Drake became a worldwide star last year when his mixtape, “So Far Gone,” was released in early 2009. A song from that mixtape, “Best I Ever Had,” took off on radio and, upon being released on iTunes, became a top-3 single on Billboard and one of the most popular songs of the year.
Even more amazing: Drake was able to tour, make music videos, and sign a deal to a major record company… all off the strength of his mixtape.
Despite this wonderful success story, Drake is in the minority. Reality check: THOUSANDS of mixtapes are released each year, and most of them do NOT bring the notoriety and fame that Drake’s mixtape did. Furthermore, most new artists who release mixtapes don’t have the company of other superstars, like Lil’ Wayne, Baby, and the rest of Cash Money/Young Money, backing them.
I think many people forget the purpose of a mixtape. Allow me to educate you:
THE ULTIMATE PURPOSE OF RELEASING A MIXTAPE… IS TO PROMOTE YOUR STUFF SO THAT PEOPLE WILL BE CONVINCED TO PURCHASE YOUR MUSIC IN THE FUTURE.
If we take the Drake example: the purpose of that mixtape release was to become popular enough to where he could get PAID by a record company to sign him. Yes, it was released for “free,” but it also had heavy promotion. If you’ll notice, even when “Best I Ever Had” was a free song, it became popular enough to where people wanted to PAY for it on iTunes. And, once the mixtape became REAL popular, he actually released a shorter version of it for people to buy – and it went GOLD.
Where people get it mixed up is when they see a Drake story and think to themselves: “Hey, that’s a GOOD idea! I’ll release a mixtape for FREE, and then another one, and another one, and another one until people finally like my stuff enough to buy it!”
BAD, BAD IDEA.
When I released “Obama Milli Remix” back in 2008, the biggest mistake I made was releasing a FREE mixtape for people to download the song. Granted, at the time I didn’t know how to get my song to iTunes. Actually, I had heard about Tunecore, which is what I use now, but at the time it took six weeks for a song to get from them to iTunes, and I figured the song’s popularity would be gone by then. (Ah, how amazing hindsight is!)
Anyway, I released “The O-Bama Mixtape” for people to download the song for free, thinking it would get me enough attention from record companies to want to sign me. Fast-forward to election night 2008: Obama won the election, and “The O-Bama Mixtape” got downloaded over EIGHT THOUSAND TIMES.
Now, that may sound impressive. But honestly, what would have been better: to have my FREE mixtape downloaded 8000 times, or to have a PURCHASABLE album up where people would have to pay 9.99 for the whole thing or .99 for the song? I’ll give you a hint: $0 x 8000 versus $.99 x (insert any number here) – which would have been more?
So yes, it would have been a good idea to have a mixtape to promote myself, but had I taken it down the day I released my first album, “The A.P.T. LP,” and let people know they’d have to PAY for the song in order to get it, it would have been much more effective.
Besides, even if you think no one will by your stuff (as is always the fear of any new artist), you never know when your stuff will be of value. Heck, you could release 4 or 5 albums, and have that one hit on album 6 that makes people want to go back and purchase the older stuff you released before. I think it’s much better to put out a mixtape of songs recorded on other people’s beats, and include a sampler of stuff from your PURCHASABLE album.
That’s all I feel like typing now. I’m off to party like it’s 2010… ’cause it is!
P.S. Oh yeah – new album out June 8th, “The Obama Milli Remix Guy Strikes Back!”