Indie Rapper Tops Sales Charts By Connecting With Fans, Using Free Music

from the oh-look-at-that... dept

To hear some people tell the story, there’s no way to become a super successful musician embracing the internet and what it allows, unless you give in and sign a deal with a major label. Of course, that seems silly. For years, we’ve pointed to tons of artists who would never have found success in the old “major label” system (or who bounced out of that system after not scoring the massive hit), but who are now able to make a very, very good living thanks to new business models and doing little things like connecting with fans. But still, some keep asking, where are the “chart topping” artists that come out of the internet, without a major label. Well, now there’s one. Rapper Mac Miller recently debuted at the top of the Billboard charts with his debut album, despite not working with a major label. I don’t think much of the Billboard charts, but if people want those kinds of traditional metrics, there you go.

Miller sold about 150,000 copies of his debut album last week and became the first indie artist to debut at the top of Billboard in well over a decade. And he did so without having a single playing on the radio (another thing that old-timers insist is a “must.”) While he had some help from truly indie label Rostrum, he also worked with INgrooves and Fontana for distribution, and apparently it all worked well enough. But, of course, the real key was the internet. The NY Times points out that Miller is one of a generation of hip hop artists recognizing that “free music is an investment that pays off.” Shocking. If only there had been sites arguing that for the better part of a decade… But I digress.

But the driving force behind Miller’s success on the sales charts is that he’s really connecting with fans. His Twitter feed has 1.2 million followers and his Facebook feed has 1.5 million fans. His YouTube channel apparently has something crazy like 176 million views. But it’s not just about the numbers, but the connection. Miller has continued to tour and perform live as a way of building up his fanbase, but also interacts with them online in a variety of ways.

I’m sure, as with every artist success story we highlight around here, our usual critics will come up with all sorts of reasons why Miller is “an exception.” But one by one, all of the “must haves” that the old guard insists are necessary are being shown to be total myths. Embracing the internet works. Treating the internet as a problem, doesn’t.

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Companies: rostrum

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Comments on “Indie Rapper Tops Sales Charts By Connecting With Fans, Using Free Music”

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42 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

but, but, but.... where's the middleman taking 80% of what the artist is making

I disagree, there is no way this artist is a success, it doesn’t matter where he is at on the charts, unless he is supporting the leeches, I mean RIAA by handing over 80% of his revenue, he’s a worthless content stealing wannabe…

Am I doing it right?

PRMan (profile) says:

Beware of legislation changes in 3, 2, 1...

I was talking to my wife (who used to be a moderately successful Christian rock artist) on Sunday and was talking about SOPA and she said that nobody would ever vote for that.

Then I asked her, “If you were going to play live now, where would you do it?” All the places where she used to play live don’t allow live music anymore. (Many of these venues required signatures that all music must be written by the artist themself and not under record label control, and forbid any songs that were not in the public domain at Christmas.)

I said, “Why do you think that they don’t play live music anymore? It’s because the collection agencies pushed through legislation making it impossible for anyone to have live music because the law now assumes they MUST be violating copyright and have to pay anyway.”

So, it’s nice to see that people are still able to make it without some of the venues they used to have available to them.

gorehound (profile) says:

Re: Beware of legislation changes in 3, 2, 1...

I am well aware of this issue as I have been playing in rock bands since 1972.Clubs in Portland, Maine were hit by big ass fines.The Empire had to pay a ten grand fine.They all say no covers or your out.Of course if you are in a Punk Band and never give any support to any Artist who ever would sign with those dicks then you are OK.So go ahead and cover your obscure 60’s fuzzy guitar garage and obscure punk and hey do a GG Allin Cover for the brave ones.

And I also share all my music and am currently seeding 6 albums on public trackers.See
Big Meat Hammer
The Lynn Rebels
The GoreHounds
The Transplants (boston punk rock 1976-80)
Enjoy my tones if interested.Always free all the time.And for all of this and more direct downloads at
http://www.bigmeathammer.com

To Big Content:
TWO BIG FINGERS IN THE AIR…………cause one is not enough for how low you have sunk to.SOPA,PROTECT-IP ACT,suing grandmas,suing clubs,suing bands, payola,and more and more and more.

weneedhelp (profile) says:

Oh, oh, can I do it?

