Hip Hop (Un)scene: Online Etiquette

When on the 'Net, promote as you would in real life: Be coy, don't annoy

Feb 9, 2010 at 2:06 pm

Rappers killed MySpace. So did producers.

If you didn’t know any better, you’d think MySpace was the digital manifestation of the dude every gangsta rapper in the ’90s talked about killing. That’s how bad we killed MySpace.

We killed MySpace like it was a club full of fine women and we just had to run up in there 30 deep, full of testosterone and CDRs of us rapping over Jay-Z instrumentals.

If you’ve gotten spam in your junk mail folder offering you sex pills and the money of a rich Nigerian prince, it ain’t got shit on the type of spam a rapper, producer or promoter will hit you with on any given day of your ancient MySpace account. You don’t know spam until you get 30 messages a day telling you why you should buy some guy’s beats, mixtapes, show tickets, verses, old video games or whatever the hell he’s trying to sell you. You don’t know spam until a random rapper from 15 states away is demanding you to “support his movement.” That’s a lot of pressure for someone who can barely support himself.

I know MySpace is old news, so I’m not going to waste a whole column on it. The reason I bring it up is to discuss the mentality behind this type of shameless promotion. Unfortunately, it’s got to be working at least a little bit or artists would’ve stopped by now.

My fear is that I start seeing folks move from MySpace over to Twitter and Facebook, doing the same thing. Don’t. The reason regular people moved out of the MySpace neighborhood is because there were door-to-door salesmen peddling music and events 200 miles away every hour of every day. So before all the “Needle-Nose Ned” (see Groundhog’s Day for reference) insurance salesmen-ass artists venture over to the new popular social networking arenas, please adjust your sales pitch just a little.

I’m not going to give off some arbitrary list of rules artists should follow. It’s all in the mentality of how you approach these sites and opportunities in the first place.

One thing I’ve learned to be careful of is killing an opportunity before you’ve even studied and realized exactly what it is. Social networking promotions and building is a chess game, not checkers: It’s not about the immediate victory as much as it is the one three steps ahead. Whereas sending massive tweets and messages about what you are doing and your shows and your music seems like you’ve promoted and “done your job,” it won’t work.

People don’t like to have an artist bombard them. It’s annoying. The most successful artists and entrepreneurs succeed off of word of mouth from other folks.

I always think of Jill Scott as one of the best examples of this technique. Even before the Internet was really popping, she was that girl that you just kept hearing about from other people. She didn’t even have a video out, but everyone kept saying, “This girl is the truth.”

Scott wasn’t the truth because she manufactured some false hype about herself. She was the truth because she stayed in the cut, perfected her craft, learned her talent, built herself a team and created a sound. Self-manufactured hype is X-Ray see-through and it never lasts a career. I’ll give you one song, but career? Not so much.

Treat the digital world exactly how you would treat the real world. Everyone on these sites is a real person, so act accordingly. For example, if you wanted to holler at a DJ about some business in a club, you wouldn’t put everything out there in the middle of the club. You’d wait until after he finished spinning and talk to him on the side of the booth or backstage.

Same with online interactions. Don’t leave comments and tweets that everyone can see just to “up your status” because you’re seen talking with “Famous DJ So-and-So.” Inbox the person directly and ask for their e-mail. Hit them privately with a business matter if you want to actually handle business.

If you notice that force-feeding CDs to people with no sales etiquette in front of a club gets you annoyed looks, you would stop doing it. Same with online marketing. If no one is responding to your constant promotional messages and invites to buy music, then stop doing it. Let them come to you.

Treat people like human beings and not potential money. Treat people like human beings and not “someone who can do something for you.” It’s not sexy, and they know the difference.

I’d like to delve deeper into some of these ideas, but my man Hubert over at www.fryinginvein.com does a much better job and doesn’t have a word-limit. So I would advise going over there to research further.

(P.S., see how I did that? That’s cross-promotion. He holds me down on advice and ideas, so I bring folks over to his advice. It helps everyone communally.)

ILL POETIC is a multi-tasking Hip Hop producer/performer whose "Hip Hop (Un)scene" column appears here once a month. Check out his latest activities at illpoetic.com.