I know DJs who can play venues as artists, or they can DJ in clubs or at art galleries, or they can do house parties. I suppose this is a big difference between DJs and MCs. Rappers often just rap. In hip hop history, DJs would allow MCs to take the mic during the DJ’s set. MCs would take that opportunity to hype the crowd or show love back to the DJ. While I do see some of that still happening, I don’t really see a LOT of it. That’s a different blog post. I bring it up now though with another point. Nobody is going to put you on. Props to Justin Boland & Greg Rollett.
I’ll illustrate with a story from a recent show.
I had just finished my set. I was sweating and dripping all over my equipment. It was time for me to clear the stage and make way for the next group of artists. As I am trying to break down, a rapper jumped up on stage to tell me that I did a great show. I did appreciate that. But then he went on to say things like, “You need to get me on a show! … You know what I can do! … Why you overlooking me? Come on man! You sleepin on me!” And he just kept giving me this look, waiting for me to explain myself.
As I’m listening, I thought to myself, “Hey guy, why don’t you make yourself useful and help me carry my table full of gear off the stage?” In that moment, begging for a show wasn’t the most appropriate thing. I’m not picking on one guy. I get hit up very often from guys who think I’m somehow holding back their career by not giving them a chance. Just like a missionary wouldn’t try to go preach the gospel to starving kids in Africa without bringing food, rappers or any artists should look to bring and add value just like DJ Bateman.
But if you don’t think you have value, it’s time to create some. I’m suggesting that artists book their own shows to build credibility. In my opinion, it’s relatively easy to do locally. My resident city, Nashville has lots of venues and lots of opportunities to perform any night of the week. In your town, maybe it’s a little different. However, playing shows is a great way to build your presence.
But you say, “That’s the problem! I’m trying to book shows but no one will give me a chance!” If you keep that mentality, you’re an easy target for these “booking companies” to come and take all your money. I’m talking about people like Afton who come in and prey on your victim mentality and promise you these big time shows in your area. Don’t fall for it. Don’t wait for someone to “put you on” a show where they charge your fans $15 to see you perform for 15 minutes at a junky venue in a bad part of town. For MCs, do you really need to be on a lineup of 20 MCs where you get 2 or 3 songs each? And you’re paying the promoter for each song you perform in front of your 20 other rappers? (Google: Afton Scam or Afton Music Scam sometime when you get a sec. It’s technically not a scam because you they give you what they say they will but it’s a REALLY bad deal and you can do better.)
Now, pay-to-play isn’t always bad. not if you’re talking about Jango or Grooveshark. Maybe if you got a nice buy-on with a group you really like. It’s all about what you’re paying for and what you’re getting. If you’re paying $5 a song to play somewhere, why not get 4 artists or groups together. Each of you put $20 down (or $40) towards a production fee of renting or booking a respectable venue for a night, promote the heck out of it, charge a ticket price & play the show of your life. You will have had a longer set time and you might even make some money. Getting paid is much better than paying. This is for rappers, bands, whoever. That is more work, but it will get people’s attention a lot quicker than “Hey man, I rap. you need to put me on your mixtape or let’s get some shows goin.”
Now, there are people whom I say to myself, “Man, I NEED to get that guy on a track or get on a show with them.” But it’s because they have built credibility by booking their own shows. I’m trying to take my own advice in this. I could hit up Dexfest or any of these other festivals or venues and ask “what’s wrong with me? why are you overlooking me?” Or I could do my own thing, keep booking shows, and build my own credibility. Which is the smarter path? What about you? Are you booking your own shows? Or are you waiting for someone to give you a break and put you on?
P.S. – If you want to know how I got my whole music career started, click here for my course.
Quiet Entertainer (that's me) is a DJ/Producer that blends ambient electronica with hip-hop. I'm based in Nashville, TN.
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