What Would Big Mucci Do? International King of Linedance Music on Industry
When it comes to popular linedances like “The Bikers Shuffle,” “The Mickey James” or “The Cleveland Shuffle,” not many can put one together like the International King of Linedance Music and Godson of the Godfather of Linedances — Big Mucci.
The independent Cleveland-based artist sat down with WordPlay T. Jay recently to talk all about the music industry, how he got his career going and advice on how to keep things on the up.
Big Mucci said he was always a dancer, but music production and linedance creation was not always in the forefront of his mind. After high school, he joined the Marine Corps and returned to work for Brinks before embarking on his new, step-filled endeavor.
“I learned through all my travels that people all love to dance,” he said. “Linedances were big in Cleveland since the 1970s, and I thought it was something I could do. I made one, and it blew up. Then, people started coming to me asking me to make another, and that one also blew up. Now, 22 years later, I’m still doing it.”
Historically, urban linedances started in Columbus, Ohio, in the late 1950s, then spread to Cleveland, where it took off. Regionally, the “hustles” of Detroit and “slides” of Chicago all find their roots in Cleveland.
“The call outs were big in the pre-disco era, and in 1997, when I came up with ‘The Cleveland Shuffle’ and had the call outs, it was like a rebirth,” Big Mucci said. “That’s why all the older heads call me the Godson to the Godfather of Linedances. Originally, they all said how to do the dance, but not everyone can remember dances without call outs, so we brought that culture back.”
Big Mucci said after him came dances like the “Cha Cha Slide,” “Cupid Shuffle” and “Turbo Hustle.” “Booty Bounce” was Big Mucci’s first big hit, but it had no call outs.
“When I made that, I was really just playing around,” Big Mucci said. “Even at that time, I wasn’t thinking about being in the music business. I didn’t have the same feeling as other people coming up who wanted it, but when I started learning people were making money off me, I started getting serious.
“About 1999 or 2000, people started telling me they were buying my CD from a guy down at the Dollar General, and I didn’t know about it. We called them the ‘$5 hollas.’ My partner had given my music to a radio station, and people were recording it off the radio and putting it out as A and B side singles and bootlegging them.”
Big Mucci said starting out, there was a steep learning curve as an independent artist and getting the production and paperwork side of things squared away. Things like copyrighting and admin-publishing deals were keys to success.
“In the beginning, I was just doing things based on what I heard, because Cleveland didn’t have a lot of big people to get advice from,” he said. “There are always things you need to learn if you want to be in this business. You have to do your homework, then when things start getting good, return the favor.”
Big Mucci said the digital era has been a blessing for independent artists specifically, as it helps more with sales and spreading music to new listeners.
“When digital popped, I started seeing videos of people doing my dances in Italy, China and Korea, and I didn’t know my music was getting that far,” he said.
When it comes to record labels, Big Mucci has mixed feelings.
“I think it’s good and bad depending on what you want to do,” he said. “I have been independent, but if I had a label behind me, that would put me at a different level. For just rappers, the digital medium is the label. As an independent and with my music, my listeners are mostly older in the 45-plus age range. I sell out of CDs and instructional videos because people need the visual to learn the linedance.”
Big Mucci said the positive is the notoriety that comes with a label attachment.
“There is a hot artist bangin’ right now who used to charge $7,500 for a show, then earlier this year he signed to a label, and now he gets $22,000 per show,” he said. “The biggest difference is as an independent, you are just one machine, but a label may have 200 people working on your project, so that’s 200 machines. It’s being able to get everything out at one time versus working hard to get it out.”
A bonus to being independent is staying power, like how “The Bikers Shuffle,” even though it is 10 years old, is still hitting as new in some places.
“In Fayetteville, N.C., people tell me they just learned ‘The Bikers Shuffle’ even though it’s been out for 10 years,” Big Mucci said. “They just started playing it in the clubs and on the radio there like two years ago. That staying power lets you eat for a long time.”
