We see it all the time, an underground artists is looking to make it in the industry so they save up a bunch of money and buy a feature that they think is going to provide the break they need to make it. Sadly, this is very rarely how it plays out.
There is no shortage of big named artists that are more than willing to do a feature for you it you can meet their price point. You are banking on their name carrying you into the next level so you pay the fee. Now please note, I am speaking in generalities, there are always exceptions, some people aren't chasing fame and think that having a song with their favorite artist would be dope so they invest in that. Mainly though, the artists that is paying for a big name, is hoping that the big name will get peoples attention and pave the way or at least create a large gap for them to gain more fans and traction.
There is a lot to unpack here but there is one thing in particular that is the focus of this article and that is the idea that the big name will carry you. The reality is, it won't. You might gain a few more fans in the short term (and you may keep some for the long hall depending on your skill, and your consistency) but there is something that is keeping you from maximizing the benefit of the purchased feature and that is the big name themselves. See the things is, you only have a certain amount of reach, the only people that are likely to hear your song are the people in your sphere that are engaged in what you are doing. Now, social media sharing does open up a larger window and people may listen to your song if they like the particular featured artist but this doesn't generally create the wave you are hoping for (it can, it just usually doesn't).
There are 2 key factors that need to be considered when looking at paying for big name features.
First, the timing must be right.
John Maxwell states "The right decision at the wrong time, is the wrong decision." I believe this statement to be very true. The awesome thing is that when it comes to timing we can be wise, well planned out, calculated. So when might be the right time to pull the trigger and move on a big name feature? I suggest it is after you have put in the work to generate a medium to large sized following of engaged and devoted fans. This is really the hard part on the end of the artists, especially when the mindset is that the big name is going to help you here or catapult you into a situation where you have more fans (bigger numbers). The thing is, if you can put in the work and generate a solid fan base that is engaged with what you are doing, your are 1000 times more likely to have a larger impact if you do a song with a big name. First, if they are engaged in what you are doing they are more likely to share the song and encourage their friends to listen. That is good news for you as an artist because the window opens larger, and their friends have probably already heard your name and so they may be shocked to here you have a song with (insert artist) and start to take their friends request seriously. Secondly, labels are looking for engagement, not numbers. Large numbers don't always translate to engagement or devoted fans. Someone might like your page on a whim and never give you a second thought, others like your page because they are behind you and want to support you. People who are engaged, share more, start conversations, buy more (remember it is a business) and are involved in the artists work. This is what labels and (believe it or not) other people (listeners) are looking for.
Second, the big name artist needs to be behind you and also sharing/promoting the song.
This point is actually where the rubber meets the road. It's one thing to have a song with a big name, it's another thing if that artist is showing their support of you and getting behind the song. Sadly, the reality is, the big name you are featuring doesn't generally get involved after they have recorded their part. It's very seldom does that artist talk about, share, or help promote the song. If the big named artist isn't promoting the song then don't expect that tidal wave you were hoping for. Again, you only have so much reach and so much pull in terms of getting your song in front of people and having them become true fans. However, if the big name artist is behind you and the song, then your credibility and legitimacy jumps up 100 fold. When the big name artist promotes you or the song people are 100 times more likely to listen to it and they are more likely to check out the rest of your music. This is the real win and without it, you are simply paying for a feature that will gain you limited attention and in the end not be a wise investment.
The second point is the most tricky and less likely to occur, and this is why point number one is so crucial because it is the element that is the most likely to help you gain traction and help your investment pay off. Take the time to develop your fan base, put in the long hours, learn legit strategies that will help you gain engaging and devote fans. Be a student of your craft and don't simply seek a "get rich" quick approach. There is no way around it, the odds aren't in your favor but if you are willing to put in the work they for sure increase.
I will be writing a follow up blog that will center around "the calling" from God to be a Christian musician for His sake and how that applies to the grind that must take place.
I would love to hear your thoughts, do you agree or disagree? Leave a comment and let us know!
Till next time, God Bless!