“Macklemore can we go thrift shopping?” A little girl asks as the song that has been on the Billboard charts for over 28 weeks, most of which at the #1 spot, starts to play. Suddenly it’s as if everyone listening is under a spell, unable to stop themselves from mindlessly singing about popping tags, velour jumpsuits, and Velcro shoes. For most people the song, “Thrift Shop” seems to just be a silly ditty about buying used clothes, but the record labels know that Macklemore’s hit is something they need to take extremely seriously.
Ben Haggerty, the rapper known as Macklemore, is the first unsigned artist to get a #1 single on the Billboard charts, something most record labels thought was impossible. While most label execs are scrambling to explain Macklemore’s success, “Thrift Shop” continues to hold strong on the charts at #2, and in an ironic twist, Macklemore’s second single “Can’t Hold Us,” a song about not being on a label, just hit #5 on the Billboard charts, and continues to rise. Its lyrics like these that concern people in the music industry, because it may encourage other artists to stay independent rather than signing with a label, causing the record label to lose out on what could be billions of dollars in sales.
So how did Macklemore find himself at the top of the charts, if he didn’t have the money and power of a record label to back him? It’s actually quite simple, he created a wacky music video and it went viral, exposing his music to over 261 million people around the world, and selling over 3 million copies of “Thrift Shop” in US alone. The popularity also boosted his album sales to over 610,000 copies sold, not bad for a record with no mainstream promotion or support.