Macklemore On Why Not Being On A Label Helped Him Succeed

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Macklemore recently sat down with Chris Hardwick on the Nerdist podcast and it’s a cool insight, including still doing his laundry in the public access area of his apartment building – days after appearing on SNL, the real story is his success without a record label. This week, The rapper and producer have spent their 12th week atop Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart with “Thrift Shop,” making it the longest-running #1 rap song in the chart’s history.

Chris: To see you and Ryan Lewis come out of Seattle just making stuff you like making, with no label, and oh you’re at the top of the charts, and all these people are talking about the song… that’s just a great story.

Macklemore: Yeah, I appreciate it. It is a very cool story. It’s what you always hope for in terms of picking the independent path. It’s cool to see that that’s been a focal point. It’s not just “Thrift Shop”; it’s this kind of do-it-yourself attitude behind the music we’ve made — that is also within the midst of this thrift shop song. That these two dudes chose to go independently, to turn down the labels. That the music industry is changing. That it’s evolving. And to be at any sort of place where we’re at the forefront of that, at the moment, is exciting.

Chris: It’s so inspiring to so many young people who maybe — and I think people are more and more used to the fact that they can just make stuff in their bedrooms and it can turn out to be huge. But every time it happens, it’s that much more inspiring to a younger generation of people who go… ‘there’s no excuse any more to not go out and make stuff that you want.’

Macklemore: Absolutely. And that’s what we watched people that came before us that have done it independently, whether it’s Sub Pop, or whether it’s… Mac Miller did it independently. And he had every major label hollering at him with huge seven figure offers and turned it down and still went number one on Billboard. There’s examples of it that came before us, that had us say ‘I think that it can work — I’m not sure that it can work.” But, at the end of the day, what’s most important, and creative control is number one for Ryan and I. It’s a no brainer.

Chris I’m sure you’ve been approached a million times at this point, but you still don’t want the infrastructure of a label?

Macklemore: Yeah, there’s no reason to do it. With the power of the internet and with the real personal relationship that you can have via social media with your fans… I mean everyone talks about MTV and the music industry, and how MTV doesn’t play videos any more — YouTube has obviously completely replaced that. It doesn’t matter that MTV doesn’t play videos. It matters that we have YouTube and that has been our greatest resource in terms of connecting, having our identity, creating a brand, showing the world who we are via YouTube. That has been our label. Labels will go in and spend a million dollar or hundreds of thousands of dollars and try to “brand” these artists and they have no idea how to do it. There’s no authenticity. They’re trying to follow a formula that’s dead. And Ryan and I, out of anything, that we’re good at making music, but we’re great at branding. We’re great at figuring out what our target audience is. How we’re going to reach them and how we’re going to do that in a way that’s real and true to who we are as people. Because that’s where the substance is. That’s where the people actually feel the real connection.

And labels don’t have that.

So you sign up for a label. There’s not some magic button they’re now going to push and it means that people are going to like who you are. Or that they’re identify with your vision or your songs. It actually comes from sitting down, staring at a piece of paper for months or years on end, trying to figure out who you are as a person, and hoping that it comes through in the end. But a label’s not going to do that for you.