Every year at SXSW (or any music conference gathering), us bloggers/journalists/tastemakers, whatever title you want to give us, receive a hand full of mixtapes from up and coming artists. There’s absolutely no way to avoid it when you’ve put a face to your brand. When they see you, they come! I personally have a bin that is almost filled to the tip top consisting of mixtapes I’ve received at SXSW, A3C, CMJ, to even the mall. If you were to see this bin, you’d think there’s no way I listened to them all and you’d be correct, I haven’t. This bin doesn’t even contain all the tapes I’ve been handed. Some don’t even make it into my bag back home because it could be something as simple as me not liking the artwork. That being said, I’d like to kick off a new series of posts I’m calling “AO! Listen Up” which will consist of blog posts on my thoughts about certain subjects or whatever I feel like talking about! As for the first entry, I’ll be highlighting how I feel presentation is key.
How you brand yourself is extremely crucial and that’s for every & any thing! But right now, I’m talking artists and their promo items, mixtapes specifically. Before I touch on this subject, I’m going to go on the record to say that if you’re still using the ‘Brooklyn Kid’ font on your artwork, you’re definitely not making it into my bag back home. If you email it, I’ll mark you as spam. Just leave this font back in 2002 where I used it on my AOL homepage, ha!
Back to the point, I’ve received mixtapes in the form of plastic slips, jewel cases, on a USB, you name it! All of these can be creatively put together, it just depends on your budget as to how creative you can get. Obviously not every up and coming artist has an investor or sponsor behind them to help out, we all know that. I’m aware that most up and comers pay for everything out of their own pocket. That includes studio time, photo shoots, website creation, CD duplication, artwork and the list goes on. No one ever said it was going to be cheap! All of these things add up and I know it can get quite frustrating when you’re out here trying to make it but when attending something like SXSW or any large music conference where bloggers, publications, industry executives and more will be present, I do feel it’s smart to put aside a budget to get promo materials created. Whether it may be cards with all your info on it such as website, socials, etc or copies your current mixtape, it’s going to be beneficial in some way.
What sparked the inspiration for this post was the presentation of Miami’s own Denzel Curry’s mixtape ‘N64’. Handed to me at the airport by his manager & friend of mine, Mark M., while waiting to board our plane to Austin, I recall my immediate reaction being “WOW!” once it reached my hands. Mind you, that was only my first look at the cover. I had yet to flip it over or see the print on the actual disc. Though Denzel wasn’t able to hand it to me himself being that he’s still in school so Austin wasn’t an option, the presentation itself made me want to give it a spin and keep it to add to my bin. So again, presentation is key.
The black chipboard slip comes covered with metallic gold hand-drawn designs done by Curry himself and I have to say, they’re pretty impressive. I’m not sure if the doodles each represent something meaningful to him (maybe we’ll interview him about that) but what I do see is homage to his RvidxrKlvn crew, Miami collective C9, and characters that look like they jumped right out of Adventure Time. But what made me enjoy this packaging the most was the fact that he drew everything. It just made it that much more personal, feel me? The drawings printed on the disc have to be my favorite (see below). From the characters to the sharpie-colored look, it’s just cool! Yea, he could have gone and hired a graphic designer to cook up something in photoshop or put his project on a USB drive, but it most likely wouldn’t have had the same affect.
Now, I don’t want to make these posts super long that you start to feel like you’re reading a chapter out of a book so my point is, creativity goes a long way. Whether your budget is small or large, you can always make your product stand out against others by doing something eye-catching, starting with something like the artwork. Strive to impress someone!
“Clean out a corner of your mind and creativity will instantly fill it.” – Dee Hock