When you think of the word “entrepreneur,” what comes to mind?
It may likely be a composite image of Elon Musk, motivational quotes, and scrappy startups.
It likely isn’t, however, a budding SoundCloud artist streaming beats in his mom’s basement.
Welcome to the rise of music entrepreneurship.
In this article, we’ll dive into how streaming and social media have revolutionized the music industry and fueled entrepreneurship through independent labels.
Starting first with an example of notorious music-preneur, Chance the Rapper.
At just 23 years old, Chance made history by becoming the first artist to win a Grammy through a streaming-only album. The Chicago-based rapper was adamant about keeping his music independent, though he could have contracted with a record label for millions.
His decision was met with doubts and criticism, however—it’s nearly impossible to become a fast-track artist without being signed to a label.
But Chance shocked the world with his success through his astute belief in keeping his music independent—and encouraged other artists to do the same.
What makes Chance the Rapper an entrepreneur to us—aside from his novice vision and determination to see it through—is that he used what tools were available to him to become a successful artist in his own right.
By offering his music for free, without earning any revenue from a label, he built an income solely from performances and selling merchandise. As an artist, going solo without a label and garnering an audience from scratch takes the kind of audacity entrepreneurs are typically known for. Now, music-preneurship is making its mark more frequently than ever, thanks to the rise of technology and the freedom its platforms create.
Streaming platforms, along with social media, have given artists around the world the ability to become full-fledged musicians regardless of their background or tie to a label. It’s these kinds of technologies that have created the empire of today’s music industry—or what we’d recognize as music entrepreneurship.
Not only do services like SoundCloud or Twitch pave the way for musicians to become their own entrepreneurs, but even social media like YouTube and Instagram Live provide an avenue for artists to showcase their talent and grow an audience.
Artists like Kenny Beats grow cult followings through YouTube channels (Kenny’s “The Cave” premiered in March of 2019, and has since then cultivated millions of viewers), and we all know Justin Bieber found fame through his 2007 YouTube uploads.
Thanks to the technology of social media and streaming services, anyone can become an entrepreneur today. What used to be impossible, such as becoming one of today’s most successful artists as an independent, has become a reality—though still one that holds many risks and vulnerabilities.
What we can learn from artists that have struck out on their own in the music industry is that what you put out in the world has to matter enough for you to risk it all. Entrepreneurship is never easy; that’s what makes it rare, but wildly successful when it pulls through.
Today, entrepreneurship can be found anywhere, even beyond the music industry. Apps like TikTok and Instagram allow anyone to produce their own content and build their own brand. To be sure, entrepreneurship still requires plenty of risk, hard work, and time, but there is no doubt that technology has given a whole new way for entrepreneurs to thrive and bring their ideas to life.
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