The Urban Music Industry
Urban DIY (Do It Yourself)
And if he is able to control the means of distribution, delivering that product, all the better. Receiving a Lifetime Achievement award at the 2000 Soul Train Music Awards, Prince was introduced by Chuck D of the group Public Enemy. Public Enemy was once signed to the Def Jam label (now a part of the Universal/PolyGram family), and Chuck D fought to get his group released from their contract. He continues to record now for the digital media company, AtomicPop and is a staunch advocate of every available means for artists to independently distribute and market their own music, including the controversial file-sharing Napster service. As Chuck D puts it, "either you own your masters or the master owns you". There was a very chilly reception for that comment during his remarks prior to Prince's stepping up to the podium. Prince was very gracious in his acceptance speech and underscored the same statement, entreating his fellow urban artists to follow suit (excuse the pun!) At the time of this writing, I am not aware of any other artist who has leveraged their success in the way that Prince has to control their masters, but it raises interesting possibilities for what will be possible in the future. As the paradigm is shifting-- or more accurately, now that the paradigm has shifted-- of what importance is the conventional "record company"? How are record companies evolving? And how will the prospective artist make him/herself financially successful? Who do they need to partner with? The answers to those questions are still uncertain, but either way it is time to address new ways of promoting and marketing yourself independently.
Publicity is getting free press, free mentions, generating attention to you, without having to necessarily spend money. StarPolish has a great section on publicity that you should review, but there are a few things unique to the urban artist. Publicity is particularly critical for urban artists-- and can be a great ally-- because so much of urban music marketing is guerrilla-style street marketing, which lends itself to interesting press angles and stories. For instance, one of the pluses of working in the urban side of the music industry is that the world (and America in particular) is enamored of the rags to riches story.
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