Popularity rarely equates to quality, particularly when it relates to art that's abundant like books, music, and paintings.
It's impossible to sift through catalogs of content and proclaim one piece better than the other. Popularity is often the result of mass marketing.
Budgets dictate following. A bank-backed Universal Studios will always create more awareness than a small independent studio for new releases. Warner Music gets its roster featured on iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, and radio with some paid dollars. Meanwhile, the best a bedroom musician can hope for is a feature on Soundcloud.
Popularity is bunk, especially in the age of algorithms that recommend playlists based on paid (non-organic) buzz.
Some things are only unpopular because they're unknown, not for a lack of quality.
Art necessitates discovery. It calls for human curation, not an algorithmic machine. Thankfully, the Internet has a long-tail.
Niches create tribes which expose artists to the rest of the Internet. This is how small artists with zero budgets build up a rabid fan base to compete against mainstream artists.
The reality is that most work remains unknown. For the curator, that's the best part. The hunt to find that needle in the hey makes collecting artifacts more personal, i.e. pleasurable.
Being the purple cow in today's age seems to be the only right way to go. The last thing an artist wants to happen is fame following by predictability. Art is a persistent stimuli.
Uniqueness is how writers, actors, painters, and musicians get discovered in the first place.
“I have the vanity of an artist, I want my work to be seen, but I don’t have to be seen.”David Hockney
Scaling happens to the craft. The making is really all that matters.