The following is an essay from the book, Hip Hop Know What I’m Sayin, available on Amazon.com
At the presentation of a Proclamation to the founders of Hip Hop Education Week in Newark City Hall in NJ, Vinnie Brown from Hip Hop group Naughty By Nature spoke to those gathered about the importance of Hip Hop in the classroom. As an extension of the class environment, an audience member asked how artists could utilize their talent and survive financially. Vinnie explained the dilemma of money and the hip-hop business for new artists by pointing out some key factors.
He said first that money should not be the goal of new artists, and the focus instead should be meaningful material.
- “Hip Hop started for the Love. When Hip Hop started you did it for free. Hip Hop started without monetary compensation and then through evolution it turned into this big, corporate, giant, monetary thing you see right now. But because of the internet, it’s going back to, hey, it’s not a monetary thing. You have to take the money out of it. You have to take all the fame out of it. Take all of the glitz and glamour out of it and use it for what it was meant for. It’s art. It’s used for social change. It’s used for engagement, and if you believe in yourself and you believe in music, you will find an audience…(people say) “I’m doin it. I love it. Why aren’t I making it?” Because you’re not supposed to make money off of art. You supposed to do it to make social change. What are you doing to help someone? What is the message being put in this music?” – Vinnie Brown
Here, the insinuation is about the inspiration to make music. Vinnie is referring more to an artist’s overall motivation for using the creative process at all. He points to an underlying desire in many new artists to get rich and famous above all, even above making meaningful music or inspired music. He understands full well that an artist practicing his craft has to eat, which is why he offered some more practical advice when it comes to money and art.
- It’s about supply and demand. In its infancy, you had less of a supply and more of a demand. Treach says “there’s more artists than fans right now.” Listen to the radio. When I was coming up they used to play 15-20 artists a day. Now it’s the same 6 artists you hearing everyday…With this technology you don’t need Universal Records or Sony Records. With this technology, if you work your own backyard, you will find a following. You will find that voice. All’s it takes is a small following. There’s pamphlet out that says ‘1000 True Fans.’ It basically explains how you can make a living off of 1000 True fans
To the brother who asked the question, that bit of information is truly a gem, or jewel of wisdom. I hope he remembered it or finds this post because it may change his whole perspective on the music industry. The article Vinnie referred to ‘1000 True Fans’, I found posted on a site called the Technium. It echoes advice to emcees, we have been saying for years in specific terms. The idea is that somewhere between a blockbuster hit and the miscellaneous distribution of past products is the point where an artist can make a living. The article takes the example of $100,000/year.
- A creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, videomaker, or author – in other words, anyone producing works of art – needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living… A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can’t wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans.
With this base paying on average $100 per year for all these products an individual artist would be able to make a comfortable living. For duets, groups or companies this model would still apply but would have to be increased proportionately by the number of fans. Others say that with 5,000 fans spending $20 a year on your art the same outcome would be achieved. Both these numbers are far more modest than the millions of fans some artists supply but it is more reasonable and attainable. If an artist had the goal of cultivating a fan base such as this the results might be reached more often. The article does leave on a cautionary note however.
- A more important caution: Not every artist is cut out, or willing, to be a nurturer of fans. Many musicians just want to play music, or photographers just want to shoot, or painters paint, and they temperamentally don’t want to deal with fans, especially True Fans. For these creatives, they need a mediator, a manager, a handler, an agent, a galleryist — someone to manage their fans. Nonetheless, they can still aim for the same middle destination of 1,000 True Fans. They are just working in a duet.
So with this advice noted, artists may be able to alter their perspective and make their goals more achievable. After gaining this insight, the next step focuses on how to make meaningful music that can attract 1000 to 5000 True Fans.
The Technium – 1000 True Fans