Happy Sunday! This post is inspired by Chance The Rapper, Future and quite a few conversations that I’ve had since The Grammy’s aired.
I spoke to an artist recently about labels, signing deals and Independent artist. What I learned was how inspirational Chance The Rapper’s story is to not only artist in Chicago, but also around the nation. Chance has succeeded at a level so great in a 12 month span that virtually every artist feels that they can go independent and be successful. That’s a beautiful thing.
The perception is even out that Chance is on the heels of Tech N9ne. We got to slow down with that though. That’s not accurate. Tech is the CEO of an Indie label that still sells physical copies, merchandise and they tour and make millions. If Tech reported every time. You’d see him on the Forbes list every single year and extremely high. Let’s show our proper respect to the reigning Independent King.
The Chance route is ideal. Who wouldn’t want to be the artist that can turn down $5 and $10 million dollar deals annually because they know their team is strong? There is always a flip side. The prime example of that flip side is Future.
Future signed a 6 album deal in 2011 with Rocko. For one reason or another him and his team decided that signing with Epic, while still being signed to Rocko, would be a good idea. He now owes Rocko millions and will practically be working for free for his next two albums and tours. Guess he didn’t read the fine print of the contracts of the bags he was securing.
I said all the above to say this. Record Labels will never die off completely. Their presentation and business motto may be deemed outdated now and they may be playing catch up, but they won’t die. Why won’t they die? Because for Every Chance there is at least 100 Future’s. Chance is an anomaly. There is not a “Chance and Save Money” built every month, quarter or even every 5-10 years.
Drake had the best and first chance to do what Chance The Rapper is doing with So Far Gone and he signed a few record deals. Wiz Khalifa was also a person I felt didn’t need a deal from a label, but he also inked one for Taylor Gang and is extremely successful. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are an Independent Label with Major Label Distribution, much like Master P was in the 90’s. Think about the names I just mentioned. Now think about Cash Money, Rocafella, Ruff Ryders, Murder Inc, Shady, Aftermath, G-Unit, Slip N Slide and MMG. None of these are Strange Music or Save Money, but they had a great amount of Independence in the music industry. Outside of Cash Money, you don’t hear a peep out of the majority of the artist from these subsidiary labels complaining about money. It’s not all bad if your team has good business acumen.
Think back to literally 10-12 years ago when all rappers wanted to sign to Koch, because they were all allegedly getting “$7 per unit sold”. Major labels would have died then if it was that easy. 50 Cent told Styles P “You don’t think I would go get the $7?” This is 50 Cent talking before the Curtis album drops, by the way.
Bottom line. Record Labels won’t die because not every artist wants to put in the independent music business work. Some artist just want to create and be stars. They don’t want to book shows, handle their publishing, book their studio time, pay for their videos, features and be hands on with staff and equipment. They also may not be smart enough or have smart enough people around to handle the business end. It’s not a knock to anyone. It’s a reality. Everyone doesn’t understand numbers and legal jargon. Artist lose what they don’t understand. Add that to every artist not guaranteed to be a gold or platinum success and there you find why artist are disgruntled.
These reasons are why you can’t knock labels for giving out “360 deals”. If all you want to do is record and look famous, why do you think you deserve the lion share? The label gets you a place to record, a publicist, a lawyer, a stylist and promotional dates at radio stations. That’s just for the lead up to the project coming out. Next, they promote your music, get you on a tour and assist in selling your merchandise. If you couldn’t afford to do that on your own or don’t know how to do it, why do you expect to get the majority of the money? The average answer is “because they are making money off my name and brand”. True. A name and brand that in most cases doesn’t hold financial weight in your own neighborhood, let alone the music industry before you ink your deal. Labels operate like banks and are service providers. What artist is prospering without money and a game plan?
There won’t be 5 Chance The Rappers or Tech N9ne’s this year. Hopefully, there will never be another Drake or Future on the contract and business end. There should be more Big Sean’s, Mac Miller’s Curren$y’s and Wiz Khalifa’s though. As an artist, do what is ultimately best for your and your situation. Be inspired, but be smart.
Be Safe. Be Humble. Live Hip-Hop