Macklemore & Ryan Lewis have literally pulled off a heist with their independently released album The Heist, having secured the #2 spot on Billboard with first week sales of 78,000. This may not seem like a lot when you compare it to Lil Wayne numbers, but when you compare it to acts like Machine Gun Kelly whose album, Lace Up dropped the same week as The Heist and sold 51,000 they are quite impressive. Why?
Think about it MGK is signed to Bad Boy which has a major deal with Interscope. MGK’s marketing budget is much larger than Mackelmore’s, MGK’s songs get play on commercial radio stations, which is very difficult for an independent artist to achieve (because all the big radio stations are in the pocket for major labels). MGK’s song Wild Boy has gone gold having already sold 500k. On paper, MGK is a much bigger artist than the collective of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and yet MGK sold one third less. What gives?
A big part of Macklemore’s success is funding his projects through crowd sourcing sites such as Kickstarter. In fact, the video for Wings, was entirely funded by Macklemore’s fans who raised close to $18,269 to be used for the production of the video. Things like this allow for Mack’s fans to feel a closer connection to his music and thereby have a vested interested in his success.
Of course, I highly doubt an independent rapper that rapped about selling drugs could raise anything on kickstarter because a big part of Mack’s success is him attaching his movement to social issues, particularly American consumerism and gay marriage. His video for Same Love which was brilliantly executed and even made a cold-hearted blogger such as myself bust a tear is right up the alley for not only gay audiences but also liberal ones as well (which if you spend anytime on the internet constitute a huge chunk of internet users).
Judging from the success Macklemore and other independent rappers such as Mac Miller have had it looks like the only way to succeed in the indie game is by (A) building your fan base online by creating videos that connect (b) being white and (c) having Mac in your name (I kid). What I personally want to see is a black rapper pull of the same thing, though a case can be made for Tech N9ne.
Update: Mack took to his FB to speak on his first week.
The fact that a small group people recording, mixing, editing videos and shipping albums from a 500 sq foot room can push 78,000 their first week is a testament to the fans. They are the ones that pushed this album, spread the word, and brought so much attention to what we do.
The music industry is coming to a point where what big companies have on their agenda can’t compete with what the people want. You guys who supported this album made it #2 on the Billboard charts. No big budget, no cosigns, no radio department. Just people that connect and care about the art enough to buy it, stand behind it and spread it amongst friends and family. 78,000 sold independently. I could have never dreamed this. Thank you all. #sharkfacegang