Produce and Sell a Rap Album in 30 Days
Why is this project marked: meh?
While this project was a lot of fun, it didn't make much money. However, I was just trying to prove that a musician could make money on their own. Technically, I did that, but it wasn't enough to make a living.
If this is your first time, I recommend reading the about page. You should also check out the last three challenges here and here and here.
I’ve been making music since I was three. I was raised in a recording studio my dad built in our basement. I was destined to make music.
I started a band with my friends right out of high school. We wrote and recorded our own music. Our goal was to make albums, play shows, and get signed by a major record label. We failed to get signed, but we made the music we wanted to make.
It was during my time in the band that I learned how to build websites. It’s because of the band that this website exists. It’s the reason I can make a living being self-employed. It’s the reason I’m making this rap album.
I want to prove that you can make money selling music without a record label in a post Spotify world.
What I’m Selling and Why
I want to create a album and sell it like a digital product– you’ll only be able to buy it through my website. I want control of the sales and the ability to offer exclusive content. I want to know who’s buying the album – you can’t do this with a service like iTunes. I’ll use Gumroad to handle the sales and deliverables.
- It will be the same price as buying an album on iTunes: $10
- The album will contain 12 songs (high quality MP3s) and exclusive bonus content.
- It will be easy to buy. You click a button, you enter your credit card, and you get the album.
What I’m Starting With
I’ve made albums like this before. I used to have a comedy rap group called Liberty Gigoloz. It was me and my friends making albums for fun. I’ve made two that I’m very proud of.
I’ve thought a lot about the theme and title of the album already. It will be loosely based of my life as an online business owner and will be titled: ENTREPRENUER. You may notice that’s it’s spelled wrong. That’s on purpose. I’ve never been able to spell that word right. It’s also a metaphor about the mistakes and missteps all business owners make, but never talk about.
I’m including two songs I’ve already written on the album. But I’ll be remixing those songs so they sound better.
I’ve written a lot of rap songs in the past. I used Reason 6 to make the beats and Logic Pro X to record the vocals. I spent the month before this challenge learning how to use Logic Pro X to make beats AND record lyrics so I only have to use one program. I have a four beats already conceptualized, ready to start mixing and adding lyrics.
I’ve made albums before, but never sold them. The goal is to retain control of the distribution. But first, I have to produce the album. Here is a list of steps outlining how I think the challenge should go:
1. Make The Beats
I can make beats fast. I write songs by making a beat first, and play it over and over again to write lyrics. Then, record all the vocals at once.
I’m going to batch this. I’ll make all the beats during the first week. I need to clean up the four beats I already have and create six brand new ones.
2. Write and Record The Hooks
During the beat creation stage, I’ll be writing the hooks, too. The hooks are the choruses that will make each song memorable. I usually create a rough vocal track if I have the idea while I’m making the beat. When I’m finished producing all the beats, I’ll record final vocal tracks for the hooks.
I won’t be doing all the hooks myself. I’ll write them, but I may reach out to collaborators for the recordings.
3. Write and Record The Rap Lyrics
This will be the hardest part of the plan. Writing lyrics can take a long time, especially when you stick to a theme. A few themes will include writing songs in my parent’s basement and becoming an business owner.
Once the lyrics are written, recording the rap vocals shouldn’t take too long. I’m hoping for only three or four days of vocal recording.
4. Mix and Master The Tracks
Once everything has been recorded, I’ll mix each track so it sounds awesome. But this is my weak point. I know a lot about mixing, but still don’t consider myself good at it. Since I’m on a time crunch, I’ll do the best I can.
Mastering is the final once-over on the tracks. This is where I’ll boost volumes and EQ the entire track. I’ll be using a new plugin called Ozone 7 ($249), but I’m not buying it until I’m ready to use it.
5. Remix and Master The Existing Songs
I’m adding two existing songs to the album: All My Money and Hashtag Hustle. I will remix these songs in Logic Pro X. It will sound so much better than the original production – at least that’s what I’m shooting for.
6. Create Exclusive Content
I don’t have a plan for this yet. I will add some old songs I’ve created and some behind-the-scenes videos. I may also include some additional artwork.
Another idea is to include some remixes. This will all depend on how much time I have left after the album is finished.
7. Design Album Artwork and Build The Landing Page
I already have a concept worked out for the album cover (see above). I will be taking new photos for the cover and promotional materials. I will have to buy some new wardrobe for this. Ok, I don’t HAVE to; I want to.
I will also create the landing page that will reflect the theme of the album art. This will be the only place you can stream and buy the album.
8. Make a Rap Video for Promotion
I’ve done this before as part of my very first challenge on Money Lab. I know it’s hard and I won’t have much time. This is where I’ll have to get creative, but I know it’s an important step in promoting the album. I will probably make some teaser videos, too.
I have a rap video that has over 100,000 views. If I can achieve this again, it will be a very successful promotion. I will need time to think about this and workshop this out with some other people.
I will launch the album on the last day of the challenge. I need each day just to create everything. Here’s a few ideas I’ve come up with already. If you have any other ideas, please share them with me in the comments.
- Create a podcast that breaks down each track on the album.
- Make T-Shirts.
- Give away the instrumentals as part of Creative Commons.
- Make a super kick-ass landing page that people talk about.
Day 01: Producing the First Beat and Chorus
I made it my mission today to write a full beat with a hook. This is not the first song that will be on the album, it’s just the first song I’ve written from start to finish for this project.
I wanted to write something catchy. I also wanted it to represent my time starting SwimUniversity.com (hence the swimming theme). Here’s a sample of the track. I’m calling this track, “On My Own.”
How I Made This Beat
I’m using Logic Pro X to produce this record. Before I started this project, I bought two sample packs from Loopmasters.com to add to the existing Apple Loops (Surefire Trap and Jersey Club).
First, I like to start building a drum kit using a mix of drum samples. I find kick sounds and snare sounds that I like and lay down the beat.
Then, I added main synth track. I used a Alchemy Synth that’s built into Logic with sidechain compression plugin called Kickstart.
I started to layer sounds and fleshed out the structure of the song. Meanwhile, I was quietly creating a hook in my head. I didn’t really have words, just a simple melody.
I turned on my mic and recorded a rough vocal. What came out was pretty good; totally ad-libbed. I fleshed out the words a little bit and recorded it again. I didn’t get the best take, but it was good enough to mess around with.
