Four Things 50 Cent Can Teach You About Connecting with Your Audience

image of rapper 50 Cent

I spent most of 2007 hanging out with Curtis Jackson, better known as Fifty Cent. Together we wrote a bestselling book about hustling, fearlessness, and power.

I’d like to share a couple of insights that arose from that collaboration.

After the remarkable success of his first two commercial albums, Fifty Cent stood on top of the music world. But his very success was starting to corrode his musical ability.

His sense of connection, so vital on the streets, was fading in this new environment he now inhabited.

He was surrounded by flatterers who wanted to be in his entourage, managers and industry people who saw only dollar signs in him. His main interactions were with people in the corporate world or other stars.

At the same time, he could no longer hang out on the streets or get firsthand looks at the trends that were just starting up.

All of this meant that Fifty was flying blind with his music, not really sure if it would connect anymore with his audience. Other stars didn’t seem to mind this; in fact, they enjoyed living in this kind of celebrity bubble. They were afraid of coming back down to earth. Fifty felt the opposite, but there seemed to be no way out.

Know your environment from the inside out

Most people think first of what they want to express or make, then find the audience for their idea. You must work the opposite angle, thinking first of the public. You need to keep your focus on their changing needs, the trends that are washing through them. Beginning with their demand, you create the appropriate supply. Do not be afraid of people’s criticisms—without such feedback your work will be too personal and delusional. You must maintain as close a relationship to your environment as possible, getting an inside “feel” for what is happening around you. Never lose touch with your base.

~ The 50th Law

An experiment in reconnection

In early 2007, Fifty decided to start up his own website. He thought of it as a way to market his music and merchandise directly to the public, without the screen of his record label, which was proving quite inept in adapting to the Internet age.

First, he decided to experiment. As he prepared to launch a G-Unit record in the summer of 2008, he leaked one of the songs on to the website on a Friday night, then the next day he refreshed the Comments page every few minutes and tracked the members’ response to it.

After several hundred comments it was clear that the verdict was negative. The song was too soft. They wanted and expected something harder from a G-Unit record.

Taking their criticisms to heart, he shelved the song and soon released another, creating the hard sound they had demanded. This time the response was overwhelmingly positive.

He put up the latest single from his arch-enemy The Game, hoping to read the negative comments of his fans. To his surprise, many of them liked the song. He engaged in an online debate with them about this and had his eyes opened about changes in people’s tastes and why they had perhaps grown distant from his music. It forced him to rethink his own direction.

Creating a radical connection

To draw more people to his site, Fifty decided to break down the distance in both directions. He posted blogs on personal subjects, and then responded to his fans’ comments. They could feel they had complete access to him.

Using the advances in technology, he took this further, having his team film him on their cell phones wherever he went; these images were then streamed live on the website. Made dramatic by Fifty’s flair for confrontation, membership grew by leaps and bounds.

As it evolved, the website came to strangely resemble the world of hustling that Fifty had created for himself on the streets of southside Queens.

He could produce testers (trial songs) for his fans, who were like drug fiends, constantly hungry for new product from Fifty; and he could get instant feedback on their quality. He could develop a feel for what they were looking for and how he could manipulate their demand.

He had moved from the outside to the inside and the hustling game came alive once more, this time on a global scale.

Four keys to the fearless approach

The public is never wrong. When people don’t respond to what you do, they’re telling you something loud and clear. You’re just not listening.

~ Fifty Cent

Fifty’s approach isn’t just for pop culture icons. His insights into rebuilding connection are universal.

Most of us live in a society of apparent abundance and ease. We lack a sense of urgency to connect to other people. In such a melting pot as the modern world, with people’s tastes changing at a faster pace than ever before, our success depends on our ability to move outside of ourselves and connect to other social networks.

At all cost, you need to continually force yourself outward. You must reach a point where losing this connection to your environment makes you feel uncomfortable, even vulnerable.

The following are four strategies you can use to bring yourself closer to this ideal.

1. Crush all distance

In this day and age, to reach people you must have access to their inner lives — their frustrations, aspirations, resentments.

