Saturday, January 31, 2009

Shaina's Latest Thoughts: Does Math Matter?

Shaina here, Nicole's mentee. My topic today is FINAL EXAMS!!!!! What a bummer. With math, like what does math do for you? Well, I'd love to know because with everything that's going on with our economy, WHO HIRED THOSE LOSERS!!!!!!!!!!!??? Anyway, back on the subject: why do we need math anyway, other than addition, subtraction, and division (rarely multiplication). Tell me, do you use math in your daily life? Because I think it's unnecessary and a waste of time, but that's my opinion. I'm just a 12-year old who gets A's in history! What do I know?

Friday, January 30, 2009

A New Music Model: What Every Artist Must Know

The invention of the mp3 and Napster (aka the digital revolution) has turned the music industry upside down, leaving music execs and artists scrambling to make dollars and sense of it all. This is the subject of Rolling Stone writer Steve Knopper's latest book Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age. "Gone are the days when you had no choice but to depend on Sony to discover you, get you onto the radio, and make you a mega-star," explains Knopper when I asked him a few questions about the current state of the business.

"The upside to this," Knopper notes, "is that an artist today can break more easily than ever before. A band's success,” he adds, “is only limited to how aggressive and creative they are at marketing their music." He offers websites, My space, and You tube as examples of ways of getting noticed.

But the clients I work with want to know, with CD sales on the rapid decline, how do you make money? "It's all about promoting yourself creatively and then selling something on the back end," notes Knopper. “You reel people in with free tracks, a mixtape or a live show, and then you sell your music.”

Knopper adds that acts can go to outlets like Tune core, where there’s a nominal fee to put any track on I tunes, Napster, Rhapsody, and other digital distribution outlets.

It's the concert model (which it was the way it used to be), says Knopper, that all artists must conform to, even Madonna. “Concerts are the only format not threatened by illegal downloading. "If you can get people into your shows, you can sell vinyl, CDs, and merchandise.”

Knopper is the eternal optimist, believing the sky's the limit for new acts. “There are more tools in an artist's toolbox than ever before. Perfect your live show. Play local shows and go out on the road and build a fan base slowly,” says the writer who, lest you think is an out of touch journalist, has his own band called The Propane Daisies and has had to play gigs in Denver for four people like everyone else.

He also adds that going beyond the usual My space, You tube viral campaigns by doing something that will grab people's attention. Finally, he suggests, look at an artist such as Secondhand Serenade, who has been extremely successful at marketing himself--and make that a blueprint for your band."

All of this, of course, begs the question: Will major labels become extinct? “There will always be major labels for the Beyonces of the world,” believes Knopper, “But maybe only one or two. I anticipate some day Apple merging with EMI. Now that's gonna be wild.”

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Fourth Annual PAID DUES FESTIVAL Announces Line-Up

Once again the hip-hop tour PAID DUES brings fans a solid line up of acts to this year's festival. 09's headliners include Murs, Atmosphere, Tech N9NE, Living Legends, The Grouch and Eligh, among others. This year's event will on Saturday March 28 at the NOS Events center in San Bernardino, CA.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Ballin PR featured in STASH magazine

Stash, a hip-hop magazine based in San Francisco, CA., featured none other than Ballin PR in a recent issue. Click here to read the entire article and to learn more about me (pictured with hip-hop duo Zion I) and the inner-workings of pr--what to know, how the media landscape is changing, and questions to ask a prospective publicist.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Atlantic Magazine Asks: Is it the End of White America?

This month's Atlantic magazine has a fascinating cover story on America's white identity crisis, where music journalist and social critic Hua Hsu poses the question: what will a post white America look like?

Hsu writes, "As a purely demographic matter, 'white America' may cease to exist in 2040, 2050, or 2060, or later still. But where he culture is concerned, it's already all but finished." Read this article.

Bay Area's Conscious Daughters Return with The Nutcracker Suite

These days, women MCs are almost non-existent in hip-hop. Enter the Conscious Daughters (remember the '93 track Fonky Expedition?) and their new album, The Nutcracker Suite. Hardcore street poet veterans with triple O.G. status in the game, the Daughters have proven themselves over time to be as cold as they come, fusing street knowledge with messages of empowerment from a distinctly female point of view that can only be described as refreshing in the middle of the testosterone-fest that hip-hop has become. All hail the Queens.

The Nutcracker Suite touches on it all - black-on-black crime, domestic violence, the trials of single motherhood, and the need for unity and sisterhood. It features production by Paris, Rick Rock, One Drop Scott and others, with guest appearances by Paris, Mystic, Marvaless, T-K.A.S.H. and more.

