Has The Time Finally Come For A Middle Class In Music?

For generations, the music the mass general public has been subject to consuming has been controlled by the power of a select few companies that reign supreme within the upper echelons of corporate America.  As a result, often its been compromised, watered down and carefully distributed by a finely tuned profit machine that has developed a patterned history of capitalizing off the hard work & exploitation of artists in a way that has never truly been about supporting the extensive populous responsible for creating the product. Artists, songwriters and producers have been known to be taken advantage of, unrecognized, and under-compensated for their contribution to music that has made major record labels billions of dollars across the span of decades in the music industry’s existence.

In addition to this problematic means of willful economic disparity prevalent in the business of music, it also remains abundantly clear that there’s been a cryptic-like order that has built a hierarchy of sorts – whereas the top 1% of artists signed to top major labels get around-the-clock media attention, press coverage, and FM radio rotation; leaving anyone without a massive budget for a full scale independent operation and an abundance of label/management contacts shut out from having access to resources that could help catapult them to a more commercially fruitful phase of their careers.

Basically the rich have gotten richer while the poor have stayed poor in the music industry. We all see it. We’ve all realized this for quite sometime and truth be told, if you yourself haven’t noticed it on some level then I’m not sure your input to the conversation can have much value as it affects individual livelihoods as well as our culture as a whole in ways that many don’t even attempt to think about. That is, until now.

An amazing thing happened when Napster came along and brought about a much needed change to the music industry to a degree that record execs to this day still haven’t quite recovered from, it seems. Liberation for the consumer to freely access media content that would forever alter everything about the world we live in is what happened. That’s where this story begins, even though I’m sure what lead to it could be debated by enthusiasts and artists alike from now to eternity.

As a music obsessed teenager myself at the time Napster was thrusted into our lives, I never imagined it would lead to something that would have such a profound impact on the world I was growing up in, and in turn offer me the opportunity to pursue my dreams and transform my passion into a profession. From KAZAA to Limewirre and every P2P service in between; to Itunes, Myspace, Soundcloud and Spotify — Pandora’s box was opened and flipped upside down, over and over again.

Although this dramatic shift in the music industry can be easily tracked the past decade, it was really the past 5-7 years that opened up a whole new reality for artists and creatives of all types. As social media and the rise in popularity of streaming platforms continued to grow, so did the ways artists expanded on how to better build their foundation of fans, supporters, and affiliates that would champion them to heights of success once previously thought to be unachievable;  as our perceived limited resources led us to believe.

In the span of this decade, we’ve now seen massive mainstream success from artists operating on a seemingly more independent scale that have lead to major label/corporate partnerships such as in the case of Macklemore, Chance the Rapper, G-Eazy, and most recently Russ amongst an assortment of others that have also managed to solidify themselves in their own regards. Its been this same method of building a loyal and supportive fanbase by consistently releasing quality content through social media and transferring that buzz to word of mouth that’s resulted in organic movements being formed to expand an artist’s audience to a point that provides financial stability with immense opportunity for more growth.

In addition to the examples mentioned above, numerous collectives of independent artists on Soundcloud have also built seemingly organic movements of fans that have garnered their work extensive exposure that rivals that of artists signed to major labels as is in the case of the new Punk-Hop era that has risen in popularity in the past year, and begun crossing over to mainstream audiences.  This has opened the floodgates for an entirely new generation of artists that are developing their own set of skills to use creative viral marketing tactics on social media to push their varied streaming platforms planting themselves at the doorstep of the once highly-exclusive music industry for the world to embrace.

As the barriers between artists, creatives and fans are continually broken down daily, we’re seeing the birth of a different kind of industry with more balance and collaboration – where technology, digital marketing, art and music have infused to flip the creative world as we know it upside down and quite frankly, I’m all for it. Why sign over the rights to your creative works when you can build your own brand with a dedicated and supportive fanbase that’ll buy every digital release and piece of merchandise you sell? There are no limits to how you can expand on fans access your content. The floodgates are wide open and opportunities are abundant for everyone willing to put in the time and work for them.

At the moment, its seems we’re transitioning to a new era in music, where its likely the days when artists were once forced to be signed to lopsided record deals to have their work consumed on a larger scale by commercial audiences is now becoming a thing of the past as they’re now able to succeed independently to bring the industry to them. More artists are also partnering with different brands in other industries, networking amongst each-other, consistently dropping valued content left and right – in turn building digital media enterprises all on their own that’s generating an influx of revenue streams. This is allowing them to prosper financially which aids in their continued focus on creating more music instead of endlessly chasing chart placements. This is what music should’ve always been. This is the universe correcting itself if you will; in order to provide people with something they can genuinely admonish in championed glory.

I’ve dreamed of this world that we’re seeing being formed right before our eyes most my adult life – A world where artists can live fruitfully off their craft and not have to sacrifice their time and energy, wasting away at a hopeless day job awaiting their shot at a successful life doing what they love to do while powerfully impacting others in the process.

We’ve all imagined what it would be like to live comfortably, making anywhere from $60K – $100k and eventually $1M a year from music & merchandise, or art, or photography, film, media, etc. Its possible, I assure you. If this past year has taught us anything, its that there are no limits to what we can do with our talents once we realize what we’re worth and make it our every day goal to see it we obtain what our value is; whether it be in terms of dollars, recognition or respect. The time is now for creatives. We’ve arrived and we came to collect. Its simply a matter of time before the rest of outside world catches on and jumps aboard as this is for all of us. What a time to be alive.

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