To do so, you must crush as much distance as possible between you and your audience.

You enter their spirit and absorb it from within. Their way of looking at things becomes yours. And when you recreate it in some form of work, it has life. What shocks and excites you will then have the same effect on them.

This requires a degree of fearlessness and open spirit. You are not afraid to have your whole personality shaped by these intense interactions. You assume a radical equality with the public, giving voice to people’s ideas and desires.

What you produce will naturally connect in a deep way.

2. Open informal channels of criticism and feedback

When Eleanor Roosevelt entered the White House as First Lady in 1933, it was with much trepidation. Denied an official position within the administration, she decided to work to create informal channels to the public, on her own.

She traveled all over the country — to inner cities and remote rural towns — listening to people’s complaints and needs. She brought many of these people back to meet the president and give him firsthand impressions of the effects of the New Deal.

She opened a column in The Woman’s Home Companion, in which she let her audience know, “I want you to write me.” She would use her column as a kind of discussion forum with the American public, encouraging people to share their criticisms.

Within six months she had received over 300,000 letters, and with her staff she worked to answer every last one of them.

She began to see a pattern from the bottom up — a growing disenchantment with the New Deal. Every day, she left a memo in her husband’s basket, reminding him of these criticisms and the need to be more responsive. And slowly, she began to have an influence on his policy, pushing him leftward. All of this took tremendous courage for she was continually ridiculed for her activist approach, long before any First Lady had ever thought of such a role.

As Eleanor understood, any kind of group tends to close itself off from the outside world. From within this bubble, people delude themselves into thinking they have insight into how their audience or public feels — they read the papers, various reports, the poll numbers, etc.

But all of this information tends to be flat and highly filtered. It is much different when you interact directly with the public, hear in the flesh their criticisms and feedback. You create a back-and-forth dynamic in which their ideas, involvement and energy can be harnessed for your purposes.

3. Reconnect with your base

We see it again and again.

A person has success when they are younger because they have deep ties with a social group. Then slowly they lose this connection.

In his own way, the famous black activist Malcolm X struggled with this problem. He had spent his youth as a savvy street hustler, ending up in prison on drug charges. Out of prison he became a highly visible spokesperson for Nation of Islam, channeling his emotions into powerful speeches that gave voice to those who lived deep in the ghettos of America.

As he became more and more famous, he made an effort to inoculate himself from the psychic distance experienced by other successful leaders in the black community.

He increased his interactions with street hustlers and agitators, the kind of people from the lower depths that most leaders would scrupulously avoid. He made himself spend more time with those who had suffered recent injustices, soaking up their experiences and sense of outrage.

I knew that the ghetto people knew that I never left the ghetto in spirit, and I never left it physically any more than I had to. I had a ghetto instinct; for instance, I could feel if tension was beyond normal in a ghetto audience. And I could speak and understand the ghetto’s language.

~ Malcolm X

The goal in connecting to the public is not to please everyone, to spread yourself out to the widest possible audience. You have a base of power — a group of people, small or large, who identify with you. Keep your associations with it alive, intense and present.

Return to your origins — the source of all inspiration and power.

4. Create the social mirror

Instead of turning inward, consider people’s coolness to your idea and their criticisms as a kind of mirror that they are holding up to you.

Your ego cannot protect you — the mirror does not lie. You use it to correct your appearance and avoid ridicule.

The opinions of other people serve a similar function. You view your work inside your mind, encrusted with all kinds of desires and fears. Through their criticisms you can get closer to this objective version and gradually improve what you do.

When your work does not communicate with others, consider it your own fault. You did not make your ideas clear enough, you failed to connect with your audience emotionally. This will spare you any bitterness or anger that might come from people’s critiques. You are simply perfecting your work through the social mirror.

About the Author: Robert Greene is the bestselling author of The 48 Laws of Power (two million copies sold) and The 33 Strategies of War. His collaboration with Fifty Cent, The 50th Law, spent five weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Check out Robert’s blog at Power, Seduction and War.

