It's Easier Than Ever To Be Independent, but Major Labels Still Dominate The Charts

BY BEN CARTER • JUN 19, 2019

Streaming and social media; two possible body blows to the major label construct that has so defined both hip-hop and commercial music. Streaming brings with it the promise of significantly reduced distribution costs. Record a track today, upload it immediately, and potentially anyone with an internet connection can have it, and monetize it for you, in minutes. It doesn’t need to be shipped, physical copies don’t need to be pressed up, and actual record stores don’t even need to exist.

Social media can cut enormous chunks from promotional budgets, as artists can now build an organic following, free of charge, and use that platform to sell every product or service they offer. Million dollar promotional budgets that targeted print and traditional media like TV and radio are now reserved only for the absolute top-tier of acts. Why bother with billboards when an orange tile on Instagram can provoke 5,000 people to spend $500 to $1,500 on tickets to a first-time event like Fyre Festival? Artists are the influencers, and their social media real estate is more cost-effective than anything devised in the '90s and early 2000s.

And advances in technology have turned home computers into lavish beat-making devices. Artists can record their vocals with portable microphones and engineer everything themselves, using YouTube videos to learn the process. The need for the physical arm of major labels: distribution and recording, is almost eliminated.

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