I wanted to send my vocal track through a sampler and see if I could come up with a cool little diddy. I think it came out really well.
I spent the rest of the day finishing the structure and mixing it. I’ve been mixing in my headphones first, then sending it to my external Bose Soundlink 3 speaker for another test. I don’t recommend doing this. The Bose is enhanced and I should be using professional studio monitors. I’m thinking about buying a pair before the project is over.
I’ll create a video later fully outlining how I make beats. What do you think so far? I’m excited 🙂
Day 02: Completing Unfinished Beats
My mission today is to get a good sense of what beats I have to finish and what needs work. As with any project, I’m using Asana to keep track of my progress with this rap album. I created a project to keep track of each song’s progress and ideas.
Right now I have two sections: Finished Beats and Beats in Progress. Finished Beats are tracks that have the song structure fleshed out and a completed chorus (hook). Beats in Progress are beats that I like, but I don’t have the hook or structure in place.
I have a section called Ideas to write down any and all ideas about songs or marketing. I also have a section to keep track of the people who offered to Collaborate on the project. They include rappers, singers, drummers and violinist. Pretty cool!
To make this project just a little more challenging, I’m also going dry for the entire month of July. That means I won’t be enjoying any alcoholic beverages. This has nothing to do with the album, I just want to be healthier.
I’m also focused on eating better and getting in some workouts. This is so I can take good pictures of myself at the end of the month for the album cover.
I cleaned up and recorded rough vocal hooks on two songs. I sent them to my dad. He’s going to get his friend Tony (the former lead singer in his band) to record the hook on both tracks. I’ve worked with Tony before, but this will be the first collaboration on this project. Should be finished in a week.
Day 03: Making More Beats
I surprised myself today. I almost have the entire album mapped out. I have seven beats finished so far, and two of them have the hook recorded.
I worked on two beats today. One beat was finished, but I recorded rough vocals to send to a singer I’m collaborating with. It was an awkward chorus and I don’t have high hopes for what comes back. I may have to change the key of the song, but we’ll see.
The second beat I worked is DOPE! It’s the most aggressive track I ever produced. I even recorded the hook with the help of Steph. Here’s a screenshot of Logic, and I’ll film a video with a sneak peek soon.
The track is called “So Cynical.” It’s about how much I dislike the online entrepreneur culture. There are a lot of “gurus” who claim to help people succeed in business. But all they do is sell the dream. And in return, they are the one’s succeeding. Basically, this!
Day 04: Another Beat on The 4th of July
Happy 4th of July, Americans! I spent the morning creating a fresh new beat that I will be debuting soon. It’s currently titled “Untitled 9.” I don’t have a theme or hook for it yet, but it’s dope – take my word for it.
To explain the title of the song, I sometimes just work on random beats with no plan. Even if I only create a drum sound, I save it and title it. For this project I have nine unfinished beats. But some of them have turned into titled beats, so I think I have only eight now. Here’s a screenshot of Logic so far:
It’s only an intro and a verse. I’ll finish fleshing out the rest of the song tomorrow. Tonight, I have to eat hamburgers and watch fireworks! I won’t be drinking beers, so that’s a bummer.
Day 05: Nothing New Accomplished
Today was tough. I worked on finalizing one beat early so I could work on a new one. I tried coming up with something, but I kept hitting dead ends. It sucked.
I even had plans to make a video update, giving a tour of the studio and a behind-the-scenes of my beat making process. But since I spent the WHOLE day trying to come up with a new beat, I didn’t have time to film anything. [UPDATE: I filmed the following video the next day.]
I’m just going to relax tonight and hopefully something will come to me tomorrow. That’s my main objective: finish a new beat. I really want to work on the intro song. I want it to be high energy! I think that’s what giving me a hard time. Until tomorrow!
Day 06: Trying to Make an Intro and Beat Breakdown
I’m giving myself another little break today. Yesterday I didn’t get any new beats made, but I would like to make some progress tonight. During the day, I filmed a few videos as a massive update and behind-the-scenes for this post. I wanted to share some more music I’ve been working on.
According to my Asana project for the rap album, I have 10 beats finished and ready to start writing lyrics. I need to create two more fresh beats in the next three days (including today). I’m stuck on how I want the album to start (the intro song). I want it to be full of energy and epic, but that’s hard for me to conceptualize. I’m hoping to make some progress on it tonight.
I want to film a video update that fully explained the anatomy of the beats I’m making. This video is about 30 minutes long and full of technical shit. If you’re interested on how I make a rap beat from scratch, take a gander below. (Also, if you want to hear some beats I’m working on, this is the video!)
Intro Song Completed
I was up until 10pm working on a dope ass beat for the intro of the album. I’m happy to say that it’s so far my favorite beat and will make a killer start to the album. The track is called, “I’m The Boss” and it’s about being self-employed.
Day 07: Organizing The Beats
I have 11 beats finished with one more left to go. I have all of today and tomorrow to complete all 12 tracks. But today I’ll be spending most of the day organizing what I already have and start making plans for writing and recording the rap lyrics.
In Logic Pro X, you can organize your tracks with colors and icons. I’ve been putting together a color key that I can use across all the songs:
- Beat/Drums = GREEN
- Rap Vocals = ORANGE
- Chorus Vocals = GOLD
- Synths/Sampler = PINK
- Sound Effects = BLUE
- Orchestral Samples = PURPLE
- Bass/Guitar = RED
- Piano/Vibraphone = TEAL
- Automations = YELLOW
I’m also grouping all of these into Track Stacks. Here’s what an Orchestral Sample Stack looks like:
The image above is a bunch of orchestral stabs that consists of horns and strings. I added icons to dictate what they are and color coded them all to purple. Then grouped them into a track stack so it’s easier to manage multiple tracks in Logics.
Here’s some before and after shots:
Day 08: Wrapping Up The Beats
In the morning, I fleshed out what would be the 10th beat I’ve made in the past week for this album. As of writing this, I have 10 beats completed. I’m ready to start writing lyrics.
One thing I wish I had wrapped up is the hooks. Every beat doesn’t have a hook yet. There’s even one song that doesn’t have a title or theme. I love the beat, but I don’t know what to do with it yet. I’m not going to push it too hard. I’m going to start writing and finishing other songs while I give my brain a rest from writing hooks. Writing hooks can either be incredibly easy or hard. When they just come to me, jackpot! Otherwise, and in this case, I have to listen to the beat over and OVER again to come up with something catchy.
