The ubiquitous Sean Falyon teaches his secrets to the rap D.I.Y. hustle
Other than "swag," it's possible that no word is more overused than "Grindin." It's been nearly a decade since the Clipse immortalized it in song and still, every rapper brags about his grind so much that you'd mistake them for baristas. But Philadelphia-raised and Atlanta-based rapper Sean Falyon has made it an art form, creating his "Sean Falyon Be Everywhere" campaign to illustrate his own ubuiquity.
Run into any rapper or rapper's manager and ask them about Falyon and they'll nod their head and say that Falyon really is everywhere. This past week he was in Los Angeles recording with producers for yet another mixtape. His most recent tape, last month's "SFBE2: West Philly 2 the World," found him working with underground stars Jackie Chain, Playboy Tre and Killa Kyleon.
Falyon's style is as sturdy as his build: burly baritone raps delivered nimbly over bass-heavy Southern beats. Think of him as a blue collar Rick Ross, offering booming inspiration raps about "chasing life" rather than chasing yachts. Other topics include welfare, the death of family members and the pursuit of happiness. It's thoughtful and heartfelt and befits his indefatiguable work ethic. Below the jump, Falyon offers Pop & Hiss an exclusive look at his strategies when working the rap hustle.
Sean Falyon’s guide to “Being Everywhere”
I'm frequently described as an "underground" or "local artist," but without any disrespect intended toward those types of artists, my aspirations and goals are to expand further. The path of the indie artist is one less traveled (or at least covered) and I’ve spent the better half of the last three years learning why. I came into music under a pretty well-known artist at the time and thinking that his name would certify my fame.
That artist sat me down one day and gave me the best advice I could have ever asked for. He told me to get out and “Make a name for yourself.” From that day forth, Sean Falyon has been a growing brand. Though I'm nowhere near where I hope to be career-wise, I have accomplished a lot for a self-managed and self-financed artist. With those accomplishments comes the question “How?”
Any marketer knows that for their product to sell it needs to “Be Everywhere.” I look at my brand as a product and I take the same approach as a marketer. Here are a few things I apply to myself every day to help further my career and brand.
1. Word of mouth works out. People love to communicate whether vocally or through Internet social networking. Learning this early, I realized that I needed to give them something to talk about. Being an artist, there are many things you bring to the table for someone to discuss. These things can range from talent, look, style, etc. The more people talk about these things, the more it carries into other circles. Some of these circles might be nowhere near your base, and that’s great. The more people talk, the more your brand becomes familiar and that allows others to chime in and carry on the word.
Always make sure that people can access information about you easily. It’s always good to have your own dot.com, Twitter, Facebook. All these things can showcase what you do to the people interested. Make everything easily visible, because people don’t want to have to work to find out about you. That’s not their job to search for you, it’s your job to make yourself visible.
Download (contains adult language): Sean Falyon - SFBE 2 Mixtape (Left-Click) (.ZIP)
2. Invest in yourself and take risks. If you seriously believe in yourself and your career, take a risk: Invest. A lot of us, like myself, don’t come from wealthy families and have a rich uncle around to support them. This doesn’t mean that all hope is lost -- take your money and put it to good use. Write down things you need to promote yourself in order of highest priority. After you write out this list, be realistic with yourself and figure out which is affordable and most effective. Once you decide that, go ahead and spend the money on it. This could be anything from stickers to fliers. These things are cheap and very effective marketing. Being that we’re in a visual age, you need to shoot visuals. Now everybody can’t afford a Canon 5D or 7D, but there are some film students that can. These students are looking to build their brand just like you. Reach out and make a connection, but make sure both parties are benefitting.
If you can’t afford to get in a studio, bring the studio to you. Sometimes, studios look out and let artists get in and work for free. Situations like that don’t happen all the time, so it’s better to be prepared. For $100 at Guitar Center, you can get yourself a microphone. For another $250, you can get an Mbox Mini that comes with Pro Tools. Once you’ve acquired these things, you can search for tutorials on YouTube all day and learn how to record yourself.
