With Macklemore & Ryan Lewis‘ recent success of winning 4 awards at the Grammys, I wanted to explain a few factors that I think made the duo successful. Some people say they’re an “overnight success.” As a fan of Macklemore’s music, I can safely say this isn’t the truth.
It’s important to note that the duo is not signed to a major label deal. They operate independently with the help of a distribution company. I think all artists can learn from these guys’ success. Here are a few key points:
1. Stand Out From The Crowd. Be YOU!!
While the rest of the Hip Hop community seems to be focused on boasting about their riches, jewelry, cars, popping champagne, etc., Macklemore and Ryan are taking a different approach, like for example releasing a song called “Same Love,” which covers topics including sexuality, homophobia and gay rights. These subjects are definitely not common place in Hip Hop, but by raising the issue and standing by a controversial topic, they stand out from the crowd.
Another example of the duo standing out is their single “Thrift Shop.” This track doesn’t fit the mold of a usual Hip Hop track either. Macklemore isn’t talking about buying expensive high-end brand names, he’s talk about going shopping on a budget and not getting sucked into corporate brand marketing. This track again separates them from other artists, and most importantly, it’s relatable, which helped make it so popular.
2. Be Patient
There’s no such thing as an “overnight success.” Macklemore met Ryan Lewis in 2006, they released The VS EP in December 2009, and it wasn’t a very successful release. Prior to this, Macklemore released Open Your Eyes in 2000, The Language of My World in 2005, and The Unplanned Mixtape in 2009. It wasn’t until 2012 when they released The Heist they had their first real taste of success.
As well as releasing albums, the duo spent years building a local audience, which later led to a nationwide movement. Another import aspect of their rise to success was getting a good booking agent, who started to secure small gigs for them. They continued to grow, playing at Seattle Mariners open day in 2011 and progressing onto festivals later that year.
3. Build A Strong Team
Building a strong team is a vital part of having a successful career in music. It doesn’t have to consist of industry veterans — a team of top execs may not always be the best option. You want people that believe in you and your music, and who you can fully trust. Invest in people that share your vision and have your best interests at heart. When Macklemore and Ryan Lewis met, Ryan was a producer, guitarist and photographer aged 17. He was far from an industry veteran, but Macklemore related to him as a passionate creative and they were both chasing the same dream.
If you look at the list of contributors on Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ album, The Heist, you’ll notice there are no big-name artists. They used local singer-songwriters and musicians from Seattle. In addition to this, Macklemore’s merch and tour manager also manages their finances. It’s all about trust.
4. Connect With Your Fans
For Macklemore, “being transparent about every aspect of my life is what makes my music relatable and how I’m able to be an individual amongst the mass amounts of other artists.”
5. Creative Control Is More Important Than Money
Of course having a certain amount of money is important, but I think it’s better to have creative control to express what you want through your art and make your own decisions. Referring back to my first point, I highly doubt that releasing a single about marriage equality on a Hip Hop album would ever have been allowed if the duo didn’t operate independently. If you combine creative control with a quality product, money is much more likely to follow. If your main focus is on making money, your art will suffer and reaching success will be more challenging.
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis make music they want to make and let the world critique and create opinions. I personally have always stood by this and believe you should never make music to cater to a market; you should create something that you feel satisfied with, and whether or a not a person likes it is up to them. I can guarantee, if you don’t feel confident enough to stand by your own product, no one else will.
Numbers Don’t Lie
To conclude, here are a few stats on the three top singles from The Heist:
- 500+ million YouTube views
- US & UK sales approximately amount to over 8 million
- No.1 in the UK Singles Chart and US Billboard Hot 100
- Two Grammy Awards
- 204+ million YouTube Views
- US & UK sales approximately amount to 4.9 million
- No.1 in the US Mainstream Top 40 Billboard Chart
- 114+ million YouTube Views
- US & UK sales approximately amount to 2.2 million
Follow these simple suggestions, and you’ll be one step closer to seeing numbers like these in your future.