How Macklemore won a Grammy without a Label

macklemore-grammyIt’s pretty obvious the normal formula for success in the music industry now lies in the hands of the artists, this was never more apparent than last night’s Grammy Awards.  Macklemore and Ryan Lewis took home  “Best New Artist” and “Best Rap Album” without ever signing with a label.  So just how did Macklemore win a Grammy without one?

Over the past 10-15 years with the advent of Myspace, Twitter, YouTube and downloadable music, the ability to succeed has turned solely to the artists.  These tools have taken the place of a publicist, distributor and marketing teams, with minimal costs.  The effort however has doubled, the artist now assumes all these roles and has to balance marketing, promoting and writing all at once.

Myspace tore down the walls between artist and fan.  This wall was the label.  Labels would fund everything an artist would need to succeed from production to touring as well as act as the go between for artists to fans.  Today the fans have and want direct access to the artists.  They don’t want a filtered story or interview that takes out anything that might hurt the artist, they want to know the artist is real.  Macklemore said himself in an interview with Chris Hardwick: “…the music industry is changing. … it’s evolving.  And to be at any sort of place where we’re at the forefront of that, at the moment, is exciting.” 

Even the way music is recorded has changed.  What once needed to be tracked at a studio can now be done in a bedroom or basement with the proper gear and skill.  Artists are becoming engineers and producers and vice versa.  The perfect example is another big winner Daft Punk, they not only perform their music, but produce, engineer and write it.  As a audio engineering school we find more artists attending than ever.  This is because more artists want the proper education to create music on their own.

Exposure is only limited by your imagination and ability.  “Thrift Shop” now as of today has over 487 million views.  The days

Austin Mahone was discovered on YouTube Covering Justin Bieber's "Mistletoe" and skyrocketed to stardom.
Austin Mahone was discovered on YouTube Covering Justin Bieber’s “Mistletoe” and skyrocketed to stardom.

of needing to be on MTV have passed.  The new generations look to YouTube for their entertainment.  Look at the meteoric rise of Austin Mahone, discovered on YouTube performing the Justin Bieber song “Mistletoe”.  The next generation of music fans will be internet based, and they want to communicate with their favorite artists and have access to their songs immediately.  Why put a label between that?

Because labels at the end of the day, aren’t going anywhere, nor should they.  Artists today don’t make their money on record sales.  They make them on touring, merch and licensing.  Labels are smart, will and have adapted to this new industry.   Most artists want to write, record and perform, not write press releases, pay for distribution,hire an accountant and lawyer.  The label is more than a bank, they are your teammates, they are the person you know who knows someone else.

Well how did Macklemore do it?  Macklemore won a grammy because his music was great and he had a far reaching fan base, that he no doubt had to build, nurture and trust.  That’s a lot of work.  He knew the power of video, of virility online, and he knew where the fans were.  Online.  But one thing not a lot of people know is Macklemore has been working at this for 14 years.  Say what you want about Macklemore’s music and beliefs, but one thing is for sure, to achieve that level of recognition proves that he is incredibly intelligent and driven.

So do you need a Label to make it big?  That’s up to you to tell us.


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