The Cadence: MF DOOM's Marketing Genius
by Joshua Glazer & Chris Monaco
We believe that the great reset to the music industry caused by COVID will usher in a new era where creativity sits at the head of the table and IP at the center of the conversation.
We intend to keep this Substack free for all of our global colleagues (i.e., you) and encourage you to share it. If you want to get in touch, email us: email@example.com.
MF DOOM’s Marketing Genius
With the announcement of MF DOOM’s death at the age of 49, there has been an outpouring of tributes from fans and friends who remember the masked MC’s immense talent as a musician and lyricist. A rapper’s rapper whose innovative rhyming schemes were matched by his outstanding use of alliteration, allegory and abstraction.
What has been less noted about DOOM was his trailblazing career trajectory that found him building a brand on a bastardized version a comicbook villain while positioning himself at the forefront of mid-00s opportunities for underground artists.
DOOM’s classic 2004 Stones Throw album Madvilliany with Madlib was ranked #25 on Pitchfork’s Top 200 albums of the 2000s and remains one of the few truly canonical records to come out of the era’s indie “backpack” rap scene. But equally impactful were his collectible collabs with Kid Robot and Nike. The action figures and SB Dunks from these 2007 partnerships sell for thousands of dollars today.
But if anything made MF DOOM a recognizable name outside of serious hip-hop heads and streetwear snobs, it was his relationship with Adult Swim. Starting with the officially endorsed 2005 Danger Doom album with Danger Mouse that innovated IP usage by sampling shows from the network and ending with the abruptly canceled weekly song project, The Missing Notebook Rhymes, the partnership in its prime also saw DOOM voicing characters on the show Perfect Hair Forever and appearing in Xmas promos for the network’s 2006 holiday programming.
MF DOOM’s swan song came just three weeks ago in the form of “The Chocolate Conquistadors,” a song recorded with BADBADNOTGOOD for inclusion in Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto Online release. Yet another example of his darkly cartoonish persona meshing perfectly with a major cultural brand.
DOOM always knew his music was too progessive for mainstream consumption. But by committing to a creative character that fit well with larger subcultural interests — from collectibles to cartoons to video games — he achieved much wider recognition than he might have via his albums, alone. As a case study of a musician creating and capitalizing on a niche without compromising his vision, MF DOOM is an exceptional case.
The most salient statements from recent industry articles.
1. Why GTA’s Virtual Clubs Have Saved Dance Fans
Speaking of Grand Theft Auto, Beatportal spoke to Rockstar Games’ music director Ivan Pavlovich about the inclusion of DJ sets by Moodymann, Keinemusik and Palms Trax in the latest GTA adventure, The Cayo Perico Heist.
Takeaway: The music actually serves the game, but it’s also serving the storyline. It’s not tacked-on in any way; it’s integrated into the story, which makes it even more powerful.
At Home Livestreams Are So 2020
MTV News (yes, it’s still a thing) wrote about the future of online music events by talking to folks behind the record-breaking live streams by BTS, Mistervies and AJR to offer a peek at what’s in store for this all-new arm of the music industry.
Takeaway: Terms like “livestream” or “virtual show” are “limiting” or “feel inferior.”
Streaming Is Stalling: Can Music Keep Up in the Attention Economy?
Billboard breaks down the recent plateau in streaming music in 2020 and wonders if it’s a pandemic-induced blip or a long-term trend to be addressed.
Takeaway: When artists resume touring and releasing big albums to drive ticket sales, music streaming could still return back to growth, but the new attention economy guards against such complacency.