Starting the Collaborations
The final beat that I finished today will be a collaboration. I have sent it off to another rapper who will be writing a verse on it. I want to see what he comes up with before I write my lyrics. I think that will help get the juices flowing.
I’m also working with another rapper on a few tracks. I’ve sent one to him so far and waiting to see what comes back.
There are two beats right now where I would like to work with other singers. I’m working with a male singer now. He and I have been going back and forth through email and Twitter to nail down the chorus of the song. I’m also in the process of finding a female vocalist for the untitled song – at least I know I want a female singer for the hook.
I put the call out on Facebook for a female pop singer and got a lot of responses. If nothing comes of it, my last ditch effort will be to hire someone on Fiverr, but I’m hoping I won’t have to do that.
I Fucking Love Twitter Sometimes
I needed help coming up with a theme and title for the track “Untitled 9.” I simply asked on Twitter:
I have a tracked called "Untitled 9." I need a theme and title for this song. It should be about being an #entrepreneur. Any ideas?
— Matt Giovanisci (@MattGiovanisci) July 8, 2016
Moments later, I got a reply from Conrad O’Connell suggesting two themes: “No cofounder needed” and “serial entrepreneurship.”
“No cofounder needed” is a good theme, but I already have a similar one at the start of the album called “The Boss.” His second suggestion sparked an idea in my head about failing and not giving up.
I went downstairs to eat some popcorn and the hook popped in my head. It’s simple! I ran upstairs and recorded it. I sound like shit, so I wrote the melody using my keyboard and fleshed out the lyrics.
The song is now called “Do It Again” and it’s about trying new business ideas over and over again.
The Current Track List
Now that I have a name for “Untitled 9,” here’s is the track list so far (including the themes):
- “The Boss” – Being self-employed.
- “On My Own” – What it was like to start SwimU. I had very little help and had to figure things out for myself.
- “All My Money” – My personal finance revolution and the birth of Listen Money Matters.
- “Freak Like Me” – Meeting Steph; someone who is finally a lot like me.
- “Caffeine” – The birth of Roasty. It’s also about needing a jolt three times a day.
- “Not That Simple” – The over consumption of information and not taking action in business.
- “Wait a Minute” – This song to be about patience. Patience and consistence will pay off. Not only in business, but anything.
- “Hashtag Hustle” – An ironic song about hustling.
- “Do It Again” – The birth of Money Lab and serial entrepreneurship.
- “Begging for More” – A metaphor about always wanting more as an entrepreneur.
- “So Cynical” – I dislike the online entrepreneur culture. An open letter to “dream” pushers.
- “For You” – This song is the finale. It’s a dedication to everyone who bought the album.
Day 09: Getting Ready to Write Lyrics
Before I get started writing, I want to share the instrumentals. I did a quick mix and master on all the tracks and turned them into MP3s. This will allow me to listen to them on the go. I sometimes like to come up with lyrics while I’m driving or walking. Here’s a few of the beats:
Day 11: Writing Lyrics
I have a goal today: finish writing lyrics for “The Boss” and record them. I would like to totally finish a song today.
I’ve decided that “The Boss” (which is the first song on the album) will be the first single I release on August 2nd 2016. Also, I will be dropping the album on August 2, 2016 because it’s the Tuesday after the challenge is over. It’s technically not the 30th day of the challenge – the 30th day would be Sunday and that’s a shitty day to release an album. In the past albums have always been released on Tuesdays and I want to stick to that.
Plans for a Music Video
I took off the past two days from making any music. I needed a break. I spent that time just thinking about this project as a whole. I started to think ahead to the release date and what I would do to promote it.
I want to make a rap video for launch day, but I really don’t have a lot of time (or a good idea) to film an epic rap video. Steph and I brainstormed ways to create a video without doing a lot of filming. I don’t mind editing a bunch of footage together, but going out to film is really stressful.
We came up with an idea to crowdsource a video. Since the music video will be for “The Boss” I want to gather a bunch videos of self-employed entrepreneurs lip syncing to the song. I’ve done this before and it turned out great:
This will actually help the video to spread since so many people will be involved. That’s why I’m trying to finish the song today so I can get the word out about this video. More to come.
Countdown Promotion Idea
Another simple promotion idea I thought of this morning is to share something about the challenge every day leading up to the launch. I will share something – anything – on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
I don’t know what I’ll share yet. Maybe quick videos. Maybe images. Maybe screenshots. Who knows! We’ll see what I come up with.
The Lyric Writing Process
My plan for writing the lyrics is simple. I will create a folder for each song on Google Drive. In each folder I will include a Google Doc where I will write the lyrics for the song. I will also include an MP3 file of the beat. This will make it easy to collaborate with other performers if need be.
Even if I don’t collaborate, I think it’s a good way to organize and store the tracks. Instant saving, too!
It’s 6:30pm and I Finished Writing Lyrics for “The Boss!”
I really thought the lyric writing process was going to take me the longest time. But I realize now that if I tackle one song a day, I can get things done quickly. The faster I can get the album done, the more time I’ll have to work on promotion.
It’s 8:53pm and I Finished Recording the Rap Vocal Tracks!
Here’s some proof:
As a side note, I also spent $249 on the Ozone 7 plugin today I said I was going to buy for this project.
Day 12: One Song DONEish!
I spent a lot of time yesterday writing lyrics for the song, “The Boss.” I finished them and recorded them. But then I needed a break. A serious fucking break! So I just ate a butt-load of popcorn with Steph and went to bed.
This morning, I got frustrated and lightly slammed my headphones on the desk. I let out a REALLY big sigh.
I’ve been reading a lot about mixing. I don’t need to because I already know what I’m doing. But every time I start up an audio project, I feel the need to refresh. This was a waste of time for me and it got into my head. Instead of just trusting my ears, I was trying to learn more technical bullshit to improve the sound of the song.
I decided to cool off by taking a shower. That really helped. Showers are the best! Once I jumped out, I felt ready to tackle the song again, but this time, I was going to trust my ears.
I knocked out the mix in record time and even recorded new vocals for the chorus (hook). And I would like to share the song with you right now in a video. It’s been mixed and mastered, but I may take another pass at it in the final days of the project.
NOTE: I’m not shaving my beard until this album is finished.
