By Warnell Jones
Warnell shares his thoughts in this dynamic opinion piece about the ins and outs of the music industry. He also gives props to “Chance The Rapper” for his breakthrough in the game.
The internet has proven once again to be most useful in the “millennial” (I hate that word) age, as Chance the Rapper, an unrelenting anti-label hip-hop artist, has received 7 (yes, count them, 7) Grammy nominations for his album, “Coloring Book”. It marks history in two areas; the first time a “stream only” album has been nominated, and the only time an artist has been recognized without any record label affiliation, NONEWHATSOEVER.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise (although it will) because Chance is arguably one of the best lyricists of the last 5 years. This milestone also comes at a time where, in hip-hop, the standard of the record label deal is fading away quickly. A mere 20 years ago, in the time where Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube didn’t exist, the way to make it in the music business was to get “discovered” – AKA crawl your way through somebody’s “open mic night” with a pocketful of demos to hand out to some dude in a suit that proclaims you have “talent”. (Let me not fail to mention that many a song concept and lyric from demos have been stolen and given to other artists.)
If you make it past this process, you get to record a song, perform said song, and press your way (and most likely your money (or the record label’s money) to every radio station you can to get played in an unbreakable rotation, only in the end to get financially shafted because the record exec took every dime of your sales and billed you for recording, performing, and promoting. You are now living off of an “advance”, to which you somehow have to pay back to the record label. All of this for just one person out of 10 million people trying to do the exact same thing. Everybody trying to break into the music industry and broadcast radio only plays music from the top 5 record labels, which only employ and promote 5-10 artists at a time. With this model, who wins the ears of the people? The record companies. Not that you aren’t talented, but you can’t pay to play. You have your own style. You won’t sleep with the A&R’s daughter. You’re not the brother, cousin, nephew, friend, or neighbor of the person that gives a damn, or that can make a difference. It’s an exercise in futility. Many of our creative generation seen it better to just get a job and leave our creative dreams behind.
Until now. In 2017, you can look at the price of recording equipment, save and get it done. You can look up the price of distribution, save and get it done. You can look up video production, save and get it done. You don’t ever have to deal with bullshit radio, shaking unnecessary hands and giving out your hard-earned money. We now have Pandora, Spotify, SoundCloud, BandCamp, and YouTube to promote and have your music listened to. No more paying radio stations to play your music. Shady promoters are a thing of the ancient days with social media; if you know how to use a computer, you can push your product ALL YOU WANT. BY YOURSELF. FOR VIRTUALLY FREE.
Finally, in 2017, the playing field is level. So much so that Billboard, and now, the Grammys are prepared to give awards and recognition to a new category of artist – independent. Congratulations, Chance. The rest of hip-hop is right behind you.