October 28, 2011

Was chillin in London last night… went out to see my man Sese perform.

When I arrived at the spot, the first person I saw was my man DJ Everfresh.

It had been a few years since I’d seen him. The thing about Everfresh is that he is always hype. Its great. You can’t help but feel hype by hanging out with him.

We were talking about the show we did back in the day in Lethbridge, Alberta. It had been my first time in the ‘Bridge. I’ve been back several times since, but this time we were out there with about 12 of us. My man G had made this show happen and we were excited to put it down.

I had a good time on the trip, but my memory of the show was how I didn’t get to perform. I was supposed to be the ‘headliner’ and go on last but for a variety of reasons – show starting late, sets running long, etc I didn’t get a chance to go on.

As he was introducing me to people last night Everfresh brought up the soundcheck. “You should have seen this guy at the soundcheck!” he kept saying. I had forgot about it. The soundcheck is usually when you are just testing out the mics. But the thing was we did a soundcheck in the middle of the student common area. There were people walking by and we would draw them in. I would kick freestyles, Everfresh would spin tracks, and the rest of the crew would perform tracks and get people hype for the show.

Even though it was six years ago, I love how the soundcheck stuck out as big part of that day. Just goes to show that you always got to bring it when you have an opportunity on the mic… It’s not always at the show that you make the fans – but before the show is just as important.


Stick To Your Vision

August 14, 2010

A couple of nights ago I went to a launch party for Wes “Maestro” Williams book “Stick To Your Vision.”  I wanted to celebrate the achievement for a man I consider both a mentor and friend –  but aside from that, I was and am a fan – for more than 20 years now!

When you think Canadian Hip-Hop history you think Maestro.  His “Symphony In Full Effect” is one of the first tapes I ever purchased.  He was on the same level as any other popular rapper of the day – whether LL or Run DMC.  This is crucial because for 15-20 years, we battled the “Canadian rapper” stigma.  Sounding “Canadian” meant second rate – we didn’t have the same quality production or beats and our videos paled in comparison to what we’d see coming from the states.  But when “Let Your Backbone Slide” came out it wasn’t just as good – it was better than anything else out.  It was and still is the biggest single from a Canadian rapper.

Walking through the crowd at the party I see countless faces that have been in the game for a long time…  From Dan-E-O to Choclair to Mindbender – we all look up to the man known as Poppa Stro.  As Canadian MC’s we are no stranger to struggle and we can all relate to the books’ title “Stick To Your Vision”.  I even run into a few rappers who put the mic down and are now doing the 9 to 5 grind.  Yes there is Drake, but beyond that, “making it” as a rapper hasn’t gotten easier.

That’s why seeing Maestro hit the stage is inspiring.  He’s in his forties now, but you wouldn’t know it.  He’s got the same charisma and stamina to rock a two hour set if he had to.  But tonight he’s just doing a few of the classics.  It’s a packed crowd and everyone has their hands in the air.

Being at the party made me think about the classic KRS track “Outta Here”

The track is all about what happens to a rapper when their career is over… usually they don’t even see it coming.

“I used to wonder about crews that used to rock, they were large, but none of them could manage to stay on top…

Do you ever think about when you’re Outta Here?”

Few rappers are fortunate enough to be in the position Maestro is in.  He was never “Outta Here”.  He’s still going.  Just a couple of years ago he had another big hit with “Hard to be Hip-Hop” with Classified. 20+ years in the game and still relevant.  While alot of rappers turn out like Mickey Rourke in the Wrestler, Wes is more like a young Ric Flair when it comes to longevity.

His book is inspiring because he talks about those valleys and challenging times… One thing that’s difficult for an artist is when they come out with their biggest hit first.  Most end up a one hit wonder.  It’s even more challenging when you add the Canadian MC factor.  I myself been frustrated by the lack of infrastructure in the Urban game, but when Stro was doing it in the early 90’s there was NO infrastructure.  From hitting the “glass ceiling” in Canada and moving to the states, Wes hooked up with one of the most respected crews in Hip-Hop (Diggin In the Crates) and rocked free beats from a top producer (Showbiz).  When he released “Nah This Kid Can’t Be From Canada” I thought it was a dope record.  I didn’t know the criticism he was taking for the album title – as if he wasn’t proud to be Canadian.  Didn’t they watch the videos and see Wes repping the Argos and the Blue Jays?  This is the same MC who said on Backbone

“Like I said before, I’m not American!”

