If you live in a major metropolitan area with a hip-hop scene, you’ve seen one of these guys. They’re on the street corner, they’re opening for a band that you like, they’re at the grocery store, they’re at your neighborhood dive bar. They’re an unsigned rapper.
The mission of the unsigned rapper is simple: to get you to listen to their mixtape. In that way, you and your local unsigned rapper have something in common. Both you and the unsigned rapper need to convince a stranger that what you’re doing is worth their time. They might have never heard of you before, but you need them to take a leap of faith. For the unsigned rapper, that jump is getting someone to listen to their mixtape. For you, it’s getting your audience to take an action.
The unsigned rapper is the master of the hustle. What’re they doing that you could be copying?
1. They’re everywhere. First you saw them on a street corner, handing out fliers and handmade CDs with poorly printed jacket art. Then you started seeing those fliers everywhere–taped to bus shelters, stapled to utility poles, pinned up at your local coffee shop. You didn’t even know they went to that coffee shop.
What can you learn? Start showing up across platforms, and be prolific. Studies show that brands should be posting on Twitter at least three times a day–and potentially as many as 30 times a day. They also show that posting the same content multiple times isn’t a bad thing–and in fact, it’s actually helpful to repost content that performs well at different times.
2. They’re friends with someone you like. You got to the show early enough to catch the openers, who you hadn’t heard of. The beat drops, and who comes out? It’s the unsigned rapper. He knows other artists who are doing cool shit, and he’s planning on getting on their fans’ radars.
What can you learn? Find a few organizations that are successfully doing work that’s similar to yours (but who aren’t your competitors). Earn goodwill from them by boosting their work on your social media platforms–retweet one of their blog posts with a compliment and @ them so they see it in their notifications. Write your own blog post that mentions them, and then @ them when you promo it. The goal here is to get a retweet or mention from them, and piggyback on their audience to expand your reach.
3. They make taking the first step easy. The unsigned rapper knows that you’re not going to buy their mixtape. That’s why they’re standing on the corner handing it out, and posting free it online. They might ask you to buy their album later, but for now they just want you to hit play on the first song.
What can you learn? Make your first digital step as easy as possible. Make it a one-click opt-in, or an email sign-up splash page. Don’t make it harder than it has to be for someone to get involved for the first time–what’s important is that they’re taking the first step with you. And once you’ve gotten them to take that first step, it’ll be easier later to escalate your ask.
Bonus tip: Feuds are a hip-hop tradition. We’re not going to tell you to start beef with the competition. But if you do, take your cues from the recent feud champions at Discovery.
Are you an unsigned rapper? Want us to listen to your mixtape or add a tip? Let us know in the comments.