Musicians have always tried to find the balance between creating their art and selling records, because the more that’s sold, the more ‘diluted’ the music can get. This is the same across all genre’s, rap, rock, classical and pop. As music has changed over the years so has the levels of wealth attainability for the creators. Being rich and having a hit record back in the 50’s and 60’s meant that you could buy your high school sweetheart a new car and go on holiday to Miami twice and year. These days there’s an obsession in the music industry with wanting to retire early, and in order to do that serious amounts of money has to be made. Buying that brand new car means nothing in 2018 as we have mega rich pop stars with the financial ability to retire before they hit 20 and it’s visible for all around the world to see. In fact, the consumer pays to see the superstars of the world flaunt their riches on the internet and social media, which has become a bizarre part of our culture. Consumers pay in the form of time, money and exposure to advertisements to get a glimpse of their favourite artists day to day routine. Even amongst themselves, the artists must want to out do each other with the next biggest house, car or chain, and this is disgustingly evident in the competitiveness of the hip hop industry.
Artists who try to remain ‘underground’ and keep their authentic sound have it difficult in a world driven by the pursuit of success and wealth. The record companies and managers have caught wind of the increasing material desires of the human soul and with the offering of 360 deals and cash advances artists can be exposed to the beginnings of wealth desired early on in their careers. The problem with this is the artist usually has to give up elements creativity to get the record companies to part with cash. The exposure and marketing machines, corporate put behind artists helps the artist in their career progression but does nothing for the individual journey. Sometimes the machine ends up swallowing the artists who then lack motivation because they have sales target and debts to pay back to big business. Lauren Hill’s career is a prime example of this where we have one of the most talented artists to represent an unheard generation of youth essentially silenced by the music industry. She puts out one classic album and has a few hits with the Fugees and live shows but then nothing. She spoke out about the music industry and I know there are plenty of conspiracy theories out there about the corporate agenda and the type of music they want to push, and Lauren Hills career maybe can be testament to that. I agree that there is an agenda, but I think it’s purely a financial agenda.
In the rap industry they say its a ‘war to eradicate the black male’, and that’s why big business pushes out music with a negative messages rather than the positive messages I believe negativity sells in all entertainment markets because it provides us with an insight into a part of the human condition which fascinates us and is deep rooted in our violent and twisted history. The problem with rap music isn’t the bad language, violence or misogyny, it’s the glorification and dumbing down of the delivery. This is what record executives have figured out to be the best way to communicate content to the masses and maximise profits. The general population isn’t really interested in the mechanics of concepts, but more interested in the extremes and aesthetics of humanity. By generalising content, and ensuring there is a clear dividing line between demographics, the mass population can be marketed too with ease. Sex, love, money, confidence, beauty, crazy, carefree, ugly all of these things are used to market towards a specific section of the public and it works because the music industry is a multi-billion dollar industry.
Music moguls and record companies have begun to approach this as a science and it’s all about the numbers. Increased popularity usually equates to increased sales which always equates into healthier margins. The popularity of an artist is the variable which can be controlled through understanding how the population spend their money and what attracts them to an artist. As artists continue to develop and create along their paths they almost always end up at a cross roads. A point at which the decision to go one way over another can drastically change the trajectory of their career. It is usually at this point that a majority of artists choose to sell out, because selling out means making the most money. Creating art is important but honestly, most people must now understand that making money is equally or even sometimes more important. Money puts a roof over your head, food in your mouth and kids at private schools. Credible authenticity gets you notoriety and legend status…maybe. The choice to sell out is the choice to sell, and in this heavily weighted capitalist society I am not surprised that selling out has now become the desired root for content creators.