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Comments

  1. I am a huge fan of Robert Greene and I own his first two books. I am currently aiming for growth in my blog and yet as he said this can be a double-edged sword as we tend forget that with growth also comes a larger audience with often divergent opinions. I think the key as this article states is ensuring that you still connect with your audience.

    I wonder how the owner of this blog himself dealt with growth and still connecting with his audience

  2. That last paragraph really hits home. If the work doesn’t connect with people consider it your own fault. That is powerful.

    Back in the days when I used to teach, I would take that approach with my students. If they didn’t understand, then it was I who had the problem, not them, and I needed to find a way to help them understand the message. In essence I failed them.

    I have failed to apply this same approach to my blogging, so this has been a real eye opener.

  3. Robert – that was F**ing awesome brother, an amazing insight and things I didn’t know about Fifty.

    I play Fifty on the I Pod at my gym a lot, the athletes love it. I can sense the influence from fans that got him to create the song “Get Up”.

    Ironically, we have Business Men like Dan Kennedy, who stray faaaaaaar away from interaction with his clients and prospective clients, yet he is wildly successful.

    Looks like there is NO middle ground or plain vanilla here, you gotta be completely immersed in giving yourself and being transparent or extremely secluded and anti social.

    This was an awesome article, Robert, BIG thanks for posting here!

    –Z–

  4. What a powerful post.

    “The public is never wrong. When people don’t respond to what you do, they’re telling you something loud and clear. You’re just not listening.

    ~ Fifty Cent”

    Loved that quote. A great reminder to those that are trying one way communication online and complain when they get no response. True, it’s tough to get started building an audience, but it’s not the audience’s fault, it’s yours.

    So many companies that start small, noble and audience focused, lose that mentality somewhere along the way. When you separate yourself from your audience, you’ll quickly lose touch with them, and fail.

    There’s the power of online social communities. Understand your audience’s needs by being there, not by watching from the outside.

    David
    Community Manager, Scribnia.com
    @DavidSpinks

  5. Woah. I’m going through this now too.
    People who respond to my book get it right away because of the title.
    But the book title is not working for my weekend seminars. People who come love it, but numbers are low. Which tells me I have a branding problem.
    So I’m going to do the same and beat the bushes for feedback, ideas and preferences.
    Thanks for the kick in the comfy place.

  6. Another great post…. Never thought I’d be learning about customer relationships from a ‘gangsta rapper’, but I guess celebrities have more experience of PR and interaction with their fans than most businesses do with their customers.

    Particularly agree with opening up informal channels for feedback, although you have to be prepared to deal with the negative. Was checking out Pizza Hut’s UK Facebook Wall earlier and they had numerous negative, non constructive feedback, including some pretty abusive language. They are then in a position where they can’t delete that as it looks like they’re hiding negative feedback. As long as you are aware of this threat though the positives outweigh the risk.

  7. I am really pleasantly surprised to see Robert Greene post on CB. Came here immediately upon seeing Brian’s tweet.

    Would love to see more of your guest posts in future!

  8. @Zach, Kennedy doesn’t hang out with fans in the same way, but he does have the same obsesssive dedication to understanding his customer. Also, he’s more available than you might think, but only to the circle he creates. He knows the value that his fans give to access to him, and he charges them for it. The more they pay, the more access they get.

  9. Thanks Robert; this sure is “rappers” week at Copyblogger.com ;) and we appreciate what we can learn from all.
    I’ve not listened to all of 50 Cents’ singles because they can be hard on the ears but I’m always open to learning about how he got up there and better still stayed there.

    The part about his experimenting with reconnecting is inspiring, and the two lines that will stay with me are “the public is never wrong” and “crush all distance” If I can work on just those two the next few months, I know I will get somewhere.

  10. @David, yeah, Brian & I realized that with a bit of chagrin as we were preparing this one. :) Just one of those funny coincidences that we got two excellent posts in with rappers as the central angle. Go figure.

  11. Agreed. One blogger wrote (perhaps it was you?) “doesn’t matter how much you like broccoli ice cream, if no one else does, it won’t sell.”

  12. I really recommend Robert’s book ‘The 50th Law’ to anyone who reads Copyblogger. It’s got so much material on overcoming the fears that artist and entrepreneurs face and it uses examples from history, not just hip-hop.

