaked on every gossip site.  Sure, one could claim that these “indecent exposures” are just accidents or that intimate pictures and videos are leaked by spiteful exes and hackers.  If so, why does it keep happening every week?  If celebrities are truly as appalled and embarrassed as they claim to be when their naked bodies are leaked for the world to see, why do they keep such pictures and videos of themselves on their phones and computers if it’s that risky?  Why do artists continue to perform in outfits that barely cover them up and then act shocked when their breasts pop out?  Truth is, most of these incidents are planned by the artists and their team for publicity.  As soon as the pictures or videos are leaked, hundreds of blogs and sites repost them right away.  Millions of Facebook and Twitter users repost them as well.  In a matter of 24 to 48 hours, that artist is Googled millions of times which causes their name to “Trend” online or on Twitter and increases their search ranking.  For the artist, this is an amazing free promotional tool that would otherwise cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in marketing.  All it takes is a little nudity and the public becomes their street team, their sales increase, the gossip sites have new content that drives traffic to them, and everyone’s happy…except for real artists with real talent who can’t get the same “free” promotion because they’re more interested in making music than showing their bodies…which leads me to the next point…

5. Fake Beef, Phony Stories, and Controversy

Replace wardrobe issues, nude pics, and sex videos with fake beef, phony stories, and controversy and the result is the same: free publicity.  Did Soulja Boy buy himself a $55 million jet for his 21st birthday?  Is Rick Ross really threatening Kreayshawn?  Did Wayne really take shots at Jay Z? Does Kanye actually have 6 toes?  Ok, I made that one up but you get the idea!  When an artist, or an assistant pretending to be them, tweets something weird, crazy, unusual, or controversial, they know that it’ll spread in a matter of hours and eventually make the top blogs and gossip sites who welcome this kind of foolishness.  And again, everyone seems to get something out of it.  There was a time when this type of nonsense would have hurt an artist’s career.  Now, it sustains it…and that’s pitiful.

There are many more industry secrets.  Some of the ones discussed here are well documented.  I also know that some of you are sharp enough to see through the hype and didn’t need anyone to fill you in on what’s going on behind closed doors.  As well, I know that quite a few artists become successful without using these tactics.  Still, you can bet that the more resources an artist has access to, the greater the chances are that at least one of these methods has been utilized.  Do your own research and you’ll probably discover many more shocking methods.  The question remains, as competitive as this business is, would you use these methods if you had the resources to do so?

Until next time…PEACE!


Sebastien Elkouby is the co-founder of S&H Public Relations, a boutique PR agency which specializes in promoting quality Hip Hop artists and related projects.  For more information about our services, log on to and check the blog at You can also reach us by email at  Connect with S&H Public Relations on Facebook at and Twitter at @SNHPR.


So you’ve been in the lab (a.k.a. your room!) recording yourself rapping or making beats for a couple of years but nobody has heard your music except your crew and your mom…and that’s only when she’s asking you to turn the noise down!  How do you truly know you have what it takes to make it in this game?  Have you really studied your craft and developed your art or are you fooling yourself into thinking you have something special when all you’re really doing is sounding like everyone else?  You may be asking yourself, “If so many wack artists still end up successful, why should I waste my time trying to be different? I have a better chance if I just do what everyone else is doing.”  I can’t deny the fact that a whole lot of talentless artists are getting their 15+ minutes of fame. But if your goal is to be among them, this article isn’t for you. This is for all those young aspiring artists who are genuinely invested in their art and are looking to make a lasting impact, even if it takes a while to get there. If you want your music to be remembered for years to come, these 5 Tips to Become a Better Hip Hop Artist will guide you in the right direction.

  1. Study the Greats:

Hip Hop culture has been around since 1973. This means that a lot of incredible rappers and producers have come before you. Find out who these legends are and research their catalogs. Don’t worry about the number of albums they’ve sold. The business was different back then and sells weren’t the only way to evaluate an artist’s greatness.  Focus on their talent and skills. Even if you don’t like their music, try to understand how they’ve established themselves as greats.  If you were to learn how to play the guitar, you’d have to learn about the great guitarists like T-Bone Walker, John Lee Hooker, and Jimi Hendrix who came before and helped to shape today’s rock music.  The same philosophy applies to Hip Hop.  You must understand the evolution of the art form in order to add on to it.