When it comes to promotion, Big Mucci said there are two basic steps with linedances — one, the music, and two, the dance.
“The thing is, you have to have a bangin’ song first, then people will ask, ‘How does the dance go?’” he said. “Then, you have to put out the visual of the dance.”
The process also isn’t always a straight line either, as sometimes, the dances find their way to other songs.
“I put out ‘Booty Bounce’ in the 2000s, but the dance from that got put to Khia’s ‘The K-Wang’ and it blew that up,” Big Mucci said. “‘The Wobble’ is another one that was put to another song. The thing is, too, you can’s copyright the routine. People might say, ‘You stole my kicks,’ but you don’t own those kicks. Linedance artists have to make sure the music is hot and the dance goes with that song.”
Big Mucci stressed too that linedances can go to any music, which could help artists in promotion.
“Get someone to choreograph a dance, then film a video and put it out,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what the song is, you can do a routine to anything. Just make sure it’s something everyone can do. Get your little cousins or neighborhood kids out to do it and shoot a video. That can blow something up big. Like someone might come up with a dance and you may not even know how to do it, but everyone in the club knows it.”
Big Mucci said that speaks to a larger point about people worldwide.
“One thing on this planet that will never be played out is dancing,” he said. “It goes further than just giving someone something to think about.”
WordPlay T. Jay added in one of his mantra’s to that conversation, that “people don’t listen to music to learn about you, they listen to music to learn about themselves.”
Big Mucci also said some artists fall into traps of not giving people what they want, especially if an artist’s older song gets hot.
“If that older stuff blows up, do something with it,” he said. “Remaster it or add something. Artists should do stuff that everyone likes. Think of your consumers first and yourself last.”
Success is also a path, and it may take years before a real career is born.
“When I first started getting royalty checks, it was in about 2014,” Big Mucci said. “I’d get $25 here, $45 there, then $60 here and $50 there. But, every year, it got bigger and bigger, and now, I’m at a point I can live off this and quit my job if I want.”
A big part of his success, Big Mucci said, was switching from larger albums to more frequent singles.
“You used to go to the store and buy a 15-track CD for $15.99,” he said. “Now, with digital, when someone puts out a 15-track album, people buy songs individually as singles. I say do a maxi single with just 4 songs, then 6 months later, put out a 10-track album.
“I did an album in ’09 with 8 tracks, an intro and an outro, which made it an LP. The Biker Shuffle was the one on that album all the people wanted, so I kept feeding it. Four, five and six years later, I have been recycling those old songs, and they are blowing up now. And I’m happy because when the linedances go on in the club, two or three of them in a row are mine.”
Big Mucci said to capitalize on digital, spread music in on as many platforms as possible, like Pandora, Spotify, SoundCloud and YouTube, because you never know what people will listen to.
“I have friends who only use Pandora, but then I’ll see a video of a group doing one of my linedances, and they have the YouTube video on in the background,” he said.
Big Mucci said the biggest thing for up and coming artists remains the same though — running it as a business.
“Step two after getting a record is to get your business together like copyrights, publishing and learning how to promote on social media,” he said. “You have to use the right tactics, and once you do, it blows up. You should post multiple videos and do different things. Also, admin-publishing is a must. Make sure all your paperwork is right because you might be big in the UK and not know it, and people miss out on a lot of money by not doing that right.”
Big Mucci showed his love to WordPlay T. Jay, as well, because the International King of Linedance Music himself has picked up some tricks from WordPlay’s marketing videos.
“You drop it real,” he said to WordPlay. “People ask me questions and I say, ‘This is your homework assignment. Go to WordPlay’s YouTube page, start at the bottom and watch every video and you will be ready for the game.’”
Big Mucci’s latest album is “The Linedance Movement 2” and is available on all major digital platforms. All the linedances also have instructional videos available. People can also follow Big Mucci on Facebook, YouTube, SoundCloud, SoundClick, Twitter and more.