Hunter has been an absolute titan and powerhouse in the EDM industry for many years. An original co-creator of the insanely successful blogs and networks RUN THE TRAP and Too Future, he has also been instrumental in building and supporting the growing careers of artists like K?D, Autograf and Medasin through his management agency and record label, ALT:VISION, which recently partnered with major label Republic/Casablanca.

Over at EDMP Discord we had a Q&A session via text with him. What follows is the transcript.

If you have any questions or comments, please comment below! I read every comment and respond to most. No registration is necessary to comment, so don’t be shy.

Contents

Is it possible for artists that don’t play live to find large audiences these days?

Hunter Thompson: I think so, but it’s going to be difficult. People want to get a personal and emotional connection to the artists they listen to and see them live takes that feeling to another level.

What do you think some other ways are to do so if you don’t?

Hunter Thompson: Some other ways to get big if you dont play live?

Interviewer: Yes, I think a lot of people here have never played shows, though they are rife with tunes.

Hunter Thompson: Become a studio rat. A good example of this is Graves was making records with Kanye before he started his solo project. You’ll gain notoriety around the music industry for what you’re able to create and people will start recognizing you.

What do you think is ideal in a press kit nowadays?

Hunter Thompson: A press kit should have a Press Release, Artwork for the song, a few Press Pics, Download link, and a bio for the artist/artists.

How do I get on a label? Like from square one, someone with no experience in the industry, where do they even begin to approach a label and what are the steps they should take to figure out who to target?

Hunter Thompson: The most important thing to do is to have a lot of music ready. Figure out what kind of music you want to make or are making. Once you know that you can figure out what kind of labels are releasing that kind of music. You’ll need to have your branding on point and be able to sell your story to the label a&rs. Really figure out what you want the project to represent and why other people are going to care about it.

Then get their attention, dm them on Soundcloud, hit their inbox, figure out who’s the A&R for the label and reach out to them.

What are some tips you have for starting from scratch and honing your skills to seem more appealing to people?

Hunter Thompson: I think you need to figure out what you want your project to look like first then you can figure out what your audience will be.

What are the best places to post music are for exposure - Has anything better than Soundcloud come up, for instance? It seems like most platforms are fairly saturated - are there any new avenues you’ve found to discover people that we should be posting on?

Hunter Thompson: I would definitely agree that all platforms are saturated at this point. Soundcloud is what I and a lot of artists and managers use to find new music and new musicians. The best thing about that platform is artists can support other artists. I go through to the artists that I’m listening to at the moment to see who they’re following and check out who I think might be interesting.

You also want to try to find someone that’s going to champion your music. Whether it’s a blogger, Spotify playlister, YouTube channel, or manager, create a relationship with someone that wants to and can take you to the next level.

Even check if bigger streamers have your music in their playlist.

That’s what Half An Orange did with Ninja. They found out he was playing their music on stream, they sent him a bunch of merch and then I think he did a music video with them and he given them shout outs on their socials.

Interviewer: How did ninja come across his music though?

Hunter Thompson: He found their music from youtube channels he follows.

What mistakes do you see in marketing or PR the most?

Hunter Thompson: Oh man just this week my friend Matt who writes at Your EDM got pitched an article which he declined and the publicist responded saying “Ugh…”. Thats definitely not something you should do.

But the problem I see the most is people copy pasting emails out and forgetting to change the names of the publication or the writers. I get emails that hit my inbox for all sorts of names. Make sure you take the time to double check everything before you send it out so there are no misspelled words, all the names are right, etc.

How much would you say networking factors in, and what is too little or too much? From a personal perspective I find that a lot of producers and artists’ success is stunted by the fact that they didn’t try to make any friends.

Hunter Thompson: Of course! A well written press release not only looks professional but it helps the writer as well.

Right now it’s so difficult to stand out you need to network to help grow your audience and brand. It’s absolutely imperative. You can be doing well, but there’s always a chance to be doing better and you’re not going to be able to do that by yourself. Give the people a reason to care about you and find people that can help you share that with a wider audience.

Also bouncing ideas of other artists or collabing with other artists is a great and easy way to open your music up to another fan base

Do you have any PR tips for a record label that’s just getting started? What’s most important to get in order first?

Hunter Thompson:

You need to figure out why people care about you. If there’s anything that you take away from this it should be that you need to focus on branding. If you’re an artist and starting a label it’s easier then because people already know what they’re going to be getting. Look at artists like Snails, NGHTMRE, Slander, Jauz, etc who have all started labels in the past year.

If you’re starting your own label from scratch figure out why people are going to care about your label and what’s going to make it stand out. You need to tie into every release into an overarching storyline of what the label is and stands for. The best example of this would be Monstercat. People love their little mascot and get crazy excited for every release they put out just because it’s on Monstercat

What’s the coolest/funniest artist PR campaign you’ve seen? And what’s the silliest/worst fad one that you’ve seen (without naming names)?

