It’s gradually becoming clearer to me that we are entering an era in society where people are rewarded for failure. From reality show celebrities, famous for no reason, to the poor business practices of financial and automotive industries; it seems the worse you are at anything, the more you are celebrated and paid for it. After seeing both banks and car companies rape America’s tax payer’s, I’m also seeing the music industry continue the pillaging in the form of 360 deals.
For the uninitiated, 360 deals are record contracts that allow the record labels to share in the revenue an artist receives from their shows, touring, merchandise, endorsements and in some cases song publishing in addition to their cut from album sales and digital downloads. This is different from the older, more standard, contract that left most of these revenue sources to the artist in exchange for receiving only a small percentage of the revenue from record sales. Nowadays, with sales on a downward spiral and record companies working diligently to stay out of the red, the music industry is looking for its own bailout as some labels consider making 360 deals mandatory as they prepare to release free music.
See article from TechCrunch.com about 360 deals:
It seems all the free mix tapes have finally taken their toll. The market is saturated, fans are spoiled and don’t want to pay for shit. With 360 deals, labels become more like talent agencies, and talent isn’t what they are selling. Though labels have always made it standard operating procedure screw artist jail style with no Vaseline, all the while, squeezing every penny they can out of an artist’s blood, sweat and tears, their willingness to double down on a failed business model can only bring more harm to the already ailing culture of Hip Hop, just beginning to resurrect from the dead. Artists now have to be personalities who, all too often, choose swagger over substance. Because labels will be spending millions in recording and marketing of free music, their profile for the ideal artist to sign will continue on the downward spiral that we have seen the past 5 years, focusing more on the get rich quick commercial viability of “Ring Tone Rap” than inspirational artistry with cultural impact.
It’s the like the lyricist has to fly to where the one hit wonder can walk to. To get signed they are following two different To Do list: For the lyricist, you basically have to:
- Appear on 20 big name mix tapes
- Appear on 20 more big name mix tapes with at least 15 big name features.
- Drop a mix tape or “Street Album” of your own that gets Sound Scanned on billboards urban charts.
- Drop a single that gets BDS spins, with a street video on every Hip Hop web site. (It helps to have two big name artist cameos)
- And finally, get a write up in XXL.
Then, and only then, can you schedule a meeting with a record label. On the other hand, for the one hit wonder, all you have to do to get signed is:
- Be a former video vixen turned rapper with a leaked sex video
- Release a song, produced with autotune and a techno pop beat and have the video go viral on YouTube.
Now, throw 360 deals in the mix, all I can say is be prepared for more stanky leg dances. Yikes!
Far be it from me to criticize anyone for getting their money. If an artist can con a record label into giving them millions of dollars based on regional hype and a handful of magazine write up’s, they can very well con fans into believing they’re on the trap everyday with bricks of that white girl, having lunch with a publicist while their diploma from the police academy runs rampant on the internet. We’re in an era of delusion where Hip Hop fans, who used to value authenticity, no longer care if they are being lied to. IN many cases, they actually enjoy being lied to. Unemployment is at record numbers, we’re in the midst of the worst recession since blacks had the right to vote and the only thing we seem to be arguing about is whether or not T-Pains Big Ass Chain is real or not or if Kia Shine really wrote Best I Ever had for Drake.
We have a world crumbling around us, while the industry is using artists to auto tune and stunner shade us into ignoring the pieces of the sky that are falling on our heads. We have cops who pretend to be criminals and Lamborgini’s in the hood like the ghetto is Hollywood, either this shit is the Matrix or I’m taking crazy pills!
Rather than trying a new approach, for a new business climate, record labels would rather continue to spend money only to try to recoup through the slave labor of their artists, working to repay a loan they know they shouldn’t have gotten. The industry is starting to sound like the housing market.
Wouldn’t it make more sense for labels to spend less money for an artist to sell a decent amount of records rather than indulging an already inflated ego by making them think they can put up Thriller numbers? By getting a Thriller budget, you can only expect a thriller debt if you’re not making thriller records. Let’s be honest, artists like Papoose or Uncle Murder maybe, just maybe, might not sell like Alicia Keys, so why would you, as a label exec even think of giving them an Alicia Keys budget if it isn’t just to keep them trapped in a deal they can’t get out of?
In the midst of this, a new business model has emerge for artist to follow:
- Get signed with a million dollar budget.
- Make records the streets love, but the labels hate and don’t want to put out.
- Get shelved for two years.
- Get on the internet and all over mix tapes, asking for your release papers.
- Get release from major label, chalk up your debut album as a loss.
- Work as a ghost writer or record a new album to be released on Koch.
The record industry, looking for a bailout on the backs of new artists, will only leave urine in the talent pool as dope artists, with decent fan bases, go independent. Maybe this is what we need, not to bring Hip Hop back, but to take Hip Hop back.