By Jason Blasco 

Of Blasco Says Publicity

CaliFlorida Productions CEO Anthony “Antagonist” Masters knows owning an independent imprint is like having manual transmission in your car. It’s constantly shifting gears in an area of congestion like independent music.  Masters, a hip hop artist known as Antagonist, is trying to find the delicate balance between promoting himself as an artist, and being a businessman with a small imprint called CaliFlorida Productions. Masters also coordinates all the workings that go with marketing and promotions on a limited budget.  Trying to keep up with emerging trends and technology can be daunting for this virtual one-man band as he continues to produce, mix, create beats, market, create graphic designs, and coordinate promotional materials and virtual marketing campaigns. Antagonist knows he can’t afford not to listen when he hears of popular new methods of distribution like streaming from sites such as Pandora,, Radio Tuna, Spotify,, and Tunecore. “You always have to listen to an idea and put your music in as many places as possible. My difficulty lies in the fact that not only am I a production company and label owner, but also an artist,” Masters said. “I have to wear many hats, and that doesn’t leave me as much time lately to dedicate to searching out new, blossoming ideas.”

Antagonizing what’s been dubbed “The Future of Music”
Masters, who began his music career in the late 90s, entered the business during a time of turmoil, litigation, and disorganized chaos spawned by new mediums such as Napster, Real Player, Real Audio, and others that emerged during the era. Antagonist saw this as an opportunity, not a deterrent, to catapulting his career initiatives. “I have three words, internet, internet, internet,” Masters said. “I have coverage in 90 countries worldwide, the attention of over 200 websites, and close to half a million web impressions. I did all of this without doing a show outside of California or Florida. Obviously, I’m looking to tour as soon as possible to propel my fan-base into overdrive. I want indie artists to know that just because you might live in a small town, it doesn’t mean you have to think small. With that being said, I’ve been blessed to reside in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and Miami over the past 14 years. It doesn’t hurt growing up in some major music markets.”

Moving from “The Hood” to “The Cloud”
Antagonist understands the value of streaming and doesn’t see streaming as a here today, gone tomorrow trend, such as the mini discs in the late 90s and early 00s. Masters has  paid close attention to Apple’s business model. He knows that, like many other ventures in the past, Apple has established themselves as trailblazers in the new territory of streaming, especially with their recent acquisition of  “Like it or not, Apple has digital distribution on lock,” Masters said. “Other sites such as Amazon and Rhapsody are closing in, but right now it’s all about iTunes. New companies such as TuneCore (which I personally use) are single-handedly changing the music business. It’s up to the fans, or us as artists, if this is a good thing. On one side, ANYBODY can now make a record and have it immediately available to everybody in the world with an .mp3 player. I think that’s great for somebody like myself. On the other hand, at some point there is going to be SO MUCH music out there that finding music in the fray will be increasingly difficult. The companies who solve this problem, and the artists who find out how to make their “needle shine in the haystack,” will be the ones who survive.”

Pay to Play: Antagonist sees streaming music’s business model that simple
The revenue-sharing models of streaming music vary greatly from company to company, and organizations such as BMI, ASCAP, and are still in the process of developing a system of compensation so artists, labels, managers, and publishers get their due, monetarily.  “Streaming music is as simple of a business model as anything else, in my opinion. You have to find a company that brings major traffic to their media, and a company that has a firm worldwide foundation,” Masters said. “Once you find a company relationship you like, then you have to get a good deal as far as money per plays. If a site has a lot of traffic and you’re getting several cents per play, over time the money will add up. It’s simple internet economics. Great Site=Traffic=AdRevenue=Great Returns.”  Like any new medium, there is a transition period for consumers to adapt to the new devices in order for everything to convert. The majority of consumer retail outlets reflect that with the type of devices that are currently on the market in outlets such as Walmart, that still have MP3 players with AM/FM radio advertised as one of their features.  In hip hop, the transition will be even more difficult because this genre is still so dependent on physical marketing and promotional tools such as mixtapes and underground distribution to get the word out on the street.  “I believe it’s a perfect medium. It might take a minute for ANY fan, not just a hop hop fan, but ANY fan to warm up to paying a monthly fee to get streaming music,” Masters said. “ I think the way to market something like this is to make sure that the streaming content is purely customizable. For instance, I believe you will make more revenue if you charge $29.99 per month for unlimited plays, and the user could play any song on the site they want at any time. This is converse to something like Satellite Radio, where there are set programs and you’re at the will of the DJ. You also must have a GREAT library for fans to catch onto a streaming music site. I would not think people would pay for a streaming service if they couldn’t find the music/artists they want.”

