Summer Entrepreneurial Experiences

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Week 9: Rap Genius / Stereo IQ

Friday, July 27, 2012 3:28 pm

I remember the first week of this internship like it was yesterday – it’s hard to believe that it’s over now. In hindsight my favorite aspect of the internship experience was getting to work with three different brands at vastly different stages of the business cycle. Rap Genius was already established and had a following, Stereo IQ was relatively new and beginning to really take off, and I’ve seen Country Brain start from scratch. This stipend opportunity helped me travel to the Rap Genius headquarters in California, a trip that has easily been the highlight of my summer. Before this internship, I was putting heavy thought into the idea of a career in the music industry, but I was by no means sure of that. This experience has certainly helped shape those views, as I took away a lot of inspiration and am currently looking to pursue to career out in the greater LA area next year.

Although the summer internship is over, I believe many of the lessons learned will help me as I continue my involvement as a Rap Genius editor. Especially since the later half of the internship was focused on Stereo IQ and Country Brain, it’ll be nice returning to the genre that I consider “home”. I’m also really looking forward to my new position as PR & Social Media Strategist for Country Brain. Though unpaid, this position will give me an opportunity to shine and prove my value within the company while also building a social media portfolio for jobs next year. It’ll give me the chance to take the skills I’ve learned this summer and apply them throughout the school year.

It has been a wonderful journey throughout this internship and I’m grateful to have worked within a field I’m passionate about.

 

Dalton

Week 7 & 8: Rap Genius / StereoIQ (CALI STYLE!)

Friday, July 20, 2012 7:50 pm

So it’s been a couple of weeks since my last post – that’s because I’ve been all over California traveling. For five days I had the opportunity to represent Wake Forest and my Theta Chi chapter at the Theta Chi national convention held in Palm Springs. From Palm Springs, I rented a car and drove 2.5 hours to Hermosa Beach (where my older brother lives) which is just a drive up the coast to the Rap Genius headquarters in the beautiful Malibu, California. I spent a total of one week in the greater LA area and the experience really solidified my wanting to move out there upon graduation.

Because I spend the majority of my work days in front of a computer and communicating digitally, it was great getting to meet some of the Rap Genius/Stereo IQ team in person. Meeting Mahbod (site co-founder and my boss) was interesting, because I felt as if I had already gotten to know him through all of our phone conversations and email exchanges we’ve had. I also got to meet Tomi Fisher (Stereo IQ co-founder) in person who I had already been familiar with from previous StereoIQ projects I’ve worked on. Present at the headquarters for a period I was also there was Jay Dixon, who works A&R for the Board of Administration – a company/record label founded by DC rapper Wale. This was a valuable networking opportunity for me since A&R is a route I’ve considered going in terms of profession. We discussed everything from questions I had regarding the industry to our local (DC) rap scene.

The headquarters provide a great environment for people to collaborate and work together. In the work room, there are two Mac computer stations set up that display Rap Genius’ Chartbeat at all times. Chartbeat is a third party website analytics service/software that we use (think Google Analytics but with more emphasis on social media). There is also a giant table that everyone sets up their laptops around. This reminded me of an office set up that I had seen in a documentary about Google. By not working in traditional cubicles, people are able to brainstorm, bounce ideas back and forth, and have constructive debates – all leading to new ideas and innovation. I have a photo of the set-up I was planning on sharing except my iPod (where the photos are) is having trouble syncing to my computer. My experience and time spent at HQ has made me really appreciate the company culture. It was evident that everybody there is both passionate and knowledgeable about the music industry and I’m glad to be affiliated with such a team.

