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All Black Top Ten

LAST WEEK, ALL TEN of the top ten singles in the US were by black artists, the first time that’s ever happened (article). If you’ve listened to commercial radio in the past 5 years, you know that hip-hop is by far the most innovative and creative pop genre today.

Mainstream hip-hop is also showing that alternatives to the bloated major label artist development track are more effective. The biggest new rap acts (Eminem, 50 Cent) are being signed by other rappers, not by A&R guys taking a shot in the dark. Rappers are establishing reputations with underground mixtapes and shows; the best can filter up through clubs and radio DJs until they catch the ear of a successful artist. A big part of why major label musicians get such a tiny cut from record sales is that the labels spend millions of dollars finding, signing, and ‘developing’ new acts only to drop a majority of them within a year. The labels are so inefficient that anything less than half a million CDs sold is considered a loss. At a time when it’s never been easier to make money from small CD runs, major labels continue to rely on an outdated, top-heavy approach.

And always on the lookout for ways to squash creativity and innovation, the major labels have started launching raids on stores that carry mixtapes. Not only does this crackdown cripple small hip-hop record stores and crush an art form (look at what the label cartel has already done to choke sample based music), but shutting down a free pipeline to popular new acts is business idiocy. The only silver lining is that this idiocy might be what finally brings down the majors and saves music. Don’t worry, we’ll be doing our part too.

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