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Call Me Ace on his Indie Rap Career, Building His Brand, and Still Working Full-Time

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Call Me Ace

Listen to this episode:


Call Me Ace, hip-hop recording artist who has charted on Billboard, returns to the podcast to talk about his album “Out Of Office”, his participation in the BET AmpliFINd contest, and other things he has accomplished this past year while working a full-time job in tech. He shares his personal approach to making content and engaging with his fan base, High Grade Society. He also gives a sneak peek of a book he is working on.

If you’ve ever wondered how people grew and established their creative careers while working a day job, this is the episode for you!

Episode Highlights:

[02:13] How the pandemic affected Call Me Ace

[03:15] About “Out Of Office” 

[06:26] The importance of community and making connections

[08:50] Utilize the right platforms that align with your brand

[13:38] On becoming a Top 10 semi-finalist in “BET AmpliFind” and the opportunities that followed after that

[23:42] Call Me Ace’s partnership with Insider Studios and Ford

[27:55] On text messaging as a platform

[32:04] On sharing knowledge

[39:00] Vanity metrics are not everything

Listen: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | SoundCloud | Stitcher | Overcast | Amazon | Google Podcasts | Pocket Casts | RSS

Host: Dan Runcie, @RuncieDan, trapital.co

Guest: Call Me Ace, @callmeacelegit, Call Me Ace

Trapital is home for the business of hip-hop. Gain the latest insights from hip-hop’s biggest players by reading Trapital’s free weekly memo

Transcript

Dan: Hey, welcome to the Trapital podcast. I’m your host and the founder of Trapital, Dan Runcie. Today, we have a returning guest, one of my friends, Call Me Ace, coming back on the podcast. Call Me Ace is a hip-hop recording artist who has charted on Billboard and has built a very passionate following and so many of the tools and principles that we talk about with audience building and the tradeoffs that you make when you’re trying to grow a platform and grow on different areas and make a name for yourself, Call Me Ace has done this himself. It’s even more impressive because he still has his full-time job working in tech and he has accomplished so much, especially this past year. We talked about some of his most recent releases and his album, Out of Office, and some of the ways that he used to build and engage his fan base, the High Grade Society, and we also talk about some of the opportunities he’s had now that he’s continued to grow his career. He participated in BET’s AmpliFIND Competition which is specifically for rising artists and he’s also been doing partnerships himself and did a mini documentary with Ford Mustang and Insider Travel. A lot of people often ask me, “Hey, it’s great that you cover the Drakes and the Rihannas and the people at the 0.1 percent of this music industry, but what about everyone else? What are the strategies that they use? What are the things that they can do to help grow and establish their careers?” This episode is a perfect example of that. One of the things that Ace talks about as well is this book that he’s writing on how he is able to gain a platform and how a lot of the vanity metrics that people often rely on don’t matter as much as we necessarily think they do. It was great to just catch up with Ace in general. We haven’t caught up in a minute. Here’s my conversation with Call Me Ace.

Interview

Dan: We got a return guest here. We got my guy, Call Me Ace, who I do have to say that I know the pandemic was tough on a lot of us but I do feel like your music career has gotten a nice little uptick from what I’ve seen in the past year plus. How’s it been on your end?

Ace: Man, well, the pandemic definitely has been tough for all of us, for sure. It was one of those things and, you know, I feel like when you gotta grind, you understand the sentiment. It was almost like, “What else can I do?” you know? It was like everything is stripped so like what else can I do and so, fortunately, I still have access — I mean, I have my own studio so I have access to the equipment to make the music, you know? Everything is digital and in the palm of our hands or a laptop so making music, it was almost like, “Aight, well, I can’t do shows, I can’t meet people in person so let me just make some music and still, you know, share this message.” I felt like, if anything, it just gave me a reason to keep going because, otherwise, you know, the cabin fever, I can’t see human beings, I can’t see people smile, I’m working from home, my work is my bed and my office and my gym, you know? Like it was getting too much so I needed the music so that’s kinda how I looked at it and I’m thankful that people were also able to receive the music in a positive way.

Dan: Yeah, it’s dope. It’s dope. So, talk to me about Out of Office.

Ace: Yeah. So, Out of Office, the concept of that album, it really started from this idea that people like when I tell stories and I hadn’t told a lot of stories since, honestly, since “Hope You Hear Me” on Airplane Mode where I talked about my aunt passing away. I hadn’t really told too many stories during the pandemic. So, with Out of Office, it was like, all right, well let me do a concept album, kind of like Airplane Mode but more cohesive, and let me tell one narrative across 12, 14 songs, I can’t remember how much it is, but essentially of going in the office, out of office, spending a whole weekend out of office and then going back into the office, and the protagonist, who is, you know, obviously me, you see how many different characters this person has to be in order to do all of the things that he has to do so, you know, employee, businessman, marketer, a rapper, a husband, a son, a brother, you know? A brother that, you know, has a sister, for example, that’s, you know, across the country and not being able to be there for her in times of need, like all these different roles and characters, right? A dreamer. Someone that looks like they have it all, someone who’s aware that they don’t have it all, someone that came from nothing, someone that is like building generational wealth, buying property, all these different things, right? And it’s like that person still has to go to the office in the end of the day. So, what does it look like to like be in this situation, right? And so that’s kind of what it was from a concept point of view. The artwork, you know, I’ve been doing my own artwork for my albums. I love The Office. I felt like it was a very good, you know, Michael Scott and how much he is very brash with his diverse outtakes so, you know, really touching on that as well, you know? Like being in tech, being the one of only, navigating that, right? Adding that extra layer to the album. That’s really what it was and I’m thankful that it’s been received as well as it has. It’s helped to make 2021 very dope. So, yeah, Out of Office, that’s, in a nutshell.

