Take a look at this Tavis Smiley special featuring thoughts shared by QD3, Bishop Lamont, Talib Kweli, Devi Dev of Houston’s 97.9 The Box and Wiz Khalifa on the internet social media’s effect on broadening hip-hop mainly through social media. All the parties involved drop gems on how the genre, and the music industry as a whole, has transformed in the past decade and some change thanks to the web. However, I don’t entirely buy the internet as this catch-all place for artist growth.
Gauging the web’s impact on music consumption as a whole isn’t as easy as it seems. I feel like, in many cases, online writers and commenters alike gas the importance and/or impact artists or bands will have on mainstream music. Radio as a distribution and promotional model for music is still around and kicking largely because most people lack an insatiable thirst to go online and grab new mp3s all day. Those that do double as taste makers of sorts for their FM dial-surfing friends. But transitioning from an online audience to grander mainstream one isn’t easy. Don’t believe me? Take a look at XXL’s freshmen lists and weigh how everyone has fared since getting nodded. Not to knock anyone’s hustle, but it’s safe to say there are more heads from each class still on the bubble than those who are premiere commercial or underground names.
On the flip side you have to give credit to success stories of the past, present and future chalked up to brewing a strong online presence. Lupe, KiD CuDi, B.o.B and Drake cultivated their fledgling careers online into mainstream success and that’s just naming a few. And with more e-stars brewing like J. Cole and Wiz Khalifa buzzing on search engines and social media networks it’s easy to see that web’s role in developing potential stars.
I see the internet as a powerful tool for artist development and promotion. It’s also a proverbial auditioning space until artists or bands pick up enough steam for the next step. And the latter point isn’t only more prevalent. It’s also disregarded for the few new acts who manage to break through via social media in their own way. More importantly, there’s a metric ton of hobby rappers curious at best about their “artistry” for every one with enough endearing content to create a fan base. The internet gives your distribution more legs than it would’ve gotten in the good ‘ol days. But what’s the point if enough people aren’t listening?