In addition to brokering major deals for the likes of T-Pain, Chapman (left, with B.o.B.) made it possible for B.o.B. to sign with Atlantic Records.
Photo: Glenn Maida
I started out DJing back in '84 when I was in eighth grade. From there, I hopped into other things like management and promotions. From the management came other deals, including renegotiating a contract for my first artist that I managed named Beatmaster Clay D, one of the Florida-based legends and pioneers, back in '92. I did my first major deal with Island Records for an artist named Prince Rahiem in '93. It was all about hard work, but I guess my success was also due in part because I moved from Detroit down to Florida at the right time, during the middle of developing this whole southern music scene.
How can artists build buzz for themselves without a major label backing them?
The best thing, in my opinion, is viral promotions. I'm real big on that. For me, the No. 1 way to build your buzz is using the various viral tools that exist, such as the free e-mail accounts from Gmail and Yahoo, as well as the free e-mail lists like FanBridge and ReverbNation and various social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. They can work the various blogs, message boards and forums. Another good one is Imeem, where you can build your own playlists.
The streets are also definitely important. With the new generation of kids and musicians, everything is all about the computer and the Internet. But they need to supplement promoting online with the traditional street promotions: making sure you hit the clubs, making sure the DJs know your name, dropping mixtapes, getting your music played — from the regular clubs to the strip clubs. Everybody thinks it's all about having a rep in the street, and that's not necessarily true. It's really about developing credibility in general.
One of the most important things that you can't get around is doing shows. You gotta perform to be seen by people, as well as to develop your skills. Back in the day, we used to make sure that we had a great show. We could go hit markets where nobody ever heard the song but put on such a great show that the people from that show began requesting for the DJ to play the music. A couple months later, that free promo show turned into a paid performance in that market.
You have brokered some big record deals for artists. How can artists catch your eye and your ear?
It's the whole package — the show, their look, their style and most importantly, their musical sound. People get mad when I tell them that the rap game is too saturated and there's no room for them. They may be able to get lucky with a single and sell some ringtones or some shit like that, but if you wanna be a career artist with longevity, you have to be able to create your own lane.
What kind of a business plan should a band come up with to succeed in the current musical landscape?
So many people wanna just get out here and rap and perform, and they forget that this is called the music business. They don't even take the basic steps to understand the business side of things. Then they have to understand the costs involved with making records happen — whether it be e-mail blasts or utilizing services like Digiwaxx or the CORE DJs' e-mail service. Everybody wants radio, but they don't understand the radio game. All they know is they want a deal, and when they talk to the majors, the majors tell 'em they need to get their spins up. So then all they care about is getting their spins up and paying somebody to do that without understanding how this stuff works. That becomes a waste of money. You can't go after radio before building a foundation for the record. You have to participate in the industry events, showcases and open mics. And get some business guidance from a consultant or an artist who has been successful doing it to help keep you on the right path.
How do artists and DJs get involved with your TJ's DJ's record pool and conferences?
We do a quarterly TJ's DJ's Tastemakers Only Conference that we've been doing for almost nine years in Tallahassee, Fla. Three years ago, we started an annual TJ's DJ's Conference and partnered up with Ozone magazine to create the TJ's DJ's Tastemaker Conference/Ozone Awards Weekend. The most important aspect of it is the networking. In this business, it's all about who you know. If you don't know anybody, how can you ever really become somebody in this game? These conferences have great networking opportunities with all the key tastemakers, including DJs, media, club owners and record labels. You also have access to these other groups that are on the same mission you're on, trying to get their music out there and make their careers happen. It's a good time to build with them. You might be from Florida, and there's a group from South Carolina that needs Florida, and y'all need South Carolina. Both of y'all got your own areas on lock but need to build your audience in other areas.
What are common mistakes artists make?
Something I always explain to artists is that they have to understand records. I always compare records or songs to babies. With a baby, there's a natural development cycle. Just because you wake up one day and want that baby to walk, you can't tell that baby, “All right, get up now. Stop crawling, we're gonna walk today.” Nah, that baby is gonna walk on its own when it's ready. That's the same thing with records. One of the biggest reasons why people are successful is because they give these records the time that they need to develop. They nurture 'em and feed 'em and do the things necessary for that record to go through its organic development cycle. Everybody wants things to happen right away. Nowadays records are taking longer and longer to break. You might be looking at four to six months. You have to support that record and be patient. You have to have stamina to see a project through. That's where so many people go wrong. Lastly, everybody's so focused on developing a record, they miss the whole point of developing a brand. In order to have longevity and be successful in this business, they have to develop themselves as a brand and create their own movement.