While I was at Rap Genius HQ, I spoke to Mahbod about something that had been on the back of my mind the week prior to visiting California: where does country music fit into the Rap Genius family expansion? I had been wondering if country was going to have it’s own website or if it’d be a part of the StereoIQ umbrella. Turns out country is definitely a part of the expansion plans, as a facebook page has already been created for Country Brain. Showing interest and wanting to take initiative, Mahbod assigned me to the task of leading Country Brain’s social media PR efforts which lead me to my work in week 8

Since returning home to VA, my efforts have been strictly based on Country Brain. This is a project that I feel is very exciting yet daunting at the same time since we’re essentially starting from scratch. Rap Genius has 152,000+ facebook fans, StereoIQ has 3,100+ fans, and Country Brain had…44 fans. One aspect of this internship that I really like is that it has allowed me to see brands under the Rap Genius umbrella in distinct phases. Sure StereoIQ was relatively new compared to Rap Genius when I got started, but it was by no means near ground zero. Country Brain is forcing me to leave me comfort zone (way more so than when I had to venture into indie rock) but I feel that it is a rewarding experience – especially given the prevalence of the genre back in North Carolina. In addition to PR + social media work, there’s a lot to be done with content curation. Entertaining and/or relevant content music be produced before it is shared/distributed through social media. Thus, I’ve been eating, breathing, and listening to country music like never before. By the end of this internship, I feel like I’ll be a well-rounded music guru.

If there’s anything I could do to support your internships, let me know. I would certainly be VERY grateful if you gave Country Brain a “like” on facebook.

http://www.facebook.com/CountryBrain

Happy Friday,

Dalton

Week 6: Rap Genius / Stereo IQ

Friday, June 29, 2012 8:27 pm

This past Tuesday marked the release date of the album Self Made Vol. 2 by Maybach Music Group – the album which most of my work focused on the first half of this week. I continued to prepare email reports for the site co-founder regarding people with whom we could reach out to form partnerships with for this new album release as well as future endeavors. One of the people we recieved positive responses from was the person who runs the official online fan website and twitter page for rapper Wale (who is a member of Maybach Music). He seemed really enthusiastic about working with Rap Genius on a future project. It makes me happy to have been a part of the process of putting him in touch with my boss and site co-founder, Mahbod. This experience has also broadened my scope of what goes on behind the scenes of the music industry in terms of what goes into an artist or an album. It’s easy to buy into the illusion that it’s simply an artist and a microphone when in reality there’s so many factors that come into play for music artists: managers, publicists, marketing teams, A&R reps, record labels (and all of the people that brings into the picture), and the list goes on.

Halfway through the week I received an email from my boss regarding Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album – a project I had been working on early on in the internship. Turns out some of the lyrics explanations that were posted were not to his expected satisfactory level – as some were noted as boring or unresearched. This was critical because in the email it was mentioned that an investor was looking into Stereo IQ and had pulled up that album in particular to check out the website. I spent the next two days refining the work that had been published for that album to which I had received an email from my boss stating the renovations were “brilliant!” and that I was “getting the hang of things”. I’m glad that I’m on the right track with my work and that I was able to effectively communicate with my boss to correct my mistakes. I’m glad to be working for a company where my output actually has an effect on the business. It’s great to see the continued growth of the company as well, since “investors” has positive implications.

In terms of social media growth for the Stereo IQ brand, we’ve gained 23 Facebook “likes” and 23 more twitter followers. This puts our total at 2,816 facebook “likes” and 971 folllowers. Next week will hopefully mark the passing of the 1,000 follower benchmark.

I realized upon reading my previous blog posts that I never did a great job of explaining what exactly the company is. If you’re curious about the website and how it was founded – check out this article from the latest issue of Yale Alumni Magazine (Rap Genius made the cover) -http://www.yalealumnimagazine.com/issues/2012_05/feature_rap.html

Happy Friday,

Dalton

Week 5: Rap Genius / Stereo IQ

Friday, June 22, 2012 6:29 pm

This week has consisted of wrapping up my social media PR work on the Justin Bieber/Fiona Apple albums on Stereo IQ and transitioning into a PR effort for an upcoming hip hop album release on the Rap Genius side of the spectrum. To recap what’s been stated in previous blog posts, whenever somebody on our team has access to an album before its actual release date, it is critical in our line of work that we have those lyrics posted up before our competitors so that we can start attracting web traffic hits to win the Google SEO (Search Engine Optimzation) wars against our competitors. A major upcoming release for the rap industry isby Maybach Music Group (led by rapper Rick Ross) and the title of the album is Self Made Vol 2. The album is scheduled to be released on June 26th, but the team here has had our copy as of 2 days ago. Immediately a discussion on the Rap Genius editors facebook group was established to make sure we had an editor responsible for transcribing each of the songs and its respective lyrics. Once our bases were covered in terms of making sure the lyrics were uploaded/accurate/explained, I was in contact with my boss over my responsibilities for this latest project. I’m using similar social media marketing tactics that were used for the last two albums, however we’re taking a slightly different approach with this one.