Today’s forecast calls for flash flood warnings and cloudy skies
Making money in this long, but narrow, trench is difficult with the many different methods of recording, streaming, marketing, etc., and the constant flood of numerous acts spamming their material at consumers virtually every time they log on to their social networking site. “ Music is a strange animal right now. This won’t make sense without a 1000 hour thesis paper on it, but it’s easier to make money now, yet it’s harder to make money now,” Masters said. “The easiest way I can put it is like this. A multi-talented indie artist who works hard and gets his hands into a lot of different ventures will be able to make some great money. Yet an indie artist who doesn’t know how to approach the business of music and relies on “getting signed” by a label will suffer and probably go broke. My one piece of advice to anybody about to step into this sea of sharks is forge your own way, make your own path, and don’t let anybody stop you. Why should you rely on other people getting you ahead in this game, when these days you can literally put out a record around the world for less than $2000? Buy a computer, learn how to use Pro Tools/Logic/etc, write a song, put it online, and then spend all day every day telling people about your song. That’s how I started, and that’s still what I do today, only on a bigger scale.”Masters will continue to adapt and hope he and his small imprint will not become too damaged by the flood of emerging artists in the current foggy conditions that have been created by the lack of regulations of the internet for both the corporate giant and the solo artist.

Easy digital distribution, the development of high-quality, consumer-based recording programs, and the progression of technology have played an integral role in changing the logistics of standard operating procedure in the music industry. The new relevance of a digital product has helped independent labels gain ground on the majors, and created opportunities that weren’t available ten years ago for the unsigned artist. All of these changes have contributed to the state of flux the music industry is currently experiencing. The result is organized chaos.   An unprecedented growth in the volume of unsigned artists and independent labels has created not only opportunities but confusion from every angle of the industry. This is especially true for the artis that lack the monetarily support for proper representation, guidance, and information to take their career to the next level. In this question and answer session, unsigned artist Kyle Collins talks about his own unique situation and struggles in executing a plan to not only catapult his career to the next level, but also to stand out from the masses that are available to consumers in today’s competitive marketplace.

– J. Blasco

Blasco Q:When you were putting out the album and producing the album, did you have to adjust your thought process of how you were distributing your product, especially with all the changes that continue to occur in the music industry?
KC A:The thought process for that is one of those things that you kind of hope that everyone is going to take your product well, and really attach themselves to it. The digital age is growing, as well as the value of the quality. The tools used in the digital age are watering everything down. My Space and Facebook, the tools that made digital music so valuable two years ago, are on the way out. I believe that My Space is on it’s way out digitally. You are trying to look for that next thing and trying to figure out what is coming out. The next best way now is giving out free mixtapes, free downloads, and posting them everywhere you can. It’s really hard, as an indy artist, to get your stuff out. You need that distribution and marketing money. It is very difficult. You try to figure out little schemes and little ways to build your buzz, and build a market.

Blasco Q: With streaming media becoming more prevalent, what streaming sites do you plan on using? Also, what are some other avenues of distribution that you plan on exploring?
KC A: The first distribution method is consignment which includes trying to get physical copies in the stores. I am trying to bring back the value of the physical copy. I think it died, but it’s going to be revived. I think they are going to come back in play after everyone is sick of digitalized copies. With that said, the market that we are in right now is digital. Streaming media is becoming very important. I plan to have my stuff on Zune and Rhapsody, and I am registered on Tune Core. My work is getting sent to all the major streaming and distributing online stores. I hope that I create a bigger online fanbase and build a buzz, maybe overseas in Japan and Europe, and make money off of that buzz. As artists, we want to be paid for the art we put out. It’s so easy for people to get our art that people forget that it’s literally stealing. As an artist myself, it’s very hard and almost wounding to see the material that you are creating from scratch and you are putting your heart and soul into, is so degraded and easily consumable. It’s almost like the listener is immune to it.

