Chance is the first artist to hit the Billboard top 10 exclusively from streaming. He’s also the first artist to win a Grammy exclusively based on streaming. There’s some talk behind the scenes that his collaboration with Kanye West on “The Life of Pablo” created so much buzz in 2016 that it forced the academy to rethink their requirements to be more in line with modern times. THATS the kind of power phenomenal artistry and independent distribution has when combined with the Internet.
He wasn’t just nominated for one or two awards, Chance was nominated for 7 Grammys and won in three categories. His third mixtape “The Coloring Book” usurped his mentor Kanye West for best rap album and he picked up two more pieces of Grammy hardware in the best new artist and best rap performance categories. Obviously, winning awards adds to his clout but if we’re being honest -Coloring Book has been making history since the day it was released back in May with 57 million streams the first week.
You might be asking yourself what does Chance the Rapper have to do with blogging? Well… everything.
Chance is an independent artist, he’s not signed with a record label. Not only did Chance win three Grammys and have one of the most talked about mixtapes of the year, he’s never sold a single album or made money directly from his music. Much like bloggers, Chance the Rapper is giving his content and artistry away for free to anyone who wants to listen. I firmly believe that celebrities, artists, and influencers have more in common than we have differences and look to the best and brightest in various fields to learn how to improve my craft. Last year I did a post about the Kardashian/Jenners that was met with mixed reactions, but the reality is, these folks know what they’re doing and we should be listening.
“Chance the Rapper has never sold a single album or made money directly from his music.”
Contracts With Distributors Aren’t as Awesome as They May Seem
Chance is a rule breaker. He was told to sign with a record label in order to be able to “make it” in the music industry. Instead, he denied offers to the tune of $10 million dollars AND gave away all his music for free. Why? So he could take his art into his own hands. His first two albums were released 100% for free on streaming services, his third album “The Coloring Book” was distributed by Apple music for free the first two weeks it was out and is now available for free on the same streaming services as his first two.
Don’t be afraid to go against the grain. Sometimes that contract IS too good to be true. I spent the first two years of my blogging career selling my best content for a few bucks here and there. Don’t do that. Just don’t. There’s been some major backlash from digital media houses like Buzzfeed and Huffington Post because they’re asking content creators to work for free OR retaining the rights to our work and sometimes our names or image. Sure, it sounds like living the dream when you get that big opportunity creating your art and making a decent paycheck, but make sure the contract has your best interests at heart before you sign on the dotted line.
Independence is Key to Creative Freedom
In his song, Blessings Chance raps “I don’t make music for free/I make music for freedom.” He has a rather profound point, Chance understands that his art can be stifled by controlling third parties, namely record labels. By aligning himself with making money in exchange for his music he’s selling a piece of his creative license. Many artists, be they writers or rappers have to comply with what’s marketable in order to make money doing what they love. In an interview with Robin Roberts, Chance says “I wanted to give the idea of freedom back to artists.” Freedom in how music was being produced, the avenues for promotion, and the way it’s being distributed. His music videos are created, produced and promoted through his own Youtube channel which is connected to his other social media channels and his website where he’s selling his merchandise.
There is a downside to creative freedom. When you’re an independent artist you have to spend your own money to make your art a reality. Chance doesn’t have a record company fronting the money for his studio time, digital marketing, or even touring. Chance told GQ that he went broke with every tour and every album, he took the risk and hoped he’d make the investment back. You have to invest in your own success. You also have to decide if controlling your access is for you. Let’s be honest, Chance is probably still cashing those Adsense checks. Many bloggers shop out books or articles to make extra money because we are giving our content away for free. Now, I’m not saying that you should avoid paid freelancing gigs or charging for your work. We gotta eat. But I think the lesson here is to be aware of what this does to your creative process and decide if the exchange is worth it for you. Using books as an example, many writers are self-publishing these days. Sure, sometimes going through a publishing house works well, but it’s at a cost. Are you willing to let go of your creative control and your profit margins? This was a question I had to ask when I was having conversations with publishing houses for my first book Slacktivist: Using Digital Media to Create Change. Ultimately, I decided that self-publishing and starting my own publishing house was best for me. That may change in the future, but today - that’s the direction I’m most comfortable with for my work.
Collaborations with your competitors make you strong
Recently teased his new song with Future on Instagram. He’s also appeared on Kanye West’s controversial Famous and worked with Lil Wayne and 2 Chains on his song, No Problems. He considers Queen Bey herself as his “auntie” and has been spotted lately with Jay Z. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a collaboration coming with one or both of them.
Other bloggers and creatives are your friends - NOT COMPETITION. Sorry - I probably didn’t need to yell that, but seriously. Collaborations will only help you. This industry is all about who you know, and how well you play nice with others. While you’re collaborating make sure you’re giving credit where it’s due. Speaking of which, a big shout out to Dani from Globetrotter Girls, Adam from Travels of Adam, Auston from Two Bad Tourists, and Anita from DapperQ for always being phenomenal mentors, collaborators and partners to me in my blogging journey.
Diversify Your Monetization Portfolio
Chance makes his money through touring, merchandise, and affiliates rather than from his music directly. At this point, he’s probably got some endorsements and other means of income. That tends to happen when you have 3.6 Million followers on Instagram and 115 Million views on Youtube.
You won’t make the bulk of your money from your blog. You just won’t. Think of your blog as the hub of your business model. Yes, you can and should make money from affiliates, advertising, and freelancing but it shouldn’t be limited to that. This year my goal is generating both passive and active revenue streams that are adjacent to my blog but related. Like my book, this tour I’m doing in collaboration with The Coven, and a new product line I haven’t released yet. Creating products can be very time consuming, but if you can create a scalable business you can be very very successful with this as a monetization model. Chance does it by selling concert tickets and branded merchandise. You can do it too. Maybe you’re a travel blogger that partners with a luggage company. Or a fashion blogger that develops your own line of winter accessories. Think outside the box, the possibilities are limitless. As bloggers, we live in a mostly online world, but that doesn’t mean all of our business ventures have to be virtual.
