Phoenix MC Rashenal has been working on the business end of music for a while now, running his own label, Earsweat Records. His new single, "Cash Flow" -- the first fruits of a couple years' writing and recording -- is no exception. He'll likely take the lead on the press and the web presence and the distribution himself, as he would with any artist on the label.
Earsweat's new crop of singles, starting with "Cash Flow," will probably benefit from that experience. But they're also the result of a change in thought that reflects the way the business has moved since he got started in 2005. "We've shifted to focus more on singles with videos," he tells me.
Albums aren't dead, but they're not the beginning, either -- they're the end of a process that starts earlier with each change in the market.
"We've completely internalized the music-video-making process," he tells me, using one "Earsweat-dedicated" director to increase volume and cut down on lead time. The result isn't perfect -- I can't tell you which movie editor the opening titles are a preset in, but I know it's one of them. But it's more than enough for a proof of concept -- a single with a video attached is just more accessible than an album, even if the classic 10-song LP is the ultimate goal.
It doesn't hurt, of course, that the low-fi feel of the video, with its matte-painted Maseratis and cardboard-cutout benjamins, happens to track with the single's skeptical take on the stuff that much more expensive hip hop videos are made of.
The single is out this week on your digital download store of choice, but the principle of the thing is just as important; a much simpler website and a more active social media presence are other symptoms of the same changes. "This shift," he says, "is [about providing] new content much more freely and regularly. Instead of releasing a handful of new albums each year we can start releasing a lot more new material a lot more regularly."
In 2013 that makes as much sense for locals with limited resources as it does major labels with social media departments. For better or worse, we've got Candy Crush Saga brains -- we'd rather blow two hours in three-minute chunks than commit to spending 40 minutes on an album we don't know anything about.
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If Earsweat's new strategy helps us spend some of those three minute chunks on good music, instead of carefully assembling Special Candy Combinations, everybody wins.