Aside from Beyonce, no other musical artist has received the same amount of excitement over an album release as Frank Ocean has this year. His album Blonde garnered so much buzz that fans are outraged at its lack of Grammy nominations. He nearly made $1.8 million in the album’s first week of release, and he has since had dinner at the White House.
Beyond the accolades, what can aspiring musicians learn from Ocean’s career on while on their own paths to success?
1. Drop a mixtape before your first major release.
Frank Ocean released his first project, Nostalgia, Ultra, for free before he released his first major label debut. More artists like ASAP Rocky and Danny Brown are releasing their music for free early in their careers to gain recognition from other labels. This album featured the singles “Novacane” and “Swim Good,” catching the ear of tastemakers like Jay-Z and Kanye West.
As hard as it is to put money and effort into an album and release it for free, it may save musicians in the end. Musicians are working harder to come to the fans first and then delivering consistent projects to loyal fans who will see them live and buy their music the next time around.
2. Make them wait.
Once an artist has the ears of the fans, it is up to the artist to decide when the fans hear what comes next. Fans were awaiting the next chapter of Ocean’s career, but he waited, partially because he knew he had them.
Hype can work in the favor of musicians if what they have to offer has substance. Sometimes creating something of substance takes time. A musician may want to release a decent album tomorrow, but it would be wiser to release a great one after a few years. It is important to have fewer projects with a greater emphasis on quality.
3. Be human.
Ocean’s music, as with many musicians, is heavily autobiographical. Blonde seemed to dig deeper into the experiences that he was living with on a day to day basis. Whether he is exorcising demons in the studio or making records that are off the cuff, Frank Ocean relates to a human element that music fans seek out.
Musicians that are also lyricists should take the risk of being willing to open up in front of their fans.
Through his calculated album releases and humble beginnings, Frank Ocean has skyrocket himself this year to a level that most musicians envy. He’s made a career off of making honest music that his fanbase relates to. He went from releasing albums for free to making millions off of his passionate lyrics, and he did it without compromising his vision.
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Will Randick is a blogger and educator working out of the Bay Area.