The Urban Music Industry
Urban DIY (Do It Yourself)

It is harder to come up with examples of urban artists who have totally taken the DIY or "do-it-yourself" approach and preserved it on an ongoing basis. By this, I mean an equivalent to Ani DiFranco's Buffalo-based label Righteous Babe, which distributes her folk-alternative recordings, and now does distribution for former Mouth Almighty artist Sekou Sundiata and others. She would be a legitimate pop or rock or folk star if she wanted to sign to a major label. However, she is reported to have said that she makes much better money selling two or three hundred thousand copies of her own record through her own company than she would make selling one or two million units while signed to a major label. That is a profoundly powerful statement for an artist to make, but if you do the math you see the truth of it. I would say at the moment that the standard bearer is the artist once again known as Prince, who after extended contractual disputes with Warner Brothers, freed himself from that major label and released the "Crystal Ball" 4-CD record set initially just through the Internet. This was only a few years ago, but at that time it was a very novel idea. With the autonomy and the authority to release records as he saw fit on a one off basis with different distribution companies, you saw the "Emancipation" set which was released on EMI, and more recently the Arista Records CD "Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic". The industry wasn't built to empower the artist in this profound business way alongside the creative way, but perhaps artists like Prince have paved the way for a new paradigm of success and competition in the urban music industry. He certainly paid dues with a very successful catalogue of hits, all still available on Warner Brothers. Prince serves as a great illustrative example of an artist with a particular niche that owns a particular space in the public's mind and has a coherent marketing direction. You know what you are getting every time you get it. And if he is able to control the means of distribution, delivering that product, all the better. Receiving a Lifetime Achievement award at the 2000 Soul Train Music Awards, Prince was introduced by Chuck D of the group Public Enemy. Public Enemy was once signed to the Def Jam label (now a part of the Universal/PolyGram family), and Chuck D fought to get his group released from their contract.
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