By embracing streaming.
That’s right, you cannot get ahead if you stay behind. While other formats railed against payouts, declaring that music had “value,” while they bitched about everything from the loss of artwork to the decimation of the label, hip-hop hurdled over those barriers and won.
The youth live online. The youth are early adopters who drive trends. Hip-hop went where the people were. Rock did not. Nor did country. Which is how they became second-class citizens.
By depending upon radio. Radio no longer drives consumption, it’s the cherry on top, it comes last if not at all. And only one format matters, Top Forty. You can rave all you want about being number one Active Rock but chances are most people have never heard the name of your act. And country is a ghetto that R&B used to be. However, it’s so interesting that country has infused its music with hip-hop elements whereas instead of marching towards the mainstream, rock has splintered further and gone down the rabbit hole of core fanbases, leaving the rest of us to care not a whit.
Everything you know is wrong. Everything you read in the paper is wrong. Because it’s perpetrated by oldsters without vision trying to preserve their fiefdoms. Come on, was anybody at a label behind Napster? They fought them all, and never forget if they’d approved Spotify sooner, YouTube would not be home to music, that came in the window wherein Warner said no and Spotify did not launch in the U.S. because it believed without everything you were nothing.
This is how television is screwing itself right now. Just think about it, the big kahuna is Netflix. Netflix wasn’t built on the back of ignorant content makers so much as delivering an experience the public desired before it knew it. Remember when Netflix said it was going to on demand streaming? The public howled, but that is what it wanted, much more than HBO and Showtime and five hundred overpriced channels of junk. That’s right, most cable channels are kept alive by provider payments, which are disappearing, so they will too. Turns out there was not enough public demand.
So when radio tells you how well it’s doing, that it’s bullish on the future, ignore it, completely. Once again, old men trying to hold on to a past paradigm. When was the last time you heard a kid declare he wanted to work in radio? As for the vaunted Beats product, it’s moribund, there’s no longer even any publicity, and believe me if there were good numbers they’d crow about them. But Beats 1 was pushed by Jimmy Iovine, another boomer lost in the past. Jimmy keeps declaring that free music is the enemy, that the musicians must be saved. What hogwash, Apple Music does not have a free tier, it’s all self-interest baby, if he can kill music on YouTube and get rid of Spotify’s free tier he’s got a huge leg up, think about that.
So if you’re playing to radio instead of streaming you’re losing. That’s it, end of story. And if you’re not losing today, you’re gonna tomorrow. Just like Kodak was decimated by digital photography. The future comes, no matter what you say.
The other thing hip-hop focused on was a plethora of product speaking to contemporary culture. While pop stars were trying to get it right, while rockers were plying moon/June lyrics, the hip-hoppers were focused on what was happening in their lives, which was much more relatable.
And they believed in owning and purveying their lives.
The rockers and popsters and country acts believe it’s about the machine. About being in “People,” getting on “Today,” “CBS Sunday Morning.” They’re so busy casting a wide net that they’ve become niche, they’re out of touch in a world where you lead with your product and it takes you there. Come on, Migos, Cardi B, Post Malone, were they built by traditional infrastructure? The usual suspect outlets came last. But since that’s where the oldster tastemakers get their info, the word is spread that they count, but they don’t, and it’s only gonna get worse.
And all we hear amongst the fat cat businessmen is the economics of Soundcloud, when rappers care not a whit and post their stuff there.
A stiff no longer kills you, the lack of a hit does.
So we keep hearing what a triumph the Taylor Swift album is, when the truth is it’s a stiff, because no one is playing it. A lot of the non-singles haven’t even broken the ten million stream mark on Spotify. Finally she has a track in the Spotify Top 50, “End Game” is #38, but it features Future, as well as Ed Sheeran. And this does not mean Swift is not making money, but her gigs don’t sell out and she’s not a feature on the streaming hit parade and we’re just interested in temperature and trends, which the mainstream media got COMPLETELY WRONG!
As for Ed Sheeran being shut out of the Grammys, he cares not a whit, because the audience does not. That’s a once a year show with phony forgotten trophies, the real metric is consumption, where he triumphs.
But he’s not hip-hop. Although he does work on hip-hop songs.
But what about Sam Smith? After the four initial singles from Swift fell off the Spotify chart, his “Too Good At Goodbyes” is still #11, with 722,981 streams a day, with a cume of 350,826,831.
And what Sheeran and Smith share is singability. Proving if you’re not a rapper, you not only have to know how to sing, you have to sing ditties that others can sing along with, not a composition baked by dozens with flares of sounds trying to insure a hit.
That’s right, rock and pop are driving off a cliff and it’s their own damn fault. Not only did they not embrace new technologies, they broke the number one rule of music, that it must be appealing, you must want to sing along with it.
But nobody wants to hear any of this. They hate hip-hop and streaming. Radio is king. Publicity makes winners and the Grammys count. If you believe ANY of this you’re already toast.
Plan for the future. Your goal is to be so personal that you become universal. And you do this by taking your swings, stepping up to the plate again and again. Trying new stuff, being part of the culture.
Hip-hop broke away from the mainstream. Many of its stars don’t even have major label deals. They did it by themselves, which is positively old school.
It’s time for the rest of the music makers to follow in their footsteps.