At the end of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, after Gene Wilder's Wonka had put poor Charlie through the ringer with his abusiveness, and had rewarded him with his factory, he led him to a glass elevator. Once in, the elevator began to rise and rise and rise, eventually smashing through the roof and flying across the city to where little Charlie lived with his family. It was a moment of fantasy that, if you really wanted to, could apply to a lot of things in our lives.
That metaphorical ceiling that has existed for so many people in all walks of life whether it's due to racism, sexism, homophobia, or whatever form of discrimination you can think of. That ceiling that has been announced as limiting your success. Limiting your possibilities for advancement. You can only go so high, you're told, and that's it. That area up there above is for another group of people, and you just aren't qualified for that, is what we're told by society.
But what happens when that ceiling is smashed to pieces? What happens when that elevator crashes through the ceiling and you realize you are no longer restrained by the limitations that you were always told were there? What then? Well, I suppose as the saying goes, at that point "The sky's the limit".
In the music industry for a long time artists were led to believe that they needed the major labels. They needed the big studios and it's money and power behind them if they wanted any real success. You could do alright locally for awhile on your own, but if you wanted to reach a global audience, well...the big boys were more than willing to allow you to sign over any sense of control in return for a glimpse beyond that ceiling.
Then the internet came along, with sites like Bandcamp and Soundcloud and Youtube and Twitter, and Facebook and suddenly the seeming necessity to sign on with the major labels, and be beholden to them became less of a requirement and more like one of a variety of avenues that were available to you.
MORE AFTER THE BREAK
Suddenly that ceiling had been busted and now artists could bypass the labels and directly market their music to the fans. However, say the labels, that can only go so far. There's another ceiling there that prevents you from having real success. I mean, can you afford to go and tour all over the world? Can you afford to get studio time and get your CDS pressed up and shipped all over the country (at least) and the world to all the stores? Can YOU get a deal to have your music in Walmart, one of the major sources of record sales? Come over to the labels, and we'll take care of that.
Without getting your album in stores, I mean, how are you going to really be successful? How will you get that ultimate recognition of success as an artist by getting your album on the Billboard Charts? You need us, so come on over and sell out your integrity and cede your control in exchange for the possibility of success.
Yet, just like before, that ceiling has been smashed repeatedly over the years as more and more indie artists are getting their albums charging on Billboard without the assistance of the industry heavyweights. In the past there were artists who got on there because of trickery such as listing their albums for 99 cents. Lady GaGa (hardly an independent, I know) had her album, Born This Way, listed on Amazon's MP3 site as 99 cents for the first week, and the album ended up selling a million copies and rocketing up the Billboard charts.
Many people felt that was kind of cheating, or at the least making a mockery of the system. Much along the way of Def Jam long being accused of buying several hundred thousand copies of their artists albums in order to assure that they placed at the top of the charts.
Then Billboard, perhaps in response to the Lady Gaga fiasco, changed their rules five months later. Your album would not be considered for the charts unless it was priced higher than $3.50 during that first month of release. If it went on sale for less than that, all sales during that time period would not apply towards album charting position.
Unit sales for Albums priced below $3.49 during their first four weeks of release will not be eligible for inclusion on the Billboard album charts and will not count towards sales data presented by Nielsen SoundScan.
So now at least it presents a leveling of the playing field, so to speak. A lot of indie artists can't afford to drop their prices that far and still hope to recoup some of the costs that they put into it. They don't have a mega label behind them footing the bill. They put their lives into it and then they, quite rightly, should hope to be able to charge a reasonable price for it.
It seems over the years that more and more indie artists are reaching the billboard charts, which appear to have been the last ceiling for indie artists to crash through. At this point there's no real reason that you have to go to a label, unless that is what you want to do. There's no logistical reason, unless you perhaps don't want to spend a lot of your own money fueling your dream.
You don't need them to get your music to the masses, you can do that with Bandcamp. You don't need them to get your music videos on MTV (remember when they used to play videos?) or BET or Much Music or The Box or whatever antiquated shows that feature music videos, because you have Youtube and Vimeo and Daily Motion. You don't even need them for funding your dream, because you have Kickstarter and Indiegogo and whatever that new Donald Trump site is.
You don't need them for marketing either, because you have Twitter and Facebook.
Seriously...what do you need the labels for if you are an indie artist? When you really think about it, what's the point?
And the latest artist who appears on the verge of crashing through that Billboard charts is my man Mega Ran whose new album "Castlevania: The Nocturnal Cantata" that he did with Sammus is nearly there on the Billboard Hot 100 Rap Albums Chart. Mega Ran is a cool dude who puts everything into his music. He's a positive guy who once claimed "Call me conscious, cause I don't spit nonsense".
I encourage everyone to do like I did this past week and buy this album. It's really good music, you're putting your money into a solid indie artist who always gives back to his fans in the form of truly original music and always comes correct.
And really, what more could you ask for in an artist? Click below to listen to samples, or click on the title and go to the Bandcamp page and buy it now! It's nottalotta money!