Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Go Long Without a Label

1987 3

CD Baby artists Macklemore & Ryan Lewis recently released The Heist, an independent album that debuted at #2 on the Billboard charts. The album has also remained in the iTunes top-sellers list for hip hop since its drop date.

After years of great music-making, smart promotion, and hard work, it’s nice to see the Seattle rapper and his producer have such huge success on their own terms. Here’s a short documentary that gives you a glimpse into the work-ethic and DIY spirit that helped Macklemore & Ryan Lewis finally get the attention they deserve.

Check out more of their music on their website and on CD Baby.



In this article

Join the Conversation

  • I love Macklemore's honesty, and admire his work ethic.

  • One thing to note is that Macklemore's manager, Zack Quillen, who started working with him only fairly recently in 2010 (Macklemore has been making records for 10+ years) has been a huge part of his success, as has his partnership with Ryan Lewis.

    A term that has been used to describe Macklemore's success is: "Do It Together" instead of more than "Do It Yourself"- ie with a team, a team of talented, social-media savvy, business professionals like Quillen. I think this is the new model that will be embraced increasingly by independent artists, and my hope is that indie labels will catch up on the social media front. Most are woefully behind the times in using current digital marketing techniques to market their artists, and some stubbornly cling to a "late adopter" (just heard from a panel discussion at Seattle Interactive 2012 Conference, and that attitude was on display). If smaller labels can combine their existing artist-collaborative model with a tech-savvy model, they could possibly once again serve the indie musician community and cultivate more up and coming artists like Macklemore was two years ago. On the other side of the spectrum, some major labels like Columbia are clearly reading the writing and also evolving to cut more favorable business deals with established artists, eg. Amanda Palmer and Trent Reznor. The message is that artists that reach a certain critical mass, just like any small or medium sized business, MUST move from a DIY model to one that employs a team of professionals to get to the next level. And the way has been paved by Macklemore to show that a label is not the only route to get to exponential growth.

    Note that as stated in this Billboard article (near the very end), despite the very clear anti-label messaging and DIY ethic they display as a huge part of the Macklemore brand, Quillen and Macklemore have also not ruled out signing with a label – as long as the terms are favorable.

    It remains to be seen if labels will turn out to be the only way to get Macklemore to the NEXT rung up – or if he can DIT in this next phase of his career as well. Regardless, everyone here in Seattle, no matter what kind of music we make or listen to, is incredibly proud of Macklemore's success.