How An All-American Baseball Player Became A Successful Rapper: An Interview With Mike Stud

On October 4th, Mike Stud brought the Stud Nation Tour to Ithaca, NY. I had a chance to sit down with the All-American baseball player turned rapper after the show to talk about The Stud Nation tour, his musical journey, education, and more.  

First, I want to congratulate you. Last month you sold out the Highline Ballroom in NYC. As a relatively new, independent artist, what was your reaction to the show?

It’s crazy. Like I said on stage, I really appreciate it. I don’t take anything for granted. My agents thought we could do it, but I didn’t know we sold it out 10 days ahead of time, which is nuts. A huge thank you to everyone who came, it’s dope.

You’re currently on the Stud Nation Tour. What’s the concept of the tour and what are you hoping to accomplish out on the road?

The concept is something my manager came up with. The Stud Nation thing is kind of a play on the presidential theme; you see the portrait, it looks like a president portrait. They’re just trying to play off my background. I went to some very uppity schools [Duke University & Georgetown University] and that I’m more for the Middle American kids. I make music for the people who relate to me and that’s Middle America, so we thought Stud Nation would be a cool theme.

You, along with your good friend Huey Mack, and a few others, are ultimately the ambassadors of the “college hip-hop” movement; I think a lot of kids out there tonight saw a little bit of themselves in you. With that being said, how do plan to grow and remain at the forefront?

I’m not exactly sure what the whole “college music” thing is. I just think kids in college like my music. If you listen, most of my records, especially the newest ones, are not about partying or college. Sure, the one that popped off was “College Humor” and that’s fine, but I think people that really take a listen and write off the superstitions behind it will see a real artist. You’re going to start to hear more singing in my new songs and more of an artist feel, and not just a “frat boy.” I was never a frat boy; I’m a white kid that played baseball.

Mike Stud pitching for Duke University

Something I notice about you is that you aren’t afraid to collaborate with other aspiring artists. What’s your rationale behind that? Do you think it will lead to any criticism?

I don’t think that’s a real argument, because I just collaborate with people that I like. I don’t collaborate with people I don’t know, and I don’t collaborate with people whose music I don’t like. The people that I’ve worked with, I stand behind them, and I support them; we all have the same markets and fan bases.

Huey and I are splitting images. A lot of time we’re in the same city and we just meet up, we made the mixtape [Click] on a limb.

My favorite one is “You Don’t Know Me” with Tarik…

He’s the homie. He’s dope. I did that shit because he deserves more fans. Everyone on my business side said that it didn’t make sense to do that collaboration with him because he has a much smaller fan base, but he’s dope and very humble.

One of the things about you that I want to understand a little better is your social media presence. As we know, your baseball injury led you to music, but anybody can do that. Like you said on stage, it’s only been 14 months since you released your first mixtape. How did you know who to target and make the Mike Stud brand an Internet sensation?  

Honestly, I have no idea. I made “College Humor” for baseball parties at Georgetown. My teammates kept saying, “Yo! I like your music, keep making songs.” I made the song on Garageband; I had no engineer. I just recorded it in my dorm room, drunk. The fact that everywhere I go that’s the song everybody knows, it’s crazy.

So it was just word of mouth?

Yeah.

Photo by Nick DeJohn

Mike Stud at The Haunt in Ithaca
Photo by Nick DeJohn

Now you have Jon Kilmer on tour with you. Every kid wants him to direct their video, you have your sponsorship with Freshletes, and your music steadily brings traffic to all the blog sites.

It came out of nowhere; I can’t thank the people enough.

I read that you went to Georgetown University graduate school to study sports management and finance. How has your educated helped you in the music industry so far?

I’m just way more involved than people understand. Most artists don’t even care about the business side. I’m in on every meeting, the behind the scenes stuff at this point is pretty crazy, and so I’m very involved. That’s how I like it. 

With booking powerhouse Peter Schwartz and The Agency Group behind you, I’m sure many opportunities that are starting to present themselves. What’s next for you and what are you hoping to accomplish in the near future? 

As much as Peter and those guys are going to take their expertise and grow my brand, it’s still about the music. I’m not big enough to just go do tours. I’m one mixtape in; I haven’t done shit. I know that, and I don’t think I’ve made it at all. We’re working everyday; there are no days off. At this point, I’m just working harder because my foot is in the door.

