How an Unsigned White Rapper Changed Music


On January 24, 2013, the music industry will drastically change, thanks to an unsigned white rapper by the name of Macklemore. Why? Because Macklemore will be the first unsigned artist in over a decade to hit #1 on U.S. Charts, with the song “Thrift Shop.” Not bad for a guy whose debut full-length album, The Heist, was just a collaboration between friends that sold 78,000 copies in its first week.

Macklemore’s achievement is a big warning sign to the mega-labels, Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and Warner Music Corporation, who for the first time in quite a while, do not have a number one hit. Through just his massive online following, Macklemore was able to go to top without the help of a gigantic label covering his back or spending millions of dollars on marketing. These labels have to be nervous; no longer do artists need to go through them in order to be successful.

Now what does this mean? Music blogs, like the ones who promoted Macklemore, now provide an alternative outlet for artists who want to become famous. In addition, artists are realizing that acts like Macklemore are making more money without signing with a major label. So what do labels do in order to ensure a success story like Macklemore never happens again? Knowing that “Thrift Shop” became big largely due to the catchy beat, I would not be surprised if they throw a lot of money at producer Ryan Lewis for a spot on a big-time label such as G.O.O.D. Music, which is under Universal Music Group. Even then, hit-producers such as Max Martin and RedOne might leave their own labels and go solo after seeing the success that Lewis had. The relationship between label and talents has been drastically changed, and if we don’t see an adequate response on both sides, the music industry might never be the same.

Editor’s Note:

Correction: Macklemore is not the first unsigned artist to reach number one on the Billboard Charts. That distinction goes to Lisa Loeb, with her song, “Stay.” Also, Universal Music Group was incorrectly identified as United Music Group. We thank our readers for pointing these out, and we hope you continue to read the blog.

46 responses to “How an Unsigned White Rapper Changed Music

  1. Pingback: 1st unsigned artist to hit #1 US Charts thanks to online support | c monitor·

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    • I was thinking the same thing only I would expect it would go the way of the Yahoo… Once they buy it, it is then replaced by another independent site that artists and fans would be more likely to use. Just like I don’t eat Chipotle because its owned by McDonalds.

      • Chipotle isn’t actually owned by McDonald’s (and never was). Chiptole is a publicly traded company, and McDonald’s once (no longer) held a minority share in Chipotle as an investment.

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  5. This is intersting, but mackelmore had so many friends within the industry. Although he technically wasn’t signed by a label he had the support of several.

  6. Yeah…hate to be the bearer of bad news but you have some facts wrong my friend. Mac Miller sold 144,000 units his first week last year with his album “Blue Slide Park” That was the first time an independently distributed debut album was released into the No. 1 spot in 16 years. Warren G was the person to do it 16 years before Mac Miller, and now Macklemore is the second independent artist in the past year to debut #1 with half as many first week sales as Mac Miller.

    Give respect where respect is due, and do some more research.

    • As much as I respect Mac Miller, and your opinion, Miller does not have a #1 hit single, which is much more difficult to do in this day and age, because the system gives more weight to radio airplay (popularity) rather than sales.


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    • As groundbreaking as Miller’s feats were, his highest charting single only hit #55. This editorial is focusing on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, which have more clout than the Billboard 200 chart. Thank you for your opinion though.

  10. Pingback: How an Unsigned White Rapper Changed Music | poetic reviews·

    • you hear him in your area on the radio…each city is a different depends on the radio station..and air play is different than rotation its give it air play by requests and rotation is when the commercial company that owns the stations schedule it to be played like you hear beiber avery 10 minutes..crazy complicated

  11. Oh but that’s empowering. Among the gazillion independent hipsters there’s one which made it to the charts. Well done, Internet.
    But you don’t really get it, do you?
    By letting one lame ass looser make it so far, we encourage all those other millions buy into the dream of indie stardom promised land. Of course, 99.999% of them will go broke within an year and would be willing to sign with us under the most ridiculous terms we can come up with. Makes perfect sense, as far as I am concerned.

    • thank you for being the rational voice of reason! i say the exact same thing everytime people freak out and think that one success story is going to translate into an entire revamping of how things work.
      it may seem pessimistic to others, and it’d be great if we’re proved wrong, but it is most likely that this’ll serve as nothing more than a nice “success story” that fools the masses into thinking the powers that be aren’t still calling the shots at radio.

      …mind you this is is still only “technically” an independent release due to its receiving a push at radio from warner brothers…

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  14. “Thrift Shop” is quasi-indie single. It, and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ album “The Heist” are distributed (sold) via Alternative Distribution Alliance (which is the indie-distribution arm of Warner Music). Technically, that’s “independent.” However, the single itself was promoted to U.S. radio stations by Warner Bros. Records — and Warner Bros. is very much a major label. While Macklemore & Lewis are unsigned to a major record label, they did have help *of* a major to get to No. 1. Complicated, yes. But “Thrift Shop’s” success is still pretty amazing, considering the circumstances.

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  17. well I think adding YouTube views into the airplay and sales and popularity mixture into the billboard overall may also have something to do with it

  18. Pingback: How to Promote Your Music on Reddit | Everyday Worldwide·

  19. When it’s Love for the MUSIC, it can’t help to succeed… I hope this trend of REAL Artists continues.

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