Selling 703,000 copies is a great number for any singer/band out there who are just starting to get some recognition. Selling 703,000 copies, without a label, putting the music you want out there, now that’s something.
Unless you’ve been living under a cave, you’ve heard “Thrift Shop.” Talk about a catchy song. While other rappers talk about their designer clothes, cars and all of their luxuries, here’s a rapper talking about shopping at a thrift shop and rocking the clothes better than those wearing the expensive ones. In the words of Macklemore himself “I think hip-hop goes in waves, and it’s something that’s different. It’s a concept. It’s obviously against the status quo of what people normally rap about. This is a song that goes against all of that. How much can you save? How fresh can you look by not looking like anybody else? And on top of that, you have an infectious beat and a hook that gets stuck in people’s heads.”
This same concept has gotten the duo 309 million views on YouTube (and counting), besides the US, “Thrift Shop” was the #1 single in the UK, Ireland, Canada, France, Denmark, Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand with over 6 million copies total (and counting). First independently distributed title to reach the top of the Billboard Digital Songs, 2nd independent song to reach #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 after 20 years, yes, you may call them the next big thing.
Sure, I could be talking about another artist success story, but what still baffles me is the fact that Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are still generating revenue on their singles “Thrift Shop,” “Can’t Hold Us” and their album The Heist…all independently. This is the essence of creating a fan base that goes beyond the money and the fame, this is the true hustle of making music, the music that you ultimately want to put out there. It took a while, but I am sure Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are extremely happy of the success they have now by releasing their music independently.
In an industry where musicians need radio airplay, endorsements, touring, sponsors and last but not least, the backup of a label, it is not that easy to make it. Here at TheYoungFolks.com, we have seen artists such as JoJo who once had successful hits and was signed to a label, to end up fighting with her label to put her music out there, which they haven’t. On the other hand, you have artists like Lupe Fiasco who have put albums out there but not the music that they want to be on it, but what the label decides that will be marketable. Some labels might prefer to sign some young star just to keep them off the market, or maybe an artist has compiled a great album but decide to put out another one first. You could say that Macklemore & Ryan Lewis have defied the laws of the industry by managing every aspect of their craft.
It took Macklemore & Ryan Lewis around 10 years to be where they are now, little do you know, The Heist debuted at #1 on iTunes way before any of us knew of “Thrift Shop,” and when you don’t have the back-up of a record label what holds you? Your fans. As noticed in this verse from “Can’t Hold Us:“
Now I never ever did it for a throne.
That validation comes from giving it back to the people. Now sing a song and it goes like
Raise those hands, this is our party
We came here to live life like nobody was watching
I got my city right behind me
If I fall, they got me. Learn from that failure gain humility and then we keep marching ourselves
Maybe one song is leading to the next one, and this is just the beginning for Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, who are taking the airwaves by storm, maybe they’ll lead the way for other indie artists to keep fighting for their dreams, to stay at their hometown and make it there with a devoted fanbase, to make the music that they want and put it out there, maybe they are creating a new breed of artists that in the future will not need a label in order to be successful.