    I recently interviewed Robert Greene about how he wrote The 48 Laws of Power, how he learned it was making waves in the world of hip-hop and how writing that book effected him; the audio of part one of that interview is on my personal website, linked here.

  13. Robert, Welcome to the copyblogger tribe.

    I find something fascinating about rap and I was wondering if 50 ever mentioned anything about this.

    You mention “his sense of connection, so vital on the streets,” then you mention “…market his music and merchandise directly to the public.”

    I would gather that “streets” refer to his black audience, and “public” refers to his overall audience, which is probably 60% white (I’m guessing here).

    How do rap artists like 50 balance the need to keep it real as they say, with the reality that a large portion of their audience (and FINANCIAL success) is probably suburb-white?

    This must be a trip when trying to write rap songs.

    @Dean, as a former computer instructor, I couldn’t agree more.
    @David, Music and Movie references FTW!!!!!!!!

  14. Wow. Great post with depth, thoughtfulness, and freshness that immediately caught my attention. I scrolled down to discover Robert Greene had penned it–he’s a master of creative ideas, idea sets, and execution with huge commercial appeal. It’s a keeper I will share with many. thx.

    PS–The frequently heard online business mantra about people who “will never again be working with individuals, consulting 1-on-1, etc.,” set themselves up to lose the real connection, “the juice” they have. All the great idea people and teachers I know continue to “do the work,” in some capacity or another. It keeps you connected, with your ear to the ground and your heart on your sleeve.

  15. Very interesting post. It definitely gives you something to think about when working to connect with your audience. Sometimes as small business owners we can be afraid to experiment, but experimentation helps us learn and grow.

    “The public is never wrong. When people don’t respond to what you do, they’re telling you something loud and clear. You’re just not listening.

    ~ Fifty Cent”

    I have to agree this is an excellent quote and one to be remembered. Thanks for the very insightful article.

    Jenn

  16. I guess this makes sense if your music is a mass-produced, formulaic product like mainstream hip-hop.

    I’m not one of those indie people that decries artists for supposedly “selling out”. I’m all for listening to your audience. Listening to your customers. but this kind of advice is responsible for so much mediocre music and lame, predictable, unimaginitive “product” that appeals to a bunch of suburban culturally illiterate white suburban teenagers.

  17. This is great advice – listen to your audience.

    When businesses ask how they should use social media, the first answer should always be “to listen”.

    I’m impressed that 50 Cent used his social network not just to spread his message, but to listen to his fans.

  18. Thanks for that. I love the 48 Laws of Power and am now looking forward to getting this 50 Cent book. Looks like a lot of great info about building and connecting to people which is what all this web 2.0 is about. Cheers.

  19. 50 Cent definitely knew something that most artists didn’t know, and that’s how he blew up (became popular) so quickly. Now we know why, and how. Just like Eminem (from the blog post a few days ago), 50 Cent is a mastermind. He takes time to reflect, to hone his skills, and strategically build a product that is EXACTLY what his audience wants. Genius.

  20. @Janet, that’s a really good point. The consulting & other interaction I do are hugely helpful for me, they let me know the actual problems folks are getting stuck on, not the theoretical ones I imagine they would be getting stuck on.

  21. All success attracts its sycophants, from the boss in an office; to worldwide stars.

    The difficulty is for the recipients of this kind of following to keep perspective.

    As Greene notes, a person MUST remain in touch with their origins and be true to themselves.

    Anything else is false and will eventually fade.

  22. Don M, Let’s pretend.

    You are 50′s advisor…

    What would you advise him to do?

    Include exactly what “culturally illiterate white suburban teenagers” means and list your qualifications to label such a demographic so 50 can avoid appealing to such a group.

  23. Suzanna stinnett :

    Super post, and I must point out that Michael Phillips nailed all this in Marketing Without Advertising, now in its 6th edition, first published in the mid 80s. A business and life guide which we all can benefit from on every level. Yes, he is my friend, but that’s not why I say READ IT. Check it out.
    Suzanna

  24. Robert,

    I have been reading CB for a long time and I hate to pick a favorite, but this may be the best piece I’ve ever read here. Thanks for this.

