A few days ago I did a podcast on Tekashi 6ix9ine as a hero of the charts for having informed on the way that the Billboard charts worked, giving estimates of chart points and positions, from which acquaintances of mine were able to deduce the apparent formula that Billboard actually uses. Those who want can listen to that podcast and hear what I have to say on the significance of the chart shenanigans that the artist talked about. What I am interested in talking about today is more the question of what 6ix9ine has thought he was doing by exposing the shady side of the music industry. Now, I would like to state at the outset that there are a lot of reasons not to like him very much as a person. As a person with some negative feelings about snitch culture, I have enjoyed a lot of the jokes at his expense that he got for snitching on his gang friends in Treyway to obtain an earlier release from prison, and I have never particularly enjoyed his music or his violently stupid persona, to say nothing of his personal behavior or fondness for casual threats of violence as well as bad taste in facial tattoos (bad taste meaning having a taste for them at all, that is).
That said, was Tekashi 6ix9ine snitching on Justin Beiber, Ariana Grande, and their management or whistleblowing on some of the shenanigans that the music industry has increasingly been caught up in? How does one tell the difference between snitching and whistleblowing? The definition of snitching is either to steal or, the definition we are using, to inform on someone. Whistleblowing, meanwhile, means to expose secretive information and activity within an organization that is illegal, incorrect, or unethical. By and large, most people (myself included) view snitching as a negative thing, especially when it is directed against us, but are willing to have positive feelings about whistleblowers who expose the corruption that is present within organizations and institutions. What is the practical difference between the two, though? Perhaps we may say that whistleblowing is strictly limited to institutions that are guilty of shady behavior, and who are thus more unsympathetic as a result, while snitching is something that can affect all of us individually based on secret allegations that may not be true and that undermine trust within families and communities.
When looked at this way, what 6ix9ine did by talking about the shady business involved in chart manipulation by labels, something that had been suspected for a while based on the mid-week changes that labels and management teams had made, is definitely whistleblowing. Billboard magazine itself and the music industry are institutions where behavior is done that is viewed as incorrect, and although snitching and whistleblowing are certainly related skills and Tekashi 6ix9ine is someone whose general reliability as a human being appears to be low, it is high enough to allow him to speak from the moral high ground relative to the music business as a whole. If this is a fact to be regretted that a convicted felon who has done some very evil things has more moral credibility than the companies that are responsible for compiling and promoting music in the United States (and around the world), that is a mystery that must be solved by people who are wiser than I am. Be that as it may, he does come off as credible when discussing the music industry and as a victim of its shenanigans, he certainly has a right to publicize the sort of business that goes on.
What does this mean when it comes to the future of such matters? How do we treat those who are going to tell on the unpleasant business that goes on in the music industry. Given how important it is for labels and artists to be able to claim some sort of #1, how is it that we are to rely upon information provided in charts? Is it ethical for a compiler of data on charts that purports to have credibility as the official source for a given nation to give implicit or explicit consulting to labels on how they can most effectively promote the songs that they are pushing? These are dark aspects of a dark business. Is it right and proper that management for bands should promote their fanbases to spend large amounts of money to buy hit singles for a high one-week peak on the chart only to immediately fall because the immediate sales are discontinued and because there are not enough streaming and radio gains to prop up the song’s popularity in future weeks? How much credibility is lost when such behavior is not only tolerated but is advised? And what sort of people are we led to be sympathetic with as a result?