That’s still got to be one of the illest lines ever from up North.  When he hit that part at the show you could see the line resonate.  It was one of the moments when you are proud to be part of Canadian Hip-Hop.  Even back in 89 Maestro was bigging up his country!

Of all the MC’s I’ve met, I’ve had the strongest connection with Maestro.  I remember how he spotted me at Caribana a night after I met him and quoted a couple of MY rhymes.  I couldn’t believe it.  I had given him the CD the day before, but didn’t expect him to listen to it.

Maybe the craziest stat of all is that Maestro is someone that can now claim four decades of relevance.  From the 80’s to 2010’s,  from rap to acting and now to writing a book, Maestro has made the transitions in his career that have only strengthened his legacy.

Check for the book here:

How To Book A Tour

October 15, 2009

I’m often asked how I get so many shows and always am on the road.  Over the last 5 years I’ve performed more than 500 shows and toured the country a few times…

Here are 10 steps to help you booking your next tour…

1.  Be proactive! Don’t wait for someone to book you

I always laugh when I hear rappers say in their interviews “Come holla at us!”

If only it were that easy and a promoter would just hit you up to come to their city.

The first step in getting your tour popping is realizing you are going to have to do a lot of the groundwork yourself.  Don’t wait for someone to put you on, make it happen yourself!

Yes, in a perfect scenario you have an agent that will actively be booking shows for you, but the reality is that there isn’t a lot of agents and most want to work with experienced acts that have a fan base and can command a large guarantee.  The agent is getting 10% so unless you are getting a guarantee of a few thousand a show, the agent isn’t making enough to make you a priority.

2.  Build relationships with artists that tour

If you follow the websites, magazines and tv shows you’d think that rap is all about beef.  But if you want to build a career in touring, it’s beneficial to make friends with rappers as opposed to making enemies.

The quickest way to jumpstart your touring career is by securing an opening spot for an artist that has a solid fanbase.  This way you are performing in front of crowds and exposing your music to new regions.

You want to associate with artists that are similar style as yours.  This makes it more likely that the fans will also become your fans.

How do you build the relationship?  You can try talking to the artist at one of their shows… you can hit the road and go to conferences and festivals and make connections with artists and/or their managers… you can hit the artist off with an email or send them a message on their Myspace page.

You may also want to start a business relationship with the artist… If the artist makes beats, look into purchasing a beat.  You aren’t only securing the beat, but you’re showing the artist that you handle your business.

You can do this for a song feature as well.  Remember, its not just the 16 you are getting, you want to make a connection with the artist.

3.  Build up your presence on the web

Before you start hollering at promoters, make sure your web game is top notch.  Start with a Myspace page.  It’s free, and it is in a format this is easy for promoters to check out – they can hear your music, check your videos, read a short bio, and see what kind of activity is on your page.

Start with a basic Myspace page, but I highly recommend getting a professional designer to upgrade your site.  It’s a relatively inexpensive cost – far less than a full website – but can make a great impression.

Second, you want to establish a Youtube presence.  Music videos are great – especially professional ones.  But nowadays, you can make a homemade video that is close to professional so that will work too.  Also, it’s great if you have video clips of your performances.

If you have the budget, start up a website so that can be a central place for fans and promoters to visit.  Start a Facebook group, twitter account, and begin actively posting so that you build with friends and fans locally, nationally and internationally.

4.  Get your merch and promotional materials ready

You want to have your promotional materials in place BEFORE you book the tour, not after.  Otherwise you will be scrambling to get everything done.

Design and print a poster template that can be used for your shows.  11X17 is a good size.  Colour if you have the budget.  And most importantly, ensure that you leave a white box on the poster so that you can write the show info with a sharpie.

Next, design and print flyers so that promoters can circulate these amongst town.

It is KEY that you have this promotional material available online.

