Macklemore’s Indie Rise Is A Simple White Lie



In the music industry what sounds like a great story is often just great fiction.

Indie, defined by Merriam Webster Dictionary:  Indie is one that is independent; especially: an unaffiliated record or motion-picture production company.

For decades, indie artists have had little to no success at securing Top 40 or Rhythmic radio airplay. The secret marriage that co-exists between radio and the major labels, for decades has stifled independent artists. The case for Macklemore is no exception.

macklemorevibe-tweetThis article’s is to clear up misconceptions about Macklemore recent so called “independent” success: The single “Thrift Shop (Featuring Wanz)” has been certified platinum and viewed 488 million times on YouTube, the album The Heist, which debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard charts after selling 78,000 copies in October, has been accompanied by sold out tours and by all means is a great project.

The long Macklemore career growth and stragtegies are more than admirable. It’s what every artist strives to attain. But it’s almost impossible for anyone trying to get into the business especially when numerous outlets are reporting Macklemore’s “independent success.” Outsiders think it’s easy. But you do not have commercial success without spending major dollars. Period.There are a ton of articles written about Macklemore being independent.

“Thrift Shop” is seemingly a hit everywhere – except radio stations that specialize in rap, that is, writes Gary Trust for Billboard.

A Hip Hop record without  Urban radio airplay? The truth is and will always be majors will always put money into the hands of radio programmers.  The unique difference is the case of Macklemore is “Thrift Shop” went Pop not Urban. Payola, continues to be the music industries little secret. Without it Indie artists have no chance to rise up the charts to prominence. History is living proof and Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” is no exception.

Only promotional dollars can give you access to a radio audience of  over 200 million people like Macklemore has received. That’s the only way you sell 2.7  million singles and 312,000 albums. Being white in Hip Hop makes it easier than being black in Hip Hop, these days. There’s a reason why ADA, Alternative Distribution Alliance signed them up. A talented white Hip Hop artist is hard to find these days. Eminem, Mac Miller, Yelawolf and Machine Gun Kelly, are in a rare class of a watered down genre of commercially mainstream artists.  White people love Hip Hop and are the bulk of the purchasers in the digital download era. Macklemore, is a sonically pure to the art form and a familiar face to white people who love Hip Hop.

So let’s put that Indie myth to rest for Macklemore. You can’t attain success like Macklemore, unless you’re part of the big machine. Radio’s gatekeepers would never allow it. To go Pop and be No. 1 on the Billboard Top 100, money has to change hands. It’s a great record, but do you wonder why less than 5 percent of Urban/Black radio is playing it. The machine says no.

According to the ADA about page, during 2009, Warner Music Group (WMG) enhanced its independent distribution business by combining Ryko Distribution with ADA to create an independent label service company that provides a suite of services including physical and digital global distribution, physical production, merchandise production and distribution. ADA started in 1993 to focus on independent music business.

Macklemore, has been around releasing mix-tapes since 2000. Add ADA and parent company Warner Music Group into the mix and that formula screams success. So lets put that “Indie” success story to rest permanently.

And remember don’t believe everything you read on the internet.

Thrift Shot 2013-02-05 at 11.36.06 AM

Listen to the NPR interview with “The Real Story Of How Macklemore Got ‘Thrift Shop’ To No. 1 here

What are the other publications saying?

Rolling Stone:
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Indie rags-to-riches stories have become more common in the last few years, now that it takes just 20,000 or 30,000 album sales to hit the Top 10 rather than 10 times that much in, say, 2004. This week’s Cinderella is Seattle rapper Macklemore and his producer, Ryan Lewis, whose catchy The Heist album comes not from a major record label but from the Alternative Distribution Alliance”.
Source: Rolling Stone

MTV News:
If you don’t know Macklemore, it’s about time you get familiar. The Seattle MC made huge headlines Wednesday (October 17) when he and DJ Ryan Lewis landed at #2 on the Billboard albums chart with their independent album, The Heist, which moved about 78,000 units.”
Source: MTV News

XXL Magazine:

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis continue to get recognized for their indie hustle. After going platinum two weeks ago, “Thrift Shop” currently sets at the No.1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100. The song surpassed Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven.
Source: XXL Magazine

How have so many journalist reported this wrong? You can look up ADA and see there part of Warner Music Group. You can see Macklemore’s record “Thrift Shop” clearly says ADA/Warner Bros. as their record label. It’s time to end the false stories on the Indie hustle and accept the fact that the radio game is still controlled by the cup shaped hands of major labels and corporate radio.

