Across major metropolitan areas, people are being bombarded with ads for YouTube Music. Google’s effort to compete with Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal is proof of streaming’s role as the number one way users consume audio content, and it has liberally used rappers in its marketing. It makes sense; R&B and hip-hop is the most popular music genre in the United States.
Yet despite the multi-story billboards of the tech giants, SoundCloud remains one of the most influential places on the internet for rap. The free streaming platform has established itself as a haven for underground hip-hop talent, where unsigned artists can release their own music without labels and fees — and get millions of streams. The sub-genre that has developed around this, SoundCloud Rap, has seen itself go from mixtapes to the mainstream; often tinny and unfinished, its stars have become digital disrupters, with the likes of the late XXXTentacion reaching the Billboard Top 40 last year with “Look At Me”.
The New York Times describes SoundCloud rap as, “the most vital and disruptive new movement in hip-hop thanks to rebellious music, volcanic energy and occasional acts of malevolence.” While the platform itself has struggled with its ability to monetize since its inception in 2007, hip-hop artists on there certainly haven’t — so long as they promote themselves correctly. With a low barrier of entry, the platform is saturated, which is why a growing number of SoundCloud Rap hitmakers are turning to hype-makers: music marketing companies like MusicPromoToday.
Founded by digital marketing gurus Raffi Keuhnelian and Anthony Katz, over the last decade the pair have built an international team specialized in helping emerging artists launch their careers by organically promoting them across industry outlets and social media. MusicPromoToday has worked with the biggest names in SoundCloud Rap —Kodak Black, Smokepurpp, Lil Pump, Boonk Gang, XXXTentacion— and helped them to create a unique digital brand for themselves. (It’s no secret that it can be hard to tell artists apart sometimes.)
“Our engineers help us better understand digital music platforms — what works when launching a new album, what doesn’t work, how artists can get noticed and make a good name for themselves,” says Katz.
“Artists release their new songs online and want to promote them; we use data and disruptive tactics to get them maximum exposure”.
As MusicPromoToday is not affiliated with a label and do not partake in music distribution, the artists it collaborates with retain creative control and maintain their independent status. Its team of data engineers and digital marketers have combined experience and expertise to develop algorithms that streamline results.
This helps guide artists like SoundCloud rappers on what kind of content to create and when, where and how to post it to best reach their audiences. In turn, this can be done for a variety of results, from raising play counts to pushing merch to promoting a new video or tour.
“We are specialists in music and social media platforms, and we use that to guide SoundCloud rappers in creating a disruptive online brand identity for themselves and help them use it to speak to their target audience — driving impressions, impact and influence,” says Raffi Keuhnelian.
He advises, “When it comes to digital music marketing, never compare yourself to other rappers. What works for them might not for you; we help set you on a path that will get you more fans, followers and financial rewards.”
Working with a music marketing company like MusicPromoToday has many other benefits, not least of which is allowing SoundCloud rappers to focus on the beats while the pros get the word out on the street. Similar to the artists themselves, its team is a group of digital disrupters — using algorithms to cut through the noise and get its clients noticed among their target audiences. That translates into more plays and more pay.
“There’s a secret working algorithm to decode for each artist that can translate into an exponentially growing fanbase, but the same algorithm doesn’t work for everyone. Otherwise, A&Rs would sign a talented person and replicate what they did for their first multiple-hit wonder,” says Anthony Katz.
The greatest strength of SoundCloud is also its biggest weakness: While it doesn’t cost anything to publish music on the platform, it also doesn’t pay artists royalties and residuals like Spotify. That said, streaming has empowered rappers to be independent and make money without investors or labels or even the added cost of a video.
The key to success is connecting streams to social presences, and building them up together. By working with a digital music marketing company like MusicPromoToday, SoundCloud rappers can create the underground music they vibe, while developing reputations, fanbases, and paychecks that rival the mainstream.