How a troubled rapper is shaking up the music industry

He’s hard to like.

And yet every musician should love him.

Or at least what he represents.

XXXTentacion.

The 20-year-old rapper has a long rap sheet: He’s faced gun possession, robbery and assault with a deadly weapon charges and is awaiting trial for aggravated battery of a pregnant woman.

He’s a troubled dude who causes his share of trouble for others.

As a human being, Jahseh Onfroy, aka XXXTentacion, leaves plenty to be desired.

As an MC, he’s becoming a star — and an increasingly significant one.

Onfroy’s new record, the moody, emotionally claustrophobic “?,” debuted atop the Billboard album chart last week on album-equivalent sales of 131,000 units, propelled in large part by nearly 160 million streams of the record.

Soundcloud sensations

Those numbers are nice, but what’s more impressive — and important — is how he got them.

Onfroy is the latest in a fast-growing cadre of rappers who’ve launched their careers on music distribution service Soundcloud, joining the likes of Lil Yachty, Lil Pump and Lil Uzi Vert, who’ve all landed albums in the top five in the past year.

For the first time ever, musicians are demonstrating the ability to build successful careers almost completely outside the traditional music industry.

Record deals have been a one-sided proposition from day one. Labels have exerted a stranglehold on the industry, serving as gatekeepers who decide which acts get heard. It’s made the monetization of music practically impossible for all but a smattering of artists (less than 7 percent of the acts signed to major labels even recoup recording costs).

That outmoded business model is finally starting to crumble, with a clutch of polarizing rappers leading the way.

Look at Onfroy: After building an audience by uploading his music to be streamed on Soundcloud, which artists can do for free, he released “?” on his own label, Bad Vibes Forever.

He didn’t completely eschew the industry, relying on Caroline Records, which is owned by major label Capitol Records, for distribution. But releasing an album yourself and using a distributor to get it on shelves is a far more lucrative endeavor than relying on a label to finance a record and getting a fraction of the returns.

Turning the industry on its ear

For a musician, being on a label is give and take: They give you money to make an album and take an outsize percentage of any profits; they give you a platform to make music and take a portion of your creative independence any time they don’t like what they hear.

All the power has been in the hands of the labels: If they don’t like your record, they can shelve it; if you refuse to play ball, they can shrink promotional budgets and all but ensure your music never gets heard.

Unsigned artists trying to gain access to the industry face significant barriers. It costs a staggering amount of money to get a song on radio, whose airwaves are controlled by labels, and not all musicians can afford to record without outside financing.

But advances in computer-based recording programs have made it far cheaper and easier for musicians to make records on their own. Once they’ve done so, sites such as Soundcloud enable them to disseminate their music to millions independently. Acts such as XXXTentacion have demonstrated how this can turn the industry on its ear.

Music fans benefit, too

Granted, the hip-hop scene is at the vanguard of streaming’s potential, with its fans consuming music in this way far more than in other genres.

And none of this is to suggest that streaming is a cure-all for the music industry’s many ailments.

For starters, streaming is not a moneymaker for most musicians, as the royalty rate is a fraction of a penny per spin.

But album sales have never been a moneymaker for most musicians, either.

You can’t lose what you never had. But what artists can gain, in addition to more creative control, is a way to build an audience that they can steer to more profitable avenues, such as ticket and merchandise sales.

All of this benefits listeners as well, by removing any record company filter between them and the artists.

Now fans can decide what they want to listen to, and act accordingly.

And, really, isn’t that the way it ought to be?

