The “free taste” in its many forms is the biggest revolution to hit the music industry since the 1950s when the LP vinyl record became its primary medium. Prior to that development, artists made extra revenue through live performances. Radio would later become a staple of every household in advertising. The physical sale of music recordings became the pinnacle of a new industry, which then grew into a colossus in the second half of the 20th century, the record industry as we know it.
In 2010, technological advances have not killed the music industry (contrary to many of their own reports), but it has definitely knocked it out of the primary position it held for over 50 years. For some, this is a negative development. But no matter how you view it, if you’re in the business of selling music you either adapt to the new status quo or become a relic only of interest to a dwindling population of collectors.
Pandora’s box will not close, no matter how hard the RIAA or even the DHS may try.
It’s far from all bad, as the more tech-savvy generation knows. Every artist has an instant global access to their audience. Promotional tools like social media are more widespread and freely accessible as ever and topographical limitations to collaborating fade away along with lines between genres. No part of pop culture is better fitted for the dawn of this new music industry than hip-hop. Through working from a seemingly limitless supply of samples it has always blended influences and adopted different genre tropes and, as Nahshon points out, the mixtape game gave rap artists a head start in the era of downloading, where recorded music becomes a promotional tool for merchandising and tours, instead of vice-versa. – Jaap
It had to be around the time that we were listening to Clipse’s “Popular Demand” (affectionately known as “Popeyes”) that it hit me: there is a real similarity between this music and drug trade that so often resides encoded within its lyrics. The similarity is the effect on the customers. With the fiend’s growing need for the product, new ways were constantly being sought to get our hands on more product for less money. (Eventually, folks went from being regular junkies to masterminds of small-time hustles over this addiction, like Bubbles from the Wire .
To cope with our newfound craftiness, many artists and labels responded angrily by shutting down file sharing websites, requesting that links be removed, sending threatening letters, etc. On the other hand, others realized that it was only a matter of time before this strategy failed. These people embraced the change and began offering frequent, quality “tasters” to appease the addictions of their fans. While some artists made more conservative gestures of good faith, like Big Boi who streamed Sir Lucious Left Foot on MySpace for a week prior to its physical release date, still others made music exclusively for free distribution.
Whether it was a new studio quality song each Friday from the Summer until a late third quarter album release or mixtapes that swear to be anything other than what they are (a la This Ain’t No Mixtape and Fuck A Mixtape), free music was to become all of the rage by the close of 2010. Here’s our toast to the rap phenomenon that inspired “Freebie Fridays“. So in the spirit of the season, let’s look at some of the year’s most notable gifts. I’m positive that there will be enough “Ho-Ho-Ho’s” and slayings to make this Christmas analogy work.
So get ya hustle on, and let’s hope for at least as much creative projects (free or not) in 2011 as we had in 2010. – Nahshon
1. GOOD Fridays (Kanye West)
2. Monsta Mondays (Swizz Beatz)
3. Hip Hop Weekly & Hip-Hop Weekly Reloaded (Crooked I)
4. Album Prelude Mixtapes (Eminem – Road to Recovery, The Clipse – The Road to Till the Casket drops, Sean Price – Kimbo Price a Prelude to Mic Tyson )
5. “Don’t you forget about me” projects (Friday Night Lights Mixtape & No Ceilings, Cocainism 2, Str8 Killa, No Filla)
6. And still, others: Stones Throw Podcast, A-Trak’s Dirty South Dance 2
7. The only mixtape that gets a special category this year is the “Drake award”. This is for the mixtape that critically goes above and beyond being the best in class for the year, but reaches into the domain of album quality. In 2010, Big K.R.I.T.’s project, K.R.I.T. Wuz Here became the wide-reaching, self-produced darling of the interwebs in the tradition of Drake’s beloved So Far Gone