I'm not a big fan of Tech N9ne's music but like so many in the industry who've been paying attention, he's had my respect for years. As co-founder of Strange Music, he supports his artists at a level that few can match. As a solo artist, he is a tireless workhorse that has earned the respect of many major artists in hip-hop. But most impressive of all is Tech N9ne's longterm connection to his fans that allowed him to drop the "Klusterfuck" EP without promotion beyond his website and an iTunes listing and have it debut at no. 1 on the Billboard Independent Albums chart.
In June, Tech N9ne was included in Billboard's Urban Power Players List 2012 and that caught a lot of people's attention - but that's not an accomplishment. That's just the industry waking up to the reality of Tech N9ne, and Tech N9ne's reality is that he doesn't need Billboard approval. It's just a nice spur for another round of media attention.
I was inspired to write this post by Michael Biondo's recent article about social media and Tech N9ne's label Strange Music. It's worth checking out to get a sense of how Strange Music is using social media to connect with fans, an approach that's grounded in Tech N9ne's experience.
In addition to his own site, you'll find Tech N9ne everywhere his fans are from MySpace to Twitter to Google+. He's too busy to roll his eyes and make catty remarks about supposedly dead social media networks. He's focused on his fans and in using whatever works from email to Google+ hangouts.
The best source of all for understanding Tech N9ne's approach is the man himself. Back in March, he discussed the chart success of the Klusterfuk EP with Hip Hop DX. Here are some choice quotes that should clue you in to what it takes to build a base of superfans.
"We put no promotion out or nothing [for Klusterfuk]. It was just on our website and on iTunes. Then the motherfucker came out the first week and it was #1 [Independent] record in the country...No promotion whatsoever. Nothing. Just our fans and boom, Klusterfuk is coming. We did nothing. We did nothing in the magazines how we usually do. We did no billboards."
About his relationships with his fans:
"We do things like we would like to have it done for us. We’re music connoisseurs. We’ve been buying music for years, since we were kids...We engage with fans with how we would like shit to be for us. Can you imagine if Public Enemy had hour long meet and greets when you came to their show? Or N.W.A.? You got to meet Eazy-E and Ice Cube for an hour to talk to them. Do you know how wonderful that would’ve felt to have Slick Rick in a room for an hour and he’d sign his albums for you? Or EPMD in there or Run-DMC? This is how we would’ve liked to have our fan experience. That’s beautiful."
Tech N9ne has more to say about his approach to making music and his relationship with his fans. He also discusses why he encourages artists on his label to avoid making hits for radio, why he quit stage diving and the ongoing careers of hip hop artists who tour outside the States. It's well worth a read whatever kind of music you make.
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Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (@fluxresearch) maintains a business writing hub at Flux Research and blogs at Crowdfunding For Musicians. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.