Does 50K a verse pay for anything beyond bandwidth?
November 19, 2010 7:02 AM   Subscribe

I'm in my early 30s and somehow I have completely lost the pop zeitgeist. Is there something on the web that explains how the U.S. music industry (especially with respect to hip hop, and even more especially re Nicki Minaj) works nowadays?

So I'm making an attempt to reconnect with pop culture after having my radio dial pretty much permanently affixed to NPR for the past couple of years. The other day I was reading the AV Club's This Was Pop and I discovered that (a) somehow Kanye West has already released three singles for an album that hasn't come out yet and (b) by extension one of his collaborators, Nicki Minaj (whom I've only vaguely heard about through more plugged-in people) somehow already has seven singles in the Billboard Top 200 and her debut album is just now coming out. According to the Billboard website, she's already had 32 songs released in various formats, which is just...a lot.

I think I understand mixtapes--they're basically entire promotional albums with less production than a standard release--but I'm kind of curious about the economics of it all. After all the hullabaloo about file-sharing a few years ago, it looks like the response now is for some artists just to flood the market with material to get attention. But how does anyone make money? Is it just digital downloads, concerts, merchandise? Am I missing something?
posted by kittyprecious to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
Artists don't generally make all that much money off of record sales to begin with. I might be pulling this number out of my ass, but I believe the amount of money they earn per cd is around $1. Touring and merchandise are generally where they make the bulk of their money.
posted by jangie at 7:14 AM on November 19, 2010


Supporting information link.
posted by jangie at 7:21 AM on November 19, 2010


jangie is pretty much on it. There have also been those incidents like Radiohead releasing a record for "whatever you, the buyer, want to pay for it", but however much money they made, they already had a bazillion die-hard fans in place.

The odds of (most all) recording artists getting a whole lot of dough specifically from record releases only anymore are pretty slim.

There's also licensing (commercials, film) but I have no idea how much folks are making these days from that.
posted by bitterkitten at 7:26 AM on November 19, 2010


The other day I was reading the AV Club's This Was Pop and I discovered that (a) somehow Kanye West has already released three singles for an album that hasn't come out yet and (b) by extension one of his collaborators, Nicki Minaj (whom I've only vaguely heard about through more plugged-in people) somehow already has seven singles in the Billboard Top 200 and her debut album is just now coming out. According to the Billboard website, she's already had 32 songs released in various formats, which is just...a lot.

Note that pop music has never really been album-centric, and that the concept of an album being a cohesive whole rather than a collection of random singles mostly comes from rock music of the 60s and 70s. If you go back and look at, say, Frank Sinatra's singles from the 40s, you'll see that he was putting out as much content back then as Kanye West or Nicki Minaj do today. The main difference is that instead of getting played on the radio like they did back in the Chairman of the Board's day, they are in mixtapes and YouTube and all of the other new-fangled things the kids are into these days.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:58 AM on November 19, 2010


You have to admit the old model is pretty weird. Release singles from an album until one of them is a hit, then release the album and hope people buy it for the single. Then keep releasing additional singles over the next 6 months to a year, and hope that you get additional hits which drive additional album sales. So you get a case like Lady Gaga having a hit with "Paparazzi" a year after the album was released, where the song is old news to all the people who already bought the album. If you have a rapidly changing musical landscape, half of your songs might actually sound dated before you can actually release them!

If you are actually selling mainly singles rather than complete albums, it much easier to just release singles, and then bundle all the hits into an album eventually, for the cheapskates.
posted by smackfu at 8:19 AM on November 19, 2010


Ah, I guess my rockist bent was showing. I'm still sort of curious how someone who seemingly has a very thin history in the music biz ends up doing so many collaborations and generating so much buzz so quickly, but then I'm not on the industry inside track.
posted by kittyprecious at 11:00 AM on November 19, 2010


I'm still sort of curious how someone who seemingly has a very thin history in the music biz ends up doing so many collaborations and generating so much buzz so quickly

She is a protegee and client of Diddy's. That's how.

Having the most connected management is really key to getting lots of high-profile gigs.

I mean, I think she's very talented, don't get me wrong, but she's getting the initial opportunities because she's got that level of clout in her corner.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:37 PM on November 19, 2010


Actually, she's a protege and client of Lil Wayne's. Almost every popular female rapper is one that was "put on" by a popular male rapper. Not that the same thing doesn't happen with guys too. She's definitely got talent, but she's getting a lot of opportunities because essentially she has no competition out. Pressed to name 5 female rappers who have released an album in the last two years, most people would fail miserably.
posted by cashman at 6:50 PM on November 19, 2010


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