Matthias aka "Mr. 16 Bars" / Blog

Be a Smart Indie

I have had this conversation with so many artist about which is better having a major record deal or going independent? Although we know that their are high risk associated with both. Most artist will say that going independent is a better fit for all artist. It allows you to have complete creativity in how your music is marketed, and how you want your project to be managed. For most artist, this is extremely attractive, but on the downside it is also very costly. Most indie labels may have the talent but may not have the revenue to manage or promote their artist at the scale necessary to be effective in their nitch market. For example, lets take the genre of hip hop. The biggest marketing tool that an unsigned hip hop artist has is usually their mixtape. The mixtape is used to give notoriety and approval. Many believe that the mixtape will give them a street buzz so strong that it will possibly lead to a record deal with a major or push the sales of an anticipated indie debut album. The mixtape creates the hype behind an artist. But what happens when the mixtape arena has been overly saturated? The amount of promotion, distribution, and marketing put into a mixtape sometime is equated with the same cost of putting out an original album, especially when that album is done independently. To make matters worse most mixtapes are given out for free. So their's no revenue associated with it. How long can a person continue to put out a product without generating any revenue? Some maybe able to hold up longer than others, but ultimately the whole house does eventually collapse. So Matthias, are you saying that mixtapes are a bad idea? If it does not yield profits, I believe that it is a horrible idea, because it does not ultimately support the artist's financial needs. People get something for nothing and it doesn't become a win-win situation for all parties involved. Major Record labels use mixtapes as a marketing tool to create the hype of an anticipated album release. They have millions invested in the marketing promotion of that artist even before the mixtape is dropped. For a major the mixtape is just a small addition to the marketing plan and it is always done strategically. As an indie, you don't have the luxury to play the game the same way that the Majors do because you have to do more with a lot less. Putting out a mixtape and investing large sums of money in the promotion and distribution of it and it flops could ultimately destroy your independent endeavors. Don't get me wrong, I am not against having a mixtape, but it has to generate enough buzz that ultimately leads to profits. But how can you do that when the mixtape game is overly saturated with sub par MCees? The only other way to do it is to get a "BIG" name to vouch for you. Someone who's credibility and influence is massive. Many of us don't have the patience to shift through all the B.S. just to get to something worth hearing. A lot of us, whether we acknowledge it or not, are driven by hype. Because hype can drive profits all hope is not lost for the the independent artist. All the indie artist has to do is be more creative in how he or she promotes, distributes, and markets music. That is how the rise of social media and digtal distribution came about. It has changed the game for many of the majors causing them to loose millions. But for the independent artist/lable they have made many things more accessible and affordable. The only problem is that the major with its huge marketing budgets can create a bigger hype than an indie label..... and there lies their power! The beautiful thing about hype is that anybody can create it and make a profit off of it. Your task as a indie is to find out those clever marketing ways and make it benefit you and your artist!

The state of Philly Hip Hop

What can I say about the city of Brotherly Love...If you can blow up here you can blow up anywhere. We don't have the resources of the Big Apple, or LA, but we give you hard bars that coincide with a hard lifestyle. A lot of MCs from Philly are really just trying to make it. When I say just trying to make it...I mean we are in survival mode...literally! With that being said, I have to quote Tone Trumph when he said that "if a dude in Philly is willing to shoot a cop what do you think he will do to a rapper?"...that is Philly! You can't come here and be fake cause even the working class dude is street or has a strong connection to it. We aren't that type of city that perpetrates. Most of us come from the dirt like Gillie Da Kid, Wiz Gamb, Chinko Da Great, Sandman, Beanie Siegel, Eve, Ryan Banks, Meek Mills, AR-AB, Joey Jihad, Eaz Raw, Clay Murda, E.S, Tone Trump, Jack Frost, Peedie Crack, and Ugly Nov...and that is just a sample...the list goes on and on. Some have used drug money to create their brand, while others such as Eaz Raw and myself used our jobs to finance the dreams that we have. One of the things that I noticed about our city is that we don't support our artist until another city seems to vouch for them. This is a major problem! I understand that the radio personalities are bound to the program directors music rotation, but I rarely hear these guys play any of the new underground music based out of our city. In addition to that, we have underground rappers coming at each other who are from the same city, with that crab in the barrel mentality, but not willing to come at any of these bum ass MCs outside of the city. I believe for Philly to have a dominant presence we need to start supporting our own. If we don't, then a lot of artist will have to go to where they get the most support, which might be in another state or possibly overseas. Now how will you feel as a local DJ or promoter if an artist from your city blew up everywhere else and the city that he/she is actually from and reppin is the last to acknowledge his/her success? I think it makes the industry in our city look stupid, and not have the ability to recognize talent when they hear it or see it. That is the state of Philly right now. We need to start keeping our eyes on the prize so that we are in position to build a new Philadelphia International Records. If you remember Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff wanted to market their music to Motown, but the line was so long that they decided to create a label within the home town that they were from. We need to have that same mentality, but we need to stop the hate within our city and allow the magic to happen. I guarantee the whole world will jump on board when they hear our sound!

Old school, don't be so quick to diss the new school.

A lot of my die hard hip hop fans might get upset with me about this statement, but oh well! Contrary to popular opinion, I like a lot of the new style hip hop that is currently out. I think when we criticize the new music of today were doing the same disservice that previous generations did to genres of the past. If you guys remember jazz and blues were considered the devil's music because it was associated with bars and clubs. My beef has never been about the style of the new music, but the media's continual ignorance to put everything in a box. How can one style of music be the "only" and "complete" representation for an entire genre. I think that is unfare to the many artist who make up that genre. Now in the case of hip hop, depending on what mood I'm in, will really determine what I might be listening to at that moment. For example, when I'm driving alone I want to listen to something that goes hard but also stimulates thought because I think the most when I am by myself. Now when I'm riding with my wife I want to listen to something smooth and mellow like a jazzmatazz or a tribe called quest. When I'm working out I like to listen to that angry, hype, shoot em up style hip hop because it helps me fight through the pain...Ante Up remix!...LOL. With the newer style hip hop its all about flashing....and I would be telling you a bold face lie if I don't like doing that at times to. People are not one dimensional, so why would our music be? Each moment is different from the next, and as a society we are very tempermental. The main point is to be careful how we judge this generation and their music. Because our parents weren't to keen on ours either! Don't just hear the music, but try to listen with the hope to understand others.