The evolution of the music industry continues to challenge artists with its rapid integration of emerging technologies. First, it was the seismic shift to streaming platforms, which revolutionized how music is consumed but also how royalties are earned. Now, Artificial Intelligence (AI) stands as the newest frontier—a tool that, while intimidating, holds vast potential when leveraged thoughtfully. For Black emerging artists, the key isn't just to adapt to this shift but to harness AI's capabilities to amplify their unique artistic voices and deepen community connections.
TLC had worked very hard, won all the major recognition possible in the industry (four career Grammy Awards, five MTV Video Music Awards and five Soul Train Music Awards) including the biggest selling female group ever (more than 10 million albums worldwide) but in 1996 they announced they were broke. How could this be even possible? Their answer to this question: “if you have greedy people behind you and you sign shady contracts this can be perfectly possible”. They end up filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy declaring debts of a daunting $3.5 million. The sneaky pitfalls of a pretty unfavorable deal with both their manager and their associated labels LaFace Records and Arista Records led them to earn a ridiculous amount of $50,000 a year (after deducting from their earnings –as per the contract- investment for recording costs, manufacturing and distribution, airline travel, hotels, promotion, music videos, food, clothing, managers, lawyers, producers, and taxes). Was it worth it? Many independent artists say NO to label records precisely for these reasons.

With the shift from physical sales to streaming the “sucking and parasites” actors just changed their masks, from label records to streaming platforms. Now the average pay is between $0.003 - $0.005 per stream, meaning if you wanted to live out of streaming only and get a $50,000 annual payroll as sadly TLC had with their groundbreaking “Crazy Sexy Cool” album, you should have at least 10 M streams on your Spotify downloads tagged song, knowing also that those royalties have to be split among the rights holders of the song (the publisher, songwriter and the master recording owners (i.e. the artist and/or label if they’re signed to one).

Yes, there are many benefits while going out solo as independent artist, but we have to admit there are also cons of self-releasing music:

1. Limited resources and budget: [We Hustle Smart] Funding mastering, distribution, marketing, merchandise, touring, and other expenses are expensive. Many independent artists don’t have the resources and money a record label can provide.

2. Limited network: [From the Ground Up] Independent artists starting their music career have a limited network of fans and industry contacts. Whereas record labels have a larger fanbase and connections with music industry professionals such as promoters, booking agents, media, etc… independent artists have to do the work in social media and knock out the algorithms.

3. Limited music business experience: [Bars & Business: Navigatin' the Game] Learning the ropes of the music business is challenging. It takes time and experience to learn all aspects of the music business. There are a lot of parts to manage, changing trends, music laws, and much more. It’s a complex world! It can also be an expensive lesson to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

4. Limited time: [Clock's Tickin', But We Ain't Slippin'] Pursuing the independent artist route is time-consuming. Self-releasing your music can seem like a full-time job. It requires a lot of time to set up distribution, create all the release assets, develop a marketing strategy, track sales, book shows, and everything else associated with releasing music. All this extra work also takes away valuable studio time.
If to all that, now you add the disruption of AI-generated music we understand how many can feel overwhelmed. Some say that AI music generators are hurting the music industry by removing vocals, instruments, or remixing songs entirely. Others claim that AI will expand the creative production process and benefit artists. So, which one is it? AI is a threat to creation or a useful tool for artists?

We cannot be oblivious about this disruptive tool. Artificial intelligence (AI) is increasingly being applied in artistic fields such as music, film and other art forms. When you listen to some of the records created by these AI tools, and you see yourself dancing and enjoying the beat that can be very frightening… but it doesn't have to be like that. As it happened with other technologies, the ones not being able to leverage them ended up being left behind. Be aware, AI is constantly being refined to compose soundtracks for commercials, video games, and movies, among others, and that has been going on for a while now.

AI in the music industry is often viewed as a threat, particularly with its ability to generate music at unprecedented speeds (and not only music, but quality music). However, it’s crucial to recognize AI as just another instrument in the artist’s toolkit. Like any tool, its value and impact depend on how it is used. For artists, the challenge lies not in competing with AI but in integrating it into their creative processes to enhance their artistry and reach.

