Friday, January 23, 2015

Spotify helps hip hop royalty lose its crown

According to industry insiders, the streaming services are toppling Hip Hop royalty and stealing its crown. The embattled one percent,  which used to boast prime seats at the "golden roundtable," are overwhelmingly being trumped by smaller, independent artists, or the genre's 99 percent.

"The few at the golden roundtable occupy a space where the wine is top-notch, food is plentiful and everyone either wants to be them or bait them for replacement. Everyone else must essentially make due with less resources while those upper echelon emcees enjoy big budget videos, production from wildly established hit-makers, widespread media coverage and other luxurious perks. Those desperately crawling their way to relevance may have found one technological ally that has caused a rift within the music industry," writes HipHop DX.

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

1 comment:

  1. While everyone is always focusing on how the increasing availability of music is hurting big-time artists' revenue, I often find myself ignoring the impact is has on up-and-coming artists. It's amazing how new artists can make their music available to such a large audience at little to know cost. These days, anyone can make a name for themselves without having to jump through hoops or travel the country trying to get they name out. I agree with HipHop DX when he states that these big artists aren't helping themselves by blaming the consumers for downloading their music illegally. It only aids in alienating their audience and fans.