Rapper Mac Miller = freetard with friends
truly indie label Rostrum = truly freetards
His Twitter feed has 1.2 million followers = 1.2million freetards
his Facebook feed has 1.5 million fans = 1.5million freetards
His YouTube channel apparently has something crazy like 176 million views. = 176million freetards(Look Ma, I used RIAA math)
Lets see Freetard Mike, Pie-rate Mike, freetard pirate blah blah blah blah blah.

/How did I do?

:Lobo Santo (profile) says:

Re: Oh, oh, can I do it?

It's a sad, sad day when we become a self trolling community.
;-P

That being said, not bad!

You need a little more conviction and outright lies; like this:
Obviously this “rapper” is in league with Satan!
He’s connected to the record labels, we just don’t see the threads!
He must be selling crack to be that popular!

Etcetera, etcetera, blah blah. You get the idea.

fogbugzd (profile) says:

This is exactly what the RIAA is worried about. Their worst fear is successful artists outside the RIAA cartel.

Even their virtual lock on terrestrial radio is not as valuable as it used to be. As the situation with Mac Miller illustrates,lots of young people use the Internet as their main source for finding music they like. An artist no longer needs radio plays to be popular.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

An artist no longer needs radio plays to be popular.

Exactly. A LOT of younger people don’t listen to terrestrial radio of their own free will. They plug in their phones/iPods/mp3 players/8tracks to their radio using an FM transmitter or an AUX port and hit a playlist. When their friends are with them, they listen to their friends’ music to find new things. At home they surf YouTube or a million other sites to find new music. Slightly older ones go to the club and listen to the music there, find the tracks, and listen.

I’m too old for that crap, but I still don’t listen to terrestrial radio. If I turn on the radio, it’s XM and it’s always music older than 10 years old. If I want to hear something new, I do basically the same thing as the younger people minus the club. I surf YouTube, talk to friends, check websites of people that I know I like (Amanda F’ing Palmer!) and look for mentions of other folks along those lines.

I’d venture a guess that in the next 10 years, no one will care about terrestrial radio, especially as a means of finding new music.

out_of_the_blue says:

'all sorts of reasons why Miller is "an exception." '

It’s a fact, we don’t have to come up with “reasons”.

Your definition of “debut” is… a new one. Guess you mean on Billboard charts. At first glance, that seems a bit rigged, but never mind, not worth quibbling over.

I’ve just downloaded and skimmed through 3 “albums”, if you call that music, it’s just as I’ve said: music is a hundred times cheaper to make than movies — it shows here. Yeesh. Those skilled enough can churn that — content, to be neutral — out at an “album” a day.

Anyway, you’re still pretending that a “loss leader until noticed” technique is somehow new because /on the Internet/. You’ve kicked the stuffing out of that strawman for so long that it can’t be propped up. Many bands have been out playing, building up repertoire, making acquaintance, and in every way trying to get noticed for years. But that still seems pretty much random. You don’t even have a strategy for that spelled out.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 'all sorts of reasons why Miller is

Blue its even getting boring to make fun of you at this point. Go to your local community college and take a class on logical fallicies and english as a second language, then come back and maybe we can have a real discussion.

Also please post your album by next week, I wanna see just how easy it is.

fogbugzd (profile) says:

Re: 'all sorts of reasons why Miller is "an exception." '

>>I’ve just downloaded and skimmed through 3 “albums”, if you call that music, it’s just as I’ve said: music is a hundred times cheaper to make than movies — it shows here. Yeesh. Those skilled enough can churn that — content, to be neutral — out at an “album” a day.

But yet this piece of junk (in your mind) beat out all of the label artists backed by all the producers, musical directors, equipment, and other benefits provided by the studios. What does that say about the quality of music produced by the traditional labels?

Marcel de Jong (profile) says:

Re: 'all sorts of reasons why Miller is "an exception." '

So, by your reasoning, you just stole his music?
After all you downloaded 3 of his albums and listened to it.

Shame on you, blue. Shame on you.

/s

btw… Mike never said that the idea is new. Those were your people’s words, not Mike’s. He’s actually said that it was an old idea, on numerous occassions.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: 'all sorts of reasons why Miller is "an exception." '

“I’ve just downloaded and skimmed through 3 “albums”, if you call that music”

Yes, your personal tastes have to be the arbiter of success. It doesn’t matter that well over a million people are interested in what he has to say and that 150,000 people like the music enough to pay for it – *OOTB* doesn’t like it, therefore any success is invalid.