Dan: And you definitely created some good buzz around it, so much good buzz that you sent me a link to check out the listening party and I was like, “Okay, cool.” I got a meeting that’s ending right then but I’ll be able to get in, you know, maybe just a minute or two later. I clicked the link and I couldn’t get in. I got blocked out of it and I was like, “Oh,” this is like a click race. I need to step my game up because I thought I could have come through but that just shows what the demand was like.

Ace: I had no idea that the demand would be that way. I didn’t know there was gonna be like a virtual bouncer, you know, to the party, yeah, now that you remind me. So were you able to get in at all? Because there were some people that were like waiting and finally got in like after 20 minutes, 30 minutes. Were you able to get to get in —

Dan: I didn’t get in at all. I couldn’t. I —

Ace: Okay.

Dan: — so I ended up streaming it later, of course, but, yeah, I wasn’t able to get in but I was — I chalked it up. I was like I’m happy for the demand, it’s where it’s at. I’m sad that the virtual bouncer kept me out but, you know, I gotta do what I gotta do.

Ace: Word. If it was me, I would have let you through, you know? I really — I had no idea. But, yeah, that was such a blessing. I mean, you know, if it was real life, right? Like we’d be in an intimate setting. I wanted to, you know, just share the album in full with people that would truly resonate, you know, because that’s the thing with, you know, Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, Tidal, like shout-outs to them but I don’t have contact with the people that listen to the music, right? Like the analytics will tell me, aight, cool, I got new fans in Bratislava but like, who? I’d love to meet you, you know what I mean? I’d love to, you know, you two, three people, who are your friends, you know? Like I’d love to hang out with y’all so we could flip this, you know? And so being able to have a face to face, an opportunity for folks to like, you know, get to see each other as well, right? That social proof of just like, “Hey, you’re not the only one that likes the music,” you know? And what I mean by that is I’ve learned, in this journey, that I’m a very like one-to-one, word of mouth, personal, direct-to-consumer kind of artist when it comes to growing my fan base but I’ve also learned the importance of community and that, you know, seeing other people like the same things that you like actually creates more of a bond with the thing that, you know, that you like because now you can share it. I could share that with them. And so, what I noticed too after that listening session was just, you know, those folks that were there, aight, like, I already knew that like there was an affinity but I’ve seen just like almost a drastic shift in just like how much deeper, right? That support has been and I’m so thankful for it, right? Because it’s one thing if it’s like, “Yo, Dan, can you like let people know such and such is happening?” It’s another thing when Dan does it on his own volition. And it’s like, “Yo, you need to check this out right now. You’re tripping,” right? And so I’ve seen a lot more of that in 2021 and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Dan: Yeah, I do think that the fan building piece of it and just the community aspect is strong for you, right? And you mentioned it yourself. That’s one of the challenges with so many of the digital streaming providers, they don’t offer that but it puts an opportunity on you to be able to find those and, obviously, I know that Zoom is one of those, at least from what it can create from having the video sessions, but I’m sure there’s other platforms too that you’ve been able to try out, some of them probably work better than others, so I’m sure the pandemic in some ways was good in being able to see, okay, what works, what doesn’t, what can continue to be live streamed versus what can be brought in a more physical setting.

Ace: Totally. And to your point too, what like matches your brand and what you stand for, right? Because there’s — like, me, personally, my brand, where I am in my life, I don’t see myself having an OnlyFans account, you know what I mean? Like there’s a certain thing, like I see it, I see it exists, I see it works for some people. I don’t really need it, you know what I mean? It’s like there’s other things that I could like focus on, right?

Dan: A question for you on that. Is that because of the x-rated content notion or is it a visual aspect? Because I have heard some artists that are using it that are like, “Hey, I’m not using it for the x-rated stuff but I am using it for more personal visuals or whatever it is.”

Ace: That’s what’s up. That’s what’s up. No, full disclosure, I’ve never even attempted, I don’t even know what it looks like, I’m not gonna lie. I just — I know it exists, I’ve heard some things and that was enough for me to be like, “I don’t need to try.” Like I don’t wanna, you know what I mean? Keep my eyes okay, right? Like that’s kinda how I feel about it so, yeah, no, but, you know, just even like all of the, you know, opportunities where you create those connections, that’s really where, you know, I’ve been trying to focus on, whether it’s e-mail, texting, you know? Texting was actually like a really big part of the BET competition which, you know, we could talk more about after but, you know, texting, DMs, comments straight up, like YouTube comments. I’d be having, you know, conversations with people that are discovering me, right? And so like finding ways to just connect it all. There’s so many different tributaries that you have to exist in as a brand, right? But like how do you bring it all together and that’s been like the case study this pandemic, because that’s all we’ve had, right? Like I can’t just show up to people’s spot and be like, “Yo, come slide through.” There is no sliding through.