Day 13: Starting On Another Song
For the next few days, I will be focused on writing and recording lyrics. Today, I’m working on the second track of the album called “On My Own.” This is the first song I shared on this project. It’s a little softer and a perfect second song to the album.
The song is loosely about the beginning of my entrepreneurial career. The swimming theme refers to my time building SwimUniversity.com.
It’s also about the lack of information I had at the time. A lot of people were teaching how to make money online, but most of it was scammy and didn’t really apply to what I was doing. Hence, I was on my own to figure a lot of this stuff out.
Two Songs Completed!
It’s 9:53pm as I write this. I spent the first part of the day fixing issues with SwimUniversity.com. That is NEVER fun. Then, I started working on writing lyrics for “On My Own.” What’s been really helpful is a site called RhymeZone. Check it out!
I finished the first verse before I had to leave for a meetup I was hosting in Denver. After the meetup, I came home and wrote the second verse. Immediately afterwards, I recorded the main rap vocals, the left and right hype tracks and did some production to add energy to the vocals.
Day 14: Writing The Lyrics for “Caffeine”
Today I’m focused on two tasks: filming update videos for this post and writing the lyrics for the song “Caffeine.”
“Caffeine” is currently only one of two songs that I have to write and record ALL the lyrics for. The final song on the album will be all me, too, but most of that song’s lyrics are already written. “Caffeine” will be the LAST hardest song for me to write. So I’m giving myself at least two days to finish it.
The rest of the songs will have featured guests on them.
How I’m Recording Rap Vocals
In this video, I break down how I’m recording rap vocals in all these tracks in my office. I’m using just a Shure SM7B mic, a ProFX8 mixer, and that’s it. It’s coming out really well. Also, this video includes a sneak peek of the second track on the album, “On My Own.”
Piling Up On The Challenge: I’m Staying Sober This Month
I’m not sure if I mentioned this already in this post, but I’ve decided not to drink alcohol this month during the making of this rap album. It’s been a whole other challenge. Fourth of July was the hardest. And last night was my first time at a bar while not drinking. It was weird.
Instead of pounding beers, I’m pounding an insane amount of LaCroix sparkling water as a replacement.
Weed, on the other hand…
Day 15: Finished Recording “Caffeine”
It took me all day, but I finished writing and recording the lyrics for “Caffeine.” This song is about drinking coffee three times a day and represents the birth of RoastyCoffee.com.
Day 18: Collaborators
Yesterday I recorded another song for the album. Four songs are done. It’s called “For You” and it’s the last track on the album. I’m keeping this one a secret until the album drops. Here’s a screen shot of Logic (there is no rapping in the song; it’s all sung by me with lots of AutoTune):
The rest of the tracks include collaborations. As of writing this, I’ve not gotten anything back from anyone yet, and this worries me. I was hoping to have all the tracks finished this week so I can spend the last week working on marketing. I don’t trust I’ll be able to do this because of working with so many people. So I’ve decided to start working on the marketing stuff now while I wait. Not ideal, but that’s the situation.
Starting the Music Video
I mentioned that the music video will be for, “The Boss,” and it will be a crowdsourced video. I’m spending some time today emailing a crap ton of people to send me videos of themselves lip-syncing so I can make the video.
I don’t expect everyone to come through on this, so I’m reaching out to as many people as I can. I rather have too much footage than not enough.
I’ve created a temporary music video so people can hear the whole track.
I’ve sent the instructions out to 50 people. If I get back a quarter of that, I’ll be good to go. I’m keeping track of everyone’s progress in a Google Spreadsheet. I’ve already got a video submission! One down, 49 to go 🙂
Here’s a screenshot of the list of instructions I sent to everyone to get them involved in the video:
First Collaborator! (And It’s Dope)
Earlier in this update I mentioned I was getting worried that I haven’t gotten back any audio tracks from the collaborators I’m working with. Well, I just did! And it’s dope! And I already added it to the track and mixed it.
His name is Ryan, but his rap name is Homeless. You should check out his other music. It’s awesome! Here’s a video he sent me and I was blown away:
First Look At The Landing Page
I talked over the landing page with Steph. I needed help figuring out what needed to be the FIRST thing people see when they hit the page. I assumed people would want to quickly get right to the music, but Steph disagreed. She believes the story of making the album is more important and interesting.
So the first thing people will see is the name of the album, me, and the music video. They will also be told that an “album” is available now – so they know that this page contains music they can buy.
The image of me will change, and an actual video will be there. This is a really simple design. My hope is that people will scroll and read more.
Day 19: Landing Page Design and Finishing Another Song
I’m not sure if I mentioned this yet (this challenge is a big one!), but my dad’s friend is singing the choruses on two of my tracks. His name is Tony Todd and he was the lead singer in my dad’s funk band, Love Train, back in the seventies (my dad played keyboards).
Last night, they recorded the vocals for “Begging For More” and “Freak Like Me” in my dad’s studio in New Jersey. I got the raw audio tracks via Dropbox this morning and already started working on “Begging For More,” since Ryan submitted his rap last night. The song is almost complete. All that’s left is my rap verse to be written and recorded, which I plan on doing today.
Steph and I also recorded some minor backup vocals for the track as well this morning 🙂
Day 20: Breaking Down The Landing/Sales Page
I’ve received collaboration tracks from two rappers and one singer. I can work on writing and recording my verse for “Begging For More” and “So Cynical.”
Today, I’m finishing the landing/sales page for the album. I won’t finish it until July 30th because of a photoshoot I have planned. But all the design pieces are in place. All that’s left is updating the photos and adding the Gumroad links.
I broke my own design rule. I didn’t write the copy first. Instead, I designed and wrote the copy as I went. But I did plan out the sections, and I would like to break them down here:
The Main Music Video
The crowdsourced rap video is the most important part of the marketing. This is also where I introduce myself as the creator of the album.
You’ll notice my name is missing. I don’t want the artist name to be prominent since I’m not promoting myself as a rapper.
Note: my photos will change. I’m taking new ones at the end of the month before the album drops. This photo of me is from Driven.
Steph (my GF) mentioned that the coolest part of this album is the story. I thought the album stream should come first, but she’s right. I would be more interested in listening after I read the story.
I’m also including a behind-the-scenes mini documentary on how I made the album. The video you see in the photo is just filler for now.
The background is a picture of my iMac with Logic Pro X loaded up, since this was where most of the work happened. I shot this image on my Canon 70D, but could have used my iPhone since you can barely see it.
