Chance the Rapper won the Grammy for Best Rap Album Sunday, his second win of the night (after winning Best New Artist), and it was a bigger shocker for him. His second acceptance speech of the night put the limelight on the world of indie artists trying to make it without signing to a record label — which is what Chance did. The path to that often includes the troubled SoundCloud, the streaming that gives emerging artists a platform.
“This is for every indie artist, everybody who’s been doing this mixtape stuff for a long-ass time,” Chance told the audience as he accepted his Grammy onstage. “Shouts out to DJ Drama for doing it first. You put in that time. Shouts out to every independent artist out there. Shouts out to SoundCloud for holding me down!”
It’s pretty wild to think Chance actually made it this far to earn these awards, and to give a shoutout to Soundcloud. His latest mixtape, Coloring Book, was initially not eligible for Grammy nominations when it was released last spring. “I hear you gotta sell it to snatch the Grammy,” he wondered on his guest verse for Kanye West’s “Ultralight Beam.” “Let’s make it so free and the bars so hard / that there ain’t one gosh darn part you can’t tweet.”
The Recording Academy’s rules initially disqualified any works that were streaming-only. Thanks to a petition, the Academy changed the rules about a month after Coloring Book was released, and before you know, Chance goes home with three Grammys.
The German-based SoundCloud has had a busy past year and was put up for sale, as Business Insider details its problems, which included an inability to compete with the largest streaming services like Apple and Spotify and no real path to making money.
Despite its challenges, SoundCloud remains, along with sites like Bandcamp, a hub for artists to easily release music. While it some wondered if it was “over” a year ago, this endorsement from Chance may give it a needed boost in relevance.
Indie artists should be encouraged to hear that old, established institutions like the Grammys are no longer a representation of the music industry’s ivory tower, impenetrable to most. SoundCloud and Chance are the latest to chip away at those tired notions.