Peter is great, and I’m blessed to have a lot of great industry people behind me right now, most who we haven’t mentioned to the public yet. I’m going to use those tools, but right now it’s all driven by the music.

Interviewing Mike Stud

For more on Mike Stud and to see if the Stud Nation Tour is coming to a city near you, visit Mike’s website, Twitter, FaceBook, and YouTube!

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Power Of A Dollar

“Musicians are poor, there’s no getting around that. Freelance musicians have to tie together a lot of different things to make a living, and don’t have a lot of support from their teams. There are successful musicians — but the vast majority of people aren’t that.”

– Jean Cook (Future of Music Coalition, July 31, 2012)

As I conclude my summer internship here in New York City, I feel that it is important that I share a part of my experience with all aspiring artists. Sitting in my cubical at this medium size accounting firm, gold and platinum plaques fill the hallways of the music department. Some of the plaques belong to recognizable names of hip-hop, rock, R&B, and everything in between; at the same time, some of the plaques may have you questioning who the artists are and how did they manage to sell 500,000 to a million copies of their album. To me, this symbolizes how the music industry has completely changed over the years and how technology has clearly transformed everything. As we know, records aren’t selling like they used to and artists are often left struggling and searching for royalties in order to survive. Ironically, Cassidy said it best, and he’s probably one of these people,

“Royalty checks come, like, once in a blue moon” 

– Cassidy (“I’m A Hustla“)  

This summer, I have seen first hand some of hip-hop’s legendary DJs and rap groups, who many of you would kill to meet and have your music heard by, reach serious financial difficulties. These difficulties stem from many things: poor business management in the past, buying unnecessary items (the hip-hop stigma), and not paying taxes. If there is one thing that I’ve learned this summer it is that Uncle Sam and the IRS want, and will get the money they are owed. Right, Young Buck & Beanie Sigel? Bottom line, whether you are an artist with a big budget or you’re an artist with a smaller budget, but has consistent touring and strong merchandise sales, please hire a good business manager/accountant. Their services will take off a lot of your financial stresses.

By this point in the blog I would hope that you would be asking the question, “How do I make sure that I don’t reach that point?” Simple – Branding and Touring. Let’s start with branding.

Branding

Many of today’s top artists are getting bored with just rapping. Swizz Beatz, for example, designs cars, paints, and is an executive at Reebok, Pharrell has about 6 clothing lines, a book coming out, and a new multimedia company called I Am Other, Lil’ Wayne decided to hop on a skateboard, and Snoop Dogg decided to change his name to Snoop Lion in order to become a reincarnated Bob Marley. Additionally, we’ve seen Diddy take over the alcohol industry with Ciroc and of course, Dr. Dre is the staple of headphones. All of these guys have found ways to stretch their money and image, yet still remain household names and attract different demographics. A recent Huffington Post article suggested,

“According to industry experts, the only way to make money in the music business is to turn an artist into a brand — then do everything in your power to maximize that brand’s value. Songs make an artist famous in the first place, and allow the artist to define his or her brand.” 

– Joe Satran (Huffington Post, July 31, 2012)

That statement alone clearly exemplifies the importance of giving and earning respect within the music industry. Major corporations aren’t going to endorse artists who have weak followings, a poor image, or a criminal record – as we’ve seen with T.I. and his loss of Chevrolet and Axe sponsorships.

Touring

A recent survey conducted concluded that musicians made an average of about $34,000 off their music in America, before deducting expenses from touring and recording. Trust me, after doing payroll tax and completing tax forms 940 and 941 all summer, I have learned that there are many people that need to get paid on behalf of the work they’ve done for you if you want to have a legitimate entity. Just because the overall average of revenue earned in America is low, doesn’t mean that affects every artist. Take legendary band The Who for example, they are about to embark on a 37 city tour in 2012/2013 on a $20 million dollar budget! Unfortunately, not every artist can successfully do that. The days of having one hit record + million albums sold + tour = longevity are far gone; in today’s market, you may only remain relevant for 6 – 8 months with that formula. That’s why the new formula is consistent music + strong/loyal fan base + continuous touring + merchandise sales = success. Ultimately, it’s up to you and your team on how you want to approach your career.

There you have it readers, and in the words of a fellow South Floridian, “Always pay your taxes, never pay these hoes” – Rick Ross (“MMG The World Is Yours”). I hope that my insight will lead you on a path of great fortune and fame; just don’t forget to give me the 10% I’m entitled to for teaching you a thing or two! Until next time…