The Album Stream
This section is the only place on the internet you’ll be able to stream the album for free (for now). I’m using a private SoundCloud embed.
SoundCloud takes FOREVER to load sometimes. I had a chat with the support team at WP Engine to make sure this had nothing to do with the server or my code. It turns out SoundCloud is being lame right now, but hopefully it won’t cause a problem.
The current album stream is my early instrumentals, which you can listen to above.
I’m offering two options for buying the album: just the album download, and one with a t-shirt.
The t-shirt option will only be available for a couple of weeks. I’m going to see how many people buy this option before I order the shirts. Since I’ll be shipping the shirts myself, I’m only going to run this offer for a limited time.
When you click each package, a Gumroad modal will popup to buy. If you choose just the album download, you’ll enter your email and a credit card. Afterwards, I’ll send video instructions on how to add the music to iTunes and Spotify. I’ll make this video closer to launch day.
If you click the t-shirt bundle, you’ll have to enter your shipping address.
More Rap Videos and About Me
I’ve included all my other rap videos as a bonus, and as a way to perhaps increase sales. I don’t have any logic to this theory except that it feels like I’m giving more to the people who visit this page.
I also decided to include a little blurb about myself. I realized after designing the page that if someone were to land on this cold, they would have no idea who I was or my story. So I added one.
For now I’m using the same photo I used for the Asana For Bloggers landing page. This will change once I get new pictures taken for the album.
I’m proud of this section. Jason Zook gave me this idea. I’m licensing my instrumentals using Creative Commons. You can download all of the instrumentals from the album for FREE. You can use them for non-commercial projects.
You can use them in your YouTube videos, podcasts, or anything that’s not commercial. Just give me credit as the producer by adding a link to: http://www.moneylab.co/rap.
Note: I got the word “banger” from an episode of Parks and Recreation. It’s subject to change.
Thanks and Shoutouts
This section is for everyone who has and will help me to create both the album and the music video for “The Boss.” This area will grow larger as more people contribute to the video and album.
Tomorrow, my plan is to finish two more songs. All I have to do is write two verses and record them. That will mean I’ll only have four songs left to finish before the end of the project, which is still 10 days away. I don’t feel stressed at all. This project has been great on my sanity levels 🙂
Day 23: The Album Drop Plan
For the last few days I’ve been working on and off with collaborators. Everyone sent me their tracks all at the same time, and ALL of them are dope as fuck! Holy shit, I can’t believe how awesome the album is sounding. It’s starting to come together WAY better than I thought it would.
I finished a song called, “Begging For More” with Tony Todd and Homeless, and it’s my new favorite song on the album.
I did have one collaborator bail on me. He reached out to me on Twitter with a link to his SounCloud account. The music was good, and progress was being made, but then things took a weird turn. I don’t think he really understood the project from the beginning or who I was (and unimportant I am). He decided to not send any tracks but wished me luck. He was planning to work on “Wait a Minute.”
BTW, my beard is out of control!
Today is Saturday and exactly one week until the end of the challenge. I wanted to lay out my plan for the next week so that I can tie up all the loose ends and know exactly what I need to work on each day to finish this project. Here’s the plan:
Today: Recording and Finishing At Least Two Songs
Record my rap vocals for “So Cynical.” This will complete the song. I also need to write a verse for “Do It Again” and “Freak Like Me.” I would like to write and record those today if possible.
I’m still waiting on two tracks from other collaborators. I know I’m getting one on Tuesday, but it’s only a sax track, which means I can semi-finish the song and just add that at the end. But the other track I’m waiting for is a verse from another rapper for the song “Wait a Minute.” This is the only song that doesn’t have a chorus or anything written for it. This will be the last song I finish maybe at the last minute.
[UPDATE: I’ve finished making “So Cynical” and “Freak Like Me”]
1. Record and Finish Two More Songs
I need to finish writing and recording my rap vocals for, “Do It Again” and “Not That Simple.” Both of these songs have the choruses done and mixed. “Do It Again” has one rap verse completed by Daniel Halligan – you should absolutely check out his stuff here. And here’s a video he made that I think is amazing!
NOTE: In Daniel’s award-winning video above, he samples a famous speech from Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator.” Unbeknownst to me at the time, I also used this speech in my song, “So Cynical.” However, I took pieces of the speech out of context and made it about online marketing scammers. Daniel’s use is more optimistic 🙂
These songs also include an incredible singer named Dani Ummel, a friend of Daniel Halligan. Here’s kick-ass video of one of her performances.
2. Taking New Photos for Album Art and Landing/Sales Page
I’m leaving some space on this day to finish up tracks, including “Wait a Minute” which is the last song I have to complete. This is also the day I start putting the marketing train in motion.
Everyone should have their lip-syncing videos submitted by now. If not, I’ll email people reminding them. I’ll let another day pass before I consider it over.
This seems like a good day to start getting the marketing materials in place. I need to take some photos for the album art and landing/sales page. I will probably do those and update the areas where the photos are needed.
I’m shaving my beard, too! YES!
3. Scripting and Filming The “Making Of” Video
I would like to work on the “Making Of” video. I’ve done this before for other songs I’ve made, but this one I want to be long and more in-depth.
I’m filming myself sitting at my computer (like I do in all my video updates here), but I’ll be talking to a fake person slightly off camera like a documentary interview. I will put some of my instrumentals behind it and film some b-roll of me working and recording the song. I’ll have to script this out, so it should take the entire day to make this.
4. Filming and Editing “The Boss” Music Video
I should have enough video to work with, including the footage of myself, which I will quickly film on my own in a few hours.
This video will take a shit-load of time because of all the footage I’ll be working with. I will need the entire day to edit, if not another full day after that to complete.
I may also be continuing to edit the “Making Of” video, so I’m giving myself at least three days to complete two videos that will be heavy in the marketing plan.
Day 24: Only One Song Left
Today I worked on writing and recording lyrics for two songs. And yesterday I did the same for two other songs. Over the weekend I finished:
- “Freak Like Me”
- “Do It Again”
- “So Cynical”
- “Not That Simple”
I have one song left: “Wait a Minute.” I’m waiting for another collaborator to send me tracks. If that doesn’t happen, my backup plan is to just record the whole song myself. I have no lyrics or choruses written for it yet. I have an idea of what the song will be about, but that’s it.
Check out my Asana project now!