Blasco Q: With all the information out there, is it hard to keep up with the different trends to be successful? What are you doing to give yourself an edge, and the difficulty of keeping up-to-date in a ever-changing world?
KC A: As far as the success, you won’t be able to tell until about six months in. I hope it’s going to be a snowball effect with the album. With word of mouth and people really believing in it, hopefully, they will promote it themselves, much like what happened with Drake. Drake is a perfect example. He had a great opportunity, and some great tools, especially with backing from Lil Wayne before even signing a deal with him. It was a great opportunity for him. He had a popular blog read by many Canadian and US fans. He had a blog before he even worked on the hip hop scene . Really, the way to go is to have your own site that has a lot of traffic. That is probably the easiest way. For example, if Kanye West posted a song of mine on Kayne’s, and I know there are millions of followers that check that site everyday. I would suddenly, by jumping through hoops and My Space hits, increase rapidly in stature as an artist around the world. I think that the main thing is having that one site or that one link that people are going to be directed to. It’s all about traffic. All you can hope for is that one percent factor. I want one percent of my fans to buy my album. Now, if that one percent is one percent of 100, then I am not doing too well. If it’s one percent of one million buying my album, I am not doing too bad. It’s like a telemarketing company having an amount of leads and hoping for that percentage to react.

Blasco Q: Is building a fan base more important than where to position the music? Or do you have a balance?
KC A: In this particular case, it’s a little bit more of a fan base. It’s a lot harder to get someone that isn’t a follower or doesn’t know you than for someone who follows you and has your previous material. It’s about 60/40. It’s more about building a fan base.

Blasco Q: With all the different ways to succeed from the artist’s side and a label’s side, there is so much information. How do you filter through all the different methods of achieving success with each one working so differently?
KC A: Have yourself anywhere and everywhere, and that is pretty much the success model of today. If you have noticed, who are the biggest one-hit wonders that are debuting? They are 15-to-17 year old kids that put out songs with no content, and no meat to them. Those are the main artists that are popping up. The labels are looking to sign these singles deals, too. The reason why these people are buzzing is that these are the kids that just sit in their room and do everything on the internet. If you notice, ages 18 to 25, it’s so hard for people that age to pop. I can think of only four people in that age group that are really popping. It’s because they are young, living with their parents, and having an easy street because they can be online all day. Or, you have to be a successful person already and spend your money with a team doing it for you. The moral of what needs to be done is for an artist to be anywhere and everywhere, and giving out free material. That’s the only way. They aren’t going to invest in you until they have heard you. You can’t sell something to someone that they haven’t heard before. Fans want to preview everything these days, and that is why mixtapes are so important right now. Mixtapes are the reason Drake is buzzing, and Lil Wayne sold a million.

Blasco Q: How do you deal with the over-saturation in the marketplace of mixtapes to build your buzz , and the haystacks of music that are distributed by unsigned artists?
KC A: I think a really big way to do it is by going to places where your demographic might be. They might not normally see mixtape marketing. When Kayne released his last album, 106 and Park was the hip hop blog. He premiered his first music video on the Ellen Degeneres show rather than going to 106 and Park. By using a homework help website and having your music downloaded there, it is putting it in places where people will see it but would never expect it to be there. Nowadays, the more legitimate you look and how your music sounds is what people want. Back in the day, it was so cool to be the underground rapper. Now, people aren’t interested in you if you don’t look like you have money.

Blasco Q: What are the biggest challenges an indie artist faces in order to break into the industry?
KC A: The biggest challenge is all of the artists that are in the way. To a lot of people, you are just number 336 out of 7,000 and you’re nothing but the same thing that they’ve seen. You have to do something to stand out so they will say ‘Wow! This kid is the real deal.’ Everyone on the internet is not a fan. It’s so easy to download a bootleg copy of fruity loops, and record yourself through YouTube forums. It’s easy to become an artist these days, and people want to call themselves an artist with little effort.

Blasco Q Do you even need a label anymore?
KC A: My goal is to be known around the world, and have world pop success. Majors are very important if you want to make the kind of impression that I want to make. I am not going for mediocre by living off of iTunes sales, and working hard in pushing the streets, just to be a local celebrity. I am going for the gold. With with my particular situation, it is very necessary to try to get major backing. With some artists, they might not need a major behind them. They might make good money off of singles. Soulja Boy is a good example. If he were to hypothetically end his record contract and make the same type of music, he could make a good living off of ringtone sales. It really depends on the artist. For me, in particular, it’s very necessary to have major backing.