    50 Cent’s excellent observation that the public is never wrong reminds me of this one, nearly a hundred years old by now and still fresh:

    Your audience gives you everything you need. They tell you. There is no director who can direct you like an audience.
    —Fanny Brice

    Off to check out your blog now.

    Regards,

    Kelly

  25. In response to your point about listening, I think listening has to be one of the hardest things to do properly. I mean it seems simple enough. But it is something that, i and i know many others, find hard to do. Listening should be part of research strategy, at least in marketing. Not only are you able to pick up really useful subjective insights – as in qualitative research in general – but, sometimes/often – useful facts and figures as well – as in quantitative research.

    You write: “The public is never wrong. When people don’t respond to what you do, they’re telling you something loud and clear. You’re just not listening.” I think this is one good reason why we just don’t want to listen. That we don’t want to be challenged. We want to be right, when, of course, often the most important people affecting how we perform – our customers – think we’re wrong.

    But, of course, we don’t like listening for lots of other reasons as well! Whatever the reasons, we have to listen!

  26. I cannot believe Robert Greene is on Copyblogger. There is a slideshare ebook for The 50th Law that is spectacular if anyone is still on the fence. Check it out here.

  27. Great post. Many companies could take lessons from Fifty’s approach to feedback and reconnecting with your base.

  28. Dear Mr. Greene:

    This is awesome! I really did not expect Fifty to show up on here. But I guess it is one of the main reasons read through the whole article :)

    It’s interesting to see how very successful people handle their issues. It makes them less mysterious I guess.

    Connecting with people is something that I have to learn how to deal with. The one thing that resonated with me the most is opening the channels for feedback and criticism.

    That is how I personally learn and grow by learning from my mistakes. Sometimes I do not know when I have made a mistake until others tell me. That is why it is crucial for others to say how they feel and not be afraid. By keeping silent you are not only hurting yourself, but the others as well.

    Best,
    Tomas

  29. I wonder how the owner of this blog himself dealt with growth and still connecting with his audience.

    Mainly by not taking myself too seriously. :)

    I cannot believe Robert Greene is on Copyblogger.

    What do you mean? Me and Robert are boys from way back. Okay, actually he’s a friend of a friend … and we’re very appreciative that he gave us this honor.

  30. Thank you all for your interesting comments. Yes, I am on Copyblogger and honored to be among you.

    As for this strategy possibly being a route to selling out or to merely making you a reflection of your audience’s tastes, it is clear in the chapter that it is not a matter of selling your soul, of bringing none of your personality to your work. That is as bad as not being open to feedback.

    In 50′s case, he has always preferred the hard sound that he wrote earlier on in his career, but record producers pushed him towards doing more of the softer ballads, to broaden his appeal. 50 discovered through feedback that his hardcore audience—white and black—actually preferred the hard stuff. It confirmed to him that when he trusted his instincts, he connected better. The feedback helped him to see how he could adapt the harder sound to the tastes of his newest fans.

    Soulless music or artwork generally doesn’t come from listening too much to the audience, but to conservative record executives, etc., who want you to please everyone and make you lose sight of your base of power.

    Anyway, this is all about a balance of expressing what is unique about you but using feedback to keep your feet on the ground and connected to reality. I hope this makes sense.

    Robert

  31. I think 50 Cents’ biggest coup was “borrowing” Robert Greene’s street-cred to get a New York Times Bestseller. Now, a bunch of “non-street” surburban hustlers can (at least intellectually) connect with one of the rawest gangsta rappers in the game.
    Brilliant.

    Looks like ‘fity has deciphered the “trust” code for more than just the urban audience. Hmm…

  32. Okay, as artist I totally agree with how 50 cent makes his art, keeps it “real” and all those good things, however something about this post bothers me. You know I am a CB friend. I am trying to reconcile using someone who is making money off drug/ violent street culture and how this all fits in the third tribe. I want it to be okay. It looks cool, sounds cool maybe but…having met the street culture and dodged teens with guns face to face on the street.. I am still trying to work my way around this one.. anyone want to help me with that? Really. This has bothered me since I read it earlier today. It’s not a game in New Orleans, it’s not marketing, it’s our kids.. anyone?

