Thursday, December 22, 2011

Why 50 Cent knows more about promotion than you do.

I know a lot of people who spend a lot of time thinking about how to promote their work.  Most are writers.  And we suck at it (except for the ones who are brilliant at it but can't write for shit - yeah, I said it).  I recently got into an online discussion with some writers about hip hop.  Talk about a waste of time.  Let's waste some more.  

Let me pontificate a bit. I don't think that there is any question that Eminem is the biggest thing to happen to MAINSTREAM hip hop in quite some time. And I understand that the roots of hip hop go back farther than most people think (Afrika Bambaataa is often cited, but you can find the stirrings farther back).  I got into "good" hip hop in the late nineties - just so you know.  Anyway, it is interesting. When I was a kid, Vanilla Ice was the biggest joke in the world, and the idea that there would ever be a successful white rapper was ridiculous. Time passes.  Along comes Mr. Mathers. 

You could argue that he's fallen off his game a little, but he is truly a genius - there's no doubting that. When I was a teacher and working with high school kids (black and latino for the most part), they universally agreed that Eminem was the best rapper of all time. And I tend to agree, if we restrict ourselves to the mainstream. But, like with any kind of music, you have to look to independent, underground artists to find real innovation and creativity. Not that Eminem isn't creative, but he doesn't have as much leeway as someone who is making music without any expectations placed on them.  He has a big ass corporation depending on him to make them money.

The diversification of hip hop has been interesting to watch. There are rappers of all colors from all countries. And you don't have to look as far to find truly brilliant lyricists (I was a big Tribe and Nas fan back in the day, still am). But now you've got Aesop Rock. Del. Those guys are insanely good. Detron 3030 might be my 'desert island' album.  These guys are smart as shit.  Dead Prez did the best song about 'Animal Farm' ever...Orwell would have been proud. I used to read the book with my students when I was teaching English and then we'd listen to the song: 
Check it out. It's pretty amazing.  And if you don't see the connection to what we're talking about...look again.

If you want to know what's going on in the underground now, keep your eyes on these guys (not that there aren't many others, but these guys are on it...and I happen to know NASTYFACE which makes me one of few.  He operates anonymously...and will be appearing on this blog soon.):

Which brings up a connection I have made many times with punk rock and indie publishing. The PR revolution was all about DIY and taking back the means to production, distribution, etc. It was about community.  It was about looking at the conventions of the time and saying 'fuck it'.  Let's strip it down.  Rap/Hip Hop came on the heels of this with two turntables and a mic, and then they took it to the next level by MASTERING self promotion. You want to know how to promote your novel?  Look at the guys selling mix tapes out of the back of their cars. They are on the grind 24/7 and it works. It is all a question of how much time you are willing to devote to it. Eminem gambled everything because he knew he had what it took.  And he did.  I don't care for 50 cent, but he went from selling mix tapes to selling companies. Something to think about.


  1. Very good post; very good input. I just wish I could get to the point where I can focus on my writing 24/7 instead of the marketing LOL. Maybe one day.... I can dream, right?

  2. Thanks! And yeah, you can dream, but I don't think it's gonna happen. :) I have the same dream.

  3. Love this!! It's true...It's a sacrafice-I admit. I'm at a place in my life where I have the time to dedicate to my career, Finally! However-I took that leap of faith to do so:) I know in my heart I will make it and help others on my way!!

  4. I hear you, Irene. Thanks for the comment. :)

  5. Interesting post (love the line about great marketers pubbing s$#t lol). Authors do have to be marketers, too, but so many don't get that.

  6. Thanks for stopping by Renee. Tell your friends. Free drinks until 7:23 CA time. :)

  7. There is only so much most of us are willing to do. Only so far we are willing to stretch. This was good reading, and it made me wonder about the other side of it... could there be something else hard to get that successful promoters lose out on?

    Apart from writers promoting because they WANT sales, a search for other aspects of life will find you parents seeking something they WANT from their kids, lonely people who WANT a meaningful relationship, fat people who WANT to be thin, poor people who WANT to be rich, and people with some sort of condition who WANT to be healthy. And yes - there are some writers who share a couple of those wants too.

    So one must come to the conclusion that most important things we want in life are hard to come by and only a percentage of people know how to go about pro-actively starting it all off. They realize a lot of energy must go into whatever they try, and they must get lucky too.

    While we are hell-bent on getting a perceived WANT, we might lose out on something else. Our partners might get sick of our quest, inspiration might dry up, our editors might retire, or our kids grow up unnoticed. We might pay more attention to promotion than we do to our health or the state of our surroundings.

    It is possible - as some have shown - to scrape up recognition for one's art by pitching everything at it. It is also possible to lose a few other important aspects as one does. Striving for balance... no one wants to hear that.

    So yes - how much energy one has, how much persistence, how much willingness to give up other stuff, how much to sacrifice. That's all part of it. And few can make a conscious decision about it - so it's catch as catch can.

    1. Excellent! I'm glad you bring all this up because it is something I think about quite a bit. Right now, I work like a dog for very little money because persistence is everything, BUT when I close the computer at six, it is all about my wife and my girls. I will do everything I can to succeed, but not at the cost of losing touch with my family. I'll sacrifice pretty much anything else, but not that.

      Thank you, Rosanne, for presenting this angle so well.

    2. Thank you for liking my off-the-cuff thoughts, Dan.

    3. Your off-the-cuff thoughts are more lucid and interesting than most people's fully on-the-cuff thoughts. ;)