For Whom the Bottom Line Tolls

Hip hop's big Rock the Bells thinkers break free from industry shackles

Public Enemy, meanwhile, has long championed file sharing and was among the first hip-hop acts to distribute its music online. The group also understands that the genre is a global phenomenon. "We have to watch out who we give this power to," Chuck D states. "And I've long since stopped giving the MTVs and Clear Channels this position of power. 'Cuz when it comes down to, I'm a world artist ... and the digital world is everywhere that they are."

And though article after article bemoans the disintegration of the music industry, and particularly the hip-hop genre, the doomsday scenarios are a bit disingenuous. The labels' quandaries should only trouble you if you're an exec or perhaps one of the lucky few who expect to go platinum. For artists who just want to get their work out, and for fans with a thirst for the kind of diversity, quality, and accessibility on display at Rock the Bells, the future looks golden.

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