The internet changed everything. Stop me if you've heard this one before.
For decades the only way for a hip-hop producer to have any real career was to run the treadmill of turning an album placement into another album placement. With the exception of the special few able to create their own business, like a Pharrell, it was a career largely spent relying on the patronage of other artists and labels. And if you weren't in the U.S.? Forget it. There was no way you were getting your foot into an already crowded door thousands of miles away.
But the internet's provided a work around and has let someone like a 20-something Norwegian hip-hop producer not just live, but thrive.
I reached KrissiO in his native Telemark, Norway, a place Google shows me is stunningly gorgeous but as a typical ugly American hip-hop fan I'd frankly never even heard of before. It's not a place you'd expect to find a professional beatmaker, but 2016 specializes in breaking expectations.
As I would've thought though, KrissiO confirms that while Norway does indeed have a hip-hop scene, it's nowhere near the size of the American market, and he isn't particularly impressed by many local rappers. EDM and dance music dominates the charts, but even as a teen he was always drawn to American hip-hop. The power of 50 Cent is apparently a universal language, but the idea of a career in the music industry seemed so geographically and figuratively distant he didn't even consider it.
He had the itch to make music though, and a copy of FL Studio later he was attempting to make his own beats, but with no mentors or local producers he could turn to for guidance, he found his community on YouTube. Soon he was getting messages from artists asking to lease his beats via YouTube or SoundClick, but his music making was still more hobby than job.
It wasn't until he joined BeatStars, started defining his sound and started making instrumentals with the artist first in mind - there's a difference between making impressive instrumentals and crafting a beat with enough breathing room for a rapper to come in on - that his saw his career unexpectedly take off.
We're still largely talking about leasing beats here, which is the kind of short-term boost that can enable a producer to quit their day job as opposed to the kind of long-term money in publishing and placements that can build a career. But let's also not discount what a truly unique thing it is to be able to make music your day job without any of those placements, without any connects.
Let's not discount that a Norwegian producer who counts Zaytoven as his production hero has become a go-to source for enterprising trap rappers thousands of miles away.
For as much as the internet's explosion has taken away from the traditional music industry, it's also opened up doors and possibilities that were previously so bolted shut to the outside world people like KrissiO would have never even attempted to unlock them. That door's wide open now, who's walking through it next?