For one, the PR networking on twitter for this album is being done through my personal/quasi-professional twitter. The previous project was done executed through the Stereo IQ twitter account, however I don’t have security clearance [yet] for the Rap Genius account (after all, I am just an intern). My profile on twitter establishes that I’m an intern and editor for Rap Genius & Stereo IQ so this is actually turning into a good PR opportunity for my personal brand as somebody seeking employment in the industry.

Another key difference in this project is that it’s much easier to reach out to higher profile figures in the industry/blogosphere because I don’t have to sort through as much “filler” (i.e. millions of annoying Justin Bieber fans) when trying to identify trending topics and people regarding the album release on twitter. One of my roles with this project is to identify people with whom Rap Genius can work with to maximize our PR efforts of our coverage of the album on the web/blogosphere. I’ve been compiling a list of people and websites with brief profiles and sending them to my boss. From there, he will reach out to them as well personally to try and establish relations. This internship has definitely given me an up front lesson on the changing times. It’s amazing what I’ve seen so far be accomplished – ALL on relationships established through social media – not phone calls or emails.

In terms of social media growth for Stereo IQ – we gained 28 facebook likes (our biggest weekly gain since May 25th) and 41 twitter followers. This puts our total at: 2,746 facebook fans and 948 twitter followers. I think it’s interesting how there’s two sort of marketing schemes occuring simultaneously with the growth of the company. On one hand, we cater to “macro” groups, i.e. sending social media updates catered to either one of the three core Stereo IQ target markets: classic rock, contemporary rock/pop, and the indie scene. Meanwhile, we’ve launched these “micro” PR campaigns catered to specific albums. The synergy has seemed to bring us a steady stream of new followers each week and we hope to break the 1,000 follower mark on twitter next week – a stepping stone for any launching business.

#HappyFriday

Dalton

Week 4: Stereo IQ / Rap Genius

Friday, June 15, 2012 6:52 pm

This week has been very focused in terms of what the mission has been. There are two upcoming major label album releases set for June 19th that we’ve been targeting REAL heavy to promote the Stereo IQ pages for in order to win the SEO war against our competitors. Whenever we have access to an album (and subsequently the lyrics) before the release date, it is always crucial that we upload/explain the lyrics as soon as possible because having our pages rack up google search hits before our competitors even have a lyrics page up is huge in terms of winning these SEO wars and becoming the ultimate lyrics and music social media site on the internet. The two albums that we’ve been working on are Fiona Apple’s The Idler Wheel… and Justin Bieber’s Believe. Fiona Apple was a key target because it is her first album release in 7 years, so our goal is to draw both her old fans as well as the new more social-media savy followers that come along with this new album release. Justin Bieber is a teenage pop sensation who has a MASSIVE following (22 million followers, rather “beliebers” on twitter)

Given that a large component of this job deals with social media, I had been under the impression that I was fluent/proficient in twitter…turns out there was a lot more to twitter than I had known it was capable of. My boss gave me the specific task of getting 10 music blogs to blog about (and include our links to) the new Fiona Apple album. After a couple of days of writing cold call emails to blogs – I was able to get positive responses from two of them. One of the websites who agreed to form a partnership with StereoIQ is called Obscure Sound. They are a pretty established blog for the indie rock scene, so I was very happy when they receptive towards my email. It was great to be told by my boss that I’m a “good salesman”. My boss gave me a guerilla marketing tutorial on twitter which has made my blog networking for the two albums infinitely times more efficient and also gave me a new found appreciation for twitter and the genius within it.

