This lesson in my way-too-sporadically ongoing series on my personal philosophies to marketing music is about the possibly amazing track that gets bogged down by email wordiness.
Remember when people rapped just for the sake of rapping? One of my best memories of how I fell in love with Hip Hop was the concept of the cipher. They weren’t rapping because Lady GaGa’s meat dress inspired them to wax poetic about the advantages of going vegetarian. They weren’t kicking rhymes because their dog died and their sudden bout of grief suddenly made death metal an appropriate genre in their life, and they decided to spin their talent and rock over some headbanger shit to vent their sadness. They were rapping because they just felt like rapping. Plain and simple. Summer or winter, on school grounds or off, drunk or sober, they rapped. They rapped as if they had no other care in the world. They rapped about everything, and/or they rapped about nothing.
I miss that. A lot of the submissions I receive now just feel so intellectualized. In some instances it makes sense – I’d expect something like that from someone like Immortal Technique. The irony? I’ve not once received an Immortal Technique track in my inbox which had an explanation for his train of thought behind the track included in the email. And yeah, I’m on his publicist’s e-mail blast list. He just simply releases music. He raps about what he raps about because he fucking wants to.
“N*ggas don’t even listen to God, so why the fuck would you listen to me?”
(note: from here on out, this post will also be a mashup of recently released videos and tracks I’ve received this week that go along with what I’m saying. You know you like my multitasking)
I actually do listen to you, Immortal Technique, but the irony is that if your publicist included a “Immortal Technique explained his thoughts while recording this track by saying…” statement in an email with your next track off your “are you going to release this shit, or not, dammit!” upcoming album, I’d ignore the statement.
Why? I don’t always want to know why an artist thought a certain way and why a track came to be. Music is art, dammit, and a lot of the beauty of art is the mystery and various interpretations that it may present to the consumer of said art. One track, let’s say what I’m listening to right this second (Donnis’ “Me & My Boo,” in case you were wondering), might make me feel some kinda way. It might make the person sitting next to me feel an entirely different way. It’ll conjure up different memories for each of us. Where I might be impressed with the beat, they might be more impressed by the lyrics. A snare might stand out to me, whereas the bass line may stand out to them. It’s all personal experience. Which is closely intertwined with spirituality, but let me not get that deep right now. When an artist takes away that mysterious aura (that’s the word of the week here at UntitledType, word to “swag”) surrounding their work, it takes that enthralling mysterious element out of it for the listener. I don’t want to know why Q-Tip was rapping about clothes instead of liquor on Mobb Deep’s “Drink Away The Pain (Situations).” Really, I don’t. I just want to appreciate the track as being fucking dope.
The other issue with this concept is more directly tied to the difficulties of marketing a product in the digital age, and less to do with my personal preference. It’s no secret that we all believe the internet is shortening attention spans, and part of the reason Twitter took off so much is that it’s so concise and timely, just as a promotional e-mail should be. Submissions to inboxes are very similar to submitting a resume for a job – less is more. Quality over quantity. Just like a hiring manager, the people taking music submissions are bogged down with material. There is only so much time in a day, and way too much rap music to sort through. Two paragraphs on why you made a track is just delaying my reception of your song, and there’s a high likelihood I won’t read it anyway, especially if I’m out and about and checking my email while on my phone.
Let’s examine a few submissions I’ve received this week which are falling victim to this…
This email was a general fail for a few reasons, the main one being that to listen to the track they’re forcing me to “Like” it on Facebook, and sorry homie, that’s just not happening. Why does it even make sense for me to “Like” something that I can’t even hear? What if I dislike it when I hear it? Now I just told my whole timeline that I like it. Fuck you for making me like your music that I haven’t even heard. But the second fail was this explanation of the track, as told to some publicist by Gilbere Forte:
“This “Burn Me Down” record is more than just a new song featuring a crazy verse from the homey Tyga. Its the realization that this music shit is meant to be. Everything that has happened up to this point has happened for a reason. The people I’ve met throughout my life, the places I’ve been, and the things that i’ve beared witness….have all led up to this. It was all preparation for what I feel is about to happen. Back to the record. Those of you rocking with me since the beginning are already familiar with the original “Burn Me Down” off 87 Dreams. It was ALOT of people’s favorite song after the first listen of the project. So I felt it’s only right I give it new life (w/all new verses) as the introduction to my next solo project entitled 87 Dreams To Reality. What is that you ask? Its what happens when you take a dream and make it your reality.”
