Almost every hip hop fan has been told at one time or another that the rap game is reminiscent of the crack game. For this reason, it is no surprise that producing the best product on “the block” is arguably the most popular hip hop metaphor. While this comparison is open for interpretation, the fact remains that the drug game is a business and so is hip hop. Before cringing at the thought of “culture vultures” milking the art, let’s think about this from the standpoint of independent artists. If music is a product, (which it is), then it is important artists acknowledge the economics that make it move.
Product economics can essentially be summed up in two words, “quality and consistency”. Quality, however subjective it may be, is crucial to any product, but especially when one is looking to cultivate demand. After all, who is really going to seek a sub-par product. From the standpoint of music, quality can be measured based on a number of variables, ranging from engineering and production, to content and sound. For example, to appeal to a hip hop fan that loves storytelling and the power of the spoken word, artists need to consciously focus on crafting their lyrics. While a fan who loves crisp, hard hitting beats will mostly shift the focus to top notch sound engineering. Consistency on the other hand, essentially measures the artists ability to create and supply enough quality music to keep listeners engaged. Whether a track attracts one listener or one million, eventually fans will demand more, and without supply they will go elsewhere.
While it is no secret the intense competition of the music industry can often pressure artists to deviate from their sound and begin creating a product that may be in higher demand, it crucial artists understand that this means increased competition. For this reason it is important to respect fans as customers and understand that a one-of-a-kind product almost always reaps the benefit of loyalty. Based on this understanding creating “your sound” for “your fans”, whoever they may be, is actually the very best retention and defense strategy. Not to mention, the creative process of producing music lends itself best to artists staying true to their inspirations and making “their music”.
The concept of supply and demand is fundamental to any business, especially emerging artists trying to “be heard”. In the past, major labels and outlets like radio controlled exposure. Now however, thanks to technology and an ongoing evolution of digital music many of the barriers have been lifted, giving aspiring artists the opportunity to be discovered on their own. While this control is great, it is also a significant responsibility. Supply and demand may seem to mirror the relationship between the “chicken and the egg”, but simply put, a consistent, quality product will only be discovered if it is being created and shared.