Dan: Right, and I think part of this too, you also have to pick your, not necessarily battles but you have to pick your focus areas because you’re gonna be stretched thin and there’s only so much you can go so, obviously, OnlyFans is a quick one that you can rule out but I’m sure there’s other platforms that, you know, Call Me Ace could be very successful at but, resources wise, it just doesn’t hit the priority over some of the others.

Ace: You’re absolutely right. I’m a one-man band. Not because, you know, I choose to be like, “Oh, I never wanna work with anybody,” but that’s just, you know, what the situation — like I’m just — it’s very, you know, organic, grounds up, building blocks and such. You know, shout-outs to the interns that I had this past semester, that’s been a blessing, you know? And the team has definitely been growing bit by bit, you know? My publicist, Brianna, or, you know, my sync licensing agency and my distributors and, you know, such like that so team’s definitely growing but, yeah, no, I don’t have like a full — I don’t have people like managing my socials, right? So like if you see a comment from Call Me Ace, that was from me, you know what I mean? So it’s just like, exactly to your point, it’s like, well, you know, if there’s 15 social media companies and every new ones popping up by the month, like what’s your top three, you know what I mean? And then you just completely invest in those.

Dan: So, are your top three then Instagram, YouTube, and then, yeah, what would the third be?

Ace: That’s a good question. No, I’m trying to figure it out. You know, that there is a melee right now, it’s a wild card because, sometimes, it’s LinkedIn, you know? If I’m in my like super Ace Patterson, I got a job bag, you know? Sometimes it’s Twitter, like Twitter, I’ve been, you know, understanding how to use Twitter a bit more, you know what I mean? So growing that. I don’t wanna say TikTok but —you know what I mean? Like it’s just, you got to, right? Like, that third one, it’s open. It’s open for consideration.

Dan: I do feel like TikTok, not like OnlyFans but it is one of those where I feel like the content does tend itself to just be a bit more unique than some of the other platforms so it may require a bit more intentionality as opposed to something like a LinkedIn where I think, for you, obviously, I think the reach of LinkedIn can be very impressive so, therefore, if you have something that’s worth sharing, they can easily be adapted from another platform. But, yeah, TikTok, I do you feel like it does lend itself more to creating the type of content that is made for TikTok, right?

Ace: You are right and that is why, upon reflection and what you just said, LinkedIn is number three. I am a loyal influencer on LinkedIn as well. Because I’d be sharing jobs, you know? I’d be like, “Yo, this job opened up,” you know what I mean? It’ll be like, “Oh, snap,” and then I’d be like, “Aight, Call Me Ace has got this like brand feature placement,” you know what I mean? You just leverage them, you know?

Dan: Right, right, because you are an example of a lot of the things that people wanna speak to so you could speak from it from that perspective too.

Ace: Yeah, I suppose so.

Dan: Yeah, and on that perspective, because you mentioned it earlier, you were part of a, not necessarily a partnership but you were part of a competition that BET had had with AmpliFIND so talk us through how you were able to get involved with that, how that went, and then also how your career has been since doing that.

