First unsigned artist at #1 since 1994—what does it all mean?

Andy Baio looks at the implications of Macklemore's Thrift Shop, the first single from an unsigned artist to reach #1 since Lisa Loeb's 1994 hit, Stay (I Missed You).

We're at the beginning of an indiepocalypse — a global shift in how culture is made, from a traditional publisher model to independently produced and distributed works. Artists that were royally screwed over in the past now have an alternative.


  1. The Internet has democratised access to the masses. Plain and simple.

    But I’d hardly call one unsigned artist making #1 an indiepocalypse. If anything, it’s shows a gradual shift toward a more self-produced, self-promoted and self-crafted world of artistry.

    Patton Oswalt gave an incredible keynote speech that explains this much better :

  2. Wishful thinking. Its a bit like how all the journos were saying that Blair Witch had changed cinema forever….

      1. It did, there is still money to be made selling Dramamine in the lobby of the “indy” style shaky cam films.

      2. Looking at the Top 50 movies in the UK last year then umm nope. 

        Though I concede that in some areas it has undoubtedly been influential, just nowhere near how much was promised – for  a while elements of the media maintained that everybody would be making their own movies and Hollywood was gonna go bust overnight.

    1. RTFA – the point of the article is that, in 1994, the first thing Lisa Loeb did on hitting #1 was to sign to a big label (which subsequently screwed her over in ways big and small) because that was the only way to turn her single hit into a musical career that would continue reaching lots of people.

      Loeb also got to #1 by way of a big film label – she got a song included on a soundtrack, and the director found the song through personal connections (a mutual friend gave him a physical recording and presumably introduced them so they could discuss the soundtrack deal).

      In 2014, Macklemore hits #1 as an indie artist, and have no need or intention of signing with anyone.

      They also got their song to #1 without any major label support – record, film, or otherwise.  They did it by doing themselves all the things the major labels promise to do for signed musicians, in exchange for most of the money and most of the creative control.

  3. As far as financing tours, that’s what independent promoters used to be good at – there must be some left in the less popular genres.  Nobody starts out with a Van Halen tour crew.  Well, if they do you can be sure the music is manufactured and packaged, so best to avoid it anyway.

  4. Man, talk about synchronicity.  I was just trying to remember last night what the name of that Lisa Loeb song was, and what year it came out.  Where have the past 19 years gone?

  5. I don’t understand how this article manages to entirely ignore the existence of independent labels. They are not all perfect havens, free from the major label’s “destructive, evil influence”, but even the smallest one provides a lot more than if you were to do it all yourself. Self-releasing only seems to work consistently for low-profile artists who probably tour constantly, or have gotten a cult following like Daniel Johnston, and even then they’ll make a lot less than an artist who has gotten one song on an itunes commercial.

  6. NO!  Thrift Shop isn’t about an unsigned artist, and Gangnam Style isn’t about K-Pop: they’re both just well-made, silly and funny videos with wide appeal, and anybody can do it.

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