With Atlanta being a hub for entertainment and music, there are many emerging artists based in the city waiting for their time to shine. However, things have changed a lot since the days when L.A. Reid and BabyFace would troll the city for the next big thing.
However, it’s now the artist’s responsibility to figure out how to not only market themselves, but if they’re independent like most artists are now, figure how to generate revenue without a record label.
And in the digital age artists have a lot more opportunities than they did over 10 years ago, and no one knows that better than Rebecca “Dimplez” Ijeoma, a digital music marketer who owns her own marketing and management firm.
“In today’s age, it’s a bit tricky for an independent artist to generate money directly from music,” Ijeoma said. “Streaming isn’t the most profitable mechanism, and unless you’re getting millions of streams your checks won’t have a comma in it.”
If you’re indie, and want to make real money off of the music alone, you have to train your fans and followers to support you with direct sales. That means going to iTunes to purchase your song. Going to Soundcloud, Bandcamp or any other direct-to-consumer sales site and actually buying the record. A stream alone will not pay a bill. But a sale. A couple hundred sales. That’ll put a dent in something real.”
Prior to landing her own agency, Ijeoma worked at Capitol Records. Her client roster includes Usher, Tyrese, DJ Premier, Good Girl, Wiz Kid, and Flo Milli, to name a few.
An advocate for artists having good representation, Ijeoma provided answers to some of the questions that Atlanta’s emerging music artists are eager to ask.
AV: What are some other ways independent artists can create a source of income with or without their music?
Ijeoma: Traditionally, indie artists make a bulk of their income from touring and merch sales. An artist would go on the road—on their own tour or opening for someone else—and after performing their set would sell merch directly to fans.
Most artists generated a bulk of their annual income from this strategy, but unfortunately due to the pandemic that business model has been impacted. A lot of independent artists are now having to get more creative and consistent with their approach digitally. Artists now have to think of ways to engage their followers with online releases of merch, unique content, direct support (or “tipping”), and non-traditional partnerships.
AV: Should independent artists primarily focus on marketing digitally, and if not what are some of the other ways they can market themselves?
Ijeoma: Right now? Independent artists should be creating daily for digital. Now, that doesn’t mean release a song each day—it means, for the first time in about a decade, a vast majority of the population is keyed into the internet.
A lot of people are unemployed, at home…etc—and right now is your opportunity to get in front of those people and make them a fan of you. The challenge is figuring out a way to share your message and cut through the clutter socially.
AV: When hiring an outside marketing company what should independent artists consider?
Ijeoma: When hiring a marketing company or any agency to work with you, you have to make sure that they believe in your long-term vision for yourself. You have to make sure that they believe in the music you’re working on, they believe in your brand, and that they believe in you. Far too often, we see artists working with agencies and it’s not clicking— and the truth is, if your own agency doesn’t believe in you, why should I?
AV: When building a team who are the necessary people that an independent artist need?
Ijeoma: As an independent artist, you should start building your team with one key person. Now, this person can be your manager, assistant, or family member, but the goal here is to get someone who is aligned with your vision and is going to go just as hard for you and your craft as you go for yourself. So often artists want to hire an agent, a publicist, a marketing agency, and more on day one; the truth is until you build a business that’s worth publicizing or marketing, you’ll be wasting money. So, build a business first.
AV: What are some of the key components of a marketing strategy for an independent artist?
Ijeoma: Incredible music, creative and unique content, and an engaging story are essential for independent artists. All of these elements culminate the brand that is the artist. If the music isn’t good, if the visuals don’t look right, and if the story doesn’t make sense, it simply doesn’t work.
AV: What old school marketing tactics should new independent artists try to utilize?
Ijeoma: Street teams! Independent artists today underestimate the importance of having people who evangelize your music and your message on your behalf. The old-school tactic of running a street team was genius because you had fans mobilize for you. Today, though a street team may look a little different, it’s still a tactic every artist should utilize.
AV: How does social media factor into a marketing strategy for an independent artist?
Ijeoma: Social media is so important for the independent artist. You not only have to be unique, you have to be consistent, and you have to cut through. Far too often I see artists put out one piece of content and expect that one piece of content to do all the work for them. You have to treat social media like the new radio. You have to consistently beat people over the head with your brand, your message, and your music in order for it to travel.
AV: What’s the most essential marketing material that an independent artist needs?
Ijeoma: Music videos are essential. They don’t have to be expensive, but they do have to show me something. They need to be captivating, unique and creative. The great thing about our access to technology now is that you do not need to have fancy equipment or a million dollars to make an incredible video, all you really need is ingenuity, a cell phone (or camera) and a vision.
AV: What’s the best piece of advice that you would give to an independent artist?
Ijeoma: Don’t quit, pivot. I think the internet has a lot of independent artists wanting to microwave their success, and oftentimes what they envision as success is unrealistic and unsustainable. Take a hard look in the mirror and define what success really means to you. Is that being able to feed your family? Is that mainstream notoriety? Is that being your own boss? Or is that creating longstanding ownership and wealth equity? Figure out what that end goal realistically looks like, and then carve multiple paths to getting there.