Hunter Thompson: The coolest and most creative PR campaign I can think of right now is from ilo ilo. Before releasing any music they put up posters in New York, Chicago, Austin, LA, and a few other places telling people to call a number to listen to an unreleased Kanye West and Taylor Swift collab. If they called and authorized the number, they would receive a text that send them to ilo ilo’s Instagram. Since then they’ve been teasing music with really cool trendy short videos to keep people engaged.

Do you think starting controversy is a good way to get known? Or is it a risky dice to play?

Hunter Thompson: I don’t think starting a controversy is ever a good way to get known. You could be getting known for the wrong reasons and you’re ending your career before it even starts. Look at Mimosa. 4 years ago he got super drunk and tried to fight Downlink on stage and he’s never really recovered.

How about joji/filthy frank though?

Hunter Thompson: Yeah Joji is a good study case, but how often does that actually work out for people? The hip hop community is also more forgiving when it comes to controversies than other genres. Look at xxxtentacion, 6ix9ine, and others.

At what point do you look at an artist and realize that an artist is doing a lot of things right but they just need more investment in marketing? I can’t imagine all marketing efforts are always more effective than what an artist is already doing, especially if that artist already has a big following, but what are some examples where you see an artist and you think “man if they would just do these couple of things, that song/album or artist would be doing much better and the marketing would more than pay for itself. How often would you say marketing campaigns fail to make a full return on investment, at least when it comes to your specific field and expertise, what you’ve seen personally?

Hunter Thompson: I think a lot of artists need to start looking at social media influencer campaigns more. Having these kind of accounts sharing your music helps create buzz and hype around the song. San Holo did a major campaign having influencers who do make up tutorials use “Light” right after it came out and that helped that song be a crossover, breakout tune for him. You can’t force a song to be successful, no matter how much marketing you really put into it. People will react to it how they react to it once the song is out.

I would say most marketing campaigns fall to make a full return on their investment tbh. You just need to learn, adapt, and try to improve every time.

With youtube starting to demonetise some promo channels for duplicate content while cleaning up the platform for “YoutubeMusic” , where do you see that side of the promotion circuit going?

Hunter Thompson: YouTube is the biggest music streaming platform in the world period. It’s not going away any time soon either. Every song can find a home on a YouTube channel, plus every artist should have their own channel. YouTube was the first place I started to find new music with channels like UKF and MrSuicideSheep. These channels have very loyal fanbases and have started transitioning themselves into labels. Most of these channels have active Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, Soundcloud playlists, channels, etc as well. As your starting out try to sign some of your tracks to these labels and you’ll find a partner who is going to champion you for the rest of your career.

Do you focus more on exposure/growth through written blog features or DSP’s ( sc, spotify, bc, youtube ) and in what ways would you say these are similar / different?

Hunter Thompson: For exposure I would say the biggest thing you can focus on would be YouTube uploads and Blog features. As I said before the YouTube channels have fervent and loyal fanbases. If you get a track uploaded to their channel there’s a good chance many of the listeners will search your project and want to become more familiar with it.

As far as blogs go, lots of industry people still pay attention to blogs and if you can get your music on a site like DJ Mag, Complex, Billboard, etc, that’s going to be something people within the industry are really going to care about.

What are your opinions on artists (like me) who release all their music 100% free or via pay-what-you-want method? As for myself, I wouldn’t mind having a small audience but I don’t have much interest in making actual money with my music. Would the best course for me be to kind of advertise myself as someone who doesnt charge for his music and sort of “ride” with said reputation, or can that result in “negative publicity” or people thinking “that guy just wants attention lol” etc. in your opinion? If yes, what would you recommend instead?

Hunter Thompson: Look at Pretty Lights, all of his music is available for free download and he still sells out places like Red Rocks. As far as advertising goes, I don’t think anyone is going to give you negative publicity or think that you just want attention for giving your music away for free. Most people appreciate that, though music sales are declining.

Do you think an album is a good idea for small artists or is an ep/ single the better choice these days?

Hunter Thompson: I think an album is pretty ambitious as a small artist. You can definitely do it and pull it off, but it’s much more risky than doing a few small collections and EPs. The small EPs allow you to start building the narrative of your project and getting people invested in you before giving them a complete album to dissect and ingest.

Do you think paying for promotions through Facebook/Instagram is worth it for someone who is just starting out? I have around 150 followers and get fair interactions but am wondering specifically about the paid promotions or “boosting” posts!

Hunter Thompson: I think you have to be careful about boosting posts. It’s not something you want to do a lot. You want to be able to build your audience organically otherwise it looks fake and people can see that. If you get a good look on a song I would say that would be a good time to invest in a boost. For example if you get an upload on MrSuicideSheep I would post that and target MrSuicideSheep fans with the boost in hopes of grabbing some of their fans and adding them to mine.

Do you think an artist should try to create an image for himself by only making a certain type of music, or branch out more and experiment?

