Billboard Touring Conference: Lil Dicky Explains Stumbling Into Rap With a Two-Month Plan

Frank Micelotta/PictureGroup
Lil Dicky on the Professional Rapper: A Conversation with Lil Dicky Panel attends the 2017 Billboard Touring Conference and Awards at the Montage Beverly Hills on Nov. 14, 2017 in Beverly Hills, Calif.

David Burd’s rap persona Lil Dicky had less than 30 followers on Facebook when he posted his first music video online. 

“I had been working on this stuff for a year-and-a-half behind the scenes by myself, not showing anybody. All my friends and my parents had thought I had gone crazy,” Burd told the audience during the “Professional Rapper: A Conversation with Lil Dicky” panel at the Billboard Touring Conference, also featuring Burd’s manager Mike Hertz.

“Finally, the day came where I put stuff online for the first time ever. The Lil Dicky video got a million views the first day,” Burd said to panel moderator CEO and founder of CID Entertainment, Dan Berkowitz. “It was one of the best days of my life. It was the day I learned I was who I thought I was. It was a fantastic I-told-you-so moment.”

 
 

Burd said he spent his whole life wanting to become a comedian and his only notable public rap performance prior to the launch of Lil Dicky’s “Ex-Boyfriend” video was when he was in the fifth grade.
 
“I remember in fifth grade doing a report on the Russian poet Alexander Pushkin as a rap. It was just an easy way to get an A back then because everyone was turning in boring stuff,” Burd said.
 
With the success of acts like Andy Samberg’s The Lonely Island, Burd saw comedic rapping as a way to stand out and began working on his Lil Dicky material.
 
Burd told the audience that he had everything in place the day he launched the video including a polished website and a plan to release a new single of his EP every week.
 
“I mass emailed every friend of mine and asked them to please share the video,” Burd said. “It got the most views when someone posted it on Reddit. It climbed the Reddit charts and it got hundreds of thousands of views off that. But I couldn’t tell you who posted the video on Reddit or why it was seen so much.”

 

The very next day, Burd received a call from Hertz who wanted to return to the music industry and manage Lil Dicky.
 
“Everything Dave is saying is true,” Hertz said during the discussion. “He didn’t just put a video up online and hope that it was going to work. He had a Website, but he also had a content strategy laid out for the next release that followed ‘Ex-Boyfriend.’”

Hertz encouraged Burd to take his act live, rounding up 1,500 fans in Los Angeles for Lil Dicky’s first performance.
 
“I put off concerts for as long as I possibly could. [Mike] kept saying you need to do a show and I said no. I took a month and I started running to get in shape for the show,” Burd said. “I had to learn concert pacing. I have never been more physically tired than after that first song of my first concert.”
 
Berkowitz asked the artist who now boasts nearly three quarters of a million followers on Facebook when he truly felt like a professional rapper.
 
“When I quit my job, because then I didn’t have a job except for rapping. I was working at an ad agency I stayed there for at least seven months just to have a consistent paycheck,” Burd said, adding that he didn’t want to leave the agency until he couldn’t physically do both.
 
“As soon as the video went viral, I mentally quit,” Burd said. “I knew I was going to quit, but I had just gotten a raise.”

Since then Lil Dicky has released his debut album Professional Rapper and continues to use music videos to enhance his career. He filmed a lavish video for single “Save That Money” entirely for free that has been viewed over 82 million times. 

“I don’t think any artist has really relied on music videos the way I do,” Burd said. “It’s almost like my radio.”

Hertz added “Dave has four gold singles and has had zero radio play. It is a testament to the current landscape. For Dave, the Internet has been a stronger tool of getting his music out there."


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