Ace: Yeah, no, that was wild. I saw the announcement from BET, “Yo, we’re doing this AmpliFIND competition for emerging talent, etc.,” I applied and it was kinda just like, you know, thousands of other artists are applying so it is what it is. Very much in the mindset that whether or not I get accepted by this thing and that doesn’t determine the value of who I am so whether or not it happens, cool, right? Find out, oh, Call Me Ace is in the top 50, you know, it’s Call Me Ace and like 49 other artists that are in the semi-finalist part of the competition so I’m like, “Hey, we won,” you know? Like mentally, I’m like, we already won just by virtue of being in this competition, you know what I mean? Just to be able to have those eyes and, you know, you’re seeing artists from all across the nation, all talented in their own rights and, you know, here we are in this competition and so then it became like every week, you had to garner enough votes to get to the next round and I never have done like any kind of voting campaign thing or what have you. So, immediately — well, so it was me and my six interns and so we split into groups of two. My interns went one way and I went another way. What my interns did, we created a competitor analysis of like all of the other artists. What are they doing on Twitter? What are they — well, first it was Instagram but, you know, we had to talk and it was like, yo, we don’t just use Instagram, right? There’s Twitter, there’s Facebook, there’s everything we just talked about. There’s other social media, right? So, what’s everyone doing? What’s the shares, the retweets, the comment? What does all that look like, right? Not just from a vanity number standpoint but also like from an engagement standpoint. So they’re doing all that, right? And then, for me, I was like researching what do politicians do when they run for campaigns, right? When they run their campaigns, when they’re running to get elected, what do they do? What are the marketing strategies that they use and how can I leverage that in this kind of way? Because, again, like I’ve never had to — I was never the person that was like, “Yo, vote for me,” in high school or college. I did actually run for secretary in high school but I didn’t ask people to vote for me, I just put on a wig and that was enough. People would — you know, unanimous, right? But this, I gotta actually work for this, Dan, you know? So I’m like I bet, like what do they do? And so what I realized upon that and one of my interns, Hannah, she also worked intern for one of the senates in California and so she had some experience, what it really came down to, the learning that I got, was being able to galvanize folks that are already in your core, that already believe in you to, you know, grassroots campaign, you know, alongside you, right? That’s like one of the biggest things and, you know, connecting back to what we were talking about earlier with the Out of Office listening party, you know, really tapping into the folks that were there, right? And being like, “Yo, like, we’re on the rise, that’s the name of the campaign, we’re in top 50, we need to get to, you know, the next round,” etc., etc., and just starting to reach out and really paying attention to what are all of the different places where Call Me Ace has shown up in the past and galvanizing those communities. I was simultaneously, over this past — I talk in semesters because I work with college students, but this past spring semester, I was doing an Out of Office school tour so I’ve been speaking to schools and college students, you know, telling my story, how I’ve gotten to where I’ve gotten to, you know, giving tips and advice on how to, you know, create your own possibilities, you know, etc., and so reaching out to those students, reaching out to those student groups and getting them involved in the campaign, right? My alma maters. The director of my organization shared it, you know, internally, right? And just realizing that like there are people that are rooting for me in all kinds of places and that was one of my advantages, right? Like the fact that I don’t just rely on Call Me Ace as just an artist but Call Me Ace/Ace Patterson/Ace the human being and what does that mean? What does that brand mean in totality? So, tapping into all of those different networks, keeping abreast everyone on the progress, using texting, like texting was an awesome strategy, right? Like I wasn’t just depending on, hey, if I put up an Instagram post, 3 percent of my followers would see it. It was like I can reach way more people instantaneously by sending a text message than, you know, depending on Instagram posts and so doing that actually helped us advance to — and shout-outs to, you know, the glory of God, to the top 10 of the competition and, you know, like I said, like we weren’t the biggest ones in this competition by any means, you know what I mean? If you were just to look at metrics only, but what I will say is the engagement was crazy, man. The engagement was crazy. Shout-outs to you, you know what I mean? For like throwing your vote into the fold, like every single person mattered and so, yes, we did not make it to the top 5 finalists but to make it to top 10 in the nation, I mean, you know, and still having to go to work the next day, you know, it felt like a win for me, you know? It felt like a win and just seeing the feedback from people who were both bummed that we didn’t make it to the finals as well as were like equally, you know, cheering, right? Like top 10 in the nation is just as dope. I mean, we all celebrate it, right? And so, you know, it’s one of those things that now we just take that and move forward with it, you know? Just knowing that that’s what happened.

Dan: Yeah, that’s big time and you proved that you can galvanize and, in a lot of ways, move beyond where you may have been seen as, you know, based on how big of an artist you may have been based on some vanity metrics and those types of things, but you have, you know, the intelligence and know-how. You employed a team of people that have the intelligence and know-how and then that’s how you can, you know, move beyond the expectations and then, you know, compete in many ways with every, so like what you said, artists that may, from the outside, have more of those metrics but you knew how to work it, you knew how to make the system work in a way that made you, you know, be more successful than people that may, from the outside in, have more resources than you may have had.

Ace: No, what a blessing. What a blessing, you know? And those artists too, you know, I tapped in with all those artists at the end, you know, and several of us are already plugged in and are working on some music, you know what I mean? So, it’s a blessing. Like I said, just even being a part of that competition, being around those folks, you know what I mean? Like it’s dope, you know? But, yeah, no, exactly to your point, like I’m one of those people, you know, like I don’t care about looking big, you know what I mean? I don’t wanna fake nothing, right? And so that’s one of those things where it’s like — and you know how the game work, like there’s a bunch of people that will judge me just because I don’t got 50,000 followers on Instagram or something like that. It’s like, yo, that’s cool but there are other people that relate to the content that I deliver, that are impacted by what I have to share, and I’m more so concerned about providing to the people that need what I have, you know, in the most efficient way possible, in the most like frequent way possible so that the growth can happen, right? And even if people don’t think it’s there, I mean, it’s there, yo. It’s crazy. It’s crazy. So I’m thankful, I’m thankful.

Dan: So, remind me, this was 10 — you were top 10 out of how many total applicants or participants?

Ace: They didn’t tell me the total applicants. I assume a lot because it’s BET and they got like over a million followers, right? But in the post itself, right? Like mad people were responding to it but they didn’t say the full applicants but they did say that there were 50 that were chosen to be in the competition.

Dan: Okay, got it. Cool. Cool. Okay. So then, now that you’ve done this, and I know that — and you’ve communicated this before and I know this personally, that you’re not someone that’s driven by the vanity metrics or those types of things, but from a career perspective, has anything changed in terms of the opportunities that have come or how you approach your career now on the other side of this competition? 

