Chance the Rapper got validation without any record labels
The Grammys, no matter what you may think of them being out of touch, or irrelevant, unite those who watch and participate in appreciating music. Sometimes, while we watch, history happens. This time around history is named Chance the Rapper. Chance is an artist praised by the system with his 3 wins, all while never buying into that system.
The phrase “independent artist” gets thrown around, often without being defined. The simplest explanation of an independent artist is: a musician that isn’t signed to a record label. What does that mean and why should I care? Not being signed to a record label means a musician is free to record their music any way they want. They can allow fans to access it on the artist’s terms, and promote it however they want. In the past record labels owned or paid for the studio time, distributed that album, and promoted it for the musician, all while taking the majority of the money from sales and whatever else their contract entailed (literally anything, these contracts are notoriously terrible). The lie that the music industry was built on was as a musician you have to be signed to experience commercial success. This was before home studios became affordable and popular. Before the internet took over the distribution and promotion of music. Before you could control all the aspects a label once provided.
Chance the Rapper reached this high level of fame by being an incredibly talented artist, existing in this glorious internet age, and most importantly having a great team and a solid plan to release and market his music. At first Chance released albums on SoundCloud for free, betting that his music was good enough that even if he didn’t make a dime through music sales, money would be made up with sold-out shows and merchandise. He was right, his albums have had massive reach and thanks to his social media presence, his latest album became a phenomenon.
The chart attached here details how Chance’s album, “Coloring Book”, became a massively successful, Grammy winning album. Chance, with his team of musical director Peter Cottontale and manager Patrick Corcoran, crafted the album. Then, after the verified commercial success of Chance’s SoundCloud releases, they secured an exclusive deal with Apple Music. This let them release the album for two weeks on Apple’s service exclusively. “Coloring Book”, was then released to other streaming services where it has been a massive hit with fans, other artists. Basically everyone. Chance’s success at the Grammys included a bit of luck as well. The Recording Arts Academy recently allowed streaming-only albums to be Grammy eligible. All of these factors led to Chance the Rapper winning Best Rap Album for 2017.
Chance is the definition of what a modern artist can achieve. How many songs has Chance sold in his short career? Zero. Absolutely none. Can you guess how much money he has to split with his label? The same, zero. At 23, he’s the future, not just in age, but in style and approach.