Disclaimer: This article by no means is to discredit Macklemore or their project. In a fair world every artist would get the same chance Independent or Major.

Lance says:

The entire mainstream music industry is a “white lie” and that includes urban/hip hop radio. Paul, I’m sure you’re well aware of the network of “taste makers” out there pushing tracks into the hands of radio and club DJs. Also Clear Channel’s veritable strangle hold on the top radio markets in the United States. At least Macklemore and Ryan Lewis put positive messages into their music.

Rap Rehab says:

@Dame you missed that ADA is owned by Warner Music and the offices are one floor away from Atlantic. You failed to notice the digital tracking in the article that has Warner Music as the label when other tracks did not. If you think you can get on pop radio without pop promotion your a fan but don’t have much knowledge on how the business works. I too think they are a great group that worked the system until they got the best deal. But to believe that you just climb to the top independently is fantasy not fact.

Dame says:

Who are they signed with? MACKLEMORE, LLC.

What’s the label name on the back of their CD and on iTunes? Ummm…it’s MACKLEMORE, LLC.

Do you seriously not know the difference between album distribution and a label?

FYI: It’s like me owning a business and outsourcing my marketing to a marketing firm? Any business 101 class will tell you the success of your business is getting it to the consumer. He’s using them for DISTRIBUTION getting his albums into the stores.

If he was selling it out of the trunk of his “Whitewalls” in Seattle how the hell would I get a copy in ATL?

How would an artist be able to move the numbers he’s doing without outsourcing the distribution?

Why is Macklemore & Ryan Lewis selling more than the artists with record deals even the other white ones?

MGK released on the same date and he’s signed with Bad Boy/Interscope.


“ADA gives independent record labels access to a flexible distribution system that marries the effectiveness and convenience of a major label with the marketing sensibilities of an independent. The company’s success has proven the importance of creating a national distribution system with a strong artist-development sales philosophy for the independent music industry. During 2007 ADA was named the “Medium Distributor of the Year” by the National Association of Recording Merchandisers, and has been ranked the industry’s No. 1 independent distributor for the past six years, according to Nielsen/SoundScan.”

I’ve stated more facts in my reply than you put in your article for sure, let’s see if you post it.

Rap Rehab says:

@Dame, you should read more. ADA, is owned by Warner Music Group. There offices are one floor above Atlantic in NYC. The reported ” Thrift Shop” as WMG, as seen on the mediabase document in the post. I too love Mackelemore, but you dont get Top 40 radio without being apart of the machine. Snap out of the Indie trance…

Rap Rehab says:

Gene, since you put a fake email address down to respond, I decided that being a fan does not allow you to replace fiction for fact.

Ha. I only do accurate names, e mails. I even do a real website. However, you may be most comfortable with Google. Whatever.

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Chucks says:

Too say this isn’t on the indie grind is stupid. Mack and Ryan Lewis did this by just being smart by shooting great videos, using the Internet in a great way to promote, and by putting on killer live shows which gave them a great fan base. Just watch the Mack and Ryan Lewis doc by Jabari on YouTube. You will see the true grind.

Paul Porter says:

Obviously many of you have failed to read the details of the post. The involvement of ADA, WMG and commercial radio come with some cost. The idea of being “Independent” or “Indie” is the meat and potatoes of this debate. You can’t expect major success without being part of the larger machine. Great record? Yes. But the facts are clear. Indies, don’t make it to Top 40 radio without dollars and help.

Gene Dexter says:

Mr. Porter You in fact miss the point entirely. Before any expenditure having to do with radio, Macklemore was #1. Radio had no choice but to add this single or face what is – an outdated mode of music discovery.

Dip says:

macklemore was #1 in radio before any payola? where’d you hear that? still a little hesitant about tasting your “by their own bootstraps” kool-aid

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So What? says:

What do you mean his not as indie as he is, his not signed to a major label

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