Breaking into the music industry seems easier than ever. All it takes is one viral moment on social media, and you could be sitting on a shiny record deal. But as veteran label executive Steve "Steve-O" Carless explained in a new interview with All Hip-Hop, there is more than one way to take off in hip-hop, especially with the ease and accessibility afforded to artists looking to get their music out there.
“My opinion would be is that anything that’s really, really good will always rise to the top at some point and it’s always going to have staying power,” said Carless, who, in addition to working with Nipsey Hussle, Dave East and YG, among others, is also the co-founder of brand consulting firm The Marathon Agency. “Everybody always has Michael Jackson in that top five list. Or Prince. Or Nas. Those things are based on quality. Those things are not for ‘how much’ they’ve done but ‘what it is’ that they’ve done. By the way, albums and records always came out in troves even back in the day, but only the good ones stuck around or made it all the way to the top. So at the end of the day, for me, it’s quality over quantity. But I get quantity is the business though. Quality is the legacy.”
As has been apparent for several years now, the music game during the streaming era is a tricky balancing act. For any aspiring artists wondering how they can manage to stick around in the industry, the answer is as simple as it isn’t. Of course, make good music. But there is also the notion that you have to feed the beast. Hence why Carless notes that quantity is the business, and you have to have a business to make a career out of being an artist. All the same, you need quality work and discernment in your releases so fans know that when you do drop, it will be worth their time (and money).
Think of how Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole have trained fans to wait for 12 months or longer —which is now suddenly an eon—for their music. That’s quality in action. Think of how J.I.D has expressed a desire to not "become a song," and even his blowing-off-steam album, DiCaprio 2, which is still packed with superb cuts. This is quality in action, too.
Take notes, friends.