I know that some people who are reading this will think that it would sound horrible, and that might be true. But you can take the money you would’ve spent on studio time and spend it on your mixes if needed. Your job is to get the music to the people by any means.
3. Travel, travel, travel. A lot of people say to me, “Hey man, do you have a buddy pass? You travel everywhere.” I don’t have a buddy or companion pass. I plan strategically where I need to be and I get there. If I want to meet a promoter, I find out when they are throwing a show in advance and book a ticket early to get a good deal. This goes for meetings or anything where I have to pay for my own travel. If I have friends in the area, I reach out to see if I can crash with them for a small period of time. During that period of time, I try to line up as much as possible in the area. The list of things I line up ranges from press to shows and possible video shoots. Anything that will help keep my brand in rotation. Some people get popular in their town and forget that there’s 6 billion or more people on the planet Earth.
If you stay in your town all the time, “How will you be heard?” The Internet is a great tool, but people need to see you and know that you’re real. Sometimes I travel even If I don’t have shows in the area just to connect with the people and potential fans. You don’t have to do this but it has definitely helped to grow my network. If a plane flies there or a car can drive there, you can get there.
4. Be resourceful. Sometimes you just don’t have it and you can’t invest financially, so in turn, you have to be resourceful. I recently released a project and I kept hearing a record called “Chasing” brought up among fans and friends. The first thing I thought of was “Hey, I need to shoot a visual.” I reached out to a few friends and kept hitting a brick wall because I had no budget. I never let a "no" stop me any other time, so this time was no different. I have an HTC Inspire Android phone that has an 8.0 megapixel camera on it. On the phone there is an app store with tons of camera apps for free download. I downloaded one and played around with the settings until I found a look I liked and shot some footage.
With that footage, I loaded it onto a program I have and edited it into a visual I felt comfortable with. The end result was my video for “Chasing” that has been featured on XXL.com, Fader.com and many other sites. Maybe you’ve already been resourceful and you're just sitting on product waiting for it to be seen or heard. Well, the computer you are using to read this has access to Google. When I need to contact someone, I Google them if I don’t know them already.
In this day and age, everybody has an email, Facebook or Twitter [account], so search for them specifically. Once you gain the information, reach out to them. If you’ve ever worked at a call center, this would be considered cold calling. A lot of people are too proud to do this because they feel like it's being a pest. I didn’t say contact them thousands of times a day. You might only contact them once, but as long as you have, that’s a start.
You never know, word of mouth might have hit the person you are contacting and your name looks familiar in their inbox. Anything familiar will spark a person’s interest and possibly even get you a response to that message.
Download (contains adult language): Sean Falyon -- "Everywhere" [MP3]
5. Your network is your net-worth. This is a saying I’ve always liked. In a world full of opportunists -- yourself included -- be the opportunist that has everyone’s interest in mind. If you have a friend that has a relationship or contact, you need to make sure that what you're asking can benefit all parties. Don’t always have your hand out and never offer anything. The pay it forward attitude helps your network to grow and flourish. Always keep positive and innovative people in your network. This will always keep you on your toes and introduce you to things that might be great for you but not necessarily for them. I have friends that come across opportunities that are a great fit for me, but are of no use for them. When this happens, it gets passed down and when the same thing happens, I return the favor.
6. Never give up. Music is like my child. No one will show your child the same love and compassion that you will. A lot of artists get frustrated when a few people don’t see their vision. Those people don’t make up the majority of the world population and they don’t govern what's good and what's not. You have to keep pushing through it, no matter what. If this is your dream and goal, then what you think should be the deciding factor. We always have room for improvement, and constructive criticism should always be welcomed, but don’t let it stop your progression. If anything, it should help build you into a better person/artist.
-- Jeff Weiss
Photo: Sean Falyon. Credit: Diwang Valdez.