With female voices all but absent in today's hip-hop climate, the time has never been more right for strong women's voices to be heard. Guerrilla Funk will continue to keep pushin', releasing material of substance in the face of adversity, and hopefully rewarding those who seek more from their entertainment.

Hit me up at for more info on the Conscious Daughters and their new record.

Monday, January 19, 2009

My Biggie Painting by Pop Artist Howie Green

This cool painting that adorns my office is by artist Howie Green of Boston, MA. Green's art, while mainstream, has been featured in over 30 solo and group shows and he has painted more than 20 murals and public art projects. Howie has won over 40 awards for his work for International clients including Sun Life Financial, IBM, Hewlett Packard, Coca-Cola, CBS Television, LL Bean, PBS and others. Howie's portrait 'Madonna Smoking' is featured in the British art Book "Madonna in Art" by Mem Mehmet.

Green also recently painted a portrait of rap superstar Biggie Smalls for the cover of the tribute album "Unbelievable" along with artists Tupac, Outkast, and Eminem. To contact Howie Green: 617.308.6472 or

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Brooklyn Label Exec Talks Piracy

Since the issue of CD piracy has struck a cord with the readers of this blog, I talked to one other expert in the field, Director of Digital Marketing, Stephen Bolles, at Gold Dust Records (People Under the Stairs, Zion I, Large Pro, among others) in Brooklyn. Having been on both sides of the issue, as a writer and on the label end, Bolles explains there's no easy answer.

NB: What's your stand on the issue of sending full length promo CDs to press 3- 4 months ahead of time?

SB: There isn't a perfect median between the needs of both sides. Press lead times keep getting longer and longer, so in order to get material into issues when the record's still fresh, writers need to have access to the music months in advance. Obviously, it sucks to have to write about something you haven't heard in full (and this happens a lot, too) so a means for writers to hear the full album is a necessity. At the same time though, it's a GUARANTEE that the album is going to end up on the internet shortly after full CDs are circulated to the press. It's usually not even malicious, just people ripping the CD and putting it in a folder that they forget is shared on a file sharing service, or making a rapidshare link and sending to some folks and it ends up on a blog, or whatever. But it's an inevitability, and once something gets out online, the time and energy it takes to try to combat its spreading is usually more trouble than it does good. And I've seen firsthand, albums circulating online months before it's available to be purchased in any form really does hurt an album's sales, and even it's buzz.

NB: What has Gold Dust done to prevent illegal downloading with respect to promo CDs?

SB: What we've been doing is putting together CD promos for the press that feature five full-length tracks, and snippets (usually 30 seconds or so) of the remaining tracks. We then have a password protected streaming player that's available on request for people who would like to hear the whole thing, and a limited quantity of watermarked full length CDs (though these can be really expensive) whose content is traceable back to the original person to whom it was sent if it turns up online or wherever.

NB: Have you found it to be successful?

SB: For the most part this has been the most successful middle ground we've been able to come up with. People can get a good impression of the album, and if they want to hear more there are ways to. There are still a couple of problems though. Writers are flooded with so much music at all times that adding hoops for them to jump through (such as requesting a streaming player or a watermarked CD) in order to hear a full album can hurt your chances of coverage, especially with artists that don't have a long standing reputation or strong following. Also, streaming music (even at high fidelity) isn't really the best way to listen to music. Ideally people could have a chance to listen to music however they like (in their cars or on their IPODS or whatever) and this kind of takes that opportunity away. One other thing is that with high profile projects, even limiting the full tracks sent out to five can be problematic. Obviously you want people to hear the strongest tracks so they get excited about the record, but if all the potential singles get leaked on Nah Right or OnSmash or wherever before they're even available digitally, there's a lot less incentive for folks to check them out when they hit digital retailers, which is where the bulk of our singles business is these days. So it's not a perfect system. But it still beats annoying drops, and really, why would you want someone who is supposed to be listening critically to your output to have to sit through someone yelling "Album in-stores blahblahblah" every two minutes?

Monday, January 12, 2009

How to Protect Yourself from the Police

One of the most politically charged and sickest rap songs ever is called "Coffee, Donuts and Death," a track that the outspoken rapper Paris recorded nearly a decade ago on his second album Sleeping With the Enemy. Last weekend, Paris sent out a press release that included an overview how to protect yourself from unnecessary legal entanglements. Of course, Oscar Grant adhered to these principles, but it's still good info to pass on.

Keeping yourself safe and resisting the police state comes down to these simple principles:

1) Non-cooperation: If you talk with the police, you could unintentionally hurt yourself, your friends, or others.

2) Do not consent to searches: Never give law enforcement the okay to examine your pockets, car, backpack, or home.