A great thing to make is an ‘ekit’ section on your website.

This is an area promoters can go to find digital versions of flyers and posters.  This way they can print these materials themselves – saving you the time and cost of mailing them.

You’ll also want to have high-resolution pictures in your ekit.  This will come in handy when you are looking for press for your tour.  You can refer media to this section so that they can print high-resolution photos as opposed as to your web-sized jpeg on your Myspace page.

Make sure you have your merch ready for the tour.  First is the cd’s, and next are t-shirts – if you have the budget for it.  Merch is a great way to make additional money on the tour, and also to help spread the word about your music and brand.

5.  Plan the tour route

Decide where you want to tour and then begin looking for venues that cater to your style of music.  If you aren’t sure of the venues, look at the dates for artists of similar styles that tour.  You don’t want to play the same place as Jay-Z – but there are starting to mid level touring artists that often play the same venue and this is where you want to play.

When you find the venues get the contact of the person who books the shows.  If its not on the website, call and find out.  A number is good, an email is great.

With an email you can make a solid pitch and send all of your web links.

Again, this is where having a solid relationships with artists comes in handy.  If you’ve opened up for an artist, you may have had the chance to meet the promoter.

In this case, you’ve got a rapport with the promoter – they know your show, they know how you handle yourself – and you are good to go.

5.  Design an email pitching the tour

Put together an email with all the vital information.  Give the tour a name, include a short bio, and then list some of your career accomplishments.   Make sure to have links to your web page, Myspace and Youtube videos.

It is important that you are as professional as possible in this email.  You want to make a solid first impression and show the promoter that dealing with you will be easy, effortless and result in having a great show.

6.  Know what your worth

To know what you are worth you have to look at yourself objectively through a promoters eyes.  They are trying to make money.  They aren’t in the business to give you a break.  You have to ask yourself questions such as, have you played this club before?  Have you played this area before?  Do you have local buzz? National buzz? International buzz?

The goal is to secure a guarantee, but show that you flexible and can work with a split of the door.  You want the promoter to have low risk in bringing you out.  The goal is to build a strong rapport with the promoter so that you can come back, draw a bigger crowd and you both make mo’ money.

Another key aspect is the rider.  When you are a A-list artist you can ask for the skittles and the pack of socks, but right now you want the bare minimums – if any rider at all.  A hotel room, drinks, and food are all good to ask for.

7.  Follow up and respond promptly

Promoters are busy and are bombarded by a lot of groups’; so don’t take it personal when you don’t get a response.  Instead, follow up politely and professionally.

When you do get a response, it is important to follow up promptly.  Don’t wait a few days to get back to someone that is showing interest in you!  They may forget about you and also get the impression that you aren’t professional.

8.  Work with the promoter to promote the show

Once you’ve booked the show, work with the promoter to make sure the show is a success.  This is a key way to build rapport, because it shows you are serious about making the show a success.  Send posters and flyers promptly, post the shows on your website and Myspace, email fans and friends in the cities that you are coming to etc

9.  Showtime! Handle yourself professionally the day of the show

Keep in touch with the promoter before the show and give them an idea of what time you expect to arrive on the day of the show.  Ensure that you’ve discussed tech requirements so that there aren’t any last minute problems.  It’s great when you can show up to the city the day of the show so that you can do your own promotion – put up posters, hand out flyers, get out and meet people at the mall etc.  Show up early to the venue and do a thorough sound check.  Establish the time that the promoter wants you to perform at.  Sometimes they will push for an early show.  While you may want to hit the stage at 1 am, it is best to strike a good balance so that you don’t frustrate the fans and the promoter.

10.  Follow up with the Promoter

Once you’ve rocked the house, collected ya cash and made the promoter happy, it is important that you follow up with the promoter.  You want to thank them for the opportunity and tell them that you are looking forward to working with them again on the next show.

Then a few months later reconnect with the promoter and start the process all over again.  Hopefully this time you’ll have a bigger crowd, sell more merch, and make mo’ money!

Duane “D.O.” Gibson is a Guinness World Record setting rapper and record label owner.  He has performed over 500 shows internationally – most of which have been self-booked.