Things I Do. Try To Do. & Wish I Could Do.
Plain and simple, I want my product to be on that Blue Magic status. I'm talking about a high quality product distributed at a lower cost than the competition (See the movie "American Gangster" or wake up any Hustler on either side of the Mississippi and ask what they were just dreaming about). Many only approach their product (music in this case) from a production standpoint alone; Late nights in the studio, re-writing verses, T-pain like auto tune (y'all really need to stop that), rolling one up (yup, that too). Artists tend to overlook other aspects that contribute to that "Blue Magic" equation. To make it easier, I’ve included 3 categories below.
Professional mixing and mastering are some of the obvious contributors to making a quality product. However, I want to focus on some overlooked items… Lets start with artwork. As a musician your overall product needs art that in some way adds to your content. Your album variety and song order should walk the listener right beside you without having any abrasive interruptions to the flow of music. Intros and Endings should be thought through for every song as well as the album as an entire piece. Album themes (like artwork) should reflect a broad enough motif so that your content on every song can fit into it. Performances must be rehearsed and should be more enjoyable that hearing the album spin solo… energy on stage should match the tracks direction. Great quality is hard to come by, but noticed by all.
I don't think there is much I can say to stop you from going to iTunes and relying on them to move your units (after they take about 30%)… but If I could convince you do go an "unconventional route" I'd tell you to spend 30% more of your money on finding a way to make your product uniquely available. Release your music by cross marketing with a non-music related company or by creating a local pop-up shop. I love seeing folks sell music out the trunk of their cars in popular areas. Some artists, knowing they have fans on different sides of the city will tweet a location of where fans can get their music in person. If possible, have your distribution plan match your album theme. Creative moves like these will help your product standout from the rapper carrying his thin cardboard box in the club with CDs tightly packed in it.
Most independent artists aren't doing this full time… if your not significantly eating from this rap game then this applies to you. Use your current job as leverage to handle costs! Quit talking about how much better you would be if you were able to spit 16s through a studio pop screen as your primary source of income. You should invest in yourself.
If I see another rapper selling below average CDs at a higher than average cost while simultaneously wearing new Jays, then he better hope they're not my size.
Music like other hobbies cost money. That being said if you refuse to make your product reasonably priced, then you must make sure your product looks, sounds and is presented much better than most others. If you build more value than the consumer expects, then your product will seem like its priced at a lower cost. The idea is not: make music to be self-sufficient as soon as possible (higher prices= more income). The idea is: (from a pricing standpoint) make music that will be widely consumed (more units sold (low prices)=larger consumer base. Larger consumer base= longevity. Longevity= more income. To put it simply: invest in yourself, slowly net dollars, build your base, and do more albums, net more dollars. As Non- full time Indie artists, we have a huge advantage! There are less people taking percentages out of our money, so we can afford to lower the cost of our product because product sales aren't relied upon to pay bills. Hustle hard my Indie’s, hustle hard!