It never hurts to have a plan.
David Morris, a Charleston native now making waves as an independent hip-hop artist, knows he needs three things to make it big. He said major record labels are on the lookout for artists with talent, potential hit songs and a large following.
"My thing has always been, the talent is there, I have great records . . . I have even better ones that are on deck. Right now we're focused on building the fans," he said.
Morris, better known as "D-Why" to his fans, often references his "brand" while talking about his music career.
He's cultivated a distinctive look, which is a little GQ, a little Urban Outfitters. He has an active presence on social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. He has a Tumblr blog chronicling his travel adventures.
Morris promised to call anyone who purchased his new album, "Young, Loved, Hated & Broke," within 48 hours of its iTunes release. More than 1,000 people took him up on the offer.
You can now download the album for free on www.thecleanestcorner.com. But even though the music is free, Morris is still gaining something from the transaction.
"We're gaining statistics on social media, we're getting information on where my fans are," he said.
Morris, 25, is also making new fans the old-fashioned way.
He will have played more than 60 live shows by year's end.
Last month, he finished a 30-city tour with fellow independent hip-hop artist Hoodie Allen. He's also planning a smaller, three-day East Coast tour after Christmas. There's a larger tour in the works for early 2014, which will likely bring him back to the Mountain State.
"You don't have advertising budgets. You don't have promotion on the radio. All that matters is gaining new fans, spreading the word and getting your name out there," he said.
He released his first album through iTunes Nov. 19. Within days, the album became one of the music service's most popular releases, peaking at No. 6 on the iTunes rap/hip-hop charts and No. 20 on the overall album charts.
"It was sitting next to Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry," he said.
The album then hit No. 3 on Billboard Magazine's "Heatseekers" album charts, which tracks top-selling albums by new or developing acts.
It should come as no surprise that, in addition to his bachelor's degree in public relations, Morris also got his master's degree in marketing and communication from West Virginia University.
"The school work we did was all about branding and brand management," he said. "I feel like I'm a little more brand savvy."
Morris was raised in Charleston, where he graduated from George Washington High School in 2005.
He was always interested in music, but even though he occasionally rapped with friends, there wasn't much of a hip-hop scene in Charleston.
Morris didn't begin making music until he enrolled at West Virginia University's journalism school. Outside class, he set up a small recording studio in his dorm room and began writing songs.
He was soon playing shows around Morgantown with the encouragement of friends in the local club scene.
Morris said he's pleased hip-hop has given him his first big break. He said rap is the most difficult music to make, and its fans are the most difficult to impress.
"Because of my look and branding, it's the hardest sell," he said.
But he hopes to break into other genres, as well.
Morris grew up listening to oldies music, country and classic rock, but was also influenced by modern pop artists like John Mayer, Kanye West and even Taylor Swift.
"People hear pop, and they think one thing. But 'pop' just means popular. I want to make music for the masses," he said.
"That's what I want to be known for. Whatever David Morris does musically, I hope people are going to check it out because they know it's authentic and of good quality.
"I just want to be known as an artist."