  33. Janice, I hear you. It’s a bit like the way Sean qualified his excellent Eminem post to get us to focus on what we can take away and use for ourselves.

    50 was dealing drugs at 12. He should be dead by now, but he’s not. His story, and his insights, are what we’re all learning from. It’s that part that’s inspirational and educational.

    I’m in no way dismissing the way you feel, or the situation in New Orleans (did you see my Saints tweets last night? ;) ).

    All I’m saying is take what you need from the post, and leave the rest. We’re all about looking from every angle to teach (and to learn).

  34. Long-time fan of Fifty’s. Been waiting for the book since it was announced. Finished it two weeks ago. It was exactly what I needed.

  35. Janice, from the reading I’ve done on the web, I think that point came up a lot during the book tour as well. And it’s very valid.

    Where it seemed to come down was that 50 was as aware as anyone that the way he made a living as a kid was a messed up, dangerous, stupid and bad way to make a living. He learned things in that world that have stood him in good stead in the (theoretically) more legitimate music business.

    I’m with you, I’m not comfortable with the way we fetishize street criminals, casual violence, etc. It’s not a game. It’s dead kids. Since I don’t own any 50 Cent music, I can’t speak to whether or not I feel his music is glorifying that culture.

    I’ve noticed for people who come from that kind of ruthless warrior environment, there can be a fine line between celebrating and mourning. They’re sickened by where they’ve been, but proud of surviving it. I guess I would probably feel the same, in their shoes.

  36. Hashim Warren :

    looks like Brian, Sonia, and Robert are in the comments, practicing the “listening” this post is preaching.

  37. Thanks Hashim. :)

    We get a lot of good insights and ideas for projects, posts, etc. from our comments. It would be very dumb of us not to stay engaged!

  38. It would be nice to just be able to put up a website, hit publish and get lots of useful feedback overnight.

    Without an audience, silence means that you need to find an audience.

    At what point do you say “ok, my audience isn’t listening cause I suck”?

  39. The base is the biggest thing… i see a lot of people get to the top and stop caring about the foundation.

    Remember a building can’t stand without its foundation.

  40. Crazy. I’m watching the True Story 50 Cent on VH-1 right now. He had his struggles but knew how to market himself and took off big time.

  41. Wow, legend on Copyblogger today. Like all your books, that was awesome Mr. Greene. Thank you.

    (Did anyone else notice him connecting with his audience?)

  42. Hey ,
    this is a great blog post.

    Some good communication principles here you have a good slant to.

    I think it comes through 50 Cent actually cares about people,
    and this comes through on his blog.

    People can spot a fake, and 59 Cent is genuine,
    it is important not to lose that, I believe if you do not care about people, you should never start up a blog, just my opinion.

  43. This is a truly insightful and inspiring post, for sure. I’m thrilled to see someone take the time to talk about connection, and not engagement, which are in fact different. I’ll definitely be sure to address the message here with my blog audience. Thanks again for a wonderful post.

    John Sternal
    @sternalpr

  44. To be honest – I’ve never heard of you, Robert, before today (and I read a lot of books and produce hip hop records). But that was probably one of the most stimulating blog posts I’ve had the privilege of reading in the last 12 months – easily.

    I feel like writing the 50th Law out on my whiteboard.

    Sweet.

  45. Hi Robert
    The article truly inspired me. I am extremely touched by these lines — The public is never wrong. When people don’t respond to what you do, they’re telling you something loud and clear. You’re just not listening. ~ Fifty Cent

    It’s quite an informative article.

    Keep Writing!

  46. As Jeff Friend, pointed out I was immediately struck by yet another hip hop topic. This does a couple things: draws serious attention because people wonder what hip hop has to do with SEO and provide insight to an artist’s hard work in promotional activities. Many artists do have handlers that do this work for them but, alas, at least the illusion (if not the true) connection is there. An artist that I have stumbled upon that promises to personally answer every email submitted is Jens Lekman, a Swedish troubadour that is a big-name in his hometown but a cult figure in the rest of the world. I am going to soon take him up on his offer.

