One night I found myself at an open mic in NYC's Lower Eastside. I love open mics because it brings me back to humble beginnings. When I was learning the stage, learning eye contact, learning how to promote myself. A young rapper had taken the stage an as always I was front and center. I like to give the artists on stage my energy. We all need those one or two ppl who will help show the audience its ok to engage. Throughout his performance he maybe mentioned his name twice at the most and the rest of the performance was all promotion. "This is my new single", "just dropped this last month", "this is from my upcoming album".... blah blah blah blah. I seen this so many times I felt like I should write a blog post about it cus its always disheartening when an artist doesn't realize their story is more important than their singles.
What makes one-hit-wonders more embarrassing to the culture is not the fact they had one single and failed to produce similar results, its that you can't ever remember their name! Their songs are usually bigger than they are. There's nothing more embarrassing than being "the guy who sang that one song". Right now if I asked you who is Lil Wayne I bet you could tell me his real name, what street he grew up on, where he's from, his mother's name and probably his full biography. That's because Wayne, as well as so many legendary artists before and after him, shared with us their story before all else.
Back in the day artists used to start their songs with their name and where they were from. Now adays artists fast forward you right to the cars, to the money, to the success. To the point where there is no way for the fans to truly connect with the artist's come up. Artists like Kid Cudi, Lupe Fiasco, Wale, Drake and so many others came in the game with their backstories attached to them every song. Whether Drake was shouting out the 6, or Cudi was peeling back layers to his soul, we all walked away from these artists with new perspectives, emotions and feelings. And just like a family member who was heavily involved in your childhood, you will never truly forget them or how they made you feel. Their songs are attached to moments in your life.
When I get on stage I always start my shows off with my story. I often had associates tell me it was over kill, or I needed to focus on just turning up and having fun. But life isn't always fun. And fans who flock to music as a means of escape don't just dance all day. They cry, they mourn, they get angry, etc. Showing your layers to your audience shows them you are human too. Not a robot simulating the human experience. Artists sometimes can be so focused on promoting themselves it comes off as if you are looking for fans/customers instead of looking to connect with real people. Consumers purchase your single and think of you as nothing more than something put here for their entertainment. Fans however, send you messages when your down, cash app you randomly to help you with your latest project or even hit you to tell you what your music has done for them. And this is more valuable in the long run than a quick million views that you may not be able to duplicate under different circumstances.
Often times I've gone to shows where an artist with a big single can't even fill a room the way an underground artist with less plays can. And the only real difference is in the connection. I've often even seen artists drop big budgeted singles and then try to tell their story after. It usually always ends the same. They have pigeon-held themselves to a look, a sound and even more scary, an expectation. The people who were just dancing to your twerk song can't possibly comprehend you speaking on politics, or serious topics because you failed to present those layers to them before hand. Its a very sad fact, as we all have different layers to us by nature. But unfortunately first impressions can usually become lasting impressions.
If you are a new artist make sure you include your story in your features, your singles, your throwaways and more. Never deviate from who you presented to your audience unless you are producing more layers to the story. For example, if you were the victim of child abuse, references of your childhood in one or two lines of your songs lets the audience know there is more to be discovered about you. Mentions of your mother's name, or the apartment complex you recorded out of are all personable tales that asks the listener subconsciously "Hey do you want to hear more?"
Singles now adays have become labels and artists' main focus. They dump their entire budgets into them, publicity stunts are done around them and they often leave the listeners exhausted and annoyed after awhile. The labels have become enablers of this behavior as well, rewarding artists who have millions of views who in the end plummet from success when they fail to produce more hit singles. Essentially they get signed, pimped, and shelved for the remainder of their 4 year album deals unless they are able to afford a brand consultant or a PR person. The true art of a single is to build excitement for something bigger. It is a preview of the album's story, the album's soundscape and most of importantly a peek into the evolution of an artist's brand. Maybe this album you speak on your mother's cancer. So showing your mother in the video for your new single may expose your fans to your mother's story before they have even heard it. Maybe this year you will show people a fun side of you so picking a single that plays on your serious nature or showing some baby pictures may bring your fans closer to your personality this go around. These are all examples of how a single can ultimately spark interest in what you have to come. Think of every interaction with your audience as a visit. You can't stay long so the time you spend you want to be memorable, revealing and connecting.