Mike Stud Talks Digital-Only 'Relief' Album & Grassroots Fan Base

Mike Stud

Jon Kilmer

The baseball player turned rapper breaks onto the charts with digital-only album, 'Relief.'

From the mound to the mic, former baseball player Mike Stud, born Michael Seander, is on the charts with his new album, "Relief." The digital-only release debuted last week at No. 15 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and No. 109 on the Billboard 200. "I knew it was going to do well, but it went higher than I thought," Stud says. This week the set moves to No. 8 on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and No. 55 on the Billboard 200, with 8,000 copies sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

While playing baseball in his native Rhode Island, Stud earned an athletic scholarship to pitch for Duke University, but injury and subsequent Tommy John surgery sidelined his aspirations. It was during his recuperation that the rapper/singer tinkered with Apple's GarageBand software and recorded the track "College Humor." His first album, "A Toast to Tommy," followed, debuting at No. 71 on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums on Oct. 22, 2011.

Stud attributes "Relief's" success to a grassroots fan base; he has more than 38,000 YouTube subscribers and 18 million-plus channel views. "If you want to build fans and do it weekly-and your record's not getting played on the radio-you need to keep feeding material to people," he says. One of his more successful campaigns is a remix series of popular tracks like One Direction's "Little Things" and Drake's "Started From the Bottom."

Austin Rosen stumbled upon Stud less than a year ago on YouTube and signed him to a management and production deal with Electric Feel Management, partnering with Charlie Walk. Rosen says Walk's industry expertise has propelled the project on the business front. "From the creative side of getting the records done, I knew that we could do that, but from the marketing, branding, promotion side, I needed someone that could play the yin and yang of what I was doing."

Stud is set to shoot a music video for the single "I'm Not Sorry," and will also embark on a tour that starts June 18. There are also plans for fashion partnerships, leveraging Stud's athletic background. Freshletes, the sportswear line behind the rapper's merchandise, is set to expand into stylish graphic tees and gear, which will be sold online, at his shows and in select retailers.

Rosen says an aggressive promotional strategy is planned for new single "Kids," targeting top 40 and rhythmic stations. For Stud, the self-defined pop/hip-hop "hybrid" wants to be "well-rounded." "I'm not embellishing anything. It's not something where I'm trying to be very 'hip-hop,'" he says. "I'm making records-a lot of them are fun, some of them aren't-but they're all true."