Flip the Script: 5 Things Rock Bands Can Learn from Hip-Hop
When we discuss forward thinkers in rock music, Pete Wentz isn't a name that comes to mind. That's probably because, if you're like a lot of people on the Internet, the mention of his name will cause you to groan and/or think of the word "douchebag." While you may not like him on a personal level, his dealings as the head of Decaydance Records are interesting.
Photo by Tyler Curtis
In a lot of ways, Decaydance was a rap label that just happened to feature pop-punk and emo acts. They had an image (goofy mid '00s pop rock); the artists frequently collaborated and toured together; Fall Out Boy even put out a mixtape.
There's a lot of chatter about the place of rock music in 2012. They say it's irrelevant, stale and doesn't sell. Pop music is king, EDM is the rising star and hip-hop is the music of the youth. Rock is just a relic of a different age.
So if you're a rock band that aspires to more than getting a daytime slot at Buzzfest, what do you do? Well, perhaps you get past your personal dislike of Wentz and follow his lead. If you can't beat hip-hop, why not adapt some of their its as your own?
Step One: Have a persona: There are more rock stars outside of rock music than there are in it, which is unfortunate, because the public likes personality. The major figures in rap are easy to describe: Lil Wayne is a Martian; Rick Ross is the ultimate hustler; Kanye West is the creative manchild; Nicki Minaj is Barbie with a personality disorder.
Photo by Marco Torres He thinks he's Big Meech, Larry Hoover and Slim Thug.
Personality is something that comes out in a lot of forms. It's how you handle questions in interviews. It's in the songs you write. It's in your stage banter.
That's not to say you have to have a gimmick. Your persona, ideally, is just a bigger version of how you are as a person. You don't have to paint your face or cross-dress or walk around with a parrot on your shoulder -- unless that's something you would do anyway. The important part of being larger than life is still being you at the same time.
Step Two: Have a posse: Networking has always been a part of the music industry. Whether it's getting shows or just having a couch to crash on when you're on the road, making friends with your fellow musicians is typically a smart move.
But why keep those connections hidden away?
Whether the connection is regional or a shared sound, let people know that your band and another band roll together. Talk them up in interviews and have them do the same for you. Playing in a city a few days before they are? Let everyone at your show know about the other show. Tour together. Not only will you have your fans, but the other band's fans will probably start following you, too.
Come up with a catchy name that will look good on a shirt. Make your fans feel like they're part of something bigger.