Ace: Yes, a lot, but I feel like I’m trying to keep up, so to speak, you know what I mean? Because when this happened, I was also shooting a commercial/mini documentary with partnership with Insider and Ford. They, you know, came to the Bay and I was driving through the Bay area with an all-electric Ford Mach-E vehicle, you know? Ford Mustang and that was dope and so it was all — honestly, if we’re gonna be real, Dan, what a blessing that I didn’t make it to the top 5 finalists because the day of the finalist competition was the day that I had to shoot this commercial and so there just wouldn’t have been a way for me to really do both. I actually tried to finesse doing both, just in case, and so we ended up going to the Great American Music Hall thinking that just in case Ace has to perform, if he makes it to the top 5, then he’ll like be at the Great American Music Hall and he could, you know what I mean? But that didn’t end up working out but the way that the timing was of the commercial, I mean, it was better that way that I didn’t do the competition so that I could focus on doing this commercial and then we still used Great American Music Hall in the commercial so it all worked out, you know what I mean? But only God could foresee such a thing. But, in either case, you know, afterwards, yeah, just like more opportunities to share my story, you know? TV interviews, magazine interviews, you know, that kind of stuff. And, yeah, I would say the network for sure, just being able to connect to more people on that side of the business as well as the artists themselves, like I mentioned, and, yeah, I think the people that, you know, were kinda doubting your boy are like I bet were following, you know? Like I definitely saw some uptick on that and then the people that’s already been down, they’re like, “Yo, we’ve been trying to tell you, Ace is that dude,” you know what I mean? So it’s like, yeah, if I had to like bottle it all up, that’s what it would be.

Dan: So talk to me about the Insider and Ford Mustang partnership because it sounds like that was happening in conjunction, but how did that conversation start?

Ace: Man, it was wild because they reached out to Symphonic, they had a plan to shoot three videos, three kinds of videos of artists or, you know, influencers kind of just going through a day in their life in the city that they lived in so they had a couple cities already picked out and the Bay Area was one of them, so they were like, “Oh, do you have an artist in the Bay that we can like put in this?” and I’m thankful that they thought of me, you know, Symphonic and Bodega and the folks there and so we coordinated, I was able to be available, you know, was out of office, took some paid time off and, yeah, we made it happen so we coordinated for like a month where we’re gonna be, what spots we’re gonna hit, you know, x, y, and z, and, yeah, it was a beautiful, smooth engagement, you know? Every single human being that I interacted with was dope, friendly people. The shooting was smooth. They enjoyed working with me, I enjoyed working with them, you know me, like it was just one takes, you know, over and over and over again so it was just like — ended up with like a lot of material to use because it was like, “All right, well, let’s try this, let’s go this way, let’s do that way,” right? So, yeah, it ended up being a blessing and, you know, shout-outs to them allowing Rosa to, you know, make a guest appearance, you know what I mean? Cameo — as co-star, rather, and, yeah, no, it was a beautiful way to just kinda show like this is how I’ve been living, you know, since being in the Bay.

Dan: Yeah, I thought it was cool. They definitely did a good job of showing the two of you together and I think that just adds a bit more of a complete picture, right? Because I think it’s so easy for a lot of these breakdowns to focus solely on the one person but, no, I’m sure Rosa supports you in so many ways and that is part of the vision, not just of Ace Patterson but of Call Me Ace and how it all intersects because, at the end of the day, you are managing all of those things. Not only are you those two people but, you know, you’re a husband, you’re a — 

Ace: Yeah.

Dan: — you know what I mean? All of that.

Ace: Yeah, yeah. No, I love that you said that. Somebody commented, shout-outs to Jonathan, he was like, you know, “I just love how it’s so authentically you, you know? Like every aspect of it was you and, you know, it was inspiring —” like I didn’t know — I didn’t, to be honest with you, I didn’t think it was gonna be like inspiring. I thought it was gonna be like, “Yo, this is like dope, Ace is driving a car,” right? But the amount of people that said it was inspiring and I think, you know, it’s largely because of what you just said where it’s like it was a real depiction of like this is Ace’s full life, you know? This is Ace the musician, Ace the, you know, employee, Ace the husband, etc. Somebody also put in a comment once because they discovered me on YouTube and went through all my videos and was just commenting, one of his comments, I can’t remember his name, but he was like, “Yo, I just love that this dude wears a wedding ring in all of his videos, like all of ’em, from the first one for that —” you know what I mean? It was just like small stuff but it’s just like, yo, like, that’s how I’ve always — right? Like I’m not trying to like change up for nobody. I have nothing to prove to nobody, like I’m doing this because I choose to, not because I have to, right? I understand the calling and the passion that pushes me here and, you know, that addiction to wanna live my passion, like we were talking about earlier, right? Like what is work-life balance when your passion is your work, you know? And so I feel full of zeal to do the things that I do but I’m not, you know, I don’t have — I have a Call Me Ace rapper account and a Call Me Ace personal Instagram account, you know what I mean? Like it’s all me so what you’re gonna get, if Ace is cooking today, you’re gonna see Ace is cooking, you know what I mean? If Ace is working out, you’re gonna see he’s working out. If he’s gotten in the studio, if he’s in Hawaii, whatever the case is, but you’re gonna see it in full and that’s how I am with my music, that’s how I am with my content, that’s how I am in real life, right? So, if that is inspiring to people, then praise God.

