Although it’s easy to take for granted, those of us paying attention to the current landscape of the music industry are being treated to an unparalleled shift in how it’s structured and what it means on a fundamental level.
It might now seem commonplace for an artist like Ugly God to come out of absolutely nowhere and garner tens of millions of streams on SoundCloud or YouTube and immediately receive the internet coverage of an accomplished star without the help of a label (as far as we know), but it hasn’t always been this way.
Take Master P, for example, who has had a unique experience within the music industry. P came up in an era dominated by major labels but was a pioneer in achieving independent success and actually paved the way for the likes of Ugly God, Chance The Rapper and countless artists who’ve found success in unorthodox ways.
During a recent appearance on The Breakfast Club, Master P made a comment to the effect of “you’re not in the music business unless you have a hit record,” and implied that anyone not playing that game is not making any real money from music. His comments begin around the two-minute mark.
Master P is a legend whose success is still awe-inspiring, but not only is he totally wrong, but his remarks also contradict his own previous comments—"I use music as a marketing tool for other things."—about actual music sales opening up opportunities in touring and merchandise.
Today, there are an incredible number of artists using this exact formula to achieve notable success without ever having a “hit record,” a term that’s undergoing a change in definition as well.
Logic is a perfect example of an artist eschewing the conventional avenues of the music industry and creating something huge. When the Def Jam signee can sell out headlining, cross-country tours and just surpassed a billion streams on Spotify without releasing anything close to a chart-topping hit, how necessary is a hit record?
Logic’s not the only one either. Artists like Curren$y, Big K.R.I.T. and Lecrae have all achieved legitimate, lasting success without ever having crafted a "hit" record.
If the “music business” Master P is referring to is the dated paradigm that focuses only on radio play and record sales as the two key metrics of success, I guess he’s right, but what modern artist would want to be in that business anyway? If the mainstream model, notorious for repelling artistic sovereignty, is withering and—according to Percy himself—unprofitable for the 99%, why should it still be the standard or a goal for that matter?
The short answer is that it shouldn’t be.
In the face of a dying model, new artists are creating alternatives that will impact more artists and create more change than a hit record ever will. That's the 2017 definition of artistic success.