Contact Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476. Follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Entertainment
Five must-see bands at Psycho Las Vegas 2018
Five must-see bands at Psycho Las Vegas 2018
Zuma's Ice Cube Carving Is Satisfying To Watch
Zuma's Ice Cube Carving Is Satisfying To Watch (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Therapy In Downtown Las Vegas Serves Cast Iron S'mores
Therapy In Downtown Las Vegas Serves Cast Iron S'mores. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New Brunch Spot The Stove Makes Unicorn Hot Chocolate And Bananas Foster Pancakes
New Brunch Spot The Stove Makes Unicorn Hot Chocolate And Bananas Foster Pancakes. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Octopus On The Las Vegas Strip Predicted The Winner Of The World Cup
The Octopus On The Las Vegas Strip Predicted The Winner Of The World Cup. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-journal)
TLC by the Numbers
Watch Ruthless! at Las Vegas Little Theatre
The musical Ruthless! will be playing at Las Vegas Little Theatre from July 13-29. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
How to feel like a kid again in Las Vegas
How to feel like a kid again in Las Vegas
People Lined Up For Over 5 Hours For Build-a-bear's "Pay Your Age" Promotion At Galleria Mall
People Lined Up For Over 5 Hours For Build-a-bear's "Pay Your Age" Promotion At Galleria Mall. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Cadaver art and sword swallowing at The Dark Arts Market
Curator Erin Emrie talks about her inspiration for The Dark Arts Market at Cornish Pasty Co. in Las Vegas Tuesday, July 10, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Over 40,000 People Attend The 4th Of July Parade In Summerlin In Las Vegas
Over 40,000 People Attend The 4th Of July Parade In Summerlin In Las Vegas. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
What to expect at Station Casinos' Fourth of July celebration
Station Casinos' is hosting its annual 4th of July celebration with Fireworks by Grucci. Fireworks scheduled to go off on Wednesday, July 4 around 9 p.m. at Green Valley Ranch Resort, Red Rock Resort, Fiesta Rancho and Texas Station. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Pawn Stars' Richard Harrison honored at memorial service
A memorial service was conducted for Richard "Old Man" Harrison at Palm Mortuary in Las Vegas on Sunday, July 1, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Tourists and locals enjoy Independence Day fireworks at Caesars Palace
Hundreds of tourists and locals gaze at the Independence Day fireworks show at Caesars Palace on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
5 must-see bands at Warped Tour 2018
Five must-see bands at Warped Tour 2018
This Banana Split In Las Vegas Is Made With Fire And Liquid Nitrogen Right At Your Table.
This Banana Split In Las Vegas Is Made With Fire And Liquid Nitrogen Right At Your Table. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pixar Pier At Disneyland Is Open With New Food And A New Roller Coaster
Pixar Pier At Disneyland Is Open With New Food And A New Roller Coaster (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Here's What It's Like To Ride The New Incredicoaster At Disneyland
Here's What It's Like To Ride The New Incredicoaster At Disneyland (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
"Pawn Stars" fans visit Richard Harrison's memorial at Gold & Silver Pawn
"Pawn Stars" fans from around the world visit the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas following the passing of Richard "Old Man" Harrison on Monday, June 25, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Get a sneak peek at Palace Station's newest renovations
Station Casinos spokesperson Lori Nelson gives a first look at what Palace Station's $192 million renovation will bring. Some areas will begin opening to the public next week according to Nelson. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
You Can Only Get The 11-pound 8-person Burger In Las Vegas
You Can Only Get The 11-pound 8-person Burger In Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Paul McCartney is worth over $1 billion
Sir Paul McCartney is one of the most celebrated and accomplished musicians in history. He just turned 76 on June 18. McCartney grew to international fame with the Beatles and went on to become a wildly successful solo musician. Paul McCartney’s net worth is estimated at $1.2 billion, according to Celebrity Net Worth. In 2017, McCartney landed the No. 13 spot on Forbes’ list of the world’s highest-paid musicians, earning $54 million for the year. On Thursday, June 20, McCartney will release a double A-side single featuring two new songs, "I Don't Know" and "Come On to Me." McCartney has yet to announce a title of his new album or when it will be released. Th album is expected to be released before he headlines the Austin City Limits Music fest in October.
Bellagio's New Conservatory Brings Italian Summer To Las Vegas
Bellagio's New Conservatory Brings Italian Summer To Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Kari Curletto of Las Vegas put over 500 hours into making her toilet paper wedding dress. (Courtesy Kari Curletto)
Kari Curletto of Las Vegas put over 500 hours into making her toilet paper wedding dress. (Courtesy Kari Curletto)
The Real Crepe In Las Vegas Serves Authentic Crepes In The Style Of Brittany, France
The Real Crepe In Las Vegas Serves Authentic Crepes In The Style Of Brittany, France. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-journal)
New Marilyn Musical Brings Screen Icons Life To Strip
Paris Las Vegas hosts musical bio featuring new, old tunes. (Carol Cling Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas' hottest concerts of the summer
Vegas' hottest concerts of the summer
We Taste-tested The Best Doughnut Shops In Las Vegas
We Taste-tested The Best Doughnut Shops In Las Vegas. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
5 must-see bands at Punk Rock Bowling 2018
5 must-see bands at Punk Rock Bowling 2018
Gabi Coffee & Bakery Is Like A Korean Speakeasy From The 1920s
Gabi Coffee & Bakery Is Like A Korean Speakeasy From The 1920s (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like