But while dealing with AI we have to always remember this principle: “What AI will always be better at doing than me, and what can AI never be able to do as well as me?”. Knowing your weak and strong points as a human will always give you an advantage and a sound mindset. While AI can produce music, there are irreplaceable elements of human artistry that AI cannot emulate:

  • Community Engagement: AI cannot build or sustain genuine community connections. Artists connect with fans through shared experiences and emotions—a nuanced interaction that AI cannot replicate. What made TLC a legend was not only their hits but the image they projected (sisterhood, normal girls that you can be friends with, wearing big baggie town boyish clothes with a feminine vibe...), something that an AI tool cannot do. Humans will have a hard time empathizing with an algorithm with no common experiences.

  • Live Performances: The energy and presence of a live performance, the spontaneous interaction between artist and audience, remain solely human features. Live shows are not just about hearing music; they’re about experiencing it collectively. Have you ever attended a live concert where there were only projected images on the screens? Remember the sensation of: “When is the artist coming on stage”? Screens, videos and holograms can just do as much. We want to see the side that we don't get to see in magazines, or on TV… we want the real artist, the one that sweats, the one that stumbles on stage and gets emotional with the cheering crowd. None of that can be replicated with machines.

  • Personal Stories and Branding: Each artist carries a unique story and personal journey that shapes their brand. These stories, often reflected in their music, resonate with audiences in deeply personal ways. AI lacks this personal history and the authentic self-expression that comes with it. This side was exploded by TV shows where music artist could be seen in their daily lives. Keri Hilson could be one of the examples we can name as someone who leverage her personal life to create a Brand.

  • Industry Collaborations: Human artists can collaborate across industries—fashion, film, technology—creating diverse revenue streams. These collaborations often rely on the artist's unique brand and personal appeal, aspects AI cannot develop. Can you imagine those Grammy or MTV Awards without the red carpet where all those fashion designers get to get those camera flashes on their creations? Why do you think big corporations such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi were offering huge amounts to those artists to advertise their products? Alternative revenue streams can come along the way just because of your personal brand.
The Future of Music: Embracing the Change
Scarcity is always the key. Creating unique, one-of-a-kind products, services and experiences would always make you stand out and increase the value of your music and of you as an artist. Products are considered more attractive when their availability is limited. Scarcity has a long history of generating lucrative profits in the music industry. The music industry thrives on unique and rare fan experiences, backstage passes, fan clubs, collectibles and other scarce goods. As a visionary, I would suggest that emerging music artists can navigate the new landscape by embracing a multi-faceted approach that leverages both their unique human qualities and the latest technological advancements: AI, Web 3.0 and the Metaverse.
But how? you might be asking yourself. Let me help you! Here's a 7-step ladder to conquer the independent music arena. This ladder progresses from leveraging AI for creative processes (still within the physical realm), to utilizing Web3 and the Metaverse for unique marketing opportunities (dare to jump to the digital space), and finally to creating personalized experiences that foster deep connections with fans (stand out from the competition, even from those using AI).  Each step builds upon the previous one, ensuring a comprehensive approach to conquering the independent music scene.

Phase 1 - AI-Enhanced Creativity
Start from where you are and enhance your game! Think out-of-the-box and try to differentiate yourself with no coding experience. It's perfectly possible.
1. Collaborative Creation: Engage with AI platforms to generate innovative sounds and lyrics, blending human creativity with AI's efficiency. You still have so much to feed into this new learning machine. Things that you were before dreaming of, now are perfectly possible: remixes, style fusions, the instrumentalization of sounds, you name it…
2. Live Performances with Tech Integration: Enhance live shows with AR elements and holograms, creating a futuristic live experience that complements your music. For that, you will have to partner with virtual artists to create a diverse musical experience. Now attendees will not record you performing but use their phones to discover another creative layer of your staging.
3. Educational Outreach: Host workshops on music production and songwriting, integrating AI tools to demonstrate the fusion of technology and creativity. Leverage what you have learned with these new tools and pass down the knowledge. This will allow you to create additional revenue streams and position yourself as a tech-savvy pioneer in the industry.

