Friday, February 5, 2010

The 2010 Plight of Urban Music Sales

Check out this article I wrote for

With urban music sale volumes experiencing monumental decreases, its a wonder why anyone would aspire to become a Hip Hop or R&B artist in 2010.

The truth of the matter is, according to last week’s Billboard charts, only two Hip Hop artist (Jay-Z & Eminem) surpassed 1 million record sales, while no R&B artist with the exception of Beyonce, reached that plateau. Even artist such as Trey Songz, Chris Brown, Rihanna and 50cent failed to reach platinum status by several hundred thousand sales.

JeezySome may suggest that the quality of Hip Hop and R&B has declined over the past two decades, while others believe the market is over saturated with free music being leaked by artist and labels. Even social networks like Myspace, Facebook and Twitter have been blamed for the low numbers, claiming that the ease of access has detracted from the artists’ mystique, thus resulting in a decreased motivation to purchase an album. The truth is, there are many factors that led to the downfall of urban sales, but none better than the mantra used correctly by Young Jeezy “It’s a recession erybody broke,” which has also negatively impacted the purchasing patterns of urban music’s the target market.

Labels are no longer taking risk, so pretty safe to say that the days of being “discovered” & landing a multimillion dollar contract are over. Quality music no longer equates to success. Labels have become impatient and are unwilling to work with artists to develop their brand. Its crazy to believe that if the Fugees released their debut album today [Blunted in Reality (1994)], they may not have been granted an opportunity to refine their sound, eventually leading to the birth of one of hip hop’s all time greatest groups. For those unfamiliar with the Fugees debut project, it peaked at #62 on The Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums of 1994, failing to land a Top 100 spot on the national billboards.

So the question remains, why be an urban artist in the year 2010, especially with the knowledge that marketing & promotional costs are high, with little to no guarantee of a significant return. The answer is quite simple and could be summarized in four key words: love, impact, freedom & expression. Do it for the LOVE of the art; for the IMPACT you will have on others; and for the FREEDOM or EXPRESSION. To passionate artist, the acronym of these four key words says it all. Music = L.I.F.E.

The intent of this article is not to discourage urban artist from being entrepreneurs or following their dreams, but if you look at music as a “side hustle” or a way to get rich quick, then you should probably consider pop or country, its a much smarter business investment. The facts are simple, the target audience of the urban market is a only subculture of the American population. This is exactly why you see artists such as Eminem and Jay-Z with songs that would be considered pop. In order to make the big $$$ they have to reach a broader audience. Do you think Jay-Z would sell a million records reppin Marcy Projects? The answer is no, not right now. But if you expand on that idea and title the song “New York” and add a few names like Sinatra, and include the Knicks and Yankees in the song, you now have a song that can relate to people of all socioeconomic and cultural subgroups. So while “reppin your hood” will always have a place in your heart, if you are doing this for the hustle, make music for the kids in the suburbs.

I’m not saying this to detract from urban music, I will always love Hip Hop and R&B. I will also continue to support it by purchasing CD’s & merchandise from the artist I respect. I love Hip Hop & EVERYTHING it stands for, because through Urban music gave me L.I.F.E. So give me a backpack, 1000 CD’s and a microphone, and I’ll see you at the next open mic!

Notable Record Sales 12/29/09-1/5/10 Soundscan

Taylor Swift – Fearless – 5,330,091

Taylor Swift – Big Machine – 4,621,051

Susan Boyle – I Dreamed A Dream – 3,099,223

Beyonce – I Am Sasha Fierce – 2,659,051

Nickelback – Dark Horse – 2,533,107

Lady GaGa – FAME – 2,389,976

Black Eyed Peas – E.N.D – 1,787,340

Eminem – Relapse – 1,734,043

Kings of Leon – Only By The Night – 1,708,935

Jay-Z – BP3 – 1,514,281

Zac Brown Band – Foundation – 1,348,638

Miley Cyrus – Time of Our Lives – 1,212,186

Carrie Underwood – Play On – 1,182,518

Twilight Saga – Soundtrack – 964,097

Jason Aldean – Wide Open – 958,836

Alicia Keys – Element of Freedom – 769,963

Rihanna – Rated R – 497,382

Trey Songz – Ready – 438,909

Mary J. Blige – Stronger with Each Tear – 388,806

50cent – Before I Self Destruct – 350,631

Chris Brown – Graffiti – 231,599

Gucci Mane – State vs Radric Davis – 190,604

Young Money – We Are Young Money – 182,762