Streaming places small artists in danger


Graphic by Kathleen Hetherington.

Cupcakke recently had a series of disturbing social media posts that ended with a live stream of her threatening to retire and remove her music from streaming services. Cupcakke’s threat exposes some of the scary cons for the legacy and preservation of artists in the streaming era.

Cupcakke is an underground rapper whose brash and confident lyrics have gained her a strong, cult-like fanbase. She has recently been trending for all the wrong reasons as her fans watched her broadcast disturbing videos and harass celebrities like Shawn Mendes. This all reached its peak when Cupcakke announced that she was retiring from music.

There is plenty more to worry about with Cupcakke’s recent social media behavior than the likelihood of her music disappearing forever. The reality of Cupcakke declaring that she has a gambling problem and canceling her tour is the real thing that we should be worried about with her. Thankfully Cupcakke has a loyal fanbase who has already begun the process of preserving her music, so it is unlikely that “Audacious” will vanish any time soon.

What is more concerning is artists who are even smaller than Cupcakke who are retiring and/or removing their music from streaming services. Maybe it is out of selfishness as a fan, but it is always upsetting when an artist with a following of fewer than 10,000 vanishes along with their music.

Ayesha Erotica was an up-and-coming producer, writer and singer whose music was glitchy pop that reeked of the MySpace and tabloid culture of 2007. She initially rose to underground popularity through an Alyson Stoner parody rap as well as her production on Joanne Prada (now known as Joanne the Scammer) tracks.

Last fall, pop artist Slayyyter began gaining traction with the Twitter-acclaimed, Ayesha produced and featuring “BFF.” Too bad this sudden rise in attention was cut short as Ayesha retired from music and vanished from the internet before 2019 even began.

Right before her retirement, it seemed like Ayesha was going to be the next it-girl of pop music blogs as she continued to receive praise on both her Slayyyter and solo tracks. But no. All Ayesha Erotica tracks have vanished from their original home on SoundCloud, and the only way to listen to any of them is by downloading sketchy links from Reddit users. She seems to want this though, as she chose to jump ship from pop music after the then-new fans of Slayyyter leaked her personal information.

Some of Ayesha’s tracks might never fully resurface even as she continues to gain attention for her music. This also really speaks on the nastiness of the internet fandom world. Despite her disappearance, Ayesha Erotica’s tracks “Literal Legend” and “Vacation Bible School” have ended up becoming minor TikTok memes despite the songs’ only availability being as third party YouTube videos.

Instagram star and part-time musician Azealia Banks has habitually uploaded music only to have it removed shortly thereafter. Career-defining mixtape “Fantasea” was originally released with the track “Esta Noche,” but that was quickly deleted and it has now been replaced by “No Problems.” Singles “ATM Jam” and “Pyrex Princess” have also both been evicted from their previous iTunes home.

This internet music dilemma goes beyond niche artists like Ayesha Erotica, Azealia Banks and Cupcakke, as Lizzo has basically wiped all of her independent music from the internet. “Lizzobangers” is now a rare item and can only be listened to via illegal links from Twitter stans. While Lizzo might have built the foundation of her fanbase through independent releases and mixtapes, she and Atlantic have seemingly decided in wake of “Truth Hurts” that her pre-Atlantic music should not be available to the public.

The age of all music being physically released really is no safer either in terms of preserving an artist’s legacy. This is made especially clear when looking at the Universal fire burning decades worth of masters. One thing is also clear though: the internet is not some all-mighty protector of music, especially for smaller artists whose music has never seen a physical release.

The time is always now to go purchase and download your favorite artists’ music while it is available. There really is no telling who will be the next artist to attempt at deleting their music from the web.