Go back and listen to Melle Mel on “The Message” and “Beat Street Breakdown”.  Melle Mel was considered one of the best of his time.  He had a powerful voice that displayed confidence.  His vocab was extensive and many of his subject matter were heartfelt.  You could feel it in his voice.  Those same qualities were found in Tupac.  No wonder both artists are looked upon as icons. If you’re too young to have heard Rakim (hard to believe any self proclaimed MC wouldn’t have), you need to check out the songs “Follow the Leader” and “Let the Rhythm Hit ‘Em” among many others.  Without Rakim, rappers would have never evolved the way they did and there would probably be no Nas…and maybe no you!

If you’re a producer, go back before Hip Hop and listen to how legendary composers like Barry White, Isaac Hayes, and James Brown arranged their music.  They are the foundation of Hip Hop production.  Bring it back to Hip Hop and check out Marley Marl, Pete Rock, The Bomb Squad, DJ Quik, early Dre, DJ Premier, etc… Without them, there wouldn’t even be the software/hardware you make beats with!  Remember, there’s no future without a past!

  1. Battle and Perform:

There was a time when you couldn’t call yourself an MC unless you had earned your stripes through battling.  The scene is different nowadays but the importance of sharpening your skills is just as crucial for those who care about the art form and their reputation.  Thus, if you can, engage in battle!  This may include your typical cipher or an organized battle at a club in front of a live audience.  Either way, you need to feel what it’s like to be judged by your peers.  If you can take it, this kind of pressure will make you a better MC. You don’t want to be that guy you’ve probably seen in many ciphers, weak nasally voice, stumbling over his lines, and repeating the same few words over and over again!  Hasn’t anyone told him that he isn’t ready to play with the big boys yet?  However, battling isn’t for everyone but you’ll still need to earn your stripes in front of an audience to earn the title of MC. To this aim, you’ll need to perform at various venues and events to develop your talent as an entertainer.

In the early stages of your career, you should jump on any opportunities to do shows.  This may range from a school-based event to a showcase at a local club.  It may not sound glamorous and you won’t always do well but it’ll make you a better performer.  You’ll be able to practice projecting your voice, speaking clearly so that every word is heard, controlling your breath so that you don’t skip over words or pass out, and learn how to get your audience involved in the act.  The greats have all gone through it and you shouldn’t expect anything different.  Ultimately, the goal is to develop confidence, charisma, stage presence, and an understanding of how to move the crowd.  Otherwise, you’ll just be like all the other corny, no-name rappers you’ve seen perform before and swore you’d never be like.  For inspiration, check out live performances on YouTube from KRS ONE, Joell Ortiz, Doug E. Fresh, Public Enemy, Big Daddy Kane, Royce the 5’9, and MC Lyte, to name a few.

  1. Lose the Yes Men and Women:

Everyone has them.  Some are just scared to hurt your feelings, some couldn’t recognize talent to save their lives, and others just don’t give a damn!  All of them are bad for your health!  And your girlfriend/boyfriend doesn’t count.  You could sound like Soulja Boy on Novacane and they’d still love you! When it comes to your art, your best friends are those who keep you grounded with their honesty and understand that only the truth can help you grow.  In the past, I’ve had to tell friends that their skills were lacking.  It wasn’t what they wanted to hear but it made them go back to the drawing board and come back stronger.

Develop thicker skin and encourage your friends to give you honest constructive criticism.  Reassure them that you’re not going to fall to pieces if they have harsh feedback to give you!  Accept their criticism with an open mind and use it to make you a stronger artist.  Good athletes become great athletes by taking serious criticism from their coaches and peers.  There’s no way around it. Of course, make sure to surround yourself with people who have your best interest at heart and know something about music.  This will probably save you from making an ass of yourself and spare the world from having to put up with the next garbage artist!

4.   Challenge Yourself:

Some artists are one trick ponies!  They’re good at one style but can’t do anything else.  Some producers do nothing but use basic drums, a lot of bass, and a bunch of hi-hats and stop there!  It’s almost the same formula for every song. Some rappers get complacent.  They get locked into a routine and never step out of their lane.  If they’re known to go “hard in the paint” with their vocals, they stick to that recipe on every song until that style gets played out. When someone else starts a new style, they try switching up to adapt to the latest sound but it’s usually too late by then. It sounds forced and fans have moved on to the next flavor of the month.  Here are some basic ideas on how to become a well rounded artist.

