Lance Coleman is only 23 years old and probably more accomplished than you.

Hailing from Howard University, the Oakland-based digital strategist has had his hands in a number of music-related business ventures over the past few years. Through his work as a strategist with The Blueprint Group and CEO of his own digital firm, IV The Love, Coleman has worked on projects and online presence for big names like Kanye West, Drake, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, and the Bay Area’s own G-Eazy.

Lance Coleman, digital strategist & rapper Fuze The Mc (Courtesy of Lance Coleman)

Lance Coleman, digital strategist & rapper Fuze The Mc (Courtesy of Lance Coleman)

When he isn’t trying to figure out how to promote Nicki Minaj’s new album, The Pinkprint, Coleman is using the rest of his time to promote himself and his own music. Coleman’s alter ego is Fuze The Mc, an entirely self-made rapper featured on MTV and XXL who is best known for hits like “Jazz 808’s (Got Soul)” and “What If Black Was A Super Power”, both of which boast thousands of listens on his SoundCloud.

With a Twitter following that has reached nearly half a million users, Coleman found a way to marry his passion for his music and his social media skills. When trying to pitch Fuze The Mc to The Blueprint Group, Coleman said the producers were extremely interested in how he was promoting his music online, and his career as a digital strategist began.

“I came up with [those techniques] because I was doing them for myself as an artist,” Coleman said of how he amassed such a large online following.

As if that wasn’t enough, Coleman is also interested in Oakland’s ever-growing tech scene. He’s currently working on a beta version of an app called Playola, which directly connects fans to artists they might know to build them bigger fanbases. According to Coleman, only about 380 artists out of the 40 million in America are regularly played on the radio and 86% of those are artists who were also topping the charts last year. This statistic is the driving inspiration behind Playola.

“As an artist, I realized that I didn’t have access to the tools to promote myself that a lot of the bigger major players do,” Coleman said. “If you don’t play ball with a major label, you don’t hit the radio.”

Playola is set to launch early this year, and a public beta version of the app is coming soon. Along with Playola’s roll out, Coleman and Team Electrospit are working on a new Talk Box prototype with the help of West Oakland’s Zoo Labs. Dedicated to promoting artists who have what founder Dave Watson calls “the sound of hardwork, the sound of innovation,” Zoo Labs holds two-week residency programs designed to orient artists, or “teams” as they’re referred to in the studio, towards thinking about music as more than just tracks on a listener’s iPod — it’s a business.

“There’s too much modeling that happens for musicians of looking at gigantic acts and trying to mimic them,” Watson said. “If there’s one word that sums up Zoo Labs, it’s strategy. They’re all on their way to becoming strategic powerhouses.”

 

Studio A at Zoo Labs (Courtesy of Ciena Nelson)

Studio A at Zoo Labs (Courtesy of Ciena Nelson)

As a former artist-in-residence and a permanent strategist-in-residence, Coleman attributes a large slice of his success as an artist to his residency at Zoo Labs and his relationship with other creatives who work out of its studios.

To his fellow artists, Coleman wants them to know that nobody has the answers when it comes to the music industry, and there’s no “secret sauce” successful artists have that makes them more popular than others. The real secret is finding “exactly what about the music industry excites you” and improving it.

“If you can make what you love better, you’ll be valuable to someone,” Coleman said. “Make yourself valuable and someone will come find you, for better or worse.”

To read more about Zoo Labs, check out Live Work Oakland’s story here.

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