Fans, How Many Artists Really Have Them?

Over the last few years, the music business has been struggling to recalibrate in the face of shrinking budgets, the decreasing importance of album sales and the subsequent death of music television. Various tactics are being used to monetize this industry which is constantly being undermined by the all-free everything mentality. Think Vevo, 360 deals, and the recent emphasis on touring. Whatever, the poison, these tactics are all indicators of one thing—the impending rise of old school grassroots fanaticism.

Over the weekend, Tila Tequila was pelted with bottles while she performed at the Gathering of the Juggalos festival. This incident shed light on a well-established, but largely overlooked sub-culture of fans, or devoted followers rather, of the Insane Clown Posse. Readily identified by their signature ICP-inspired face paint and known on the surface level for their raucus behavior at concerts, Juggalos should however, be noted for their most important quality to the music industry—their purchasing power.

Juggalos have gone so far as to incorporate their ICP fandom into their way of life, meaning ICP isn’t just the music they listen to, it’s the clothes they wear, and the places they go.

In the July/August issue of XXL we did a feature on the Kansas City Missouri-based independent label Strange Music. Label head and marquee artist Tech N9ne, who happens to be one of the most successful independent rap artists in the country, has sold nearly 1.5 million records on his own… Well, actually, he did it with the help of his fans, the “Technicians” who are known to wrap lines around buildings to buy tickets to his shows, pay upwards of 100 dollars for meet and greets, and all but rip merchandise off the shelves as it becomes available.

Now this isn’t new. Your parents and grandparents can tell you about when Beatlemania swept the country and had all the kids wearing their hair like The Beatles, buying magazines just to tear out posters of them to post on a wall or in a high school locker, and going crazy at just the mention of their names. But it hasn’t quite hit hip-hop the same way until now.

Whether you’d like to admit it or not, the Juggalos and Technicians are hip-hop albeit in a non-traditional package. And it’s not just these fringe artists who are harnessing the power of this brand of idolatry.

Other up-and-coming hip-hop artists are mobilizing their fan base by establishing a collective identity for them. Wiz Khalifa’s cult-like following known as The Taylor Gang almost shut down Twitter the day Kush and Orange Juice dropped. He saw his popularity grow exponentially as the hashtags #KushAndOrangeJuice and #TaylorGang, which became trending topics courtesy of the Gang, had everyone unfamiliar asking “What’s Kush and Orange Juice?” and “Who’s Wiz Khalifa?”

You can’t buy publicity like that.

And their power is not limited to just word of mouth. The legion of Khalifa supporters are ready to mobilize at a moments’ notice, like say for MTV’s Hottest Breakthrough MC’s list, whose winner was chosen by popular vote. Wiz topped the list beating out (by almost double) his next runner-up, the favored Nicki Minaj (who’s more than willing to go to bat for her fans as well).

Ms. Minaj recently reached over one million Twitter followers, thanks to her allegiant followers she calls Barbie’s and Ken’s with whom she shares her own language with. You think she’s tweeting all day about nonsense when she’s really sending no-look passes to her followers every time she calls someone a Strawberry Shortcake or tells them they’re “fetch” (thank you Tina Fey). It’s all about making her fans feel like they belong or have a special relationship with her.

Although this brand of fanaticism may denote a younger fan-base (specifically the impressionable kind with plenty of disposable income i.e. allowance), it works for different age groups (word to Joe Budden’s Internet Soldiers and the rest of Slaughterhouse), so you can’t knock the hustle… especially not in this economy. —Brooklyne “Sarah Jessica Taylor” Gipson

Wiz & fan

Wiz & fan

  • Sha

    This is actually an interesting piece. But I would say this….. The record companies are getting lazy as hell….

    When did the artist ever need to do the leg work on his product like this? Today’s artists have to be in charge of marketing, Fan clubs, and concert promoting just to make half of what they used to. And with these new contracts that force the artists to share their concert/merchandise revenue, the record companies are coming across as bigger pimps.