3) Remain silent: Say nothing except "I'm going to remain silent, and I would like to see a lawyer."

4) Talk to a lawyer: Never take advice from the police, they may try to trick and mislead you.

5) Use trust and intuition: Work only with people with whom you have a history of trust. Without being paranoid, trust your intuition.

Rights During a Police Encounter. In a police encounter these rules will help protect your civil rights and improve your chances of driving or walking away safely. From here on out, we are talking about your legal "rights" guaranteed by law. Though in our view, what you can do and what you can do legally are two different things. All of these rights also apply to minors and non-citizens.

Keep Private Items Out of View .This is common sense: Always keep any private items that you don't want others to see out of sight. Legally speaking, police do not need a search warrant in order to confiscate any illegal items that are in plain view.

Stay Cool & Politely Assertive. Police are well armed and often unpredictable, so remaining cool and calm will keep you safe. Treat them with the caution you would treat a dangerous, wild animal. Be polite and yet assertive to ensure that your rights aren't trampled on. Some officers may come on heavy if you are not absolutely submissive, but standing up for your rights will keep you safe in the long run, in court when it really matters.

Determine If You Can Leave. You don't have to talk to the police. As soon as an officer approaches you, ask the officer, "Am I free to go?" If you get an answer other than a definitive "No," gather your stuff and leave without another word.

You have the right to end an encounter with a police officer unless you are being detained or arrested. Don't waste time trying to determine your status. Test if you are free to go, and then go. If you aren't free to go, the officer will make it perfectly clear.

Use the Magic Words. If you are detained or arrested, use the magic words:"I'm going to remain silent. I would like to see a lawyer."

Do Not Talk to Police. Wait to talk to a lawyer representing you. Even casual small talk can come back to haunt you. Anything you say can, and will, be used against you. Cops have numerous tricks to get you to talk. They can and do use fear, solitude, isolation, lies, advice, playing you against others, and even kindness to get you to cooperate. Don't be fooled. If you need to say anything, repeat the magic words.

Keep in mind the credo: If no one talks, everyone walks. Regardless of what you are told by an investigating officer, you have nothing to gain by talking to the police...and everything to lose.

Refuse to Consent to Searches. Officers seeking evidence will often try to get you to allow them to search your belongings, your car, or your home. Refuse to consent to a search, with the phrase: "I do not consent to a search." Usually, a search request will come in the form of an ambiguous statement, such as, "I'm going to ask you to empty your pockets." Answer such requests unambiguously. Repeat as many times as necessary.

You are under no obligation to allow a search. The only reason an officer asks your permission is because he doesn't have enough evidence to search without your consent.

Police officers are not required to inform you of your rights before asking you to consent to a search. If the officer searches you in spite of your objection, do not resist. Your attorney can argue that any evidence found during the search was discovered through an illegal search and should be thrown out of court.

Do Not Try to Bargain. Police officers will often tell you that your cooperation will make things easier for you, and many people hope to be let off easy if they are honest and direct with the police. The only thing it makes easier is the officer's job. Do not let the threat of arrest scare you into admitting guilt. Better to spend a night in jail, than years in prison. Ask to speak with a lawyer, and remain silent.

Where to Go For More Help. If you feel your rights are being violated, hold tight until you can talk to a lawyer. If you don't have your own lawyer the court will appoint the public defender to defend you. For more information about your rights, law education, and what to do if your rights were violated, check out:

Midnight Special Law Collective 510-261-4843
ACLU of Northern California 415-621-2493
National Lawyers Guild 415-285-5067

Sunday, January 11, 2009

6 Things a New Artist Can Do To Be Heard According Money Maker's Gustavo Guerra

Gustavo Guerra, CEO of Money Maker Records in NYC, also known as mixtape DJ Phantom, has been in the business in numerous capacities for close to seven years. Known for his keen ear for undiscovered talent, Guerra started out as a street team promoter for Def Jam and moved on to an A&R at Cleopatra Records and consultant to Sony/Red. What's more, Guerra has helped the careers of rappers such as Saigon, Tragedy Khadafi, Immortal Technique, among others.

Guerra, who is readying his label's first 2009 release, Terminal Illness, by Knottingham producer Endemic, says cats who don't even have a record out yet can start to get exposure on their own.

1. Exploit the Internet: You don't need a high-priced pr person or marketing team to get initial exposure on the web. Get your tracks to sites like and Make and post a video on youtube. We live in a different world today, use these platforms to your advantage.

2. If you feel like you have a hit, copyright it with the Chamber of Congress. The poor man's copyright (sending a copy to yourself in the mail) won't hold up in a court of law.