Phase 2 - Web3 and the Metaverse for Marketing
Not impressive enough? Jump into the infinite immersive world of the metaverse. The possibilities are endless!
4. Immersive Experiences in the Metaverse: Create virtual concerts and events in the Metaverse, offering fans a unique, interactive experience, as many times as you want, for a fraction of the cost with a global reach. And for those with resources, bring the MTV Base experience to another level: utilize Virtual Reality (VR) to produce music videos and visualizers that transport listeners to another world, your world!
5. NFTs and Blockchain for Monetization: Release music and artwork as NFTs to create exclusivity and new revenue streams. Use blockchain technology to ensure ownership, fair compensation and transparent, automated royalty payments. These NFTs will allow you not only to track your music and merch but also to foster loyalty among your supporters since you have now established a perpetual link between you and all your NFT holders, being able to offer them directly special perks and experiences. But this is the next phase…

Phase 3 - Personalized Fan Experiences
If you want to crown your journey, this last phase is reserved for visionaries only. If you got a good eye for investment and you find the right developer nobody would be able to match you.
6. Direct-to-Fan Platforms: Build a community platform for exclusive content and early releases and offer membership tiers with perks like private concerts and Q&A sessions. Your platform can be as simple as a website, or as immersive and innovative as a virtual recording studio, where you’ll be able to invite your fans to exclusive experiences. Through virtual concerts, real-time interactions, and exclusive access to behind-the-scenes content, your fans will develop an unparalleled connection to your music, fostering loyalty and driving deeper engagement than ever before.
7. Storytelling through Podcasts and Vlogs: Share your journey and connect with your audience on a personal level through podcasts or vlogs (virtual blogs in the metaverse). Emphasize the human experiences behind your music, differentiating from AI-generated content.  Fans could "walk" through a visual representation of your creative process or behind-the-scenes moments. And why not take to the next level your social media comment section? The vlog could host immersive fan forums and discussion areas, encouraging deeper engagement with the content and other fans.

The path forward for Black artists in navigating AI’s rise involves embracing both innovation and authenticity. By leveraging AI and Web3 to enhance their music and marketing strategies while staying true to their roots and stories, artists can create a powerful niche for themselves.
Still not convinced? Give me a last try with these tips for counterbalancing the CONS listed above for independent music artists with Web 3.0 and Metaverse Marketing Tools:

1 - Limited Resources and Budget - no more hustling, consider this to raise your money from now on: Crowdfunding and Cost-Effective Tools. Use token-based crowdfunding to raise funds for production, marketing, and touring and enter the merchandise creation realm available through Web 3.0 services.

2- Limited Network - forget about biased algorithms in social media advertisement; Collaborative Platforms and Metaverse Networking are your new allies. Engage with other artists and industry professionals on decentralized platforms and participate in virtual industry events and conferences within the Metaverse to build relationships with promoters, booking agents, and media professionals.

3 - Limited Music Business Experience – Educate yourself and search for a mentor. This space is so nascent that is evolving each and every day. To catch up, access online courses and tutorials on platforms like Coursera, Udemy, or specialized music business education sites. Many blockchain and Web 3.0 platforms also offer resources and community support. First, connect with those who have already made it in the industry and can give you their insights. Then, also connect with experienced professionals offering consulting services in the Web 3.0 space, or seek mentorship from successful independent artists.

4 - Limited Time - make the time, this is important. You can also leverage AI to gain some extra time for your inspirational moments and to concentrate on what you like most. With automation tools and virtual assistants, tedious tasks can be reduced efficiently. Use smart contracts and blockchain automation to handle royalty payments, distribution, and some aspects of marketing. This reduces the manual workload and allows more time for creative pursuits. Also, employ virtual assistants or AI tools for managing social media, tracking sales, and booking shows.

The integration of AI in the music industry isn’t a signal for the end of human artistry but a call to evolve with the times. For Black emerging artists, it's an opportunity to redefine the boundaries of creativity and connection. By viewing AI as a collaborative tool, embracing the digital realms of Web3 and the Metaverse, and grounding their work in the authentic experiences that define them, artists can ensure that their voice not only remains relevant but resonant in the evolving musical landscape.

