Basic plan for becoming a rap artist
Who are you?
The First thing I have noticed that many successful Artists have in common is A UNIQUE personality. I see A LOT of artists especially younger ones building their complete style around imitating popular artist. (Future, Rich Homie Quan, Drake, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Ect). This is probably the worst thing you can do. It makes you look lame, period. Create a style that works for you, about topics that work for you. If your true to that then you will have a unique personality.
Image is EVERYTHING
This is obvious but in case its not, focus on getting your image together. Have your look down as an artist. Make sure it compliments your personality and please get nice high quality pictures taken. Im not knocking instagram but if people can tell all your pics were made using it then they will not take you as serious as an artists. Remember. Fresh Appearance, Good Lighting, Nice camera. If you cant do it yourself or know somebody who can help, then pay. Your image is worth it. I found a great blog that goes into deeper emphasis on image here.
Who are your potential fans?
This is extremely important and something that artists look over far too often. Who are you going to target your music toward? Females, Males, Older, Younger, Family oriented, the streets, the clubs, a little bit of everything, ect. Whatever your choice(s) just make sure you market to them correctly. Nothing is worse than having extra street music on your facebook where all your friends and family can hear you rapping about bitches and hoes. (Might be normal in some families though)
Your beats and the development of your overall song are hugely important. These days the beat is just as important as the words. If you want to be noticed you have to understand that. All too often I hear artists rapping on cheap sounding beats or making them on their own to avoid paying anything. If your beat is not radio worthy then you already hurt your chances of getting out there. Successful artists either have a producer they work with closely (In house) or they find high quality radio ready beats for sale and use those. If you want to make it in music your production value makes a big difference.
Focus On Singles
I see a lot of artists out here putting out mixtape after mixtape after mixtape. Possibly 30 - 50 songs even over 100+ all over the internet. Please remember quality over quantity. Most successful artists put out a small amount of material when they are first getting started. They put a song out and let it marinate a little while just to see the feedback. When they finally get a song that gets people excited they roll with that one. Its basically research. Now they know which song has buzz potential. Successful artists take those songs to the next level to generate a buzz for themselves. (Making videos, performing at shows, pursuing radio play, ect) Almost every artists I have ever worked with has one, two or even three buzz worthy songs. But instead of focusing on pushing that song, they just drop project after project, wasting time then eventually they look back and say "oh that song is old now". Yes but its still new to 99% of the population so if it needs minor updates then tweak it and start pushing it now.
This is the biggest difference I see between successful artists and unsuccessful ones. Marketing is either A - Time consuming, or B - Costs money. The best Marketing are Both. Since marketing is so broad I have two sections about this. Free, and Paid. Successful artists use both effectively.
As an artist you have to have your face out there constantly. Locally you need to be get your single(s) together and you need to be seen. Perform at shows and make sure your routine is polished. Good live performances will take you a long way. Pass out demos of your single (try to get them in the hands of djs). Online make use of facebook, twitter, reverbnation, soundclick, bandcamp, instagram, ect. Blogs are helpful too. All these social networks are places you can find potential fans for free. Remember though doing it without paying or paying very little is a longer process. A good Single and great image will make things easier though.
Much easier then free marketing, paid marketing or (Paid advertising) can get your music out there with far less work than just trying to do it without paying anything. Buying small ads on music websites, or social networks is the cheaper way to go. It takes a little longer but you will gain followers, likes to your fan page (which impacts image) and most importantly fans because people will check out your music. Artists with a budget can buy the big effective ads like "world star hip hop front page, youtube front page, ect). Paid marketing is most effective when it becomes a marketing Campaign, which means you have a plan to consistently promote for a set amount of time, actively growing your buzz. The idea with paying is to get a monthly budget you can afford that wont financially put you at risk. You still need to be seen and be visible.
Both - By far the best option. When it comes to marketing yourself the best thing you can do is to be open to trying different things. Understanding that you will lose some money investing in yourself, and accepting that. Research what works and what doesnt and build on that. Work smart, collaborate with many other artists, dont be cheap on things that you need, but still spend wisely, and most importantly dont get discouraged. Marketing is an art form, if you your an artist out here tryin to make it basically on your own or with a small team the you will have to learn that art form.
This is an extremely watered down version of marketing. Here is a quick google search I did to give you some other blogs with great ideas.
Successful artists fail first.
This is my last piece of advice for now. Unless you manage to get discovered by a label exec or blow up over night, you will have a lot of work to do. Times get hard, and people question themselves. Every successful artist I know has done this. A lot of times when artists fail they get discouraged and then quit. The successful ones keep on pushing though. They learn from their mistakes and their failures become successes.
Good luck, hope this post helps get a clearer understanding of what you need to be successful in music.