It was earlier this year – Monday, March 2 – and Quincy “Q-Dot” Henry was just about to go onstage in Los Angeles. The 2014 Music Business grad, current Internet Marketing master’s online student, and hip hop artist was tired, and rightfully so. He’d been touring and working nonstop to promote his album, Black Gold, which he had self-released the week before.
His phone buzzed; it was an email from his friend, with an attached screenshot of that day’s iTunes Hip Hop charts. Black Gold was on the charts, sitting at #17.
“Straight up, I cried,” Quincy remembers. “Chris Brown and Tyga’s albums were right in front of mine. These dudes are megastars and here I am, little old me, and I was able to break the top 20. I was like, that’s crazy. It was amazing.”
The big difference between Q-Dot and artists like Tyga and Chris Brown is that Quincy is doing everything on his own. There’s no tour manager, no marketing team, and no label support. As an independent artist, Quincy is all of those things for himself. Growing up just outside of Seattle in Federal Way, Washington, he would tag along to the studio with his older brothers. In high school, he started to take his music seriously. Then, in his freshmen year of college [at Central Washington University], he was days away from signing to a label before the deal fell through.
“That’s when I really vowed to learn the business,” says Quincy. “After almost getting signed and then dropped from Interscope was heartbreaking.”
Inspired by versatile artists like rapper Busta Rhymes and filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, Quincy calls his music a hybrid of Pharrell Williams and early Kanye West. He’s been playing the piano since he was 10; it’s an instrument you can hear quite a bit of on Black Gold, complemented by Quincy’s heavy, thoughtful lyrics about social injustice and African-American history. Black Gold isn’t his first successful release, either: his album Underground Railroad was nominated for a GRAMMY for Best Urban Alternative Album in 2010.
“It was a really odd year for the GRAMMY Awards because it was the year they cut the submission process down by two months,” explains Quincy, humbly. “I didn’t win, but that was really kind of the moment that validated everything for me.”
Quincy, who now lives in Tacoma, produces his own music, books all of his shows, and manages his social media accounts. It’s a lot to juggle – in addition to being a full-time student and a father of two – but it’s what he loves to do, and it’s a big reason why he decided to study Music Business, and now Internet Marketing, at Full Sail. Prior to Black Gold’s release, Quincy tracked his followers on music analytics site Next Big Sound, figured out what was engaging his social media followers, and then reached out to that small, yet dedicated fan base.
“I just really monitored my social activity,” says Quincy. “I would look at what people were engaging in and why, and then I’d narrow down my focus to each individual person. It’s tedious, but it works. As an independent artist, it’s vital to know how to promote and market your music.”
Quincy is scheduled to graduate from the Internet Marketing master’s program this June, and besides completing his studies, he’s also touring around the country in support of Black Gold. In the future, he’d like to start an agency or consulting business that helps other independent hip hop artists with their booking, distribution, and marketing.
“It used to be you had to have that gatekeeper [a record label] to put you in front of an audience,” says Quincy. “Now, I think artists just need to know how to get in front of people. The music business is evolving, and you don’t need a record deal to hit #17 on the iTunes Hip Hop charts.”