Conducting Yourself Professionally
All artists make mistakes early in their career. Sometime's you might say it's necessary to make mistakes, to learn from them and look into different plans of action for the future. But what I'm about to tell you are mistakes you CANNOT afford to make - they are music career suicide.
Cold-Calling & Submissions
You've dropped your first record and want to get people to listen - perfectly understandable. But you need to promote yourself professionally and through official channels - you don't want to beg, you don't want to spam people.
Receiving unsolicited emails, messages, etc. is similar to receiving a telemarketing call. Who likes telemarketers? Is that the first impression you want to be sending out to a potential fan?
Courtesy goes a long way, both in the music industry and in life. When you're about to contact someone you don't know, think about the person on the other end of the phone and how they will perceive you. Remember, they're looking out for their self interest - if you start asking them for favors where they get nothing in return, do you really think they're going to help you? Some random guy they've never met?
Actions speak louder than words. Any idiot can type up a big email about how they're the "next artist to blow" if only someone "gave them a chance". I've been in the music industry for 10 years, and I get some variation of that email every week. No fanbase, no credentials, just hot air and their outstretched hand asking for freebies. What makes you different from the thousands of other artists sending these emails?
If you're going to call someone on the phone, do it during business hours if you can. Let's say (if you're living in the USA) 8PM Eastern Time at the absolute latest. Remember, people in the music industry have lives outside of music, and you don't want to annoy them by encroaching on their personal time.
Many new artists have an ego or sense of entitlement, and let me tell you, that's the fastest way to get blackballed in the industry. Kanye gets away with it because he's a musical genius - for the rest of us, it's career poison. If someone gets a vibe that you are hard to work with, word will spread and you can kiss your musical ambitions goodbye.
When approaching someone new about your music, be friendly, assertive (not aggressive) and know what you're talking about. If you're calling an industry professional about a licensing deal, you better damn well read up on it or get someone to explain it to you before you start conversing with this person. It shocks me how many artists will be completely unprepared for professional situations in the music industry, and come off as totally ignorant. DON'T BE THAT GUY.
If you sense resistance or apprehensiveness from the person you've approached, DO NOT push further or put them in an awkward spot. Simply thank them for their time, ask them to take down your contact information, and keep it moving. End the interaction on a positive note, even if you've just been rejected - you could very well win the person over in the future if you've handled the situation correctly.
Your Social Feed
For most artists, their social networks (ie. Facebook, Twitter, etc) are their lifeline to their fans. This is where people will go to find out information about you, new music, tour dates, etc.
This may sound elementary, but make sure your social media is consistent with the image and brand you want to portray. Don't use this account to talk about X-rated topics, to hit on girls, etc. (use a personal account for this) My preference is not to talk about drug use or illegal activities, but that's up for debate in the rap community. In general, just keep it about you, your music and your movement.
Keep everything on your feed positive. How many struggling artists do you see complaining? Saying the industry is messed, they never got a chance to blow up, all that BS. Complaining on social media about your stagnant music career reeks of desperation. Don't do it.
Artists get more leeway in their behaviors than normal 9-to-5 employees. You can't talk reckless, brag about drug use, etc. in the 'real world', but rappers seem to always want to do it as part of their musical image. They want to act tough, act like their sh!t don't stink, act like their music is the best thing to bless this earth. If you wouldn't act a certain way in a job interview, don't do it when interacting with industry professionals. Focus on a more professional approach that considers the other party more than yourself - what can you do for this person to have them help you in return?
Try to end all your music-based interactions positively - this goes for fans, producers, label executives, promoters, etc. Don't give people rope to hang you with, and don't burn bridges.