Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Financial Market Meltdown and Hip Hop: The Death of Bling?

Is the devastating financial market crisis impacting hip hop? Bryan Leach, vice president of urban music at RCA Records says yes. Leach claims that hip hop artists are changing up both their lyrics and their “bling” to accommodate the crisis and the attendant impact the meltdown is having on fans. He attributes the less gaudy fashion of late and recent lyrical content being less materialistic to the economic downturn and a recognition by artists of slipping record sales.

“Every major label has been laying people off,” Leach notes. “This is not about just popping bottles and buying jewelry. Everyone’s got to be responsible and mature.” Furtheri evidencing what could be a trend toward maturity, Amy Andrieux, a senior editor at The Source magazine recently mentioned "We just came out of the 'bling era,' where everything was about wealth and what you could attain, and I'm starting to see artists being more socially conscious."

Perhaps the game IS being affected by the market crisis. A Nielsen report cited by CNN shows Hip Hop/Rap sales declined by nearly 20 percent in 2008, while Rock sales dropped by only 6.5 percent. According to the Neilsen report, only Classical, Latin and Country music fell at a greater percentage than hip hop.

Author and BET correspondent Touré has observed “I imagine you will see more rappers doing some less-gaudy things just because it would be out of step with the audience,” Hip hop artists have to recognize how audacious it would appear if the “bling” continued to dominate in this current economic culture. Touré suggests “The audience is struggling and striving, and then you're like, ‘Look at my four diamond iced-out chains.’”

That said, declining record sales cannot be attributed solely to the economic crisis. As indicated in an earlier post, album sales have been dropping precipitously over the past few years as the record industry struggles to keep up with the technological advances in the music industry and the many new ways that intellectual property is challenged by creative hip hop artists. New ways to reach the public are becoming common place (as indicated here) and the record industry is not keeping pace with the way its fan base is constantly changing its preferred consumption of music.

Nothing seems to indicate that the audience appetite for new, good and creative music is waning. What is changing rapidly are the choices the public has to consume its music.

-- andré douglas pond cummings

1 comment:

  1. perhaps one silver lining in the market decline is that hip hop artists will relax on their fixation with material wealth and "bling."


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