3. Always have your music on you, whether it be on a CD, an I POD, or a computer. You never know when you're going to meet someone with signing power. You could be on the street, on a train, anywhere. Be prepared.

4. Make a dope mixtape to give out to people. This is one of the best promotional tools an artist has today.

5. Don't rush. Make sure your sound is developed, your artwork is tight, and you take all the needed time to have your project polished. There's nothing worse than to have a talented artist rush to put out something that sounds or looks medoicre or unfinished.

6. Finally, start assembling your team early. Find good graphic designers, start doing research on pr people, talk to potential managers. The playing field is much more level today. You can start building those relationships early so you're ready when the times comes to release your album. Bottom line, be your own hustler.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Why I Need A Hamster Today: By Shaina S.

Hi my name is SHAINA and if NICOLE hasn't told you all about me, I'm her 12 year-old mentee and i'm going to be blogging once in a while on Nicole's website so hope you enjoy this one, as it's my first time.
Today is Saturday January 10 and I've been with Nicole. When I go home, though, it's just my sisters and me and I get bored with them so I need a companion. I can't get a dog and I don't want a fish or reptile so I want a hamster. What's so wrong about having a hamster unless your allergic or something? They're so cute and fluffy and you can play with them all the time. If I do get a hamster I'll name him Biggie Smalls (and call him Biggie for short) and I'm very responsible. If I weren't, how do you think Nicole still manages to write this blog with her trustee companion SHAINA? Back on the subject: I love animals and I'll take really good care of it, DON'T YOU THINK NICOLE SHOULD GET ME A HAMSTER? I do. Well thanks for reading my totally cool reasons to get a HAMSTER. Although I have Chilly and Slim here, technically they're Nicole's animals I only see them occasionally.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Tips from Booking Agent Tim House

One of the most common questions I get from new artists is: how do I get a booking agent? It's one of the pieces of the marketing puzzle that, to this day, mystifies me. You have to have a buzz to book a show, but you need a show to create a buzz. Tim House, founder of Damage Control Concepts of Oakland CA, who has booked artists from Zion I and The Grouch to Crown City Rockers and Mr. Fab, is one of the best in the business and offers his advice.

"It's tricky," admits House, "but first and foremost, artists must realize that they have to be in demand. They should be putting out records and doing everything they can to promote themselves in their local city." When you're pitching yourself to promoters, he adds, make sure your show is different. "The market is saturated, so promoters want to see something fresh. "If you can bring a key board, a beat boxer, something that makes you stand out, it makes you more interesting." Lastly, he says, if you do book a show, make sure your sh*t is tight! Be professional, and rock it, so promoters want to work with you again."

Unarmed Man Shot In Oakland Bart Station: Family Files $25M lawsuit

Oscar Grant, 22, was killed January 1 in a shooting at a subway station in California's Bay Area. Bay Area Rapid Transit spokesman Linton Johnson told CNN affiliate KTVU-TV in Oakland, California, that the officer is presumed innocent and described him as devastated.

Attorney John Burris called the shooting "unconscionable" and said he filed a $25 million claim with BART on Tuesday, alleging wrongful death and violation of civil rights by use of excessive force. BART has 45 days to respond, Burris said.

"It's a clear shooting in the back that should not have taken place," Burris said, characterizing the incident as a case of "overagressiveness by police."

KTVU obtained at least two videos of the incident and its prelude. One video, which KTVU reported came from a train passenger who wished not to be identified, shows three young men against a wall in the crowded Fruitvale station.

Karina Vargas, who also provided a video to KTVU, said the men had been pulled from the train car in front of hers.
Burris said Tuesday that the young men had been celebrating the new year at a popular waterfront tourist spot, The Embarcadero. They were heading home when police pulled them from the train car.

Grant holds up his hands, appearing to plead with police. Burris said Tuesday that Grant was asking police not to use a Taser.

"He said to them, 'Don't Tase me; I have a 4-year-old daughter,' " Burris said. The interaction on the video is not audible. Seconds later, police put Grant face-down on the ground. Grant appears to struggle. One of the officers kneels on Grant as another officer stands up, tugs at his gun, unholsters it and fires a shot into Grant's back.

Grant, who has a 4-year-old daughter, died seven hours later, KTVU reported.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Deuce Eclipse, Known Mostly as Zion I Crew Member, Has Projects of His Own

Part 2 on CD Piracy: More with Adam Bernard of Beyond Race magazine

NB: What would you say to an artist who has had their albums leaked before they are released by journalists in the past?
AB: I’d say that it’s horrible that they had to experience such a lack of professionalism. It’s a sad fact of life that not everyone is equipped with a strong set of morals, but that’s something we have to deal with in every aspect of life. Just because one writer screwed you over, though, don’t take it out on the next one by blowing off your interview days. Remember, it’s not all about the quick sale, it’s about developing a fan base that will support you over the next ten to twenty years that will ensure your livelihood. If you stay professional you will have a much better chance at making that happen.

