This past week, HipHopDX.com published an interview with Redman in which the New Jersey native took several shots at his record label, Def Jam. The topic at hand was Def Jam’s irrelevance in today’s music world. Redman made several interesting points on the once mighty record label, including how Def Jam was once the leader in hip hop. The label that once had the likes of LL Cool J, Public Enemy, and Run DMC under one house, is now losing steam in the face of the digital age. Redman complained about Def Jam’s lack of promotional skills and the fact it seems to have frozen in place while the rest of the industry moves forward.
Its no secret that the music industry has been struggling for several years now. The obvious culprit, downloading, might not be the only factor anymore. Sure, music pirating will forever affect the amount of units sold for any artist, but so will changing consumer trends. iTunes has become a force to be reckoned with. Today’s consumers prefer music on the go, and with so many digital options, retail units are becoming a thing of the past. The majors are falling at the knees of the independent companies. Things like grassroots marketing, presence on the internet, and live performances are the driving forces behind successful musicians today. Enter Strange Music.
In ten years, Strange Music has gone from independent upstart to a legitimate powerhouse within the industry. There is a muti-million dollar facility that houses the offices and warehouse. A very lucrative venture into merchandising has positioned the label to be at the forefront of product availability. A strong presence online has the artists connecting with the fans at every opportunity possible. From Twitter to Facebook to the official websites and blogs, fans always are always informed of the label’s happenings. Then, there is the touring: Tech N9ne and company tour the country like clockwork. While most successful rappers depend on annual outings to promote their albums, Strange Music artists tour nearly year-round. It is this constant drive that keeps them close to the fans, and keeps them profiting.
There is no shortage of artists looking for new direction. Everyone is looking for a way to keep their heads above water. Major labels are sinking, and longevity is no longer guaranteed. It’s no wonder why so many industry insiders are looking at Strange Music’s business model. For all of the praises it receives as an independent player, Strange really deserves more credit than that. They are not just a successful independent label, they are a successful label, period. Labels like Strange are smart enough to recognize the profit to be made in different avenues. Music is no longer enough to keep a label going. One look at Strange Music’s merchandising plan tells it all. They are revolutionizing the way rappers look at product sales. With reports of Snoop Dogg and Fat Joe approaching Strange for merchandising, its hard to argue that they are not setting a trend in hip hop.
The grassroots nature of Strange has allowed it to keep its ear to the street, so to speak. They are aware of what their fans want and are able to readily deliver. A steady stream of releases each year, both retail and digital, allows fans to purchase new music from their favorite artists. The label is on the button with changing consumer trends. Their independence has allowed them to keep up and change when necessary. Most labels sign and drop artists as things get difficult. Strange builds their roster and continues to keep them relevant by placing them on several tours, keeping them online, or by releasing free music for the fans. It seems like even down time is work time. The line up continues to be fresh with new artists Cognito and Brotha Lynch Hung. Even power moves like the signing of major West Coast artist Jay Rock has helped in keeping Strange on the tongues of music execs.
With labels like Def Jam struggling to keep up, the independents are restructuring the entire industry. Soon, major artists like Redman won’t be looking to sign with the majors. Instead, they will seek out labels like Strange, who continue to progress. Perhaps, Def Jam should take notes because the independents like Strange Music are molding the future.
– Victor Sandoval, Strange Music Blog Contributor