Hey Tech Entrepreneurs, Chamillionaire Can Teach You What's Up

Chamillionaire 2

On why you should be an entrepreneur:

“A lot of people do what they have to do.  You want to get yourself to a position where you can do what you want to do” (Chamillionaire)

Last night I co-hosted a dinner at Soho House in Los Angeles with some of the most senior people in the media industry with executives from Disney, Fox, Warner, media agencies and many promising tech & media startup CEO’s.  The topic was “the future of television & the digital living room.”

With all of the knowledge in the room the person who stole the night wasn’t even on a panel.  I had called on Chamillionaire from the audience and asked him to provide some views on how artists view social media, why they use it and where it’s heading.  He was riveting.

He stood up, grabbed the mic and gave a heartfelt overview of his experiences in experimenting with new technologies to build relationships with his audience, get feedback on his product quality and to market his music all the way to the top of iTunes.  To stay the crowed was “wowed” was an understatement. He received that only round of applause of the evening.

While many were floored by his insights, I wasn’t in the slightest.  I’ve known Chamillionaire for a couple of years and I’ve never been at a tech event where he HASN’T upstaged everybody with his marketing insights.

So it was my great pleasure to host Chamillionaire on This Week in VC this week talking marketing, entrepreneurship, old media and, of course, music.  We also talked about getting more young African Americans interested in entrepreneurship & technology.  I hope many of you can take the time to watch the interview – I promise he doesn’t disappoint.  You can click this link.

This article originally appeared on Both Sides of the Table and is republished here with permission.

On failure, trial-and-error and confidence


I asked Chamillionaire why he thinks he connects so much with people at tech conferences. How does he always wow a usually sceptical crowd? He said that he finds that people here are often speaking in big words or jargon -- and that doesn't connect with a lot of people. Cham studied early in his career how to hold the microphone, how to project his voice, how to watch the audience and pay attention to what interested them.

He said that he noticed a lot of tech entrepreneurs don't speak into the mic, don't project their voices with confidence and aren't necessarily paying attention to the mood or energy of the audience. I had written a blog post on exactly this -- how to not suck at group presentations -- and what he said reminded me a lot of this post.

Marketing Innovation

Too many entrepreneurs are great product or technology people and lack the knowledge, skills or even desire to figure out how to market their products or themselves cleverly. Some other entrepreneurs who went down the MBA, consulting or banking routes without working at a startup are certainly book smart but haven't always refined the street-smart skills needed to be an effective entrepreneur.

Chamillionaire has tried so many marketing angles that when new technologies emerge he has a strong sense on how to use them to best marketing himself and his business. In his early career he realised the importance of email lists. He would do anything he could to capture people's email addresses because he knew that they served as a valuable tool for future marketing purposes.

His email list became his power. He would occasionally give away free music in exchange for email addresses. He created his own domain and gave out email address with the [email protected] nomenclature. This was in the 90′s. It created viral buzz because other fans saw the email address and wanted to know how they got it. He was trailblazing.

He would try initiatives like announcing that a new cd was going to drop at new year's. He had a website and put up a timer / countdown for the new year's release. People would then call stores and ask if they had his album. He would get a call from the stores asking about a new album coming out. He created demand. Sometimes he didn't even have the product when he announced it but the hype would get him focused on what he had to produce.

There are many analogies here for software development. I often tell teams that you need to create product deadlines that are semi-public (or maybe board commitments) that help you focus on shipping product. You may have to cut scope but nothing gets you more focused and the creative juices flowing than a deadline staring you in the face.

Businesses like TopSpin Media now professionalize campaigns for musicians to capture email addresses, build social-media audiences and sell products directly to consumers (and many other artist-to-fan direct initiatives). Cham learned this on his own because he had to -- he didn't have a label. So when Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Ustream and other social websites became popular he has ideas for how to use them to authentically build a relationship with his audience.

Customer feedback

Raising capital

On JFDI (play on Just Do It)

On what's next?

Think you have killer public speaking skills like Chamillionaire? Find out how to market your product:

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