  47. Great post, now 2 rapper references in like a week,,lol You def got some brownie points from me.

    Good to see your not a “stuffy think my shit dont stink” kinda guy.

    Nice to see post inspiration Everywhere…Very Cool.

  48. Too bad 50 was supposed to retire after Kanye outsold him a few years ago.

    Anyway, this guy has gone through quite a bit and he’s found a way to stay on the A-list for what seems like eternity in the hip-hop scene. Kudos to 50!

  49. Hey Robert,

    It’s not them, it’s you.

    If you’re not connecting with others, it’s not them, it’s you. You’re creating for yourself, not for other people. Which is fine if that’s what you want (a journal, music creation for your own enjoyment, etc.), but it spells disaster if you’re creating value and a message for others.

    Focus on the them in order to create something they would want. Of course, you should go with the “sell them what they want, give them what they need” approach and have your own values and goals that you push for. After all, if you’re not pissing people off, you’re not making anything new.

    But the point is you’re pissing people off, rather than creating indifference, because you’re focusing on the them at the core of your creation.

    Best,
    Oleg

  50. Wow, this was a magnetic post. So many good points. Here’s one that I identified with from the Malcolm X quote: “And I could speak and understand the ghetto’s language.”

    In other words, speak to the customer, in the language of the customer, about what matters to the customer.

    Ya know, I saw a copy of this book at Barnes and Noble but discounted it immediately. It looks like I was wrong. I’m heading back there to pick up a copy.

  51. All interesting stuff, but still thinking somewhat narrowly, it seems to me.

    What if you don’t want to continue to connect with the same people?

    One artist’s [or person's, or company's] “bubble” may well be another’s “growth.”

    And: Sometimes what’s important is recognizing that you’re taking the wrong food to the wrong table. You don’t need to change the food — you need to take it to a different table.

  52. Karen McPherson :

    The bottom line is 50 Cent was born to be a marketer. Yeah he started out poorly selling drugs and all, but he had an eye opening, life changing moment that has brought him to where he is today. I wish there were more kids that had his ability to see there is life beyond the streets.

  53. It’s great to read about 50 Cent from this perspective. His use of social media and the web and the “out of touchness” of the music biz execs, echoes what Jermain Dupri expressed during the BlogWorld Expo celebrity panel. There is an army of artists who are seeing the power that’s there and the army should only get bigger.

  54. As always, Robert delivers…I have all his books (except the one with 50cent oddly enough :-) but its on my to-read list.

    I’m a huge fan of making weird connections between seemingly disparate topics and its s great read when somebody does it so well.

    Keep it up Mr. Green. Or would you prefer to be called Mr. Black?

    P.S.
    Dont know why but Robert Green always struck me as a literary equivalent of Quentin Tarantino; hence the Reservoir Dogs reference :-)

  55. A great post Robert. I am not a 50 cent fan but having now understood a bit more about his desire to stay connected to his fan base, is surely a lesson that other more aloof artists need to consider copying themselves. My estimation of him has grown immensely.

  56. Hmm, Nothing teaches us better than real life stories we can connect to. The truth about life is that we are all connected as we all come from the same source. If you do not listen to the silent voice of people’s reactions to whatever you do, you disconnect yourself from the loop/network made up of all of us, you lose any which way.

    By the way Brian the world is a better place because of your blog – Seriously!

  57. I just went into Amazon and bought 50 Laws of Power and 48 Laws of Power. :) Great post. This is my first time on Copyblogger too!

  58. Great post and an interesting insight. However, isn’t music about doing what you feel and shaping things instead of doing what people want you to maintain sales? Part of my thinking when reading the blog post was that 50 Cent is acting like a businessman and not an artist.

  59. Hashim Warren :

    James – good art isn’t about doing what you feel. It’s about having an affect on people and making a connection.