Blasco Q:With the relevance of record labels diminishing, how do you plan on breaking into a competitive market?
KC A: Drive, dedication, and hope someone would recognize the talent. That is really all you can hope for right now.

Blasco Q: Take me through the process of marketing the album Seasons by yourself, where you developed everything from scratch and put it out into the digital world. What did you do differently that you may not have done on previous projects?
KC A: I hit up the forums. I made a blog that I linked everyone to, and Facebook is good for now. My Space is completely dead. I’ve gone as far as making YouTube videos with different artists’ name to get views, and direct them to my sites. It’s little schemes to try to make it work that you have to do.

Blasco Q: What are some of the biggest ways, as an indy and/or unsigned artist, to catapult to the next phase of your career and try to get to the next level with so many people doing it?
KC A: I am just trying to stay relevant, and as true to myself as possible. I think, if the right person hears it and is able to put it out to the public, it will take off. That is my only hope and my only goal.

Blasco Q:How do you balance maintaining your artistic integrity with simultaneously trying to write commercial songs?
KC A: Think emotion, express, and just put it out. Literally, I try to make timeless songs that five years from now, you can’t say that they are irrelevant. I try to make constant songs. I am doing everything that artists that I admire are doing, and that’s just making music that is real.

Blasco Q: Do you have a plan to break into the industry? How do you develop a plan to get to your next step and try to do everything to make yourself essentially a corporation?
KC A: Five letter word called G-R-I-N-D. Every day, you have to do something to better yourself and your situation.

Blasco Q: What steps do you feel that you’ve taken to become more successful? How do you keep up with some of the schemes that have been successful in the last few years?
KC A: I am on, Concrete news,, and every day I am checking those sites so I stay relevant. I like the month of January because I get the Super Bowl and the Grammies. That is my market and area of comfort. I make sure I am updated with everything. I am up-to-date with everything that is happening in the industry. I don’t want to be ignorant on anything.

Blasco Q: Do you read blogs such as the LA Times? Do you have other sites besides the hip hop sites that you pay attention to?
KC A: I keep up with GQ and US Weekly, and one of my favorites is Complex Magazine. I just try to stay relevant. I think that is the best thing that you can do is try to stay relevant.

Blasco Q: What do you need to do in order to adjust to all these methods of physical distribution? Do you have a plan of action for the next three to five albums? Do you almost, as a necessatiy, need to look into the crystal ball?
KC A: That is what I am doing right now. I’ve had my crew for a while and I am starting my label soon. What we are doing is finding out what is going to be coming next. You have to be a step ahead. When you get that quick step, Boom! you to the gold!

Blasco Q: What do you plan on doing in developing a label? When you are thinking about a label, are you thinking primarily digital? With everything going towards the digital realm and “the cloud,” do you feel that it’s more disposable because it’s not physical?
KC A: It pisses me off how disposable music is now, and I don’t see how it should be that. I just hope I am in that era of artists that want to bring it back. I think there is a new era of listeners and artsts that want that love of the music and to connect with the emotion. I don’t think it’s gone yet.

Blasco Q:How do you plan on marketing your record company? How do you put everything in a package when everything is in that “cloud”?
KC A:We are going to focus on trying to build a local base. If we can get things popping locally, we can create something. Locally, we want to do physical, and want to push things in the street the old fashioned way. At the same time, we are going to have our people working on marketing schemes. One way to do it is to have a portion of the proceeds going to charities. There are so many different ways and schemes that can really help you in the long run.

Blasco Q: Is there anything that is weighing on your mind that we haven’t touched base on?
KC A: Not really. I just hope that it comes back to the music having value and substance to it. I feel that’s going away. Everyone needs to open their eyes and not get caught up in “what’s hot.” We need to appreciate the music and bring it back to where it needs to be.

Blasco Q: How do you feel that appreciation for music can translate into the new digital age?
KC A: I think a digital album should include more than what it currently has. If you have actual material and there is actual mass to it, you can feel the mass of it. You are holding something of value. The digital product needs a lot more interactivity and it needs to have more to it so the audience can develop more of an emotional connection to it.