  1. Freestyle: If all you do is spit written material, give yourself an opportunity to develop another part of your brain by freestyling. If you fear embarrassing yourself in front of others, record it and learn from your mistakes.  If you’re a producer, give yourself 10-15 minutes to create a full song. Use the first drum kit and samples you find and race against the clock to create something cohesive. Keep at it and even if you never become a master, you’ll still have developed basic improvisational skills.
  1. Write: Some MC’s are amazing freestylers but can’t write a song with a consistent theme.  If you’re pursuing rap as a career, freestyling can only take you so far (with few exceptions).  While freestyling allows you to express a broad stream of consciousness, real songwriting gives you a chance to cover specific subjects just like an author writing a novel on a particular topic.  Think of a very specific subject to write about.  Form a mental outline of the story including the intro, plot, climax, and conclusion.  Write with the intent of meeting a specific goal and imagine how you’d like your fans to describe your song.  You should aim to leave a lasting impression.  Producers should think about the type of mood they’d like the listener to feel and create a track with a few changes and arrangements.  Go beyond a basic 2 bar loop or 4 bar bass line and give your song depth and dimension.

  1. Experiment with Content: Try new words.  If your songs usually contain explicit lyrics, try writing clean.  Don’t be afraid to pick up a dictionary or thesaurus to spark ideas.  If you’ve never written a story rap, bring your story to life by developing a plot with characters (see Slick Rick’s “Children Story” or Immortal Technique’s “Dance with the Devil” for examples) You can also try writing a song from the perspective of another person or thing.  Organized Konfusion did it well a few years ago on the song “Stray Bullet” when Pharoahe Monch rhymed as if he were a stray bullet piercing through innocent bystanders.  Gruesome but effective!  If you’re a producer, simply experiment with different drums, keys, melodies, and samples.  Make a beat at a different tempo than usual or create a beat in the style of someone you sound nothing like!  Even if you don’t like the final product, you’ll still be able to take some of the lessons you’ve learned from your experiment and apply them to your sound.  The goal is to grow as an artist.

5.    Look for Ideas and Inspiration in Everything Around You:

If you look at the Top 40 rap songs in the nation on any given week, the themes generally revolve around the same few subjects: sex, partying, sex, bragging, sex, material possessions, sex, and…sex!  While these subjects have entertained the average listener for years, it’s safe to say that having a broader range of topics to rap about would benefit everyone!  After all, isn’t life more than just about sex and having fun?  Ok, maybe not for you, but the average person can relate to a lot more than the 3 to 4 subjects we hear repeatedly on every station across the nation. And so many of the beats sound the same!  A few years ago, everyone had that Dirty South Bounce.  Now, everybody wants a Euro-pop-techno-dance track.  If the next style ends up being country-rock-funk, people will jump on that bandwagon too!  Where’s the originality y’all?!

Are there unlikely places you can draw inspiration from?  Are there books, movies, or non-Hip Hop songs that inspire you to create?  Are there people in your life who have interesting stories to put into a song?  Are there any current events that you could incorporate into your lyrics?  Do you have insight into something worth sharing in your music? Can you take your own life lessons and add an entertaining twist to it?  Are there certain movies that make you want to produce a new soundtrack for? Truth is, the sky’s the limit.  Question is, are you willing to stand out and be all you can be as an artist or would you rather play it safe and follow what everyone else is doing?

These 5 tips aren’t the only suggestions to help you become better artists but they’ll definitely help you develop your talent.  Remember, no one can predict your future or guarantee success. Still, the choice to take pride in your art and to find new ways to grow is in your hands and will ultimately bring you closer to your goal.

Until next time…PEACE!


Sebastien Elkouby is the co-founder of S&H Public Relations, a boutique PR agency which specializes in promoting quality Hip Hop artists and related projects.  For more information about our services, log on to and check the blog at You can also reach us by email at  Connect with S&H Public Relations on Facebook at and Twitter at @SNHPR.