    50 Cent would argue that poor record sales means your audience is clearly telling you that you are not connecting with them. That you are being selfish and not satisfying their needs.

    And that’s terrible art.

  60. As an artist myself, I am afraid I have to side with James on this one. Its perfectly OK to give people what they want but lets not pretend that it has anything to do with the artistic expression. 50 is creating a product, and as such, its great to know what the public wants. Art, by definition, is the expression of whats on the inside, and in its best, unadulterated form, its free from the outside influence.

    So I guess in summary, 50 cent – great businessman who cares about giving the right product to his clientele; but far removed from an artist.

    Jst one man’s opinions :-)

  61. Dino, I think it may surprise you how much commercial influence went into some of our greatest works of art.

    Was Michelangelo a devout Christian, inspired by his faith to sculpt David and paint the Sistine Chapel ? Or did he have a paying audience that demanded religious art?

    And did Shakespeare write his plays without his audience’s tastes in mind? Or, did he strategically try to pack the playhouse and make work that would be as popular as possible.

    For both Shakespeare and Michelangelo, it was the latter. They were businessmen, marketers, and incredible artists. Just like 50 Cent.

  62. I know in my gut that artistry comes from within however those are excellent points Hashim.

    Without trying to debunk your point, I will say that people have a revisionist view of art. Did you know that Eiffel Tower was considered a horrid monstrosity when it was built?

    I dont want to stray to far from the main point. I think even 50 would agree that he is pushing product, not art.

    The only opinion worth listening to is the opposing one. :-)

  63. Dino, my gut tells me the same thing! I’m arguing more from my mind, than my heart.

    I would love for Brian, Sonia, Jon or a Copyblogger guest writer to “listen” to us and write something about being true to your art while selling a product. :)

    This is probably the biggest bump for us Third Tribers.

  64. Hashim,
    While most of your points are true enough, money and commercialism does not determine good , or great art…it is the essence contained in the work itself. Look on any proud parent’s refrigerator and I will show you some good and even great art. What 50cent is, is a great lyricist and a brilliant dealer who knows that to scale, he has to have a fabulous production team, JV with other power houses, and a win at all costs attitude. And using any and all tools that work to his goal. Get Rich or Die I believe he says. The great lesson here is look at his how, his how is useful for anyone wanting to pull a team together and go after your target. Dean Koons does the same thing. Art as commodity. Doesn’t make the art better, just makes it reach more people. Bigger platform. More money.
    The making of the art though..that’s altogether different.

  65. Hashim,
    If your art is true to you and also fills a deep seated need in another… exchanging it for money is not selling out. It is a mutual and wanted exchange.

  66. If your art is true to you and also fills a deep seated need in another… exchanging it for money is not selling out

    Well put, Janice.

    Hashim, I like to think of this way: Either an artist or entrepreneur satisfies existing desire on purpose, or on accident. Understanding and connecting with your audience on a deeper level takes the “accident” out of your art. I’m not saying you ask people specifically what they want, but you have to understand what they want at a fundamental level of desire.

    No desire = failure.

    I think trying to create things accidentally in order to keep some sense of artistic purity is misguided. Operating from a standpoint of ignorance seems silly and counterproductive.

    Also, as we can see by some of unnamed rappers referenced in this post, there could be some condescension working here. Like rappers who make it big and forget about the “little” people who got them there, too often struggling artists see others as beneath them.

  67. WOW! Eye-opening.

  68. I love Robert Greens books, and this post rocks. I LOVE this part (it is pure gold):

    Instead of turning inward, consider people’s coolness to your idea and their criticisms as a kind of mirror that they are holding up to you.

    Your ego cannot protect you — the mirror does not lie. You use it to correct your appearance and avoid ridicule.

    The opinions of other people serve a similar function. You view your work inside your mind, encrusted with all kinds of desires and fears. Through their criticisms you can get closer to this objective version and gradually improve what you do.

    When your work does not communicate with others, consider it your own fault. You did not make your ideas clear enough, you failed to connect with your audience emotionally. This will spare you any bitterness or anger that might come from people’s critiques. You are simply perfecting your work through the social mirror.