This past week Stereo IQ gained 18 “likes” on facebook and 85 followers on twitter, putting our totals at 2,718 and 907 respectively. The twitter following pick up this week has been the largest I’ve had in my time as in intern so far. The lessons Mahbod gave me were certainly helpful and I believe we’ll see continued growth rates. When we were discussing the Justin Bieber assignment -sure there initial elements of cheesy-ness, however it seems to be a great business move so far. It’s essentially risk and reward. Our lyrics competitors are already going to have massive search traffic hits from previous Bieber releases and he is a world-wide pop sensation so you know the whole web has been searching for him. Although it’s a tough uphill battle, the SEO war for Biebers album will be immensely rewarding if we prevail because that will give our website exposure to MILLIONS of new people which will serve as excellent PR.

A project I spearheaded this week is the official Rap Genius DJ Network. I’m creating a network of college radio DJs and local radio DJs across the country who share an affiliation with Rap Genius & Stereo IQ. I addressed the Rap Genius community via the forum and gave them these three points that came to mind when I was thinking about creating this network:

“1) College and local radio stations get A LOT more freedom in terms of the content they play. They’re not always under the constant watch of the FCC nor do they have pressure from the major labels (or any other major third parties) to play certain singles or hit songs. By establishing our own DJ network and posting up everyone’s station link & time/day, we’ll be giving the community here an opportunity to listen to the music theywant to hear. This DJ network would give people out there an option to listen to quality radio and open up their tastes (especially those out there asking about song/album recommendations)

2) This DJ network will further strengthen our stance with the promoters we speak to. When a station is talking to an artist’s promoter or staff, the DJ is now not only linked into a network of the DJs just at his local station, but also to a network of DJs across the US (and world?) through Rap Genius. This will definitely make the DJ the go-to guy for an artist’s promotional material.

3) As Rap Genius continues to grow, it can be the launching point for many of its users’ careers in music…An editors career in journalism, a rappers career in recording (shoutout Psyonik), andnow it can give exposure to all the awesome DJ talent we have within the community and be the launching point in one of their careers.”

 

So far this project has been well received by the community and there are currently three college radio disk jockey that we have who are on board with it. This is one of my creative innovations that I hope will leave a mark on Rap Genius.

Happy Friday,

Dalton.

Week 3: StereoIQ / Rap Genius

Friday, June 8, 2012 3:09 pm

This past week at Stereo IQ has been slightly different than the previous two in that I have ventured outside the comfort zone in terms of where my music expertise/skills lie in order to pursue a new market for the website. A specific task was given from the boss (Mahbod) to SIQ co-founder (Tomi), another intern (Sahand), and I to decipher the lyrics and give the Stereo IQ touch for a list of indie rock bands and songs. The specific list of artists and songs was derived from a new website (DogStarRadio) that tracks, logs, and displays all the songs that are played on any Sirius XM radio playlist based on certain search criteria. Our list of artists and songs is from an indie rock station and we’ve got the list of the tracks that were played within a specific three hour “prime time” block of the show.

Previously in my job, there was focus on generating content to appeal to classic rock fans as well as contemporary rock/pop. Why shift to indie rock you may ask? Search Engine Optimization (SEO). One of the difficulties in trying to establish the world’s premiere and dominant lyrics site is that you have to compete on Google searches with other competitors already established in the market – AZ Lyrics, MetroLyrics, SongMeanings.net, etc. An important factor in winning SEO wars against competing sites is being the first site that people click the link for from Google searches. By giving prominent indie rock songs and artists the Stereo IQ touch, we’re among the first websites to host lyrics for these songs, establishing a good SEO record for these artists early on – all in a market that our competitors aren’t strong in. Good SEO statistics lead to more website exposure, which down the line leads to more followers and revenue opportunities.

Regarding other projects I’ve been working on, I came to the realization that the regression analysis I started is too big of a task to conduct on my own if I hope to produce a video out of it in the next six weeks – so I reached out to the Rap Genius editor community and am in the midst of gaining an assistant for the project. I’m also currently scheduling lunch for early next week with an old buddy whose photography/film business is taking off. If all goes well, we’ll be able to work out some Stereo IQ / MCZ Films collaborative efforts which will lead to good social media exposure for both parties, not to mention entertaining content.

