What’s the value of a career’s worth of Internet buzz?
Approximately 175,000 albums sold in one week — then look out below from there.
On Wednesday the Pittsburgh rapper Mac Miller topped the Billboard album chart with his debut album, “Blue Slide Park“ (Rostrum), selling about 144,000 albums. The week before, the Washington rapper Wale made his debut at No. 2 on the chart (behind Justin Bieber’s Christmas album) with “Ambition“ (Maybach Music Group/Warner Brothers), which sold about 164,000 copies. And last month J. Cole’s first album, “Cole World: The Sideline Story” (Roc Nation), made its bow atop the chart with about 217,000 copies sold in its first week. (All figures are from Nielsen SoundScan.)
First, the good news: A new generation of rappers is actively trying to build a new business model in which releasing oodles of free material online builds a fan base that paves the way for revenue streams: touring, merchandise, even something as old-fashioned as a record deal.
“Blue Slide Park” (Rostrum) is the first independently released album to top the chart since Tha Dogg Pound’s “Dogg Food” (Death Row), in 1995. But Tha Dogg Pound was affiliated with Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg, the heavy hitters of the day.
While the Rostrum label has also nurtured the career of Wiz Khalifa, Mac Miller arrives at the top of the chart more or less on his own. The Internet made him as popular as Wale (pronounced wah-LAY), an artist who’s been on two major labels and is affiliated with Rick Ross, and J. Cole, who is signed to Jay-Z’s label. (Being white probably helped Mac Miller too — more on that shortly.)
Each of these artists followed a similar path to arrive at this point: release a string of mixtapes, the free albums that were once native to street corners but are now the preserve of the Internet, and augment them with an active social-media presence, from Twitter to video blogging. (For Wale, this is the second time down the same road: His 2009 major-label debut, “Attention Deficit,” on Allido/Interscope, was a bust.)
That Mac Miller has topped the Billboard album chart maybe says more about the state of record sales than about the popularity of Mac Miller. Certainly, a No. 1 debut isn’t meaningful in and of itself; it may simply indicate that executives were clever enough to pick a release date that wouldn’t compete with Taylor Swift or Lil Wayne or Adele or Jay-Z.
And while these first-week sales numbers are impressive in a tough climate for the traditional record business, they’re numbers that reflect, at best, pent-up demand: proof of concept, if you will, that an artist’s virtual fame can translate to fans spending real-world dollars on a product that they could easily steal (unlike a T-shirt). About 76 percent of Mac Miller’s sales were digital; for Wale and Mr. Cole, working in a major-label system, the numbers were 42 percent and 43 percent; the majority of their sales were hard copy.
But once the loyalists have spent their money, then what? Be mindful of the drop in sales from Week 1 to Week 2 — these artists have so far had only moderate success on radio, which is where albums go to not die. In their second week on sale, Wale and Mr. Cole’s albums each sold just a quarter of their first-week numbers. Without the singles to guarantee them consistent exposure and, by extension, consistent sales, these first-week figures will be a historical blip, a trivia question 20 years from now.
Read more . . .
Bookmark this page for “free music” and check back regularly as these articles update on a very frequent basis. The view is set to “news”. Try clicking on “video” and “2” for more articles.