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.