Dan: You’ve talked a lot about being able to engage the audience and that’s clearly what the undertone of this is, right? They relate to this in a way that makes them feel more connected to you and the way that you use it and the tools you use obviously make a huge difference. We’ve talked a lot about the socials but we haven’t talked as much about texting, because I know you’ve mentioned it a few times. What platforms are you using? What are some of the things that have worked really well? What are some of the things that may be challenging with texting?

Ace: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I was using Textedly, I’m moving over to SlickText, but the concept is still the same which is just, you know, with folks that are truly engaged, that truly like wanna stay connected with you and, you know, help you on that journey, it’s been really dope to just reach out to folks and be like, “Yo, this is what’s going on. We’d love if you can, you know, do x or y,” right? Like having, you know, a simple call to action, something that’s like easy to do via texting or, you know, on your phone, but just to have that personal connection with folks and like really know, like I know these people, you know? Because like they’ve been around, I’ve seen the journey, you know? And if they’re new, you know, I see — it’s not random, you know what I mean? In fact, like I haven’t publicized that I have, you know, a texting community because it’s not like a texting community. It’s like real, like for people that want these kinds of texts, for people that want this kind of engagement, right? Especially if I don’t already have their phone number, right? Then it makes sense, you know what I mean? It’s like e-mailing but way more personal and to be able to do things like, “Hey, this is happening,” or, you know, “Can you go over here and do that?” “Can you vote over here?” “Can you —” right? Like kind of direction trafficking, which has been really cool, but I don’t use it like in place of an e-mail newsletter, you know what I mean? I don’t use it in place of — like even if there was somebody on there, like my mom, right? Like my mom is also on it but like I also like talk to my mom, you know what I mean? Like I don’t need it to just talk, right? Like so there’s certain people where it’s like it’s less about like, “Oh, this is my only way to access Ace,” and it’s more about like, “Okay, Ace wants me to do something,” right? Like, “On behalf of the High Grade Society, on behalf of, you know, Call Me Ace the brand and, you know, I wanna see him succeed, I wanna see the plane continuing to rise, literally just tell me whatever it is that you want me to do and I’ll do it,” that’s what that is and it’s a beautiful thing. Bro, like I remember when it was like one fan. I remember when it was just one fan and it was like that was the blessing, you know what I mean? And so to have like a bunch of people who are like, “I’ll do whatever it is that you want me to do,” that’s — like, come on, man, you know? That’s the blessing and I separate that from just like posting content online, you know what I mean? That’s like super top of the funnel, that’s just to, you know, keep people entertained or happy, whatever the case is, but that’s less of a call to action kind of thing, you know what I mean? Because even with like, for example, the Ford commercial, you know? Like I had to break that down and like post them in different days, you know? Because, unless you really wanna watch it, you’re not gonna go out of your way to do it and it’s no offense to nobody, that’s just not how these platforms are meant to necessarily be. You’re meant to scroll and you’re meant to like keep scrolling, right? And so there’s a difference between like, “Aight, I’m gonna give you some content to scroll through,” versus like, “Hey, this came out and I only want you to see it,” you know? “Music video’s coming out next week, before anyone gets to see it, I want you to see it. You’re gonna watch the whole thing because you want to see the video,” right? So that’s kinda how I distinguish the two.

Dan: That makes sense. That makes sense. Yeah, I think in a lot of ways it lends itself to just more of a personal relationship type of thing anyway because you’re already most likely going to be attracting the people that are most bought into the High Grade Society, right? Just given the personal nature of it so, therefore, they become the ones that are much likely to respond to some type of call to action, right? Because I know that like, at least from my experience with e-mail, it can serve both the marketing, it could be the information, and it could also be the call to action but I do think with texting, you can still do a lot of those things but if you try to do too much, it can much more easily lead itself to wanting to unsubscribe than some of the others.

Ace: Exactly. You already know.

Dan: Yeah, it’s something else. So, I mean, for you, in terms of audience growth and also like from a career perspective overall, we’ve talked a lot about the things that have been really successful but has there been anything that you’ve tried, let’s say, in the past, that was just like, “Oh, you know, this actually didn’t work out the best, but I’m glad I don’t do it anymore,” or lesson learned. “I haven’t done this because it isn’t as effective as I thought it would have been.”

Ace: Maybe Clubhouse? I don’t know. It’s not like —

Dan: Okay. Say more about Clubhouse.

