Rivalries in music is nothing new. The Beatles vs. the Rolling Stones, Nirvana vs. Pearl Jam, Biggie vs. Tupac, Kanye West vs. Taylor Swift all are examples. These rivalries not only helped these artists sell records but it got them press, built them up in the eyes of the fans, and were addicting to read about! Fans picked their side and the debates began: who was better?
How Pop Music Rivalries Build Artists
This PR strategy is nothing new. It’s been used time and time again – sometimes genuinely and other times simply to stir up conversation. There are rivalries with very direct, personal issues such as Biggie and Tupac, and others that are simply ‘feuding’ because of their comparable popularity such as the Stones and the Beatles, all of which were friends. Why rivalries are so prominent in the music business is because it helps to build artists and it challenges artists to do better than their opponent, and it builds up an artist’s music in the eyes of the fans as something worth supporting.
Why Do We Treat Music like a Competition?
Art, culture, and music is not a competition yet we treat it like one. Hip hop beefs, pop music rivalries, and the attempt to top one another sell records. Plain and simple. It is a disservice to the artistry of what’s on record but it sells records which is why so many artists do it. It’s the stirring up of controversy to get a headline, to get attention, and to either find people that are going to like you enough to buy your record or to dislike you enough to buy your opponent’s record. The crafting of a solid rivalry can, and has proven over time, to elevate both artists in popularity and sales.
People Love Reading About it so Give it to Them
The public likes its competition. This is why sports are the world’s most lucrative hobby. Competition sells tickets, gets clicks, and gets you noticed. Sites like TMZ exist because people like reading about gossip. They got to have it. So give it to them. Give them
something to talk about it, create a stir, and get attention.
Examples of Rivalry
The name ‘Meek Mill’ means far more today than it did a few years ago, because he went after Drake, and beginning a rivalry there that made him into someone whose name the general public now knows. When Kanye West released Life of Pablo this past year with a couplet that addressed Taylor Swift, it re-ignited a long-standing rivalry between these two artists – at least in the minds of fans. That move got Kanye more press for his record.
Why a Pop Music Rivalry Might be a Bad Idea
There is no question that many of these rivalries are childish and immature, sometimes damaging to the long-term reputation of some of these artists, and turns away a person’s artistry in favor of gaining celebrity. If there’s a legitimate criticism to be levied, there is no reason to hold back or to censor one’s self but to manufacture a feud or to allow a feud to play out in public is commercial opportunism.
The Market is There for It.. People Want Gossip
Sites like Gawker, Billboard, TMZ, US Magazine, Perez Hilton, and even more prominent publications such as TIME Magazine, Forbes, and the Wall Street Journal sell ads, get readers, and gain clicks off these rivalries. People love to read about them, to know the latest gossip and that is not going to change anytime soon.