If you are a rapper the rule is you need at least one mixtape to be official! Only expectation is a battle rapper since they are getting paid to battle and don't usually have time to make one. A mixtape is a promotional tool used to attract fans, not record labels. I see many artist make this mixtape from time to time. A mixtape shouldn't just be packaged with a CD and a bullshit graphic created on a Windows 95 style printing paper.
Much of these record labels are only giving out distribution deals or 360 deals also known as take you for everything you got deals. A distribution deal is what you want, but the audience is what you must have. Youtube®, Instagram, Facebook® are needed to amass this audience. With an audience of 1,000 loyal followers you can leverage that to sell advertisements on each and every mixtape/album to produce. You can create a small comic book that goes with mixtape which details the story of every song!
I am giving away free ideas here that I will be using myself in the near-future to consult some of my future clients. The mixtape is still a powerful tool. Though the physical world seems to be disappearing because of digital sales -- personal interaction is still a most! People walk through urban neighborhoods after working looking for various sources of entertainment after a stressful job.
You don't now how many of my friends used to buy street DVDs just to work the end off of daily life and to keep up with the Hip-Hop culture.
The Mixtape Grind
• Youtube® - Use this medium! It has a bunch of resources for free and you will be set as long as you own the copyright to every bit of content you produce. You won't have to worry about a thing. You control the channel, the design, and you have hold of the audience. If you are worried about brokering a deal with a label -- all the numbers are right there!
• Twitter® - A lot of people have 1,000 followers for nothing. Some have 20k followers for nothing. You will use these for your mixtape and throwing low-priced shows to which you will sell merchandise and other creative objects. You are running a creative lifestyle business. You aren't doing this for your local homies, but for the world at large. You are a business at the end of the day. You are a lifestyle promoter and you have to create your brand.
• Personal Brand - Your personal brand allows you to leverage any product out there and allows you to bridge yourself to any industry that you have access to. Many rappers have leveraged their audience and hype into clothing lines, energy drinks, sports cars or whatever. Many independent acts can do this all through frequent vlogs, city-wide shows and other various business ventures. It's as if you can creative it you can monetize.
• Instagram® - People post pictures of money and other foolishness. You will use this to create everyday entertainment for your audience. This isn't to be used to play around because when you are broke you are going to wish you hadn't. Focus on the quality of your content and make sure you post videos and pictures daily! If you show off money make sure it's to promote the end product -- your mixtape and other merchandise.
• Your Website - It's your internet presence and you create a free with wordpress. A domain name is only 10/yr.... use a blog if you can't afford the hosting.