Pacific Students Reflect on Changes Within the Music Industry

Artists such as Kendrick Lamar are changing the definition of success in the music industry.
PC: Vulture

On January 26, the rap trio Migos released their highly anticipated album “Culture II,” a sequel to “Culture” which was released about a year prior. Many expected the group to follow up on their success from last year with a mixture of club bangers and a lot of the triplet flow that they have popularized.

That flow especially is why naming the album “Culture,” as ambitious as it may sound, is so accurate because of how many other artists soon followed suit and used it in other instances. Kendrick Lamar used the triplet flow in one of the most dramatic moments off his album “DAMN” on the song “DNA,” and Drake even conformed to that style in the song “Walk it Talk it” on Migos’ new project.

Many avid fans, like student Austin Vermillion ’21, could not wait to see what the trio had in store this time.

“I was anticipating something that would change the culture of rap again, as its predecessor had done,” Vermillion said.

Quavo, Offset and Takeoff, who make up the group, did so but in a way the casual fan may not have noticed. Migos released 24 songs cultimating in over 1 hour and 45 minutes of entertainment in this new project. This was unlike last year’s album, which only had 13 songs and 58 minutes of musical content.

That is no accident, and it showcases the business-savvy approach the group took when approaching “Culture II” and their understanding of the current state of the music industry. It paid off quite handsomely as the album went platinum in 22 days; the group broke the record of having the most songs on the Billboard 100 by a musical group at once. A simple take when reading that would have someone assume that “Culture II” was one of the best projects in music history and had quality content through and through, but that was not the case.

It is not to say that this project did not have quality. Stand-out songs such as the Pharrell-produced “Stir Fry,” the Drake-featured “Walk it Talk it” and the lead single “Motorsport” gained commercial and critical success. But parts of the album sounded like a long, daunting drag and at times sounded unimagnitative, repetitive, and seemed like it should have been cut before the release of the project.

The site Pitchfork rated the album a 6.4 out of 10 and had this to say about the Migos’ sequel, “It seems more likely to be another attempt to game the current Billboard and RIAA rules, in which 1,500 individual song streams count towards one full album sale (thus, the more songs on an album, the higher and faster it charts).”

As bold as it is naming your albums “Culture” and “Culture II,” they are more appropriate than ever when one takes a clear look at how the music industry has shifted over time. Streaming devices such as Apple Music, TIDAL and Spotify have a combined for over 100 million paid subscribers, and with many artists signing exclusive deals to release their music on those platforms first, it gives the streaming devices more say than ever.

With that being said, one of the positives that comes out of this change is that it opens up more platforms for new artists to showcase their talents and be able to potentially gain more recognition than they previously would have.

Axel Tanner, Music Industry ’21, has his own collection of music that he released and produced on SoundCloud under the username “ATFizzles.” He has seen this opportunity as a double edged sword. He said that although he felt that he is blessed to have a chance to show the world his music, he feels there is added pressure to try to release radio-friendly singles and catchy hooks that may have the artist deviate from his or her true style and just conform to the trend of today’s music.

It is going to be interesting to see how other artists approach their future projects and what they will show more attention and emphasis to when bringing all the components together.

Migos have not stayed quiet since releasing the project and have released videos to many of their singles off “Culture II” and are getting ready to maximize their profits on an upcoming tour.

Overall, Migos are part of a trend in the music industry that is in a constant state of revolutionizing while streaming devices currently take the lead and affect the music that is being released.

One cannot guarantee that will be the case in 5 to 10 years, nor can one predict if the advancement of technology may play a role then as it has now. It will be interesting to look back and see how the shape of the music industry today will affect the rising stars in the future, and if students like Axel can reach the heights that they aspire to.

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