    I would say this to the kid that has the talent as an emcee…..

    Build your own mechanism for profitability. Fuck the labels. Sell from the trunk, internet, youtube, and whatever other type of outlet you can master. Because technology has only taken what the record companies used to do and given you the tools to do it yourself.

    • DV8

      Build your own mechanism for profitability. Fuck the labels. Sell from the trunk, internet, youtube, and whatever other type of outlet you can master. Because technology has only taken what the record companies used to do and given you the tools to do it yourself.

      ^^^^^^^^this

      • Dinero

        Co-Sign… Honestly, when tha artist has to do all tha work to make him/herself marketable, do their own shows, and build a fan base, tha labels should b gettin pimped. and me personally, if I do all this work for u to capatilize from then I need millions (no advance, no pay bacc) up front cuz my product will sale with or without tha label… I plan on takin tha same route Wiz went to build fans and sell music, but when tha major labels and TIs start bidding for me as an artist, I’m gonna lay my nutts on tha table and they gon hav to pay me millions (2 or 3 will do), give me all my masters, give me 50% of album sales and anything tha label sells in my image, they get no tour money or any other endevours I hav goin on and they have to release tha album when I say or I can break tha contract… Labels are not realizing that them not investing in an artist and givin us that do-it-yourself attitude, there will b more TECH-9s and MURS’ or “real talent” make’n there own dreams come true… Now when I go in with this attitude, I will definitely get turned down (or maybe not) because labels can always picc some weak ass scrub nigga (yea, soulja boy) and he will b happy to have more than watt he has prior… Tha point of watt I’m sayin, is that if tha artist that is doing all this work (to be marketable) needs to take tha business partner approach with tha labels because that is exactly watt it is, sure u may b on a come up, but durin tha come up, u already hav consistent income (thanks again MURS) and dont need a label to make u, u only need distribution at that point…. Signin as an artist and takin money that u hav to pay bacc defeats tha purpose of ur hustle and journey…. If artists (no soulja boys), instill this attitude, labels will b forced to conceed to watteva we ask, or goin into anotha business…. jus a thought in this changin game….

        • Sha

          Fuck both of you faggots.

        • Dinero

          Thas watt ur mama is for Sha…. to fucc both of us….

        • Dinero

          better yet, tha faggot pose’n as Sha….

    • sway-z

      Honestly, any artist that really blew up in Hiphop over the last 10 or so years did most of the legwork themselves, labels are more lazy now then ever, but they always latched onto something already hot

      1) Cash Money had such a following that it allowed Baby and Slim to negotiate that crazy deal they had, which is almost unheard of

      2) Then Lil Wayne re-made himself again through a huge amount of mixtapes. Speaking of mixtapes…

      3) 50 cent had a cult following in the streets just off the strength of mixtapes, long before Eminem snatched him

      4) The whole Houston/ATL movement at the turn of the century was off the back of straight grinding, they was just new to us niggas up north

      All this was before the internet was like it is today

  • ff1one@yahoo.com

    This was a Great write. from the title to the videos at the end. Wiz Khalifa has a HUGE FOLLOWING. YEAH, they are damn near cult like. I think this is the perfect formula for the new mc. IN FACT, this is what run dmc did. this is how hip hop was orginally distrubuited. Signing a contract, manager, lawyer and etc takes away from th art. It forces the hip hop artist to get lazy.

    This model is more like baseball when in the past hip hop was more like the nfl or nba. the two latter models completely warped.

    in the nfl and nba they give a rookie tons of cash up front before they have proven themselves. it has gotten so bad that they draft kids out of highschool, hell jr high. they give them press confernces before proving themself. its all about hype. Meanwhile, its some 3rd to 4th rd draft pick with heart that ends up having a hall of fame career or winning several superbowls.

    Baseball, starts the rookie off with little money. they send him to the minor league where he has to prove himself. after he makes it to the majors and plays out the contract, he then gets the big bucks. Also, their money is guarnteed.

    building from the ground up is better than a record label finding somebody and telling fans what to buy and what to listen to.