“Not That Simple” was not that simple
I was working with a rap collaborator on this, but things didn’t work out. I decided to write all the lyrics, and this song had three verses to fill. I spent most of my day writing and recording to this song.
I’m glad it’s finished and tomorrow I start working on the album artwork. This will give me a little break from writing.
Day 25: Making The New Album Artwork
My goal today was to take photos of myself for the album cover, landing/sales page, and any additional graphics needed for marketing.
I knew the look that I wanted, so I went out shopping first thing in the morning to buy a thin black tie from H&M and a pair of aviators from Sunglass Hut. I already had the shirt, sport coat and hat I wanted to use.
I wanted two sets of photos: before and after shaving my beard. I’m planning to put together a PDF that will come with the album. It will include all the lyrics and the story. So I wanted the beard shots for that.
The first thing I did was set up the lights and get the right camera settings. I used two soft boxes in my office. I had my Canon 70D with a 24mm lens set to 800 ISO, 2.4f, and 1/200 s.
I asked Steph to work the camera and take the shots while I did a bunch of different poses, with and without sunglasses. After I shaved my beard, we took more photos. In the end we took over 491 photos. Here’s a couple of raw photos we took:
Photoshopping The Album Cover
I had to go through a lot of photos to find the one I wanted to use for the album cover. I wanted to be wearing sunglasses, so that narrowed it down. Here’s the original photo I picked:
Obviously I photoshopped the shit out of this image, so here’s what I did:
- Cut myself out of the background by using the pen tool. I converted that to a selection, inversed it, deleted the background. (There’s many ways to do this, but I wanted it to be perfect.)
- I used the Spot Healing Brush to remove the logo on my hat. That was really easy.
- I duplicated the image and created a Black and White version over top the color layer.
- I used the Eraser to erase the B&W photo where my undershirt was so that the color version came through. Then I merged those layers.
- I duplicated that new merged layer and added a High Pass filter on it. Then I changed that layer to Overlay. This gives it a very crisp look.
- I added a Brightness & Contrast layer. I maxed out the contrast and made it slightly brighter.
- My shirt is originally red and blue, and I used a Hue/Saturation layer to turns the blue squares on my shirt to black squares.
- Finally, I added a slight drop shadow effect only to outline around my hand. My hand was very white and almost blended in to the background.
Here’s what the final product looks like in the album art:
Updating The Landing/Sales Page
Now that I have new photos to work with, I updated two sections of the landing page. First, the main section that will host the rap video:
And here’s the photo I used for the “About” section of the page:
It’s a more serious image, plus I got rid of the “Kanye East” reference. Didn’t think it was funny enough 🙂
Day 26 & 27: Making Videos Like a Mad Man
Before I talk about the videos, I want to talk about the album cover I designed. I put it up on Facebook with the caption, “Thoughts?” I didn’t realize I’d be opening the floodgates of criticism. Most of the comments were about things I wasn’t willing to change, but one of my friends actually sent a new mockup of the cover and I liked it. He made it feel more like a rap album by adding a black and white New York City skyline behind me.
Now I fucking hate New York City, but I’m from Philadelphia and having that on my album cover would say a lot about who I am, so I decided to do a quick redesign and here’s the new cover:
The “Making Of” Video
On day 26, I spent most of the day filming b-roll for the “Making Of” video. I also wrote out a script for my interview via Google Docs.
Once I had all the shots I needed based on the script, I asked Steph if she would “interview” me to help keep me on script. She asked questions that were not on the script because she thought there needed to be more story and less technical details. In the end, she was 100% right!
We filmed a 30-minute interview that I spent the rest of the night editing down to 8 minutes. It was time for bed and I had only edited the interview. I had to wait until the next day to add all the animations and b-roll.
Editing and Uploading the “Making Of” Video
I started first thing in the morning and I didn’t finish uploading to YouTube until 4pm. It took me two days to make this video, and I’m thrilled by how well it came out. What do you think?
Now that it’s done, it’s time to focus on making the music video for “The Boss.” I already have a lot of crowdsourced footage, but I need to film myself rapping.
One of the people who submitted a video did an awesome job with her footage, and it inspired me to try something new. Here’s a screenshot of her video:
I’m buying a black backdrop and recording myself rapping in the dark in front of it. I also have the same ring light she used (you can see it in her glasses), and I think that will be the only lighting I need to make a kick ass, dark video. If it’s not dark enough, I can fix it in post.
Filming Myself for “The Boss” Music Video
I went to a local camera store and picked up a black cloth backdrop for $69 (giggles). It’s a LARGE but lightweight black cloth that I used for the background of my rapping parts. I just used four push pins to tack it up on a wall in my office. Then, I started experimenting with lighting.
I had to wait until it was dark outside to film since my office has two windows and gets a lot of sunlight.
For lighting, I thought I could get away with just using my ring light attached to the front of my camera, but that wasn’t enough. I looked too dark in the image, but I was worried that adding more lights would highlight the black cloth and its wrinkles.
I set up only one soft box to start, but it only lit one side of me and it looked weird. So I had to set up both soft boxes. It lit me perfectly and the background was pitch black. PERFECT!
Here’s what the final image looked like:
I didn’t have to touch up the image at all. The colors came out great and the lighting is exactly what I was going for with a pitch black background. Now I’ll be editing the music video all day tomorrow.
Day 28: Editing “The Boss” Music Video
I spent the entire day organizing all the footage that I filmed last night and all the submissions I got. 28 people sent me their videos to be included, so I had to go through a lot. I didn’t really have a plan going into this editing job. I had to build something out of what I had.
Thankfully, I did about 10 takes of myself rapping against a black backdrop doing all sorts of silly things. I also had six takes where I rapped the entire song and moved around the frame in each take.
In hindsight, I would have done this more strategically. It took more time going through my own footage than it did going through everyone else’s. When I do it again, I will do 3 or 4 PERFECT takes and just work with those instead of working with 10 takes and trying to decide the best ones for each lyric.
Finishing The Video
I finished the video at 8pm. It took about 10 hours to complete all the editing. I did some minor motion graphics at the beginning of the video using Adobe After Effects.
The intro of the video starts with no sound. This was done on purpose. Not at first though.
I wanted to add some sort of intro beat, but I thought about how this would work on Facebook. Normally, as you’re scrolling through your feed, you see a video, but you have to click on it to get sound. There’s a 5 second gap with no sound at the start, so by the time you click it, you won’t miss anything.
