Macklemore’s Lessons for Communicators

Recently, Seattle-based hip-hop artist Macklemore sat down with Nerdist’s Chris Hardwick to speak about his dramatic entrance into the national music scene, the pursuit of happiness and branding. You read that right. Macklemore knows how to score a leopard mink at a "Thrift Shop" and how to promote the heck out of his product - himself.


By the end of the podcast, Macklemore had established himself as more than just another Top 40 artist with a pretty face; he also revealed that he’s a savvy, self-made marketer.

Here are some of our favorite Macklemore tips for doing it your own way image, writing and success.

1) “We’re good at making music, but we’re great at branding.”

Unlike many major artists today, Macklemore isn’t signed to a label. He and his producer, Ryan Lewis, prefer to maintain complete creative control over their music and image. When asked if he feels that he’s missing out by not being signed, Macklemore had this to say:

“There’s no reason to do it with the power of the internet and the real personal relationship you can have via social media with your fans. Everyone talks about how MTV doesn’t play videos anymore. YouTube has obviously completely replaced that. It doesn’t matter that MTV doesn’t play music videos anymore. What matters is that we have YouTube. That has been our greatest resource in terms of connecting, having an identity, and creating a brand. Showing the world who we are via YouTube - that has been our label.”

By capitalizing on the reach of social media, Macklemore and Lewis were able to build a brand from scratch on their own terms, identify their target audience and reach them “in a way that is real and true to who [they] are as people.” They are a reminder that authenticity is integral to any brand’s success. If brands don’t know what they stand for, how will their audience?

“Thrift Shop,” the monster indie hit from Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, has nearly 200 million views on YouTube.

2) “The prospect of being a writer is such a daunting, insecure love-hate relationship.”

Whether it’s tracking down the right content for a tweet or struggling to compose a proposal, writing is an integral part of many communicators’ days, and there are bound to be times when the words will not flow. Macklemore discussed the “constant flux” between feeling like a genius and thinking, “Nobody is going to buy this crap,” and recommends talking it out, changing your scenery or “writing for the sake of writing” to break out of the cycle.

3) “There’s so much fear that comes with the process of being creative.”

For communicators, putting forth ideas can leave them open to judgment and criticism. Creative thinking can just as easily be killed with self-editing or self-doubt, as with outside disapproval. For Macklemore, his meteoric rise to hip hop stardom came only after years of hard work (He’s been releasing songs under his own label since 2005). With that hard work came an understanding:

“Be different than what’s out there. The masses aren’t as dumb as we think they are.”

For Macklemore, being different worked, and it’s what we tell our clients, too. Don’t be afraid to put forth out-of-the-box ideas – one of them may be the next “Thrift Shop.”

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