If you hung out at the fountain on the University of North Carolina at Greensboro’s campus anywhere from 2008-2012, you’ll likely remember a rapper named BJ Kicks.
In case you weren’t there, BJ Kicks was the former rap name for Brandon Jackson, founder of KDMR Music. KDMR (Keep Dreaming. Make Reality) is a music consulting business that provides educational resources via YouTube, blog, podcast, case studies from other artists and The Music Marketing Guidebook written by Brandon himself. KDMR provides the the details on how to succeed as an independent artist and getting signed.
Brandon began rapping at age 14 but most notably during his college years. During his junior year in college, he launched a tutoring program for students in a local housing community. Many of the kids had never experienced life outside of their communities. It was during this time that Brandon decided that he wanted to use his talents better and to be of greater inspiration to his students beyond being a rapper.
I’ve always wanted to make music or be around music
In 2011, Brandon was blessed with an internship with producer 9th Wonder. As the Marketing and Operations intern, he was responsible for managing the social media strategy for the label and three artists. The internship provided an inside look at success within the industry.
Shortly thereafter, he became an artist manager after meeting a female rapper at the A3C festival in Atlanta. It was then that KDMR was launched, originally under the name KDMR Management.
I asked Brandon his thoughts about the decline in new and emerging rap artists on college campuses compared to our undergrad years.
I think what it was, was we kind of came in and we had weird influences. When we got to UNCG, Lil Wayne was like the biggest rapper in the world. And he’s putting out a mixtape like every other day. But then you also had people like Soulja Boy who also put stuff out all the time and kind of got famous off YouTube while we were in high school………that was also when recording equipment all of a sudden got cheap. Like you could find a microphone for like $100 and just plug it straight into your computer, download some beats off Limewire and all of a sudden you’re a rapper.
In 2015, after the artist that he was managing relocated to another country he decided to focus on the consulting side of the music industry. He quickly realized the lack of information artists had on simple concepts such as how to get music on iTunes. It was then that he decided to create as many resources as he could to teach artists how the business works so that he could focus on bigger tasks such as marketing.
On July 4, 2018, he released his first book- The Music Marketing Guidebook: How to Find Listeners, Convert Fans and Make Money with Your Music.
Simultaneously, he also released the Music Business Dreams Podcast. This weekly podcast features 45 minutes of interviews with members of the music industry such as marketers and entertainment attorneys. There are currently listeners representing over 22 countries with over 3,000 downloads as of last week.
There are so many artists that get frustrated with the process and don’t see it through
His biggest platform, however, is YouTube and he notes that the video platform is the biggest opportunity for growth without spending a lot of money. A recent video about the Music Modernization Act became the number one search term the day the act was passed and helped the channel gain 7,000 views and increase subscribers into the 400s.
Like most entrepreneurs, Brandon feels like this is what he’s supposed to be doing.
As an entrepreneur, it’s never an ‘okay, I’ve got this figured out now, I’m good’ moment….It’s constant ups and downs
I made sure to ask if he had the opportunity to revisit his path, would he change anything. Of course his response was yes.
I started the company in 2011. But I didn’t really really take off till about a year ago and that’s when I decided to just give it a shot…..If I could do it over again, I’d have done this two years ago…..I remember not having the confidence that I have now or feeling like I had to have everything perfect, like I have to get the best camera and the best lense, and the best microphone or what if I reach out to people and they don’t wanna do the podcast….these ideas that I’m executing now, I’ve had the concept two years ago and was just scared to act on them.
His advice for the next entrepreneur is simple: follow your passion.
He also assured me that it’s not always glamourous to pursue your passion and that people are going to look at you like you’re crazy. It’s normal and part of the process. If your content is good, people will listen and they will give you the resources you need to level up that content.
Next on the KDMR radar is adding an intern to the team, generating an online curriculum, more weekly videos, public speaking opportunities and a revamped second edition to the guidebook.