"The few at the golden roundtable occupy a space where the wine is top-notch,
That ally is, of course, Spotify. But how is the Swedish-based streaming service usurping the genre's giants?
One reason is the accessibility of Spotify to rising hip hop artists. Though these outlets don't directly deal with musicians, they employ aggregators, or middle men, such as CDBaby and Record Union which give Spotify its access to music. The cost of submitting an album to one of these middle-men is a mere $59, which is easily afforded by most up-and-coming artists.
Another is Spotify's "Top Tracks in Your Network Feature," which HipHop DX describes as "a fascinating social media experience to music consumption... [wherein] discovery [is taken] to new lengths through people within one’s own network outside of finding out whose taste is necessarily better." More often than not, hip hop artists outside the elite can captivate new audiences based on this feature, as upper-end rappers become too comfortable in their lofty positions and stop generating quality music.
And, finally, many top hip hop artists are alienating their listeners by denouncing consumers who turn to streaming services. Rather than questioning the music labels that also snatch large sums of an album's sales for themselves, artists are confronting Spotify as their enemy, which is off-putting to many of their more frugal fans. It's the new wave of indie artists who are embracing Spotify as a promotional tool that are reaping the streaming service's benefits for themselves.
"Blaming consumers for overwhelming choosing something that works for them economically isn’t always the best idea. Playing that card always makes the one losing look weak. Unless a better alternative is presented, the excuse of monetary losses aren’t going to be enough. People are going to download music any way they like; legally or illegally. Spotify is becoming the natural product of this argument," said HipHop DX.
It's inherent to my character to generally root for the underdog. So, naturally, I welcome the fact that emerging artists have a chance to succeed thanks to streaming services. Throughout my blog, I've made it abundantly clear that I have many qualms about how streaming is shaping the music industry. Displacement of the elite is definitely not one of them.
The fact that this music elite exists is troubling in itself. Artists who rise to the top all too often become overly secure in their hold of the music industry, reaching unimpeachable heights in their popularity that is often not deserved or indicative of the quality of their craft. I believe artists at any point in their career should feel pressure to produce quality content, and by leveling the playing field, Spotify is promoting just that. If hip hop royalty becomes too comfortable sitting on its golden throne, then it's high time they lose it.
The One Percent: Is Spotify The 99 Percent's Great Hope? (n.d.). Retrieved January 23, 2015, from http://www.hiphopdx.com/index/editorials/id.2714/title.the-one-percent-is-spotify-the-99-percents-great-hope