Yes, HipHop and Afrobeats are revolutionary styles that unfortunately have become easy to replicate with these new AI tools. But what cannot be replicated is their background, successes and failures experienced, nor the history these hip hop artists and Afrobeats warriors carry on their shoulders. We are all unique and the public is waiting for you to tell them your purpose, your story… Before you depended on big record label and the mainstream media for you to be known out there, now you have blockchain technology and AI to help you maintain your royalties and live your artist career from a much more empowered position. Don't be afraid to ride this new wave of the digital era. Seize the reins and reclaim your appointed throne!
[Harlem Genesis Prime Virtual Real Estate Asset]

In today's rapidly evolving music industry, executive producers and artists face significant hurdles to remain relevant and access equal opportunities. Promoting music amidst saturated platforms and intense competition often leads to struggles in engaging audiences meaningfully. Monetization, a crucial aspect of the artistic journey, becomes even more complex due to unpredictable revenue streams. And moreover, navigating the murky waters of social media algorithms often feels like an uphill battle, making it challenging to consistently showcase their talent to the right audience. Navigating these complexities requires innovative approaches and a keen understanding of the changing digital landscape to ensure sustainable success and impactful presence.

Have you ever wished your songs could be experienced in an immersive digital world, providing a unique encounter for each listener? The digital renaissance is upon us.

We're sculpting Harlem Genesis, a luminous Metaverse canvas designed to elevate and spotlight the artistry of Black creators like never before. Our spaces aren't just stages but interactive realms where music and technology merge. Keen to explore and shape this digital frontier with us? We are convinced we have the perfect spot for you: Horace R. Cayton. Let us tell you 3 main reasons why do believe so:

Revolutionizing Music Engagement and Brand Presence:
With the Horace R. Cayton, you're not just entering the Metaverse; you're pioneering a new era of music experience. Imagine a world where your music transcends physical boundaries, where fans from anywhere can immerse themselves in your beats and lyrics as if they were right there with you. This isn't just about being heard; it's about being felt. Our services in Harlem Genesis will amplify your music in a dimension that's limitless, making your brand a reference in the digital landscape and setting a new standard in how artists connect with their audience.

Creating a Sustainable Digital Economy:
The Horace R. Cayton is more than a virtual space; it's an economic ecosystem tailored for your artistry. Through NFTs, digital merchandise, and virtual events, we're not just opening revenue streams; we're creating a digital economy where your music and brand are the currency. This is about building a financial fortress around your passion, ensuring that your artistic expression pays off in real, tangible ways.

Cultivating a Legacy and Empowering the Community:
The Horace R. Cayton isn't just your legacy; it's a platform for empowerment. By joining this venture as one of the Alpha pioneers, you're not only securing your place in the digital frontier but also paving the way for others. You become a trailblazer for artists and communities who seek representation and voice. This stand will be the inspiration many were looking for, showing what's possible when technology meets talent and purpose. Your involvement in Harlem Genesis will echo beyond your music; it will inspire and empower the entire Black community.

Imagine a virtual realm where your beats set the tempo, and your vision shapes the horizon. Harlem Genesis invites you to be part of a groundbreaking Metaverse project, a vibrant and inclusive space that resonates with the rhythm of innovation and unity.
Whether you're looking to amplify your latest tracks, collaborate with renowned labels, or forge new paths in the music industry, Harlem Genesis is where your aspirations meet reality.

Embrace this unique opportunity to transform your music into a unifying force within a community that values and uplifts Black creators. Your presence in Harlem Genesis is not just about building a brand; it's about pioneering a movement, influencing the industry, and leaving a legacy that transcends the bounds of traditional music platforms. Let your music be the leading voice that guides us in shaping a vibrant future for the Black community in the digital era. Harlem Genesis is your stage. Are you ready to perform?
JUNE, 04 / 2024
Sure! Here’s an adapted call-to-action specifically addressing music artists:
Are you a music artist driven by innovation and eager to push the boundaries of your craft? Discover the endless opportunities awaiting you in Harlem Genesis, the ultimate Metaverse hub for Black creators and trailblazers. Immerse yourself in a realm where your music can reach new heights, your creativity can flourish, and your influence can grow.
Join us in merging the rich legacy of the Harlem Renaissance with the infinite possibilities of the future. If the transformative power of the Metaverse excites you, I invite you to schedule a call with me today. Let’s explore how JJBK Studio can help amplify your sound and vision in Harlem Genesis. Together, we can create a musical legacy that transcends time and empowers our community to thrive.
Text author: Jimmy Jean
Photography: Midjourney AI ©JJBK studio 2024

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