The words that I animated and my bobbing head add motion, which should capture attention while explaining what people are about to see before they click it. This could be a smart move, or really dumb. Won’t know until it’s live.
Promoting The Music Video
I created a custom thumbnail for the video based off the intro. This will help it on YouTube search, but mainly I wanted it to look good on the landing page.
I’m hoping that everyone in the video will share it. I’m also hoping it’s a good enough video to be shared amongst other online entrepreneurs. I’ll be sharing it in a few Facebook groups I’m a part of, as well as on my other social media account throughout the day Tuesday (August 2, 2016 when the album drops).
The “Making Of” video got a lot of positive feedback. I’m very proud of it and it’s the best video I ever made so far in my career. I plan on doing more videos like it. It was planned and executed way better than I imagined thanks to the help of my girlfriend, Stephanie, who got me to tell stories and created the 5-part structure.
These two videos should really help the promotion side of this project. I’m very proud of both of them, as well as the album and the story of this challenge. I hope that’s a winning combination.
Day 29: Recording “Wait a Minute” and Finishing The Album
I was waiting till the last minute for a collaborator to send me rap tracks for the song, “Wait a Minute.” It was back and forth for while. But finally, they weren’t able to contribute and so I’m left to record this song solo.
I have a rough idea for the chorus, which is very simple. I will be spending most of the day writing the rap lyrics and recording this song. Once I’m finished, I’ll be mastering and putting the album together. I plan on having the album completely finished today and ready for sale.
Facebook Marketing Planning
I’m working with a Facebook Marketing expert in London who volunteered his time because he thinks the project is cool and is an audio nerd like me.
I’ll be working on and off with him today over Slack and Skype to finalize the campaign.
Putting Together The Album
I listened to every song to make sure everything sounded good and the volume levels were on point. I had to go back into Logic Pro and do some quick remixes on a couple of songs because they didn’t sound right. Once I had them all ready to go, I added them to a single folder titled, “Entreprenuer.”
The next step was applying the album artwork and ID3 tags to each file. I used a free program called Tagger. It worked well for what I needed. I added the album title, artist, and track numbers using this program.
I imported all the files into iTunes and added the artwork. Then exported them and renamed the files to put them in order. To do this, I changed the file name from “The Boss.mp3” to “01 The Boss.mp3.” This made it so the album would automatically be in the right order no matter what program you used to play it.
The “Entreprenuer” folder now included all 12 MP3s and a copy of the album artwork JPEG at 3000×3000 pixels (the same size needed for podcast artwork).
The Album Digital Booklet
I wanted to include a PDF with all the lyrics and stories behind each song. This would be the same as a CD booklet, which I used to love when I bought CDs.
To make this, I used Adobe InDesign – a program I haven’t used in years and don’t like. But once I started powering through it, I started to LOVE InDesign and how powerful it can be.
The booklet includes:
- The behind-the-scenes story of how the album was made.
- Song lyrics with a short explanation of what the song is about.
- Personal photos that represent each song.
- A full list and photo gallery of everyone who helped with the album.
Here’s an example of a few pages:
Day 30: “Rapping” Up The Challenge
I didn’t finish making the digital booklet yesterday. I was beat and needed to stop. It was a lot of work going through and double-checking all the lyrics before adding them. I will finish it up today.
Today is the last day and I need to tie up a bunch of loose ends:
- Put the album together by adding the digital booklet and zipping it to upload to Gumroad.
- Finalize the landing page and make it live.
- Test Gumroad links and connect sales to MailChimp using Zapier.
- Making sure the Facebook campaign is ready to go.
1. Finishing and Uploading The Album
I finished the booklet. I sent it to Steph to look over for me before I published it. She had a few changes and then I exported as a high-quality PDF. It came out to around 7MB. I added it to the album folder and zipped it.
2. Finalizing The Landing/ Sales Page
I uploaded the album zip folder to Gumroad. I created three products:
- The Album Only Product: $10
- The T-Shirt Bundle Product: $35
- The Instrumental Product: 0+ (Free)
At the last minute I thought it would be smart to use Gumroad to offer the free zip folder with all the instrumentals, that way I could collect email addresses there, too.
I did another round of editing to the page and pushed it live. Yes, it’s live and sellable before the launch, shhh!
3. Connecting Gumroad to MailChimp
Now that the album is ready for sale, I used Zapier to add any buyers (or instrumental downloaders) to my MailChimp account. I’ll be adding everyone to the Money Lab list under the label: Purchased Entreprenuer The Rap Album. I’m using Groups in MailChimp to segment these customers. I’m using groups because I want to know who buys what from Money Lab. This way I’ll know if they bought the album AND maybe Asana for Bloggers, and any future products.
I also created a 2-day automation for new buyers. The first email thanks them for buying and offers two videos on how to add the album to Spotify and iTunes that I made.
The second email arrives the following day and asks people to share it via links.
4. The Facebook Ads
I’ve been working with my friend Tom on building out a Facebook Ad marketing plan. We are targeting two audiences with two campaigns. Our audiences are 1) retargeting MoneyLab.co visitors and 2) entrepreneurs who like hip-hop. I’m sure things will change as we figure out what’s working.
There are two campaigns: cold and warm.
The cold campaign is targeting people who have never heard of this rap album challenge or Money Lab. So we’ve created long-form Facebook posts with videos – those videos being “The Boss” music video and the “Making Of” video. Each post will link to the sales/landing page.
The warm campaign contain similar video ads with different copy. These ads will target people who’ve watched 25% of either video or clicked those ads in the cold campaign. We already know they’re familiar with the project, so these ads are designed to get them to buy the album.
Everything is done. The challenge is complete. Now we wait until the launch day. I’m taking a break!
Oh, I forgot to mention my injury. I hurt my foot during the filming of “The Boss” music video. I think I got Turf Toe. My big toe joint is swollen and it’s painful to walk on. I’ve been resting it and taking pain meds and icing it. I hope it’s better by Tuesday.
The Teaser Video
I also made this…
Believe it or not, I spent a lot of time away from social media today. I woke up early and sent a personal email with the music video to everyone who participated in it. I asked them to share it.
Then, I sent an email out to my list of 1,953 subscribers:
Then, I uploaded and published the video on the Money Lab Facebook page. I tagged everyone in the video and shared it to my personal Facebook page. I also shared it in the FinCon community since so many people from that community were in the video.
