It’s easy to forget that artists profit from their music. In the age of relatability, musicians have sworn off the maximalist aesthetics of the 2000s. Now, the music industry favors the deeply hurt, downtempo, and dark side of pop music. Sharing an emotion as intimate as sadness, I forget that the creator behind my favorite tunes isn’t a close friend I see everyday.
Until they die and their record label disposes of any remnant of legacy.
“Hopeless” ploys to accumulate wealth from grieving fans has created a new genre: The unfinished album. Once a young and talented artist passes away, caches of uncurated, crude, and deferred music on countless USBs and laptops are left in the hands of greedy record executives.
Many labels see no reason for those hard drives to collect dust. Posthumous albums usually come off as brash and disrespectful; if the artist didn’t intend to release the project, why wouldn’t it stay in the drafts? Any posthumous album runs the risk of collecting leftovers, but some, such as XXXTentacion’s Skins prove that they can also just contain concluded bad ideas that should have been shelved.
Mac Miller proves that a respectful posthumous career is possible. No album better closes the wound left by an artist’s death than Circles, the product of Miller’s friends, family, collaborators, and label putting his art first. Finished just months after his supposed overdose, Circles is an example of profits being put aside, tying the loose ends together, and releasing an album Mac Miller would be proud of. Although it has been almost four years since the rapper’s death, his team has been doing a reverential job at keeping his legacy alive. Instead of finding and releasing unfinished songs, Miller’s team has taken a new approach by releasing the artist’s mixtapes that didn’t make it onto streaming platforms. This summer, the label has released I Love Life, Thank You, dodging multiple samples and winning multiple court cases. But whenever I stream Mac’s discography, where does the money go? Substituting possessive record labels, the majority of the money goes to the Mac Miller Fund, a foundation working towards spreading awareness about addiction and rehabilitation. As a lifelong fan of Mac Miller, I am proud to say that my favorite artist’s legacy is being