Filed Under:

The Real Story Of How Macklemore Got 'Thrift Shop' To No. 1

Play associated audio

The No. 1 song in the country right now is "Thrift Shop" by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, a rap group out of Seattle. Their claim to fame: They got the song to the top of the chart by themselves, without being signed by a major label.

They've bragged about this success in a video spoof and on Twitter.

But the story they've been telling — the story that's been widely reported — is not entirely true.

The truth is that Macklemore and Ryan Lewis hired a company to help them get their music into stores. That company, Alternative Distribution Alliance, is an arm of Warner Music Group, one of the most major of the major labels.

Still, the rise of "Thrift Shop" is something new. It's an indication of a power shift away from the major labels to the artist themselves. Clearly, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis accomplished a lot on their own.

The rap group spent their early years hustling and playing small clubs like a lot of acts. But they also used technology to build a devoted following on Twitter, Tumblr and YouTube.

They eventually got to the point where their touring was so successful that they could have been signed by a major label.

Instead, they went a different route. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis took the money they'd made from touring and made their own album — a process that digital technology has made much cheaper.

To get their album to the top of the charts though, they needed help.

"You really cannot get a radio hit at this point without major label backing," says Gary Trust from Billboard.

Even in today's world of iTunes and YouTube, you still need the radio to become a superstar, Trust says. So Macklemore and Ryan Lewis hired Warner Music Group to get the band more radio play. That helped propel "Thrift Shop" to No. 1.

Yes, artists can do a lot on their own today. But to get to the top of the charts, they still have to work with a major label.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit


Not My Job: Comedian Carol Burnett Gets Quizzed On Cougars (The Cats, Of Course)

In the 1970s, families would sit down together every Saturday to watch The Carol Burnett Show. The first five seasons of the legendary variety show are now out on DVD.

Time To Pursue The Pawpaw, America's Fleeting Fall Fruit

Ever seen a pawpaw in the supermarket? Didn't think so. Ohioan Chris Chmiel wants to change that by growing and promoting this seasonal, mango-like fruit that's native to the U.S.

An Evangelical Leader's Changing Views On Gun Ownership

As legislators fail to find solutions to mass shootings, Evangelical Minister Rob Schenck thinks religious groups have a part to play in educating people about guns and their relationships with them.

This Week In Data Collection News, And The Privacy Paradox

As California tightened its digital privacy protections, news involving Google, Pandora and other firms highlighted the way companies increasingly rely on data about their users. How much do we care?

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.