I spent $100 and boosted the video to friends of friends of the Money Lab page. This is not ideal targeting, but whatever. And I also spent $50 targeting entrepreneurs who like hip-hop music.
The post received 175 shares, 23 comments, 127 reactions, and the video was seen 15,000 times. Not to bad.
Album Sales on Launch Day
I didn’t expect to go “platinum,” but I’m just a little surprised by the amount sold. It’s lower than I thought it would be. I made $690 on the first day of the launch. Not bad, but not amazing for the amount of effort put into the project. However, it’s selling better than my last project: Asana For Bloggers.
I expect sales to continue to roll in. I’m putting a halt on offering the t-shirts on Thursday. I will be sending out an email reminding everyone that it’s the last day to get the t-shirt bundle. That should drive a few more sales.
The Final Recap
I’m happy with the feedback I got from this challenge. People were impressed by everything I accomplished in 30 days. They told me it was inspiring, which made me feel good.
I thought this challenge was going to be difficult, but to be honest, it wasn’t. I’ve been making music my entire life. It’s easy to me. Even though I planned for it to be hard, it wasn’t.
The hardest part was preparing for the launch. Getting the videos shot and edited and putting all the technical pieces together to sell it. Those were the hardest moments. And I was in deep.
In the beginning, I was relaxed. Even Steph was surprised. I think this had a lot to do with the timeline. I accomplished a lot in the first week without going insane.
I learned that I can go super deep. I get incredibly focused and it’s hard for me to come out. During the last week, I was putting in a lot of hours and I wasn’t able to take my mind off of work. I realize I can be this way, but this was the worst. I’ll be sure to keep my eye on that little part of myself for future challenges. I can’t neglect the people around me or my health.
How Much Money Did I Make?
Since making music is my hobby, and I plan on making more in the future, I’m not going to include the money I spent on equipment. That stuff would have been purchased anyway, and some of it was purchased long before the challenge.
So let’s break down the expenses:
- Loopmasters.com Sample Packs: $75
- Black backdrop for “The Boss” music video: $80
- Facebook Ads: $327.33
- T-Shirt Orders: $437.71
I also used other paid programs like Logic Pro X ($199) and Izotop Ozone 7 ($249) to create the music. Adobe Premiere and After Effects ($50/month) to edit the videos. And Google Drive ($10/month) to write the lyrics and video scripts and outlines. But I’m not including these expenses since I’ve been using these tools for other projects.
My total expenses for this challenge are $920.04
I’ve grossed $960. Gumroad will take its cut and leave me with $912.
If we subtract expenses, I lost $8.04.
What I Learned From This Challenge?
I didn’t accomplish what I was trying to prove. But, had I not spent money on Facebook ads, I would have. I don’t know if those ads lead to any sales, but I highly doubt it. I pretty much know everyone who bought an album or shirt bundle.
I did get sales and that’s what counts!
I’m not a active recording artist. I don’t play shows. I don’t have a music fanbase. I have a small group of people who are interested in my money-making challenges, but not my music. I believe that if you have an audience of fans ready to buy your music, you can make money this way and have full control of your income. Also, it could continue to sell and make up that difference. It’s a very small difference. Only one more sale and I made money.
I love making music. This challenge was a lot of fun and I’m proud of what I’ve done. This is one of those projects that will live with me forever. Yes, I made and sold a rap album in 30 days. And I had a lot of fun. It was hard towards the end, but if I only had to make the music, it would have been a breeze.
I go balls deep. Towards the end of the challenge I was so focused on finishing that I completely neglected everything else. I was a work zombie. Steph pointed this out to me and I apologized to her. I also neglected my health while simultaneously monitoring it.
My body is not a wonderland. I was injured during the process of making this album. I mildly injured my left big toe and got gout. Here’s how:
- I didn’t drink alcohol or enough water all month. This is not normal for me.
- I ate a high protein Paleo diet and lost about 10 pounds. Drastic weight loss and high protein can lead to high uric acid in your body.
- I didn’t exercise. But then I did a sudden burst of exercise making the music video, which wasn’t good either.
- I fasted. I only ate 2 meals a day, mainly to lose weight and to save time.
- Stress causes gout, too, but I didn’t really feel stress. But maybe my body did.
I found out that gout is a rich man’s disease. Mainly from not exercising and eating a diet of rich foods. Bottom line: I need to exercise during the challenges.
I want to thank everyone who helped make the album possible, but I want to thank Jason Zook for giving me the idea to do this project in the first place.
- Stephanie Halligan – Support and recorded a few vocal performances on “So Cynical” and “Begging For More.”
- Ryan Kopperud (a.k.a Homeless) – Rapped two verses on “So Cynical” and “Begging For More.”
- Bob Giovanisci – Recorded Tony Todd on “Freak Like Me” and “Begging For More.”
- Tony Todd – Sang the hooks on “Freak Like Me” and “Begging For More.”
- Brian Frank (a.k.a HighRise) – Rapped a verse on “Freak Like Me.”
- Daniel Halligan – Rapped a verse on “Do It Again” and play sax on “Freak Like Me.”
- Dani Ummel – Sang the hooks on “Do It Again” and “Not That Simple.”
- Jason Moore – Helped write lyrics for “Hashtag Hustle.”
- Conrad O’Connell – Helped come up with the theme for “Do It Again.”
I also want to thank everyone who submitted a video of themselves lip-syncing the lyrics for “The Boss” music video:
- Adam Carroll
- Aisha Sequeira
- Aja McClahanan
- Andy Dooley
- Caroline Winegeart
- Chase Reeves
- Crystal Stemberger
- Deacon Hayes
- Eric Rosenberg
- Eva Baker
- J. Deckert
- James K. Larson
- Jason Zook
- J.D. Roth
- John Lee Dumas
- Michelle Garcia
- Mike Vardy
- Miranda Marquit
- Monica Louie
- Nick Loper
- Paden Clayton
- Paul Nottoli
- Sarah Li Cain
- Scott Brandon Hoffman
- Stephanie Halligan
- Tess Wicks
- Thomas Frank
- Tom Drake
Finally, thanks to everyone who bought the album! Thank you for helping me try to prove it’s possible to make money with music.
You can buy the album here ?
I had comments for a while because it was a "best practice." However, fuck that! I prefer to have personal conversations via email or Twitter. So, let’s do that instead.