Hip-Hop Marketing: An Interview with Nah Right’s Eskay
DZ: A lot of rap artists are getting involved in Twitter and doing very well with stuff like trending hashtags. Does social media actually sell records?
Eskay: I think social media contributes to the public’s awareness about an artist and that awareness then (hopefully) turns into album or single sales. Social media in the context of any recording artist is a marketing tool, and like any marketing tool can backfire on you and end up hurting you if you don’t put enough thought into it.
DZ: Beyond record and ticket sales what are Hip-Hop marketers measuring? What should they be measuring, what’s the most important metric? Followers, fans, mix tape downloads, etc?
Eskay: I think that online, it’s an artist’s overall digital footprint. How many pageviews does their website get? How many Twitter followers? How many retweets, how many Facebook friends/fans, number of mixtape downloads and Youtube views, all of that stuff can give you a picture of what kind of noise a particular act is making. At the same time though, I think you have to take those numbers with a grain of salt. On the “rap Internet”, numbers are often fabricated by dishonest artists and sites, and even legitimate numbers can fail to give you an accurate picture of how many people somebody might be reaching. I think it’s still really important to get out to the streets and shows and clubs and get a real feel for what people are connecting with.
DZ: There are a ton of examples of famous rappers becoming lifestyle brands with movies, clothing, books, beverages, etc: Diddy, Jay-Z, Dr Dre, 50 Cent, etc. What’s the key to getting this right?
Eskay: Any celebrity can sell any reasonably decent product to fans. Within the Hip-Hop community if you can maintain your integrity and not give the impression that you are selling out in any way, people will allow you to market to them. It’s an entrepreneurial culture and so for the most part I think we try to respect and support each other’s business ventures.
DZ: Jay-Z just started a lifestyle website, LifeAndTimes.com, with surprisingly little fan fare. What are your thoughts on the way he launched it?
Eskay: Personally, I’ve seen scores of artists and personalities pour tons of money and marketing muscle into launches for websites, products and services and 9 times out of 10, whatever they are selling doesn’t live up to the hoopla that preceded it. I think the quiet, guerrilla approach has its benefits. Jay knows that whatever he launches, rap and music blogs are going to cover it in excruciating detail no matter what, so why waste time and energy on a marketing campaign? The audience you’re looking for are blog readers and bloggers and you already have a built in marketing channel with those people. Plus it gives the site that kind of indie, Tumblr-esque, only-the-cool-people-know-about-this vibe that everybody responds to these days.