Hunter Thompson: That is a great question and just had an entire conversation about this with an artist signed to my label a couple of days ago. It also ties into ep/album question.

I believe out of the gate as you are growing, you should try and focus on one type of music to gain that loyal fervent fanbase. You can do that with EPs, singles, etc. Once you have that established fanbase, then it allows you to experiment a bit more and go outside of your comfort zone. If you’re putting out all sorts of different types genres and singles when you first come out, you risk confusing and losing fans as well as tastemakers, bloggers, etc who don’t know what to think of you.

Do you think that Porter Robinson could have done Virtual Self right after he dropped Worlds? I don’t think so.

So my only question that I personally asked was about rebranding, for reasons that tie into your exact answer. I’m assuming that you’d suggest that in rebranding I should really focus on one particular image, style and stream?

Hunter Thompson: Yeah exactly. Figure out what you want the project to look like. That’s what’s most important. From there you can find your target audience, how to reach them, how to activate them, etc…

I also think over saturation plays a part in it. There’s a lot of music that sounds similar out there. What’s going to make you stand out and why should people connect with you.

What are the biggest factors that give an unprofessional impression on the artist’s Youtube / SoundCloud / Instagram account?

Hunter Thompson: The biggest thing I absolutely hate seeing is people buying likes and comments on Soundcloud uploads. That’s an immediate turn off for me and I see it all the time.

On Instagram and YouTube make sure you credit your photographer/videographer as well.

I have always thought of internet labels like Majestic Casual or Trap Nation detrimental to the artists image since they enforce people to use their own art style in the songs they release in their channels. Would this not make it harder for the artist to stick out since the listeners brain now bundles them with other artists on the channel rather than the artist itself having an unique image? What is your opinion on this?

Hunter Thompson: You should already have a unique image before signing to a label like that. Your image will probably align with what they’re portraying and it will help boost you in front of their audience. They also have the ability to come back months later with an upload from an EP and drive traffic and interest back to the release with a new upload. I think signing small projects to labels like these is a good idea, but I wouldn’t solely stick to them. Use them as a building block to help you grow what you already have.

If you’re putting out all sorts of different types genres and singles when you first come out, you risk confusing and losing fans as well as tastemakers, bloggers, etc who don’t know what to think of you.

Hunter Thompson: can you think of any artists that are really doing that right now?

Interviewer: https://soundcloud.com/scratonmusicofficial ?

Hunter Thompson: I havent heard of him will check him out.

What is your favourite food, and why? Do you think it influenced your career in any way?

Hunter Thompson: Growing up in Montana I didn’t have the luxury of trying a lot of different types of foods and quality restaurants but probably shaped me as my favorite food is steak. Im not sure it’s influenced my career in any way but I love the question.

I’ve always wanted to go to Montana

Hunter Thompson: I lived in Montana until about a year ago. I was never able to go out and meet the people that I was working with. I reached out to them via email, which imo is way easier. You can put your thoughts down, make sure you know what you want to say and say it. I’m an introvert myself and I find it way easier reaching out via the internet than in person.

Do you think it hurts to network after a break, as in not having any recent content?

Hunter Thompson: What do you mean, like you initially talk to them, then take a break, then come back with a soundcloud link asking for feedback/help?

Interviewer: No, I mean like trying to network regardless of the fact that you don’t have anything newer to present.

Hunter Thompson: It may be older to you, but these people are hearing it for the first time.

Do you think that there’s any alternatives for gaining traction for people that have few social skills or desire to be a public figure?

Hunter Thompson: Cashmere Cat is one of the shiest people I know, but he’s super successful ghost producing for other people and that has helped his own project immensely.

He was a DMC DJ champion first where he met people like Craze and A-Trak. He then put out his Wedding Bells EP which was super unique and brought him a lot of attention. He started making tracks for Ariana Grande and other people, but he had to be out there doing things to make it happen. Just because you’re shy or “lack social skills” doesn’t mean you can’t go out there and make things happen. Try to involve that into your branding, your shows, etc. The more you get out there the more comfortable you’ll be trust me.

Where do you see the music industry headed? what’s improving / what’s falling apart?

Hunter Thompson: Whats improving is the amount of ways to get your music out there and heard. Music is more accessible than ever! At the same time its a lot about networking and who you know. With just a few programmers controlling the scene you need to have a relationship with them or be able to make them notice you.

How valid is the strategy of releasing albums of all genres to perpetually surprise the listeners with new stuff?

Hunter Thompson: With each album being a different genre you’re able to develop a narrative for each one individually.

What’s a good way to meet other producers irl near you?

Hunter Thompson: I dont think they need to be near you to work for them. With the internet you can just dm people and start working together where ever they are. Here in Denver there’s a big music school that has talks from industry professionals that people can go to. See if there’s a school like that near you. Other than that just pay attention to flyers for shows? I dont really know sorry.

BIG THANK YOU TO HUNTER THOMPSON FOR THIS!!

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