Have you ever been to a thrift shop? If you have, then you’re participating in the latest transformation of the music industry. A small indie, genre-bending hip hop artist from Seattle has changed the landscape of music business forever. If you have not heard of Ben Haggerty, known globally as Macklemore, you need to start listening. His rise to the top has the era of dominant music labels is crumbling.
According to Entertainment.ie, Macklemore has recently become the first unsigned artist to reach number one on the U.S. music charts since Lisa Loeb did it in 1994 with her song “Stay” from the popular movie, “Reality Bites.” However, Macklemore did not have a hit movie to promote his song, but what he did have was a strong social network following and a passionate fan base.
Macklemore did not have a powerful label promoting his songs on the radio. He did not have a world famous producer making his beats. He did not have name recognition in the rap game. With simple word of mouth and an Internet takeover by his fans, Macklemore’s song “Thrift Shop” has become a staple on the radio waves without any label backing.
“Thrift Shop” is approaching 70 million views on YouTube, and Macklemore has performed on Ellen, the daytime talk show hosted by renowned comedian Ellen DeGeneres.
What does this mean for famous music labels like Warner Bros., Island/Def Jam, Aftermath, Epic, Atlantic and Columbia? Macklemore has showed us that he does not have to conform to a label’s requirements or creative control over his music to become popular.
First, these large labels will probably go after Macklemore’s producer, Ryan Lewis, who made the hypnotic beat. They will most likely offer Ryan Lewis a large contract, so only time will tell to see if he signs with a major label. Second, a label could try to sign Macklemore, but in his song "Jimmy Iovine," which is about the chairman of Interscope Records, Macklemore bashes the encounter he once had with the man. This could make signing Macklemore to another label an ever larger problem. "Thrift Shop" will make music labels reevaluate how they go about promoting artists and how their control over new artists could change the artists’ creativity and self-expression.
According to Entertainment.ie, “Thrift Shop” has sold more than one million units since its release as a single from Macklemore’s debut full album The Heist. His album sold only 78,000 copies in its first week when compared to a similar revolutionary hip-hop artist Eminem, whose debut album The Slim Shady LP sold 283,000 albums in its first week, but went on to sell more than a million copies — and we all know how big Eminem has become. The same transformation could happen to Macklemore since he has now changed the music world forever.
The consumers decide who will become popular in the music world based on our decisions to buy an artists’ music we can choose who to promote. Would you rather want music formulated by generic labels or an artist who makes music simply based off of desire and emotion?