Artist Tip: Finding & Identifying Your Market in Christian Hip-Hop
In today’s climate, we find music ingrained in nearly every aspect of humanity. Whether going to the doctor’s office, the gas station, or your favorite restaurant….music is there. That being said, it makes sense that the current generation has so many making music their career of choice. Whether professional or recreational, many millennials are artists. With this influx of aspiring artists, of course, the standard was diluted and greatly weakened, but it gave rise to subsequent spinoff industries separating the “Music Industry” into the “Majors” & “Indy.”
The impact this had on genres of music was largely felt by the most popular genre to date: Hip Hop. Hip Hop itself ascended from the streets, as merely a voice of the oppressed, to being the #1 genre & style of music worldwide, expanding to give common interest groups a voice. This brings us to today’s subject: The infrastructure of Christian Hip Hop.
As CHH (Christian Hip-Hop) is a sub-category of Hip Hop, it seems to be following the path of its patriarch. While it is only knocking at the door of the mainstream, it has begun to boom on an independent level, having hundreds of artists sign up daily to express themselves in the style of hip hop.
The issue that is becoming more and more obvious though, is that the platform of CHH lacks the development to sustain the influx of those who want to be on it. How do I do it (correctly)? Where can I send my music to be heard? Where do I perform? Who should I make my music for? These are all questions every CHH artist has asked (or should), but I’m afraid that those who may receive these questions don’t have the answers these artists are looking for.
Most artists make their music with being heard as one of their top priorities. The pit that most artists fall into, is assuming that their music is for everyone. As an artist myself, I know this pit very well. You imagine all of the contexts that your song could fit, but while creating your art, neglect the reality that it was intended for a specific person. If you’re like me, not only has this hindered your art, but also your ability to find an appropriate platform for it.
As a rule of thumb for marketing, you have to ALWAYS know your target audience, otherwise, you have NO idea if your music product is effective. Selling swimming trunks in Colorado, where the climate is cold and dry, might leave you with a flawed perspective of how good your product is. While it could be genius, you also stand to see a substantial increase in value if you sold them in a place where there was more water and a climate that lends itself to swimming such as in California or Florida. Once I understood this (after eight years of doing it wrong), it helped me to reassign my efforts and emotions I had for “CHH Gatekeepers.”
I began to do market research to try and find out who my music resonated with the most. What I found was amaaaaaazing-ly simple. I literally made music for my friends. Those from a similar background & upbringing who shared many of the same reference points as I did. I’m an 80s baby, so our conversation about Tupac would hit differently than if I were to discuss it with a fan born in the 2000s. No matter how cool and relevant you are, you will always connect stronger with people who can identify with your experience, rather than just understand it. Once I figured this out, my music adapted and began to get a better response. There’s a passion and confidence that comes with talking about what you have lived. I realized that I had been trying to make music to be accepted rather than expressing the gospel to the people I am, in the language “we” speak.
I’m sure that somewhere in every artist who is Christian or accepts the genre of CHH, there is a desire to reach someone and impact their lives with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The so-called “gatekeepers” get a bad rep because they don’t promote everybody’s everything, but the reality is that the gate that they “keep” and the platform they hold, simply wasn’t made for everybody. They (like yourself) have an audience and a niche that they serve and they have gained their influence by providing content consistent with the needs and relevance of those who look to their platform. While their role could be far more progressive (another conversation for another time), the first step to becoming an effective artist is defining your why and your who. This not only makes your content potent and undeniable but allows the correct gate to open up to you….even if you had to create it yourself.
The first step to fixing the infrastructure of any industry is to make sure its product is best suited for the people it serves.