Russ is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, record producer and published author from Atlanta, Georgia. His mantra is “Do It Everyday, Music Or Nothing”. The multi-platinum selling recording artist has built his brand around his ability to remain consistent and engage with his fans.
Russ has built one of Hip Hop’s most prominent fan bases from scratch.
“His work ethic was top notch, and due to his constant communication with his fans and his willingness to tour, he had built himself an army of rabid fans.
Rarely do you have an artist who understands not only the artistry but also the business side of things.
Russ has a very clear vision, and he knew exactly what he wanted and exactly where he wanted to go.”
The consistency paid off for Russ after inking a multi-million dollar partnership with Columbia Records. A business partnership that is often viewed as “rare” in the hip hop industry, where an artist can retain ownership of their music, receive a multi-million dollar advance and land a 50/50 profit split on future releases.
Before reaching mainstream success and topping the Billboard Hot 100. Russ dropped 11 projects before even joining SoundCloud and releasing one song per week for almost two years. Russ’ distribution strategy was that he wanted to combine high quality and high quantity content.
Totaling 98 songs on SoundCloud before producing his first hit — all through experimentation, dedication and consistency.
DIEMON — which is also the name of Russ’ record label, hasn’t disappointed the fans yet. The Atlanta rapper prides himself on his ability to challenge tradition and has provided a blueprint for others to follow.
Russ has given a new lane for DIY artists to follow and has developed a new business models for success. After his partnership with Columbia Records, Russ cleared $15 million according to Forbes’ June-to-June scoring period which solidified him as one hip-hop’s top economic visionaries.
Now, lets deep dive into ‘6 Ways Russ Leveraged The Internet To Come Up In Hip Hop’
1. Build A Brand
For artists, musicians and content creators your brand should always be your main focus outside of your core product. Having a strong brand will help you to develop a strong connection with your fan base and help expand your reach.
Once fans have an idea of what you’re offering through the music. They are more likely to provide recommendations and help spread your message through social currency.
“In the music space, going directly to your fans is really easy now. If you’re an artist, create music and put it out on the internet.
If you do this consistently, your fan base will continue growing, and that will power your entire career.
The internet cut out the middle man, so winning comes down to being able to communicate directly with your fans.”
— Russ via Forbes
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2. Accessibility (Where Does Your Music Live)
Accessibility is not only about putting your music on streaming services such as YouTube or SoundCloud. It’s about making it visible and building awareness around your brand. Artists can achieve this through executing content strategies.
Your music has to searchable, discoverable and visible. This can include going through services such as TuneCore or focusing your energy in one area. Either way, accessibility can help you build a fan base and create leverage.
Content strategies are about repeatable schemes and simplifying a process. For Russ, he achieved this by completely being a DIY artist. His whole creative process from beginning to end, solely depended on his individual skillsets.
Check out the article below, where I deep dive into creating schemes around your content and increasing productivity.
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3. Consistency Creates Opportunity
In an interview with Julian Mitchell for his “The Art Of Being Self-Made: A Conversation With Russ” Series. Russ discusses his process and the reasoning behind the power of consistency.
“How important is taking your career into your own hands and creating more opportunities than you ask for?”
— Julian Mitchell
“The way I created opportunity was by creating songs and putting them out. That action, in and of itself, is going to yield something rewarding at some point — whether that translates into fans, potential business partners, or getting the attention of outlets that want to support your music.
That simple action is an example of taking your career into your own hands and creating opportunity. For whatever reason, whether lack of belief or lack of confidence, a lot of artists coming up sit around and put out one song, or one mixtape, and think everything is instantly suppose to happen for them.
But, in reality, they didn’t put in any effort. I put out 11 projects before I ever dropped a song on Soundcloud. That obsessive action was me creating opportunity, because if I were to stop at album number 8, then I may have never gotten to Soundcloud.
The Soundcloud idea came from constant failure. The idea to put out a song every week only presented itself to me after I failed 11 times. If I only failed 8 times, I may have never landed on that idea. It takes a certain amount of failing to even discover the real opportunity.
You not only have to take matters into your own hands, but you have to constantly keep doing whatever it is you ultimately want to do. The biggest mistake you can make is sitting around waiting for something to happen. You also can’t think that just because you put out one song or project, and it didn’t work, that you’re a failure.
One failure doesn’t define you. I put out 11 projects before Soundcloud, and then released 95 songs on Soundcloud before getting to my debut album. It’s a very long road, and I could’ve given up at any moment.
You have to keep believing and know that if you reach out to the universe long enough, it’s going to turn around and acknowledge you.”
— Russ for Forbes
4. Perform Live
Every artist should jump on the opportunity to perform live. Performing is a great way to perfect your craft and see what songs fans respond to the most. Live performances are also a great way to build your brand and spread your message.
The process of starting local and expanding (statewide or national) is great for experimentation. This will allow you to build a local fan base and increase accessibility. Performing locally is a part of the micro — to — macro process.
If an artists can perform locally, nationwide and internationally — it’s creates opportunity and leverage. It also provides fans with a different experience. Content creators can build a brand through taking fans along on their journey.
With social media, we live in an attention-based economy and there are always opportunities to create value.
“To be successful in this era, you just need the Internet and fans.
I just performed in front of 13,000 people in Portugal by myself, for the first time ever traveling to that country.
You can’t tell me that you need all of these industry relationships to make it.
The only relationship I truly need is a relationship with my fans.”
— Russ via Forbes
5. Build A Network
“I made sure that I built up leverage.”
— Russ via DJBooth.net
It’s important for artists to understand how Russ executed a partnership that most artists never have the opportunity or foundation to secure. It takes a large of amount of deliberate actions backed by the patience to invest into your overall vision.
Russ’ professional relationships, money earned from touring and his promise (in terms of future success) provided him the leverage to partner with Columbia Records and control his destiny.
“It’s easy to say that all artists should pursue partnership opportunities with major labels — who can help them secure radio spins, on-demand streaming service playlist positioning and live television performance opportunities — but the reality is that few artists can enter into a negotiation with the necessary leverage to secure a favorable deal.”
It definitely helps to have Cara Lewis by your side. Being touted as one of Hip Hop’s most powerful women. Cara Lewis is a part of Russ’ professional network and has managed legends such Kanye West, Eminem, Travis Scott and TLC.
Russ was able to leverage a partnership deal with Columbia Records by positioning himself for success and executing these three moves:
- TuneCore — The rapper’s catalog is untouched. Providing income and stability while advance is recouped.
- Touring — His ability to sell out shows and merchandise provide a metric that is measurable. (Anything that can be measured, can be improved.)
- “Partnership” Not Record Deal —There is a high possibility for Columbia Records to recoup the multi-million dollar advance through live performances/album/merchandise revenue and 50/50 profit split on future releases.
6. Pattern Yourself After Success
Russ took to Twitter to voice his opinions surrounding the narrative that there’s no money in hip hop and starving artists.
“You can make millions upon millions of dollars on Tunecore and not have to break anyone off.
Stop lettin this whole ‘there’s no money in music for the artist narrative’ keep circulating. Sh— t is a lie.
Own your sh — t and be self sufficient and you’ll cake or be dumb & complain.”
— Russ via Genius
Check out the first song that Russ uploaded on SoundCloud — KIKI — 5 years ago.
“Fate Is Fluid. Destiny Is In The Hands Of Men.”
— Nobusuke Tagomi