Donald Trump vs Young Thug? Whoa, weird. I know. It’s an unlikely comparison. Interestingly enough, there’s lots of similarities and differences. Let me break it down.
It all stems from the astonishing similarity between politics and the music industry.
You see, as a music artist, you’re not evaluated on talent anymore. You’re evaluated based on popularity. If you’ve paid attention to the election at all this year, this sounds all too familiar. Donald Trump proved that you can leverage entertainment to create a mass media frenzy in order to gain popularity.
History has proven over time that if a presidential candidate learns how to manipulate a new medium of communication, he (or she) can storm their path to 270 electoral votes.
- FDR – Radio
- JFK – Televsion
- Obama – Social Media
- Trump – Entire Internet
TALENT VS. POPULARITY = POLITICS VS. MUSIC
If we look at the talent vs popularity paradigm, it always comes back to the people. We must decide what matters. In a presidential race, it’s our duty as Americans to elect the most talented leader who is best equipped to solve our nation’s most complex problems.
This has re-opened the debate of popular vote vs. electoral college system.
As we know from this year, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, but Trump easily took the electoral college.
While Trump has certainly made this year’s election more interesting, he’s also a big reason why The Washington Post and other media outlets have compared the debates to a three-ring circus show, proving that important issues have taken a back seat to personal attacks, ratings, and entertainment.
“Being president is a serious job. It’s not hosting a talk show or a reality show. It’s not promotion. It’s not marketing. It’s not a matter of pandering and doing whatever will get you in the news on a given day” – President, Barack Obama
IT DOESN’T MATTER!
When we consider the talent vs popularity paradigm in the music industry, there’s been a growing phenomenon where talent matters less, and popularity matters more.
Music is 90% business and 10% talent – Pitbull
With Donald Trump’s rise to clinching the presidency – one can’t help but notice a striking parallel to the music industry. He’s got essentially zero political experience. No proven history of successful diplomatic engagement with world leaders, and yet, none of it matters.
Why did none of it matter? Well, because he had a message that resonated very strongly with a specific segment of the voting populous. Trump supporters didn’t care about his tape recording where he explicitly said you can sexually assault women.
Trump’s message to working class white America was so powerful, that he even captured the majority of votes from white women, a demographic that Hillary was supposed to win.
Rappers like Young Thug embody a similar foundation. He’s featured on major records, has millions of YouTube views, and even landed a major deal with Atlantic Records – with almost no actual music talent. Why is that? Because Young Thug, like Donald, has found audience vulnerability and is catering to it.
The interesting part about Young Thug is that his music really has no specific message at all. In fact, it’s pretty mindless (in my humble opinion). But it resonates with a specific fan base, that’s why it works.
In terms of popularity, the Donald is no amateur. He knew he’d have to dominate the mass media in order to have a real shot at winning the election.
My friend Brad even wrote a cool post about how online search data could have predicted the election
HERE’S PROOF: YOU DON’T NEED TALENT
I grew up in the 90’s. A time period that was considered “The Golden Era” of music. Specifically, this was an incredible time for Hip Hop. It was all about great records, lyricism, and artists bringing real substance to their music.
Fast forward to 2016 though…
HOW DO YOU MEASURE TALENT?
An artist’s popularity is measured quantitatively with the following metrics:
– Reach (Impressions)
– Influence (Engagement)
The problem with this model is that labels, investors, DJ’s, promoters, publicists, booking agents, etc will use these quantitative metrics to place value on your music, commercial viability, and ultimately your worth as an artist. You can already see where I’m going with this, (I hope).
The more serious problem is that there are zero qualitative aspects to this equation. Meaning, quality, as in raw talent, is not considered or weighted very heavily, because there is too much focus on pure numbers.
In plain English – If you’ve got the raw talent but haven’t amassed a huge number of social followers or YouTube views, you’re going to be overlooked.
Conversely, if you have very little talent, but you have money to invest in marketing and promotion, you can certainly make things happen. Tie a gimmick to it, and you’re off to the races.
The Donald himself would probably rip me to shreds on Twitter if he read this, but that’s his game.
Trump’s classic defense mechanism is to lash out whenever he’s exposed, attacked, or becomes vulnerable.
What people fail to understand, is that it’s a very strategic move, and it works.
In fact – the more outlandish he became, the more engagement he receieved.
Here’s what Trump himself had to say about his campaign strategy:
“I’m going to get in and all the polls are going to go crazy. I’m going to suck all the oxygen out of the room. I know how to work the media in a way that that they will never take the lights off of me.”
Turns out this thing was a long, calculated con job from the beginning.
Well done, Trump… Well done.
Speaking of con jobs, let’s not forget about Trump University…
How about Young Thug? Do you think he sees himself as a gimmick? He probably doesn’t. (That’s part of the problem).
The real problem though, is the major labels who are co-signing this garbage. In fact, here’s what Mike Caren, President of A&R at Atlantic had to say about signing Young Thug:
“Fuck it, if you can sign him for cheap, go for it”
This is the mentality now. A&R’s are literally scouring YouTube and social media with 2 questions in mind.
- Whose buzzing?
- How can I get whoever is buzzing to make money for me?
Labels are, and will always be interested in gimmicks. That’s just facts. By the way, Young Thug is stuck in a bad 360 deal right now, further contributing to the truth – labels love exploiting gimmicky artists. They’re low risk, high reward. Churn in, churn out.
A LOT OF TALK, BUT MOST OF IT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE
If you’ve already endured the pain of watching the Young Thug freestyle video, this is the last time I’ll punish you. Thug himself says that he howls and makes noises as a form of expression… Um, okay.
Do you get any of his music? Do you get why this video has 66 million views? I don’t. Well, maybe I do. It appeals to the lowest common denominator rap fan.
For our friend Mr. Trump, check out his 1 minute long, 220 word response to a very simple question:
Is it un-American and wrong to discriminate people based on their religion?
Trump is great at dancing around real questions with long winded rambling answers that don’t make sense. The catch is how he finishes off almost every sentence with powerful buzzwords. This strategy is very similar to how Young Thug uses simple catch phrases in his choruses and repeats them over and over again.
THEY’RE FUNNY FOR NOW, BUT DANGEROUS IN THE LONG RUN
As humans, we have to get real and ask ourselves why we allow gimmicks to win. Why do we allow ourselves to be manipulated by mass media? Why have we become a social media crazed, low attention span, celebrity worshiping culture? These are questions I don’t have the answers to.
Just think of our nation’s future. Think of humanity’s future. Do you want Young Thug to poison the minds of our children?
Welp, the results are in… and we’ve given the most important job in the country to Donald Trump. How will it turn out? Who knows. Personally, I don’t love the result, but I believe we have to give him a chance. Sure, the guy is a loose cannon, but let’s pray he’s not as dangerous as we all think.
Gaetano is a NYC based Singer, Songwriter, Producer, Guitarist that has worked with some of the biggest names in music. After releasing 2 EP’s and producing records for major artists, Gaetano has been documenting his music industry experiences via his blog.
To get in touch with Gaetano, follow him on Instagram: @official_gaetano