Ace: Yeah, it’s not like I failed at Clubhouse, I just don’t feel like it’s really the place for me and that actually is ironic because people have said, “Oh, you should be on Clubhouse and like talk and, you know, share your knowledge and share your, yada, yada, yada,” but I feel like that’s what everyone’s doing and I was just not the kind of — like I don’t wanna prove, “Oh, I’m smart,” you know what I mean? I don’t wanna like prove, “Oh, I went to school and I do this with my hands and I worked at these companies and, therefore, yada, yada, yada.” It’s like, yo, if I got something to share, like I’ll share it, right? But like, I don’t know, it started to get to a point where like I sit in some of these rooms and you could tell, like some people were just speaking without knowing nothing and I was like, “I don’t wanna be associated with that,” you know what I mean? Not to say that that’s what everyone’s doing, not to say that there aren’t some good spots in there, you know, I’ve been through, you know, in some conversations and met some cool people through Clubhouse, especially in the kind of like the mid-ish part of the pandemic but Discord actually has kinda like a Clubhouse feature and I’m in the Digilogue community and I actually found that space to be kind of more of my pocket, my land, you know what I mean? Where it’s like the community is already there and you show up and it already feels like we’re trading with each other, you know what I mean? If I know something, I know something, you know what I mean? But if you know something, right? Like then I can be here and listen and we can all grow with each other versus like kind of this facade of people putting on airs to try to look like they’re bigger than — you know what I’m trying to say. And I’m not — I’m, you know, I’m super generalizing and I know that’s not the whole situation but after, you know, tapping in there a few times, I was like, “Look, y’all, like I have nothing to prove,” like I don’t have to be there every single day for hours, like I really don’t. I actually have things to do and moves to make so that was just me and, you know, I definitely spent a little bit of time on there and, yeah, I was just like I’m kinda done, you know? I’m done. I felt like, dang, all this time that I just sat here, you know what I mean? And then also like it started getting real gossipy. This is my last point. It’s like it started getting real like it had nothing to do with knowledge no more and I was like, aight, chill, like I don’t got this kind of time at all.

Dan: I’m glad you mentioned Clubhouse because I think that, from the outside in, there is a lot that people would assume could be very beneficial, right? Because people often see, they’re like, “Oh, well, it’s perfect for artists. You can have listening sessions. You can have parties. You could do this, this, and this.” All those things make sense in practice but I think the other thing about Clubhouse is that it’s not like the other social platforms where things can as easily translate from one to the other. It is a bit more, even more so than TikTok, where it does require like, you know, synchronous communication and engagement so you are there and you’re giving everything to that platform in that particular minute and, if that’s one of the core things you’re building on, great, and I think people have probably done it, there’s gonna be some success stories that come out of the pandemic about million-dollar companies or whatever have you that were born out of Clubhouse, but I think there are much less likely to be folks in your position who already, you know, have like an engine running with like what they were building and what they were doing and, in many ways, this, not that it was a distraction, but it was like, “Okay, let’s see what this is like, did this for a little bit, some parts were cool, some of it really didn’t rock with what I’m doing, but I’m ready to move on and I’ll jump in only if there’s something that really pulls me in.”

Ace: Honestly, I think you described my pain point, the biggest pain point of it, better than I did, which was everything that I said, yes, it’s true, but that wasn’t even really the biggest pain. The biggest pain was the fact that I had to spend extra energy going on to a different platform that didn’t connect with any other thing that I was really doing. And if anything, when I would, you know, communicate — like not all of my fans, followers, or supporters have access to Clubhouse, right? And so it was like, “Who am I doing this for?”

Dan: Right.

Ace: Right? That was really the question that I was asking, was like, “Who am I doing this for?” And I, you know, came to the conclusion myself that like I don’t have to build a Clubhouse brand for my brand, you know? Whether it’s for resourcing, whether, you know, the time commitment, x, y, and z, just the fact that like, you know, what is it that I’m really trying to be out here sharing with all this time and all that kind of stuff, it really came down to like it’s not worth my time trying to build this part of the — because it’s like for who? For what?

Dan: Right.

Ace: Not for me.

Dan: Yeah, definitely.

Ace: Yeah.

Dan: Yeah. And I think it hearing this too, it does seem like a lot of your goals and what centers you as an artist is less about, you know, you don’t strike me as someone that’s like, “Oh, like I’m trying to hit this many Spotify streams end of year,” or, “I’m trying to get to this perspective,” you’re much more like, no, I want to make the type of music that will resonate and will fulfill me but can also help fulfill and guide the people that are along this journey, part of the High Grade Society, along with this process and, hopefully, they can find some meaning in it too. And as long as you continue that, that is what it seems like drives you. Would that be a pretty fair assessment?

Ace: Listen, yo, Out of Office dropped, it got over like 600,000 Spotify streams in two, three weeks, they thought it was an abnormal uptick in streams, took the album down, I had to appeal it, shout-outs to —

Dan: Wait, wait —

Ace: My people —

Dan: Let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about that.

