Quit isolating the “one-hit wonder” musician into singlehood, and begin developing a relationship with an entire music catalog.
Person A: "Hey! Have you heard of the rapper Macklemore? I heard he has a new album coming out."
Person B: "Macklemore? You mean the guy who wrote ‘Thrift Shop’? I wasn’t too crazy about that song, and they still play it on the radio too much."
Person A: "Oh . . . right."
More often than not, I find myself as Person A. You can be sure to spot me walking or biking around campus with earbuds in-tune to the music industry. Loud and proud, I’m a music geek.
However, I’m not alone. We’re all music geeks, shaped by hometown influences and favorite bands and artists. The sample conversation above illustrates how one’s music knowledge is largely determined by popularity; namely, radio singles.
Continuing the sample dialogue topic, Macklemore announced back in January that his second studio album will be released towards the end of 2015. The Seattle hip-hop artist has since released two songs within the past month in promotion of this highly anticipated follow-up to his award-winning breakthrough album, “The Heist.”
As is custom in the music industry, songs such as Macklemore's singles serve as a promotional tool with the hope of penetrating the mainstream airwaves, as well as receiving general acclaim for the entire record. The success rate of this method is directly related to how intently the musician caters within and outside their fan base or target audience.
However, what ends up happening is those outside the musician's target audience fail to recognize the effort of the record as a whole. In getting no airplay, the non-singles get considerably less of the credit that they deserve for the equal amount of effort put into them - maybe even more.
In short, singles carry a stigma that may or may not reflect their musicianship as a whole. We may not realize this as we passively let the Billboard 200 serve as background radio music while on the road, but we end up isolating these musicians into singlehood by our overall impression of their hit singles. An article about Macklemore’s most recent song, entitled “Downtown,” refers to the rapper as “[t]he ‘Thrift Shop’ rhymer”; case in point for how singles can typecast musicians.
What is largely unknown to those who happen to stumble upon Macklemore on the radio is that his music career began in 2000 as a purely underground Northwest hip-hop artist. The closely-knit network that comprises underground music scenes slowly brought Macklemore to international acclaim by the time his breakout album hit shelves almost three years ago. With this fame, the passion behind his music efforts has only increased; all the while, opting to choose the support of his fans and producer as opposed to a major-label deal.
Why am I so fixated on describing to you how musicians go about promoting their material?
Listen to musicians not only for the singles they promote, but for entire records that are crafted to perfection by producer standards. They were made by people like us, for people like us, to be shared with people just like us.
As another college semester is underway, take the time to cultivate a relationship with the music that moves you. Don't isolate your favorite artists into singlehood and write them off because of "that one song that's played too much on the radio.” Invest and enjoy.
Aj is a senior studying communication.