Week 2: StereoIQ / Rap Genius

Friday, June 1, 2012 5:43 pm

This biggest focus of this week for my internship was to generate content for StereoIQ in order to attract new supporters as well as continue the massive PR efforts via social media. My internship boss and site co-founder established am email thread of communication between the StereoIQ team as well as some of the site’s top editors so that we could all be on the same page about our goals and the quality of the published content. In order to streamline the communication between everybody regarding albums or artists whose lyrics needed to be uploaded and explained, I created a google doc which was well received by everyone. Through our communication with Mahbod (site co-founder), we were able to identify the two markets in which we’re trying to nail down in our PR social media efforts: fans of classic rock (broad age group, predominately male) as well as contemporary rock/pop fans (ages 18-25, both sexes). Through coordination with other members of the members, I’ve taken responsibility for a lot of the classic rock sector. In doing so, I’ve busy been generating content for artists such as AC/DC, Boston, and the Beach Boys. If we can appeal to fans of specific bands or artists, then their connection to the brand will draw them to our website over our “competitors” such as Metrolyrics.com or SongMeanings.net.

Whenever I transcribe whole albums (which has been a large part of targeting the classic rock audience), I am in email contact with one of StereoIQ’s co-founders, Tomi, who then publishes it to the website’s tumblr page for further social media exposure in addition to Facebook and Twitter. It is one our goals to generate buzz in the blogosphere, so it is meaningful when the content there gets re-blogged by others. Regarding Facebook and Twitter – since last week Stereo IQ has gained 138 fans and 62 followers, putting us at a total of 2, 685 Facebook fans and 782 Twitter followers.

Have a nice weekend,

Dalton

Week 1: Rap Genius / StereoIQ

Friday, May 25, 2012 3:17 pm

Monday marked the first day of my internship for Rap Genius & StereoIQ. I’ve hit the ground running with a number of projects so time management and multi-tasking are two skills that I’ve acquired at Wake that I feel are really going to be put to the test in the next few weeks.

One of the charactertics of my internship that I appreciate is that my time is split between the two brands which are in two distinct phases of their development. On the Rap Genius side of the spectrum, my line of work involves research and content curation. I’ve started a quantitative research project that will eventually lead to an equation to predict the amount of album sales or mixtape downloads a hip-hop artist receives based on a variety of variables. In order to accomplish this, I’m using the IBM SPSS Statistics program on my computer that I became familiar with through my Research Methods psychology course at Wake. With some of the data that is compiled along the way, the current game plan is to collaborate with some of the members of the team who deal with video production and editing to create a Rap Genius version of the “Did You Know?” video clip. If you’re not familiar with that video, I recommend you check it out. Here’s the link -http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIDLIwlzkgY

StereoIQ is the next website to be launched using the Rap Genius template (all of which are under the Genius Media Group umbrella). My work for this brand involves PR and brand development. The long term goal of this summer is to establish a large following for StereoIQ so that it is near the level of Rap Genius. Currently Stereo IQ has 2,547 Facebook fans and 720 Twitter followers, compared to Rap Genius’ 129,712 Facebook fans and 30,030 Twitter followers. Site co-founder and my primary boss, Mahbod, has made me an administrator for Stereo IQ’s Facebook page and granted me password access for the Twitter page so I am responsible for creating and sending messages to broadcast through social media in order to maintain a buzz and gather more fans.

One of the cool features of Rap Genius /StereoIQ is that they’re starting to build their list of “Verified Artists” – that is, the music artist themselves create an account on the website and explain their own lyrics. Currently, I’m trying to establish an interview with DC-based band Crash Boom Bang who has been starting to get attention in the national limelight with the release of their latest CD, These Wild Things. If/when I coordinate the interview, that will serve as a great way of establishing my reputation to the co-founders of the website(s) and showing my worth as an asset to the company.

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