For every Macklemore who has a hit song and follows it up with another, there's at least 20 more who never have a second hit. And I'm one of the latter. After 11 months, they didn't find a second single -- even though a bunch of the songs I made then still sell well today -- and a new VP came in and dropped me.
You can make great, heartfelt music with a sound all your own that thousands of fans love, but none of that is going to convince Universal that you know better than they do. If you want to break into pop music, you'd better be ready for hundreds of hours of failure. The labels aren't looking for brilliant artists to drop fully formed beats onto the radio. They want someone who'll help them Frankenstein some hybrid pop monster from the stitched-together corpses of originality. And that's how we wound up with the Black Eyed Peas.
Scott Gries/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty ImagesEverything's suddenly coming into focus.
There Is a Blessing for One-Hit Wonders in 2014
Today, failing to follow up on a big success with a second single doesn't mean you're back to spinning signs for mattress sales on the street corner. My first big video, "I'm Awesome," got something like 10 million views. When the single released on iTunes, 850,000 people actually paid to download it. When I released a mix tape recently, about 8,000 people bought it. So I was able to keep, like, 1 percent of the fans that "I'm Awesome" attracted. It might sound grim, but do the math: If you put out something for $10 and 8,000 fans buy it, that's a pretty solid year's salary. My album The Audacity came out in 2012 and sold the same number, $10 apiece. iTunes took a small chunk, and then the cost of making that album (production, printing, studio time) was probably $6,000. So I made a profit of $70,000. And that's before royalties from Pandora, Spotify, and YouTube come in quarterly for years to come -- hell yeah, that's where the real "make a modest living" cash comes in. We're gonna make it rain! With actual water -- because this motherfucker can afford his water bill this month, baby.
Plus a handful of other essential bills.
I reinvested about $40,000 in new projects, but that left enough to cover rent and food and Scotch and a nice Christmas. It's not small-yacht-in-the-pool-of-a-bigger-yacht money, but I don't have to play that game of trying to keep up appearances with fancy clothes and cars. That's part of traditional rap nonsense, and my fans don't expect that. My "brand" is just being me. A regular dude. So, thankfully, for my finances' sake, the more I relate to my brokest fan, the more albums I sell. Which is good, because there's like a million things that rhyme with "Hot Pockets."
Tony Branston, via WikimediaBut none that capture the magic of the original.
I released the songs Universal hadn't wanted in a free album called Yard Sale and used that to advertise my Kickstarter. It brought in $28,000. And now that I have that small, loyal fan base, I'm able to make the music I want to make without spending 300 hours per song pleasing a bunch of record executives. I make all the money from my iTunes sales now, too. I pay $35 to list it and get close to $1 per sale. When I was with the label, I made 16 cents per sale. If you're Lady Gaga or Ke$ha, the recording industry is one big blank check for a life of unfathomable luxury and custom-tailored meat clothing. For the rest of us, connecting and selling to the people who like our music is a little less soul-crushing and at least sort of profitable, and at no point do you ever have to talk to a guy who describes you as "the next Fred Durst" and means it as a compliment.
Spose has a free mixtape available for download and you can also purchase his album The Audacity. He has a website and you can follow him on Twitter. Robert Evans can't rap or sing, but he can write and if you've got a story you can tell it to him here.
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