Today’s New York Times takes a look at the recent ascent of Koch Records, the record label that was once best known (if at all) for third-tier hip-hop CDs and William Hung compilations. But thanks to ever-decreasing sales expectations, Koch has become a home to rappers who might have gotten lost within the major-label system:
As record sales keep sliding, the rise of Koch coincides with the lowering of rappers’ expectations. Five years ago, no self-respecting rapper — certainly no self-respecting New York rapper — would ever have bragged about selling 400,000 records. But if you’re not going to sell a million CDs with a major label, you may well be better off at Koch, accepting a lower recording and promotional budget in exchange for a higher royalty rate. That’s why rappers are so ambivalent about Koch: signing there means giving up the dream of pop stardom, or, at any rate, deferring it.
Discussing a possible move to Koch (during 50 Cent’s recent Hot 97 interview with Ms. Martinez), the streetwise Yonkers veteran Styles P said he knew he couldn’t expect to sell 5 or 10 million CDs. “So long as I’m decent and I’m making a little something,” he said, “I don’t need to have the six cars in my lot.”
Styles P has a point: After passing the five-cars-per-lot mark, even we started to feel a little tacky. But he’s also inadvertently proving what we’ve been saying about the music industry for years, which is that everybody–from the executives down to the marketing-side interns–is going to have to get used to making less money. Once the label heads accept that, they can stop punishing mixtape producers and college-campus downloaders, and instead turn their attention to endeavors that can actually make them a a profit, like video-game placements and energy-drink endorsement deals.