Ace: So, I’m very much like, listen, yo, when you read, you know, for example, Rolling Stones and you see, oh, this company gets ousted for clearly buying fake streams to make their artists look like something, yada, yada, yada, and you read that and you’re like, “Dang, yo, how do they get away with that?” right? But then, me, trying his best. Anyway, it’s all good. Talk about it? I mean, shout-outs to the people at Spotify, appreciate you. Shout-outs to Symphonic Distribution who helped me, you know, appeal the situation. Yeah, no, I mean, I did the marketing, I did the reaching out — one of my interns literally spent hours and hours a day like reaching out to individual playlists to like pitch, you know, several of the songs off of the, you know what I mean? And like did it all, you know what I mean? Push hard, do what I had to do, and, yeah, they didn’t like it. They didn’t like it. I’m thankful that it’s back up. I’m thankful, you know, aight, because I had to like show, I was like, “This is everything that I did like for this album and for like everything that I’ve been doing,” you know, since 2016, you know? “Here’s my Wikipedia page. Here’s, you know, here’s everything, like this is who I am,” you know what I mean? And so, yeah, they reversed their decision. Things are back. But, you know, to answer your question, like, yeah, yo, like, in fact, what I’m doing, I’m finishing up this book — the book is done, I just gotta like format it and everything but I’m gonna drop this book called How to Get Verified on Instagram with Under 5,000 Followers, and I’ll give you a free copy so you can read it first before I drop it so you could let me know what you think. Matter of fact, if I could get a Dan quote, you know what I mean? That’d be fresh. That’d be fuego. That’d be fuego. But, you know, I’m planning on dropping this, one, because it’s true, I did it; two, for the very point where it’s like I feel like we are focusing on the wrong things, you know? These vanity metrics mean something, they don’t mean everything. And when people like judge or keep you out of a situation because of these vanity metrics, it’s like you’re not capturing as much value as you possibly could. It’s a fair proxy and I can understand why people, brands, and companies do that, you know? Like Facebook was like, yo, we’re giving out, what was it? Like $100 million or whatever, to black creators on Facebook or Instagram, but they need at least 10,000 followers in order to subscribe, right? It’s like, aight, I get it, right? Like cool. But there’s people that, you know, go out of their way to like forge these numbers so they can look big and it’s a philosophical thing for me, Dan. It’s like who am I doing this for, you know? Like when the fan base grows, I’m aware it’s growing because the word is spreading because the value is there and it’s increasing, right? Versus like, you know, I have this big following but it’s really just fake bots and people that I don’t actually talk to and so when I put out a post, I don’t even know if this post is gonna resonate with anybody because it’s not gonna resonate with anybody because everything around you is fake. It’s like I’m not doing this to appeal to anyone’s standard of what success looks like, right? And I think, ironically, that’s what’s been making me more and more successful is because people see the value because I keep giving them the value and, to be honest with you, there’s no “following” big enough to equate to the value that I believe that I have and I can distribute. And so, while I started off by saying, yo, if I can at least connect with one person, you know, I understand that I’m doing the work that I’m called here to do, I’ve been blessed and privileged to see it constantly, constantly grow, you know what I mean? Like people hitting me up across the world every single day and my — like the nerd in me is like, well, how did they find me? Was it this over here? Was it this over there, right? Like did someone share it? Was it a YouTube ad? Was it an Instagram ad? Was it, you know, the newsletter was shared, right? Like that’s how I’d nerd out, right? And so, yeah, it’s not that I don’t want to share what I have with more and more people, I just wanna do it in a very authentic way, you know what I mean? I wanna do it in a way that really relates to people. I’m not just throwing out chicken nugget music for the sake of it because I wanna be able to sleep at night, you know what I mean? And, yeah, you know, like what box can I live in if I’m the one that put me in this box to begin with, right? Like as far as everyone was concerned, five years ago, I was just a strategy and operations consultant, you know what I mean? Or a big tech employee, you know what I mean? And so like all of this is really just because I’m choosing to, you know? And so that’s — like no one could tell me no because this is — like no one told me yes, you know what I mean? And so everything that’s been happening is because I’m frankly choosing to and so that’s the mindset that I have with it. I called myself Call Me Ace Legit way before I was verified, you know what I mean? So like people just catching on now, you feel me, Dan?

Dan: It’s inspiring, man. I’m proud of you. I think that you definitely have a great basis for what drives you and a lot of that comes from experience but I think a lot of that just comes from you yourself, so I give you a lot of credit on this. I know that it isn’t easy but that’s why I think that it makes it valuable to get to the part where you’ve gotten and definitely look forward to reading the book when it drops, for sure. So —

Ace: Yes.

Dan: — I know we’re getting to the tail end here but for the folks listening that do wanna be part of that journey and do wanna follow you, where can they find you? I know you mentioned your handle but where can they find you on all of the social platforms or on the streaming platforms?

Ace: Yeah, yeah, no, for sure. So, on all socials, @callmeacelegit. On all your digital streaming platforms, Call Me Ace, it’s three words, and, let’s see, callmeace.com. If you wanna — in the top of next month, I’m gonna be starting a revamp of my newsletter where I’m just gonna drop tips and advice on how I juggle both the work and the passion so if you go to workartbalance.com and just subscribe, you’ll be able to get those and stay in tune with all the stuff that I got coming out, whether it’s music, books, more videos, all that stuff.

Dan: Good stuff, man. Call Me Ace, it’s been a pleasure, man. This is dope.

Ace: Oh, Dan, appreciate you, bredren.

Dan Runcie

Dan Runcie

Founder of Trapital

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