Artists, if you spend any amount of time on social media looking for ways to further promote your music, then you’ve undoubtedly seen this a few times. A local, or maybe not so local but not yet famous, DJ will advertise that they are putting together their next mixtape and “slots are available” and that you should inquire within for quotes… Seems innocent enough right? Why hate on someone trying to build their brand? I think the real question is whether this practice is legitimate business and should be allowed. The short answer is no.
Now, I’m not here to hate on anyone’s hustle. If you’re a DJ that does this type of marketing, all the power to you. Besides, a bloggers opinion shouldn’t stop you from pursuing your dreams and hustles. However, I would like to voice my opinion and help other artists looking at pursuing mixtape slots. I personally feel it’s a really shady way of luring unsuspecting artists into paying for something that may not end up benefiting them.
These “mixtapes” are very easily spotted nowadays. The slots come with a price tag (usually $25 USD), a super generic HipHop-esque name (ie. “Bando Raps Vol. 752”), and pre-designed artwork. How do I know this? I, myself, have paid for mixtape slots and, like countless others, felt cheated afterwards. My first mixtape slot was $20 USD and even prior to committing, I felt some type of way about having to pay for a slot. What was the difference between this and all ther other mixtape series out there? What made this one special? I was confused but against my better judgement, I decided to go for it. I sent over the payment and submission as instructed and started playing the waiting game. A few weeks went by and no sign of the compilation materializing. I started to feel really duped. After 2 – 3 weeks of waiting, I got a message in my Facebook inbox one day after work with a link to download the mixtape. I felt relieved. It wasn’t a wasted investment….right?
A few weeks from the “release”, I decided to check in on the stats. The tape had amassed a whopping 120 downloads and 200 streams (sarcasm tone)! I started to that “duped” feeling again. $25 later and I didn’t see ANY change in my fan reach. No new followers, no increase in my own music, nothing. The project wasn’t uploaded to a site that allowed comments on individual tracks, so I had no idea if people liked the song or even listened! To top the whole cake off, the mixtape didn’t have one blog post associated to it. I essentially paid $25 for a digital download link. It was heartbreaking. I felt cheated realizing that I had paid $25 to be included in a project that had no cohesion in sound nor anything that resembled promotion. It was a hard lesson learned!
Why did I choose to share this story? To hopefully steer unknowing artists from making the same mistake I did. Also, to bring attention to the DJ’s that use this marketing practice. I understand you have to do what’s necessary to keep the lights on. There are costs associated with making these compilations, especially if you have them printed. But do you really want to be the DJ who has to oversell their reach and under-deliver on sub-par product? If you’re a DJ just starting out, offering paid slots is hurting your brand more than it’s helping! Discovering and breaking new artists should be your primary focus at all times as a DJ. Hone your mixing skills and create a following and brand recognized for putting on talent and stop focusing on getting paid. If your skills are at a level to demand payment, then you should be focusing more on getting on radio or club nights anyway. Why bother trying to pry $25 from 15 – 18 struggling artists every month?
Mixtapes used to have to be WORTH buying to make any money for the DJ’s. It showed the DJ’s hustle. If you were a DJ worth your name, you went out and collected EXCLUSIVES from artists to ensure you had music no other DJ had. You wanted people to know you were the first to have a certain song. You wanted the cache of being able to say “I broke that record.” That hustle has since been morphed into organizers collecting money for promise of fame. The same songs can be found on countless compilations as a result of shotgun marketing tactics. Mixtapes, like anything else associated with HipHop, is a hustle. Some choose to play the game right, and some choose to break the rules for personal financial gain.