In 2012, Chance the Rapper dropped his debut mixtape “10 Day” on SoundCloud and all the tracks but one racked up over 1 million plays.
In April of 2013, Chance released his mixtape “Acid Rap” which today has hundreds of millions of plays and turned Chance into a hip-hop superstar.
With this many people listening, most artists would immediately be asking “Where’s my money?” But after being offered multiple intriguing record deals, he decided to leave his music online for free, which meant no royalties.
Early on in his career, Chance had some big decisions to make regarding the distribution of his music. Signing to a label would mean he’d have a steady distribution of his music to places all over the world and have physical copies made. Although the label would promote his music and get more people to learn his name, it would subsequently be taking a big chunk of the money made off of his music.
The alternate route that Chance took was to post his music online for free and gain no royalties.
This meant that almost everywhere across the world people could stream Chance the Rapper without having to pay the production and distribution costs of physical copies. Being independent also meant that he could make and release music whenever he liked without a label having control over his music and brand.
The decision Chance and his manager, Pat Corcoran, made to not sign a record deal or distribute his music to be sold has shown people that a career can be made without a big company having control over the artist.
It was a risk, yet today Chance is worth an estimated $33 million.
Chance is not what people think of as the stereotypical rapper with designer clothes, flashy jewelry and sexual lyrics. This makes him easy to like for those opposed to the typical rapper persona. Chance also makes hip-hop music that blends very nicely with soul, R&B, and gospel, which opens up his fan base to a much wider range of artists than just rappers.
In 2017, Chance the Rapper became the first rapper to win a Grammy without selling music. His mixtape “Coloring Book” did very well, winning Rap Album of the Year.
Notably, Chance’s competition included Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo,” Drake’s “Views,” and DJ Khaled’s “Major Key.” All of those albums were released from major labels and heavily marketed, while “Coloring Book” was released on his own with little promotion.
“Coloring Book” was the first piece of music Chance started directly earning money from through modest payouts from streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, but he didn’t sell his music or sign to a label. He became well known across the industry for staying independent and became an incredible success by doing so.
The do-it-yourself method was working, but eventually he had to expand his brand to reach everyone he possibly could.
In July of 2019, Chance finally released an official album, “The Big Day,” which was the first time he ever sold his music.
He also got all of his music on streaming platforms. One month before the release of his album, mixtapes “Acid Rap” and “10 Day” were added to streaming services.
Even so, Chance showed the world that by using today’s technology and music platforms available, artists can still see remarkable solo success.
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