You can’t even accept qualified success if it goes in a direction you dislike. This is part of the reason why you fail, and regularly.

bob (profile) says:

PAYWALL!

He’s not an exception at all– he’s the rule. The major and minor labels have given away free music for years. Then they turned to a paywall to make a profit and pay it off. That’s exactly what’s going on here.

There are zip-zero-zilch tracks from “Blue Slide Park” available on MySpace. If you want them, you can PAY to get through the PAYWALL. As Pete Townshend sang, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

Wake me when some unknown sells 150,000 copies with a tip jar while giving away all of the tracks for free.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: PAYWALL!

There are zip-zero-zilch tracks from “Blue Slide Park” available on MySpace. If you want them, you can PAY to get through the PAYWALL. As Pete Townshend sang, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

Heh. Perhaps that’s because no one goes to MySpace any more. His tracks are available free on YouTube and Spotify and I imagine many other sources as well.

And, again, no one has said that you should never charge for content. Just know when to charge and when not to charge. And I don’t know for sure, but I’d guess that (unlike you) Mac isn’t crying about “Big Search” stealing his lunch. He actually went out and did something to make a shitload of money.

You should try it someday.

bob (profile) says:

Re: Re: PAYWALL!

Hey, dude, don’t be so clueless. Spotify is a PAYWALL system. Do you want to listen on your mobile device? The PAYWALL collects $9.99 and if you don’t pay each and every month, your music goes away. Do you want to skip the annoying ads on your desktop? Putting $4.99 into the PAYWALL each month gets rid of them.

If you want to listen for free, you get to deal with all of the AD-driven madness of their desktop app. If you don’t listen to the advertisements, the DRM gets in the way. And you get to be part of the advertising too because Spotify will SPAM your friends with the songs you listen to. Okay, it’s not the same privacy nightmare as sharing your medical records, but there’s a reason that people fought to keep video rental records private. Spotify asks you to give up those privacy rights and help them advertise their product.

And YouTube is just another ad-driven version of MTV. And what’s the biggest part of their game plan? A PAYWALL if you don’t want to look at the ads.

You act like this is new, but it isn’t. The major labels have been playing this game for YEARS. They give away some music on the radio or MTV and then they charge you for the version you put in your iPod. That’s the same thing this guy is doing.

He’s not adopting any of your dreamy tip-jar, t-shirt-selling ideas. He’s emulating the smart, copyright-driven music majors and more power to him.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: PAYWALL!

“There are zip-zero-zilch tracks from “Blue Slide Park” available on MySpace. If you want them, you can PAY to get through the PAYWALL.”

The entire album is available for free on Spotify, among other places. Are you just deliberately stupid, or does it come naturally.

“Wake me when some unknown sells 150,000 copies with a tip jar while giving away all of the tracks for free.”

I’d never heard of him before this article, does that count?

Oh, and I like the idiocy spewed again. Oh THIS success doesn’t count because of (random factors X Y and Z)? Pathetic.

Anonymous Coward says:

“And he did so without having a single playing on the radio”

and why should a hand full of corporations have exclusive privileges over broadcasting spectra in such a way that allows them to choose what gets broadcasted and what doesn’t? Why should some artists have an artificial disadvantage just because some corporations don’t want their content broadcasted. Why should creative commons and permissibly licensed content have the disadvantage of not being broadcasted over public airwaves just because some monopolist gatekeeper chooses so.

The government has no business granting monopoly privileges on both content (through copy protection laws) and distribution (through cableco and broadcasting monopolies and through laws that dissuade restaurants and other venues from hosting independent performers).

Michael says:

The internet wins

I hadn’t heard of this guy before reading this article, but then I don’t follow the rap music scene.

This is setting a precedent which the major labels are not fond of: an independent success through self-promotion, word-of-mouth and internet exposure. The fact that a ‘random nobody’ can come along and take the top spot on the Billboard charts is akin to an indy arthouse film maker’s movie taking the top spot away from Hollywood — it’s unthinkable to them. Couple that with the fact that Mac Miller owns all of his own art and generates REAL profit instead of debt… This will further embolden aspiring artists to take after him and bypass the bank, err, major labels and go directly to the music listeners.

Who still listens to the radio? I don’t.

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