For some, it is all business, let me do what the market wants, get my money and that’s it. For some, the art comes first. So they mostly stick to the core of their inspiration to put out music, and mostly it contradicts what the pop culture wants to hear. When you join a particular ‘trend’ only to get hot, you go off with it as it fades off.
Making it mainstream is mostly the goal of many. With all the attention, fame, accolades, money and other things that it comes with, many will ‘kill’ to have a piece of that culture. The mainstream lane has its own dictates and anyone who wishes to be on that path, should really research on ‘culture and commerce’ and know how best to play around both.
One thing about the mainstream market is, it is very quick to ‘sell you out’ as well, the minute the next hottest artiste hits that market. And most contents specifically put together for that market are easily disposable. Honestly, studying the radio game only to make hits and following a certain trend to stay relevant will only cloud your vision as an artiste.
When the mainstream market accepts you, mainly for who you are and the type of music that you make. It will be very difficult to be replaced because in your situation they bought into your art organically. Like Jay Z said, ‘don’t go with the flow, be the flow’. When you are the ‘flow’ and they are riding with you, it will only take your inspirations, stories that you want to tell to make the music for the people. J. Cole is one artiste, that has driven his ‘flow’ safely to a point that, himself, the music that he makes and his fans are on the same page.
Its numbers game now, and if as an artiste you swing your fans between two main genres. The first one being your foundation and the second just for attention and most importantly, the money. And you find out the market that you sold out for is really doing the numbers for you. As an artiste who is a business man, with all the statistics online, which one will you stick to? In the case of Shatta Wale, don’t put ‘Taking Over’ in the same circle with ‘Gringo’. One is tailored just for the Ghanaian pop culture and the latter is straight from the core to the world. EL’s debut album ‘SOMETHING ELSE’ and any of the BAR mixtape album also highlights, one doing the numbers on a mainstream scale and another for the niche culture.
The question is, must all artistes ‘sell out’ before they breakout? One way or the other, yes. Only a few have been able to totally cracked the mainstream code without having to sell out. It is advisable to cheat the game a bit, because to be honest, you need the attention and the hype to get the ears to your music and the eyeballs for your visuals.