Gen Z: The Gatekeeperless Generation

In the first of a three-part series, YMS18 SFO partners Archrival share their insights on an ambitious, fearless new generation...

While their Gen X parents cried, “Stick it to the man!” Gen Z creators have transcended angst and arrived at apathy. In this new era of albums cut at kitchen tables and feature films shot on iPhones, the industry executive is rendered almost obsolete. The artist is now the creator, producer and promoter simultaneously. Who needs validation from a label or studio? Why wait to be “discovered” when everything you need to make it big is in the palm of your hand?

It’s changed the way young creatives perceive big brands and corporations. To them, they’re nothing more than cultural gatekeepers, sitting at boardroom tables discussing which projects get funded, which pieces get published, which artists get sponsored.

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Z is pushing back by carving their own paths to success, sending a clear message to industry leaders: “If you’re not going to spur us forward, get out of the way.”

Chance the Rapper, famous for taunting labels with his single “No Problem,” may be the poster child for this sentiment. He’s been offered numerous deals by big-time labels, but turned them all down, opting to stay independent. In February, he became the first artist to win a Grammy without selling a single physical album. When Rolling Stone asked if he’d ever consider signing, he answered, “There’s no reason to. It’s a dead industry.”

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It’s an attitude echoing across category lines, and filtering down to amateurs and aspirers. When surveyed, less than half of Gen Z said their goal in creative pursuits is to be picked up by a bigger entity. They’ve seen their peers hone their craft and rise to the top on their own terms and have little interest in doing it any other way.

Catch Archrival's Ben Harms speaking on The State of Youth Culture at our youth marketing festival YMS18 SFO this June.