Are Free Mixtapes Decreasing the Value of Hip Hop Music?

Filed Under (Marketing and Promotion) by FuNkwoRm on 02-12-2013

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Free Hip Hop Mixtapes I was in the studio with an artist over the weekend and I asked if the project he was recording was going to be released as a mixtape. He replied, “I don’t spend money, to make no money.”  He then went on to talk about how much it was costing him to record, mix, and eventually promote the project. This is going to be he first release by the way.

There are a few hip hop artists that still hold the belief that these returns on investments have to be immediate, ignoring the reality that there are many hip hop artists today, touring and building careers off of the release of free mixtapes. Some of them have never released an official album. This is no different than a lot of products that are mostly distributed digitally. Your music is like an app. How many of those apps did you pay for that sit on your smartphone?

Those app designers invested time and money too, but understand that they have to make something useful and incredible to get you to even take the time to download it for free. And on top of that, continue to update it for many who bitch about it’s shortcomings. In the end, after years of spreading mostly by word of mouth, and hundreds of thousands of downloads, maybe then they can win you over enough to purchase the pro version. Even better, perhaps they can get funding from some venture capitalist or get a buyout offer from the folks at Facebook.

It’s “try before you buy”, and if you’re good, people take notice and let you know. That’s what I’m going to enjoy about Indie Wednesdays here. When you get genuine love from fellow creatives, you’re doing something right. That’s a feat, because almost everybody is only concerned with their own shit. If you’re not getting the response you want, go back and tweak the product. Keep the app updated or people will gravitate to a better one. And everybody knows when you’re trying game the system. We know when product is underserving of the view count number and comments. You’re better off spending the time on perfecting your craft.

Have you read these yet?

  • Sci Flyy

    A lot I could say but to an extent…I understand putting out a couple tapes for free to build your buzz, but that’s not the main reason. When the “independent internet boom” started to heat up several years ago, it was a great time because it let unknown underground artist know that they could make it to the top without a major label…it became easier for the average person to make music with all the new software & technology that was being built. So unfortunately you have everybody and their momma making music. With the old major label structure dying out, more independent artist started being feature on popular blogs, the importance of the Youtube Video increased, Singles became even more accepted than albums/mixtapes. WHY? Like I said everybody’s making music and competition is at an all time high, there’s money being made at these tours & shows, and you no longer have to rely on making it just off the mixtape/album when you can sell merch & whatnot. When the whole world has easy access to something & uses it for the same purposes, that’s when it becomes devalued IMO! Rap, Hip-Hop, & EDM music just happens to be the most popular right now so your competing with millions of people doing the exact same shit…the value of the “True fan” is also no longer relevant but that’s another story…

  • Jon Spreez

    What I’ve found in talking with a lot musicians is most don’t realize the difference between a mix tape and an album. A mixtape doesn’t take the same work an album does often times it is simply a showcase that an individual can rap. An album is deeper than that it takes time and planning every song has to live up to a certain standard, you have to be really talking about something and it needs flow and structure, something not always necessary on a mixtape. I’ve always been an artist who prided myself on my lyrical abilities and the capability of my verse to be written quickly because its something natural to me. But when I started writing my album ( which I’m still working on and perfecting as we speak.) The approach was different I revised, and rehearsed and stepped away from songs in a way I had never done before, or felt necessary when doing tapes. I’ve always been a stickler for flow beat selection and syllabic timing but thats just me. I’ve also always believed that as a musician you should have some sort of message within your music because its fueled by passion, and this is more apparent in album format. Its meant to be personal, display vulnerability and the absolute best of your craftsmanship, an album not only shouldn’t be free but can’t because if you do it right you put to much into it, not just financially but spiritually as well.

  • Eli Wiggins #WK

    I agree with that. I’ve been working on my album now for over a year and still haven’t been completely satisfied with it. With a mixtape you have the freedom to have mediocre verses (and even mediocre songs) next to your great ones. With an album you have to make sure they fit. You have to make sure that all of it is worth a listen. It is more personal its like when you’re looking at classical music (quick example Vivaldi’s Gloria) when they pieced the songs together they told a clear story. There were clear ups and downs that could be felt while listening to the music. I feel an album should be that same way. You should be able to feel what the artist is trying to give to you. You should be able to go on that journey with them. As the artist, with your album you should be able to make that clear, with a mixtape once again you don’t have to. Now, I disagree that all albums shouldn’t be free. Some artist want their story to be told and don’t want the money to hinder the audience in any way (Kyle-Beautiful Loser). Although the album had a deluxe version that was available for purchase, but the actual album itself was free. With releases like that I feel it grows a fan connection much stronger because it shows that you trust them with your career but that’s just me.