The Urban Music Industry
Urban DIY (Do It Yourself)
He continues to record now for the digital media company, AtomicPop and is a staunch advocate of every available means for artists to independently distribute and market their own music, including the controversial file-sharing Napster service. As Chuck D puts it, "either you own your masters or the master owns you". There was a very chilly reception for that comment during his remarks prior to Prince's stepping up to the podium. Prince was very gracious in his acceptance speech and underscored the same statement, entreating his fellow urban artists to follow suit (excuse the pun!) At the time of this writing, I am not aware of any other artist who has leveraged their success in the way that Prince has to control their masters, but it raises interesting possibilities for what will be possible in the future. As the paradigm is shifting-- or more accurately, now that the paradigm has shifted-- of what importance is the conventional "record company"? How are record companies evolving? And how will the prospective artist make him/herself financially successful? Who do they need to partner with? The answers to those questions are still uncertain, but either way it is time to address new ways of promoting and marketing yourself independently.

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.
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