Lil Wayne markets himself in a way that was unique but is becoming very imitated. Is this the new way to succeed in the rap game?
Rappers these days are looking for ways to succeed in the music industry that is gradually suffering more and more every day because of the decline in album sales. MP3's and bootlegging are blamed for many rappers being shelved or pushed back, since labels don't want to make unwise investments on unproven (in terms of sales) rappers.
Rappers need to start thinking of how to take advantage of techniques already used by popular rappers. I'm not saying straight up swagger jacking, but study and utilize techniques for success. Copying business techniques is acceptable in the corporate world when it comes to things like business visions and goals. The music industry is a business, it should be treated the same way.
Compared to a decade ago, rappers created images of wealth and easy living. If you look at the game today, you will notice very few rappers actually live that way. I blame the lack of money circulating in the industry, and part of that is caused by the decrease in sales. You can name off a few truly successful rappers today: Jay-Z, 50 Cent, T.I., Lil Wayne, are a few of the names that come to mind. I want to focus on the way Lil Wayne has capitalized off of his marketing scheme and has become one of the most talked about rappers today.
Lil Wayne markets himself in quite simple way. There are many critics of his plan, but at the same time, his critics don't often share the same level of success as he does at his craft. You can look at his technique by breaking it down into a few elements.
First of all, he started doing mixtapes and built a buzz up like many rappers do. This is no surprise to up and coming rappers, because new emcees commonly release mixtapes so the streets can hear their style and songs. Even established emcees drop mixtapes to help their buzz grow before an album release. Mixtapes are cheap street albums that are easy to produce with bootleg beats and stolen concepts. What's beautiful about the mixtapes are that you can take an old idea and flip it, make a better version of the song, and people will start to like it. This is what 50 Cent did to become big in the New York Mixtape scene and Lil Wayne has taken advantage of this concept.
In addition to doing the mixtapes, he flooded the market with the mixtapes. He can't be completely blamed for this, but he did in fact start it, and a snowball effect resulted. He started doing a huge amount of mixtape material, and since it was good, DJ's started using his songs over and over again for their own mixtapes. Eventually Lil Wayne would be on every mixtape you'd find. The game became diluted and you'd find the same 6 songs on all of the tapes coming out. This worked out for Lil Wayne since he now has your attention. This is negative because it flirts with the line of oversaturation which can destroy an artist.
In addition to the mixtape flooding, he started doing features on other people's songs to boost his own coverage. He states in interviews that he will do songs with ANYBODY for the right price. This is great for two reasons: He gets exposure to other artists' fans and he gets paid for it. This is partially the reason why he is so widespread and made a lot of money in the process. This sounds simple, but originally he had to build his value up to even get the collaborations in the first place.
Another aspect of his marketing scheme was that he started calling himself the "Best Rapper Alive" around the time of The Carter. With enough confidence and style, he developed a cult following with this phrase. This is current "trademark" and if you hear that phrase, you pretty much assume the conversation is about Lil Wayne. Take the attention and material he was giving fans from mixtapes, and add that to a cult following of people who truly believe Lil Wayne is better than any living rapper. If you add all those factors together, you can see where his success comes from.
Another reason Lil Wayne is successful is because he capitalized on the buzz and attention he was receiving and currently does plenty of shows across the the world (see recent Cash Money European tour). All rappers know or should know that doing shows is where the money's at...if you want to get paid as a rapper you have to do shows. With Lil Wayne's ever-growing buzz, he capitalized off of this by touring virtually nonstop and acquiring large amounts of money to finance his extravagant image and popular music (Remember...music takes money to make when you factor studio time, engineers, and beats).
Lastly, if you look deep enough, you'll realize the reason for Lil Wayne's marketing success is because he worked hard enough to get there. He obviously had some good ideas, a little bit of luck, but also a lot of hard work. He is said to always be in the studio and can put in enough work to make several songs in a single day. He makes his own material in addition to features for which he gets paid. Add that to the touring many months throughout the year to acquire money and give his fans a good experience with his amazing showmanship. It's no mistake that Lil Wayne is a success in the industry, and rappers should take note of how he got there.
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