“The weirdo rapper”. “The best that’s doing it right now”. “I can’t get into his music because of his voice”. These are all things I’ve heard about Chance The Rapper. The 21 year old Chicago rising star bust out of nowhere just four years ago and is one of hip-hop’s most talked about artists now. Whether you love him or hate him, one thing is certain: Chance and his crew are changing the landscape of hip-hop and how we get music right before our eyes.
For years it was the standard that if you wanted to make music and be successful that you needed to be signed to a record label. Once the internet allowed us all to create content at free will and become our own stars, that began to shift how we discovered music. You didn’t ONLY have to listen to the radio or ONLY watch music videos on BET and MTV. You didn’t have to go to the record store or Walmart or Best Buy to purchase music. Now you could log on to a website like 2DopeBoyz, NahRight, OkayPlayer, or The Koalition and find the newest music being pushed out daily. No longer were artists slaves to the record industry; sure some artist’s ultimate goal is to be signed to a major but you can make a living off of being independent now more so than 15 years ago.
We’ve witnessed Tech N9ne become successful off of this indie model and Macklemore has even achieved mainstream success from this, including winning a Grammy over Kendrick just two years ago. While Chance is indie, and claims he’ll stay that way, he’s building a different model that is adapting to the way we get music and it’s genius. Last month Donnie Trumpet, Chance, and The Social Experiment dropped the highly acclaimed and waited on Surf out of nowhere. We did a First Impression Review of it the night it dropped but before we got it we thought we were going to have to pay. It dropped as an iTunes link but once you clicked it, it just said “Download”. No purchase, no “$9.99” button; it was FREE on ITUNES! That’s a huge deal and it was also featured on the front page of the site so people were well aware.
Surf was downloaded over 600,000 times in the first few days. A lot of this has to do with it being free while some also comes from Chance having a loyal fan base. It’s also worth noting that this ISN’T a Chance solo project and it still did this well. The dynamic for how we get music has shifted so much that when you see an artist do 500,000 now it’s a shock. J. Cole did 300K first week and went platinum a month or so after 2014 Forrest Hill Dr was released while Kendrick Lamar went platinum in a little under 4 weeks for To Pimp A Butterfly. What Chance is doing is adapting to our music habits. People don’t pay for music much anymore so why put something for sale? And Chance knows this as he’s said in the past all of his projects would be free.
So how does Chance make money from the music industry? Touring and merchandise. People would rather go to shows for some reason and spend triple or quadruple what the price of an album is to see their favorite artist perform. People would rather wear something from their favorite artist than pay to download their new single. It’s a crazy thought when you read it but with music sales down consistently in hip-hop, this is the only logical answer.
This style seems to be working for Chance so far and if it continues to work as it has, many artists will switch to this model because that will be the new trend in hip-hop. It’s smart to find other ways to make money off of your music that aren’t just putting a price tag on it. You have to think outside of the box when it comes to profiting off of your product and that’s what Chance is doing. You don’t get to do songs with Justin Bieber or perform at Coachella by not being smart about your craft and that’s what Chance is: he’s a bright, talented, genius.