YNG Martyr on why 15-year-old kids on TikTok will be the gate keepers to the music industry
When the COVID-19 pandemic caused a shutdown of all entertainment, musicians and performers were hit hard with millions of dollars in revenue lost due to tours, gigs and festivals being cancelled.
Instead of relying on touring and live events to generate income YNG Martyr has invested all his time and money into creating a large internet audience, and now earns all his money entirely off streaming.
YNG Martyr’s song ‘Nike Ticks’ blew up late last year thanks to hard work, risk taking and a carefully planned marketing strategy. It now has over 10 million streams.
YNG Martyr, who also runs his own marketing company ‘YNG Marketing’ sees the future of music being online.
According to the rapper, being able to properly use platforms like TikTok, Instagram and memes to reach audiences will be essential in crafting out a full–time music career in the future.
We spoke to YNG Martyr about how he used the internet to launch his career, and how he sees it changing the dynamic of the artist-label relationship. (Check YNG Martyr’s hit Nike Ticks below – warning: explicit content).
Q: Can you give me some background on how you became YNG Martyr. What pushed you in the direction of hip-hop?
YM: I was making music from about 2016. That’s when I first dropped my first single. Prior to that I was just a massive nerd as a kid, like always playing video games, COD (Call of Duty), I was loving it. One time I was in a COD lobby and some kid was like ‘does anyone want to rap battle me’, I was pissing myself, I thought it was so funny, I was like ‘yeah let’s do it’. I ended up loving it, freestyling, getting into all this battle scene and stuff like that, and yeah eventually it just evolved into me finding beats, writing actual music. I was releasing music from about 2016 to 2018 under another name, and nothing there was really taking off properly, so I’d been releasing music for a fair while trying to grind it out, the biggest my song had gotten at that point was five thousand streams – which is pretty menial.
Q: What changed from that point into becoming YNG Martyr? How did your approach to your music change?
YM: I feel like even though I’d been developing my musical style throughout the years that I probably wasn’t ready to do any real damage with music before YNG. I basically got into a heap of development books, stuff like ‘Think and Grow Rich’, ‘The Master Key System’. I started meditating, got huge into the spiritual side of things, started developing I guess a personality – putting myself together. Prior to that I had no real confidence, but that gave me a platform to start making the music that I wanted. Over time I merged that with a business outlook on things, instead of just praying – putting a song up hoping for the best. I started really putting a song out planning a whole release around it, marketing it. I started stepping into full influencer marketing – TikTok, memes – just going crazy in that area, and it just started working. That was basically the start of YNG, it was me and a few friends, we sort of got tired of our tracks doing nothing and having no impact. We just started to go for it.
Q: Springboarding off that – you’ve had massive success with ‘Nike Ticks’. When I was reading through the comments on YouTube, heaps of people were commenting they were here because of memes. Was that an intentional thing or coincidental?
YM: Yeah, that’s a side of my business approach. I run a company called YNG Marketing, we work with a Sony signed label called ‘Black-17’ they distribute music for like Riff-Raff and a bunch of other people, and I work closely with them to do their artist campaigns. I was getting really into the business side of things, I started applying that to my own music, it went crazy.
Q: With ‘Nike Ticks’, were you just putting it in all these places so it could gain traction? Was the point to get into as many diverse markets as possible?
YM: Yeah. The best piece of advice I ever heard was “you could have the best song in the world on a USB stick, and if you get that USB and throw it into the woods, no-one is going to know that’s the best song ever” and that really hit me because I was sure I was making music that was good enough, but it was never going anywhere. I started thinking “I have to get this in front of people”, that’s when things started shifting for me. I think I just realised that making good music isn’t enough, you really need to be able to make good music and push that music out to people – at least get in front of eyes and give it a chance to do something. That’s what I did with ‘Nike Ticks’.
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10m streams on Nike Ticks.. I used to dream about things like this. I have endless amounts of gratitude for everyone who listens to my music, your support is what allows me to do what I love doing as a full-time job & I couldn’t ask for anything more than that 💚 Thank you.
Q: What do you think the music landscape will be in the future in terms of trying to promote yourself – is it about being on as many platforms as possible, like twitch, tiktok etc instead of relying on trying to get played on traditional media?
YM: Yeah, I think the internet is going to become the new radio. I mean me, and other artists are already earning all our income from streaming. I think the internet, multimedia, TikTok, memes, anime-edits, all of that will come together and compose what an artist has to do to blow up from now on. Instead of just going the radio route I feel it’s going to be all through the internet. I think that through this way, I’ve been able to reach the majority of my audience, which is in America. I think it’s super important, now, more than ever to be looking at the internet as a tool for this. It’s the new radio.
Q: Even though what you have done may be considered an alternative route do you think in five years this will be the blueprint? That you can get by without having to put demos out to labels and trying to get signed?
YM: 100%. I think over the next few years there’s going to be a massive shift and I think that will be leaving artists with all of their rights and letting them come to agencies, like publicists and independent companies rather than just a label compositing all these services into one. I think the artist will be the person reaching out and making those connections and they’ll be able to do it all independently, hopefully using a service like mine as well.
Q: So, you see a big dynamic shift between label and artist?
YM: Yeah labels will have to come full circle. Instead of artists benefiting them, they are going to have to carefully consider how they can benefit artists because they will have to do that to sustain their livelihood. Now more than ever with the internet being such a big thing it’s given artists reign to blow up and do their thing. I think labels are realizing they’re not the gatekeepers anymore – it’s 15-year-old kids on TikTok.
Checkout YNG Martyr’s latest single ‘Excuse me’ below (explicit audio).