Not only could that use some proofreading (for real, I’ll take you way more seriously if some of you would take the time to proofread your submissions), but he went off on a tangent within the quote! “Back to the record.” Yo, you were talking about the record. Which tells me you’re over-intellectualizing your own shit, just for the sake of saying something. Stop that. Just give me the track, and let me reach a verdict about it on my own. Sure, rappers aren’t necessarily writers. But a publicist should take the time to make sure shit is grammatically correct and logically cohesive and relevant. This was a marketing fail. Especially coming from a company that works with some pretty big names.
Next up is a track from the homie BurntMD. BurntMD is a cool dude. He rocked at our sold out “Welcome Home DJ GI Joe” show in Vermont when Joe got out of the feds, he shows up at Southpaw in Brooklyn when I least expect him to, and he’s nothing but friendly. But never in my life have I heard him say some shit like this:
About Smugglers’ Notch:
Beginning almost 200 years ago, smugglers used the heavily wooded mountain range and the caves and caverns along Vermont’s Long Trail to transport illegal or embargoed goods across the Canadian border. In the early 1800s, the U.S. Congress placed an embargo on the imports of all English goods. In order to circumvent that embargo, the British merely shipped their provisions to Canada and smuggled the materials down the Long Trail and through what is now called Smugglers’ Notch Pass. Since the large caves in the Notch could be used to store supplies, it became an ideal focal point for much of the smuggling from Canada to the United States prior to the War of 1812.
More than 100 years later, the Notch was again used for smuggling alcohol during prohibition. Again, our friends from the north were not persuaded that Congress was acting in their best interest and freely smuggled alcohol through Smugglers’ Notch Pass and down to central and southern New England. The caves and caverns in the Notch were ideal for storing alcohol at approximately room temperature, while the smugglers were avoiding the revenue agents. Today, Smuggler’s Notch exists as an all year round tourist attraction and resort.
This is actually the best possible way to unleash background information about a track. It’s well written, it’s informative, and I walked away learning something that in general has nothing to do with music and I would never have researched otherwise. Most importantly, the email gets the relevant shit out of the way before going into U.S. history (a personalized greeting making me feel like I’m not associating with a robot begins the email, a good joke is included, the download link is dropped at the first mention of the song, and though I can hit up BurntMD myself, at this point I feel appreciated enough to want to associate with the publicist rather than ignoring the email blast because I may not necessarily recognize that person’s name).
But in an era where 140 characters reigns supreme, as much as I don’t have beef with this blast, it could have easily been shortened to, “Click here to learn more about the real Smugglers’ Notch” and linked to the Wiki page, which does exist. I opened this email on my iPhone, and the amount of scrolling involved due to the sheer length of the email could have been avoided. And then it leaves it up to me whether I want to know what that place is or not. Either way, this is a far superior email than that which was sent out for the Gilbere Forte track, so props to Matt Diamond.
Am I making sense? If you must include background information, there is definitely a right and wrong way to do it. But ask yourself – is it necessary to do so in the first place? Will doing so actually take away from the user’s interpretation of your art? Like the argument for women dressing modestly, sometimes it’s best to leave some things to the imagination. Plus, if your track is that perplexing and someone really wants the background information on it, guaranteed the question will be asked during an interview. It’s a struggle to think of shit to ask that hasn’t been asked before. Someone, somewhere, will dig for that detail. And when they do, it’s pretty flattering that they cared enough about your shit to even ask.
And this has been another edition of my tremendously neglected series on music marketing. Until next time..