At some point, we’ve all had aspirations of being in the music industry. Similar to the sports industry, it’s partially due to talent, and has a lot to do with being in the right place at the right time. Many amazing artists are undiscovered. Fortunately, this was not the case for Cam James.
Cam James is an Atlanta-based rapper that's relatively new to the industry. Recently, one of his songs “Tell Me”, was featured on an episode of "Being Mary Jane". The BET show stars Gabrielle Union, and has been extremely popular. I caught up with Cam to discuss his journey to success and to glean words of wisdom for young artists.
Me: What was the process to get your song played on Being Mary Jane?
Cam: I was in the Hartsfield-Jackson airport here in Atlanta, returning from my first appearance at SXSW Festival in Austin, TX. While I was walking into the MARTA station I got an email from the music supervisors responsible for placing songs on several TV shows: Insecure and Being Mary Jane among them. They originally needed me to perform one of my songs live on a CW network pilot, but the producers went another direction. After that I sent my entire upcoming album, leviTAPE, and they liked 5 songs for placement. Long story short, a few months passed and I finally landed on Being Mary Jane with my latest album's most explosive track, "Tell Me".
Me: What type of response have you received after the show aired?
Cam: It has been surreal. The show broadcasts internationally, so the amount of times people have looked up the song and my profiles via Shazam alone has been unprecedented. I'd say the biggest benefit I've seen from it (besides the money) was that my friends and acquaintances can see that I’m in the music game for real. When you consider I hadn't promoted the album and hadn't released a single from it, they presented me with the best marketing opportunity I could ask for. And now the album's out on preorder lol (shameless plug)
Me: Many artists are having difficulty transitioning from music as a hobby to music as a career. How did you make this transition? What advice do you have for young artists?
Cam: My main piece of advice is to find what defines you as an artist, then hammer that message home in everything you build. Focusing on that one thing makes it easier to construct a fan base. For me, telling stories about relationships and love is my sweet spot, and it's a story that will be relevant for the rest of my life.
I'm also a professional songwriter, creating custom songs for clients all over the world. I tapped into this because I realized that there's a need that other people aren't quite filling at a level of quality I can provide. From that, I've learned that you have to think outside the box. Consider everything you do well and determine what would make another person willing to pay for it. It has to go outside of your friends: they will never make you what you want to be, strangers will.
Me: With so many music artists in the industry, how do you stand out?
Cam: While there's literally hundreds of artists in Atlanta alone with the ability to rap in an appealing way, only a certain amount have consistent and reliable access to all the equipment and resources necessary to make high-quality music. Out of that pool of artists, only a smaller number have figured out what they're best at within the realm of lyricism and songwriting, and have the marketing savvy to hammer that message home across all mediums.
I have a marketing degree and a day job that supports me enough to purchase all the equipment I need to make music. I also have a writing background that started with poetry and spoken word. Combining the talents you have with the resources you can get access to, then using the combo to show people what makes you different is the only way to stand out. Every major artist has a brand, a word or phrase or image that allows you to automatically associate them with something universal. Find that, then build on it.
Me: What aspects of the music business are unique in comparison to others?
Cam: One thing that's different in the music business is the amount of things you'll have to do yourself. Only rely on others when you absolutely have to, and even then you need a backup plan. I bought all of this expensive stuff because I got tired of hiring people (and I don't like recording studios). My entire album was recorded in my room; it took 2 years to do it. That being said...I'm happy with it and my fans appreciate it that much more. You are a walking brand, and everything you do online or in person has to reflect that.
If I can leave you with anything: never sacrifice who you are and what you believe in for the popularity you think you want.
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