One Label Controls Almost All of Hip-Hop, and That's a Problem
But is there any hope for change? Absolutely. The top two singles of 2013, "Thrift Shop" and "Can't Hold Us," were from Macklemore, an independent artist. When you consider Mac Miller, Danny Brown and Tech N9ne, all independent from the Big Three, it is clear that there are avenues to success that don't go through the major music labels. Tech N9ne is somewhat of an anomaly, a force of nature that's been able to successfully promote himself for years before the online revolution, but the key to breaking the musical monopoly right now is the Internet.
When you look at the breakout artists of 2013 -- Chief Keef, Chance the Rapper, A$AP Rocky, Kendrick Lamar, among others -- they had all gained significant traction before being signed to a major label. Nelly weighed in on Chief Keef's situation in particular, suggesting that Keef may have been better off staying unsigned and keeping control of his music. When Nelly was dropping "Hot Shit," that option was not available; rappers couldn't just put their videos up on MTV and hope for people to listen. With the Internet, they can expose themselves to an audience potentially larger than MTV's.
Universal Music Group has within its grasp our collective artistic future and, through that, a straight shot to our souls. We apply antitrust law to telephone and computer companies but refuse to apply it to our music. Our priorities as a nation are clear, and it is obvious that if there will be change in the hip-hop business model, it will have to come from within.
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