Artists and publicists need to remember that it’s not just the content of the album that matters, but how that content is being listened to. I interviewed Dru Ha, founder of Duck Down Enterprises, a few years ago and when the subject of how he likes to listen to demos came up he noted:

“…you're in your office, that's your work environment, that's never when I listen to music. A producer will come in and say they want to have a meeting with me and I'm like you want to have a meeting with me for what? The last thing I want to do is sit in front of my computer in the middle of a business day, of business hours, and listen to your beats, because that's not how I would listen to your beats. How I would listen to your beats is after a couple of drinks, laying back, or being in my car, or going somewhere, or being relaxed, and that's also difficult to even have a work environment and try to get into music. You listen to most of your music in your free time as a consumer, as a fan, so that's really what we are, we have to be fans first and I get stressed out during the day so I don't really maybe have time to give something my full attention.”

RapReviews 7/06 -

Are you an artist? publicist? manager? writer? valued reader of this blog? Please leave you comments on this issue!!!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Kurupt Readies News Album and Other News...

According to, West Coast rapper Kurupt is getting ready to release his own February 09 solo album, Street Lights.
In addition, Long-Beach based rapper also founded Penagon, a new imprint to be distributed through Fontana/Universal. The newly founded label will be operated jointly by Kurupt and his Atlanta-based management firm Lakeshow Management.

Yesterday reported that Dr. Dre's son, Andre Young Jr., died from an overdose of heroin and morphine, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner. Awlful news

Friday, January 2, 2009

Are Writers Stealing Your Tunes? Maybe, But Read Why You Can't Afford to NOT Send Your CD to the Press

So you want to send your new album to press 3-4 months ahead of time, but you're sick of your tracks being leaked onto the Internet before it's even released. What's an artist to do? Without question, this is the most contested issue regarding the promotion of a record today.

As a publicist, my hands are tied: no journalist worth their salt will review a record without hearing the entire record and, at the same time, I've witnessed too many artists have their art brazenly stolen. In the end, I believe it's far riskier to withhold the music (and thereby forgo press) than it is to send CDs out, get ink, but get it leaked too. I spoke to journalist Adam Bernard, Urban Culture Editor at Beyond Race magazine and freelance writer, who had his own take on promotional CDs.

NB: What would you say to an artist who doesn't want to send out promos to press?
AB: If an artist doesn’t want to send out promos to press then they should be prepared to not get any press. It’s as simple as that. No one is going to write about a restaurant without tasting their food and no one is going to write about an artist without hearing their work.

NB: What is your advice to getting around the downloading situation?
AB: Sadly, there really is no getting around the downloading situation other than by knowing the writers you’re working with. What artists should realize, though, is that CD sales only make up a very small portion of their potential earnings. Touring and merchandising have always been the true staples of an artist’s livelihood. Obviously all of this is affected if we start talking about the 360 deals some labels are trying to sign artists to, but that’s another discussion for another time. So while it’s terrible that people are uploading music, and yes, it’s probably costing artists a few dollars, it isn’t necessarily the end of the world. An optimist might even go as far as saying that some of those downloaders could end up concert goers, which would more than make up for the small loss in CD sales.

NB: How do you feel about watermarked-drops on promos?
AB: Most of the time I won’t listen to a CD if it has anti-piracy drops on it. There have been a select few instances when the drops were only one or two per song, and they weren’t that intrusive, that I’ve let it slide, but they REALLY take away from the listening experience. Anti-piracy drops are bad all around, even for the artist. Honestly, if you’re an artist do you really want a drop filled CD to be the representation of your work that gets reviewed by the press? There’s also the possibility that after so many drops the writer’s disposition changes while listening to the album and that can greatly affect a review.

NB: What about streaming links?
AB: I’ve reviewed a few albums this way, usually because it’s been the ONLY way to get a listen to an album that we NEED for the issue, but I’m not a fan of streaming links. Yes, they get to people quicker and there’s no chance of piracy, but on the same token as not wanting to have an album filled with anti-piracy drops be the reviewable representation of one’s work, does an artist, when he or she really thinks about it, want their work to be reviewed based on how it sounds coming out of a set of laptop speakers? Not surprisingly, a lot of writers use laptops, and laptop speakers don’t exactly provide the kind of sound quality a regular stereo, or even a car stereo would provide.