You’re Never Too Young to Own Your Art
In a Vanity Fair Interview, Chance mentioned that his first mixtape, 10 Days was created when he was suspended from high school for smoking weed in the alley. At just 16 years-old he was able to turn that 10-day suspension into an album that would eventually make him a household name in Chicago and change the course of his life.
Let’s be honest, most influencers are young. The biggest YouTubers are all under 35 and there are literally thousands of social media personalities under the age of 25. Being young doesn’t prevent you from being dope AF. It’s also not an excuse to being unprofessional so get your grown shit together and become a mogul.
Don’t Be Afraid to Get Political
Chance is woke. There’s no other way to put it. His dad was head of personnel for Obama’s first term in the White House while Chance was still in High School. He campaigned for Hillary. He name drops Black Lives Matter in his songs and he’s given interviews talking about growing up on Chicago’s south side. He’s talked in depth about what it means to be a young black man today and also about being successful in a line of work that’s viewed as obtainable in the black community. The entertainment industry has a long history of capitalizing off of black talent without giving credit or proper payment to the artists. Chance has spoken at length about the role record companies have played in unjustly profiting off of the intellectual property of marginalized musicians. It’s probably not winning him any friends in the music industry, but his talent is too great to ignore.
Travel is political. Having access to enough food to create a platform around it is political. Clothing is political. Business is political. The way you choose to raise your family is political. Politics, morality, and how we view the world are interwoven into the content we create, how we create it and the WHY behind our motivations in this world. As people of influence we have a moral obligation to be truth speakers and stand up for what’s is right and true and good in this world.
Take Pride in Your Craft
In an interview with GQ, writer Mark Anthony Green asked Chance why he went with such an obvious choice for his rap name. Chance claps back in a way that only a charismatic, approachable and woke young man can, and told a story about growing up. Where he mentioned his best friend of many years, Justin.
“Justin’s fucking 7 years old talking about, “I’m going to be a biomedical engineer.” You know, he’s just that guy. And I remember they asked me, and I said a rapper. And my dad laughed it off, like, “No, he doesn’t…” You know? And I remember that shit used to bother the fuck out of me, because I thought Kanye West was the smartest man in the world. The best poet in the world. The freshest-dressed in the world. That’s what a rapper was to me, and I wanted everybody to feel that way about the word “rapper.” And “rapper,” to me, is pretty much synonymous with the word “black.” It’s a stigma where it’s like, “Damn, I heard Chance the Rapper. I didn’t think he was going to sound like that.” I hate that when you introduce yourself, and you’re a rapper, sometimes you gotta say, “I’m a musician.” Or, “I’m an artist.” “I’m a recording artist.” “I’m a vocalist… I’m a rapper! You should be able to say that shit and, like, make someone scared in a good way. Like, “Oh shit, you might know the president!” It should feel that way.”
Recently, I was chatting with another blogger who asked me if I thought she should use the term “travel journalist” when pitching brands. Yes, there is a negative connotation against the term “blogger” in the industry only second to the term “social influencer.” There is nothing wrong with labeling yourself a blogger. Blogging and journalism are two different things. Social influencers can be bloggers but not always. Own who you are and what you do. Be proud of your profession and your craft. If you’re not confident in who you are and what you’re doing - why should anyone hire you? I do want to point out that calling yourself a blogger and a rapper are not the same thing. There’s a racially loaded connotation with being a rapper that just doesn’t exist as a blogger, so in no way am I minimizing or conflating the two. I’m just saying - own who you are and what you do.
Stay True to Who You Are
Chance has been called the greatest since Kanye. There are definitely similarities in the way they’re rewriting the rules of the music world, they’re both disrupters in the industry using the internet and their own brands of artistic expression to connect with their audience. Chance is the Airbnb of the rap scene if you will. Sure, he’s comparable to Kanye, but he’s humble, modest and more of the people. He just usurped his mentor’s “The Life of Pablo” because his lyrics are more relatable and yet still more complex, but he’s the first to defend and celebrate Kanye’s influence and genius as an artist. Oh and how can you not love this gif of him seeing Beyonce at the VMA’s?
Come on now - that’s EXACTLY how I’d react as a mere mortal in the presence of the divine. My point is that Chance isn’t afraid to show his #nochill side nor is he afraid to be seen fangirling over his influences.
Poignantly Chance raps “Ain’t no Twitter in heaven”. He makes the choice to make music that is positive, uplifting, light and sometimes religious. These are adjectives we may not be able to use for most music these days, let alone most rap music. Chance raps but he also sings, produces and experiments with various instruments.
Most notably he has been very vocal about his relationship to God and his passion for religious singing. He also incorporates lyrics about his daughter, relationship with his daughter’s mother and his connections to Chicago’s political climate.
Chance is almost always pictured with his famous number 3 hat. Number three is a reminder of his third mixtape “The Coloring Book” and arguably the one that catapulted him to mainstream success. Being the humble guy that he is - he downplays the significance of the hat. Sometimes he jokes about wearing hats as a left over from high school - when teachers would always take them away. Other times he gets deeper and says the three represents himself, his daughter and her mother - but also the holy trinity, and reminds him to stay true to who he was before mixtape number 3 made him famous.
He trusts his gut and you should too. Gain inspiration from others, but know that who you are as an artist, a creative, a human - is enough. Be true to who you are, even if that’s not the popular notion. Ultimately, the things that make you unique will be your greatest strengths.
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