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Has Corporate Hip Hop Destroyed The Independent Artist?

I've been a hip-hop fan since my early years of juvenility, being from the smallest state in my country, I only caught music that made it to me via radio, my parent's album collection, and what my friends were listening to at the time (which changed often due to how much I moved). My mother was a huge Notorious B.I.G. fan, while my father was a die-hard for DMX. Due to certain aspects of my upbringing, I can't say I honestly embraced hip-hop the way many of my associates from NYC did, and to a degree, I envied their communion around the craft, even though much of it was to their detriment. It was just cool to see people that looked like me stand for something.

I've always heard stories about how the music industry negatively affected the lives of artists via contracts and agreements to produce music regarding specific topics, but I never understood it like I do today. My love for hip-hop as a listener was modified to advertising, as I saw a huge gap between independent artists' success compared to those that were signed. Since 2016, I've worked with hundreds of artists to assist with establishing a competitive presence in hip hop, this was all through my company AsheQ Music. When I began this journey in 2016 (23 Years old), the voices of those I worked with were fighting for their independence as artists, claiming they didn't want a record deal.

I was able to prove the concept that artists did have a chance to effectively establish a fan base that converts to paying customers, but only if the artists were willing to establish independent sales funnels. At this time, streaming services were taking the industry by storm, shepherding artists to believe the value of music has diminished and their service was the best solution for the future. Sure enough, when I look around today I am not surprised to see every artist releasing music on 1 or all of today's streaming services. So what does this have to do with the title of this post? Well, everything.

Those who are familiar with hip-hop are by now aware of the term "the trap", well I believe corporate hip-hop is the biggest trap of all, and streaming is spearheading the movement. In essence, artists are being told to put forth their music for free, to get paid less than what it would be worth if they established their own brands and sales funnels by way of subscription or selling their digital tracks directly to their consumers. Any solution sounds great if we don't have one for ourselves, now this is what we are presented with, and the streaming services now get paid either way.

The lack of artists' success on these platforms in high volume, in conjunction with low pay rates, led artists to place the pursuit of the record deal back at the forefront. Social media platforms are getting a piece of the pie as well since all artists have the ability to run their own ads (whether they're effective or not). This has created a cash cow, for the companies that create these automated services without producing any of the content it hosts, something hard to combat when artists are convinced of its validity through the "successful artists" on their platforms. It's not about presenting music to potential fans anymore, it's all about getting the numbers and making the right connections to get a deal.

Convincing artists to abandon the pursuit of the listener directly has allowed labels and streaming platforms to decide for everyone, the irony is most artists that host their music on these platforms also pay to use the service. Looking at the big picture, I see that not much has changed, just the tools used to make it happen. I still believe artists have the chance to take back their dignity by investing in themselves and putting the value back into the music because without it these companies don't exist.

I could also be a random guy on the internet that just wasted your time, but I'll leave that up to you. What are your thoughts?

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