  • JamesM

    Tech N9ne worked hard for a long time to get the fans he has and he is very technically skilled as well

    There is a dope video of him explaining how he comes up with flows… on youtube just search for “Tech N9ne how to rap” and it should come up

  • the kid frankie

    yeeeaaaaah bitch! lol.

    i’m rooting for Wiz all the way. imo, he should’ve did the indy thing like his boi Spitta. & stayed in control of his own destiny & career for the most part. but, i think he will have commercial success. he’s not a lyricist but he can make hits!

    he’s coming thru the A-Town in Nov. if u aint got/getting your Waken Baken (WeedFest) Tour tickets, KILL YASELF!

  • Lhc

    You see the same type of thing with Lady Gaga. She has successfully established a cult-like following and refers to her fans as “little monsters.” People buy her records too.

  • Anonymous

    Taylor Gang or stab yourself in the nuts with a rusty screwdriver!

  • http://jamal7mile.blogspot.com Jamal7Mile

    Destroy and Rebuild. More new emcees need to go this route. Can’t wait to see a Hip-Hop Community where record companies hold very little sway. It’s supposed to be like this.

    • Dinero

      ^^^^^
      this is true, and this is tha way it use to be… record companies were jus confident they would make money off an artist who has a demograph already so there were no advances that had to b paid bacc… watts funny is how tha labels are tryin to pimp artists like they make tha music and buy tha concert ticcets and tha artist is jus body they make money off of… music doesnt matter to labels anymore, simple and plain… but at least wit this formula they will hav to treat artist like we are helping them prosper (which we are) and make sure we str8 instead biting tha hand that feed u (this goes for artist as well)…

  • http://hiphopisgone.blogspot.com MATTHEW SANTANA

    well this dosn’t mean he is good this just means he is saying what people want to hear. he is only aiming at one crowd. but you cant knock his hustle. check my website out at hiphopisgone.blogspot.com

    • http://www.twitter.com/aj_wcaggie westcoastaggie

      But Wiz is good at what he does and Atlantic is betting that the Taylors don’t begin to dwindle off and right now, it doesn’t seem like it will.

  • wiz_khaya

    Taylor gang or point a gun at the president! Yeeeeeaaaaaah bitch!

  • http://www.bboycult.com Don mcCaine

    “Because technology has only taken what the record companies used to do and given you the tools to do it yourself.”

    ^ been saying this.

    Thus the reason I SMDH @ Wiz signing w/Atlantic.

  • Native

    Nicki Minaj’s fans consist of moronic chicks that are too old to call themselves Barbies and horney guys that want to fuck her (her fake ass set it off). I can’t imagine ppl giving a damn about Nicki in 2 or 3 years time. She’s trying to get as much money as she can before her buzz dies.. I aint mad at her.

  • Slymm

    Taylor Gang or Chew C4

  • Ku$hKid

    Taylor Gang or Drink A gallon of Clorox! yeeaaa biitch!

  • http://2DopeBoyz.Com Mikee $tar

    Cosign With Native .

    Nicki Minaj Is ALL Hype ,

    Here I Am Thinkin Im Missing Somthing SOOO Great About Her & When I Hear The Verses People Say Where “So Great” & “Her Flow Was Crazy In” Its Just Her Rising And Lowering Her Voice Then Making Wierd Sounds !!

    She Can Only Get So Far Using That Style . People Are Gonna Get Bored Of Her Psycho Ass .

  • Sha

    Another “clone” is using my moniker “Sha” and making some dumb-assed comments and jokes. To the people that read what I write, you know my shit and you know some idiot playing jokes. Stop using the “Sha” moniker and stand on your own jokes. Fuck Face.

    • Dinero

      lmao…. damn, now I feel like an ass…. u kno tha world is almost over when people steal other peoples names to do posts on xxl and thus give them a bad name…. smdh…. almost reminds me of this (The Real) Ricc Ross situation…. Now some jacc ass got Sha explainin that it aint him….

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